Site Migration

I haven't updated this site for years, but want to preserve the history.

Bear with the rough edges as I migrate to static HTML and update the layout.

Creative Conglomerate

A recent client project led me to look at the available services and solutions from Adobe. Below is a partial list. While impressive, it may also be overwhelming. How many can you describe? A dozen? 30? 40? 60? Things have sure changed since my days at Macromedia.


Of course there are also players, readers and runtimes for Flash, Acrobat, and AIR. There are alo wide selection of utilities, services and support like Creative Cloud Packager. Whew.

Mobilemind and PENS Site Maintenance Sept. 19, 2011

My ISP is doing maintenance. This site (, PENS, and may be unavailable September 19, 2011 from 6:00pm to midnight Pacific Time. Email processing will not be impacted.

I'd never do this with my work machine

Last night I booted my MacBook Air to do 2-3 important things before I forgot. I ended up doing 8-10 things and shutting down.

Then I remembered that I shut down before I did one of those important things. I powered up again and got it done. It only took a minute because booting is painless & fast, so I could quickly do just one more thing.

That's the part I'd never do with my work machine. Undergo the 5 minute long boot process to capture a thought or complete a 90 second task.

How much do “I'd never do that with my work machine” items cost us?

Time to change my work machine so that it supports my work and getting one more thing done, instead of discouraging it.

Backing a Project on Kickstarter

I just decided to try backing a Kickstarter project, CableKeeps - for iPad, iPhone, and iPod chargers. They are clever, cute snap-on organizers for iPhone and iPad chargers & cables. The iPhone version appears below.


I don't know any of the designers/developers, but thought it was interesting enough to look into. Maybe you'll want one or know someone who wants to order a few as holiday gifts. Take a look quick, as funding closes September 8, 2011.

iOS Git/Subversion Viewer Apps

Browsers/Viewers versus git/svn clients
To be clear, these apps don't really offer much in terms of editing code or repository push/pull. However, most offer a way to review code or code status & history (and some include syntax highlighting of the viewed code).

My preferences
Code Viewer 2 is my current favorite for viewing code and I've used it (via svn) with both Beanstalk and Github. Code Viewer 2 doesn't currently have direct support for git, but works using svn against either of those hosts and supports syntax highlight for popular code types (eg, HTML, JavaScript, XML and more). That I like alot. However, compared to all the others it is a little more finicky when connecting to a repository. I do like that it supports both iPhone and iPad making good use of the larger screen.

I generally prefer the universal apps (Code Viewer 2, Source Code, Magic Bean) and the iPad app (GitHub Viewer). The GitHub Viewer, Unfuddle app and Beanstalk apps are easiest to setup. The Unfuddle app seems more suited to monitor the repository and tracking /managing issues. I can't speak to "Magic Bean" as much since I didn't buy that one, but I do like that it is for both iPhone and iPad.

The full list of git and svn apps I evaluated

Code Viewer 2 Code Viewer 2 [iPad & iPhone, App Store currently $5.99] - Checkout to browser/view with syntax highlighting for many file types. Not for editing.

Source Code Source Code [iPad & iPhone, App Store currently $1.99] - Slightly easier to connect to repo, no syntax highlighting

Git Hub Viewer Lite GitHub Viewer Lite [iPad only, App Store currently free] - Nice for browsing and seeing who is active with a repository.

Git Hub Viewer GitHub Viewer [iPad only, App Store currently $0.99] - Nice for browsing and seeing who is active with a repository.

Unfuddle Unfuddle [iPhone only, App Store currently free] - Check/manage repo & issues on-the-go.

Magic Bean Magic Bean [iPad & iPhone, App Store currently $2.99] - For browsing and checking status, Works on both iPhone and iPad. Not fully evaluated.

Habichuelas Lite Habichuelas Lite [iPhone only, App Store currently free] - Nice for browsing and seeing who is active with a repository.

Habichuelas Habichuelas [iPhone only, App Store currently $2.99] - Nice for browsing and seeing who is active with a repository. Not fully evaluated.

Found any others of interest? Please comment.

Git Tools for Mac OS X

To get my projects over to GitHub I used the command line version of Git for Mac OS X which I installed long ago to access (clone) things like PhoneGap (btw, on Win XP I've used msysgit - Git for Windows). However, last week I made my first attempt at pushing anything up to GitHub instead of cloning down from it. I muddled through the git command line, but am still looking for a nice UI client on Mac OS X and Windows.

I'll admit that I'm finding it nearly a necessity to start with the git command line so that I better understand the underlying concepts. Sometimes the best way to learn a technology is to dig a few holes and struggle back out. Likewise, it seems like there are some edge cases and corners with version control systems that require the command line (and and Google and nerves of steel). Meanwhile, I'm tracking a few tools for the Mac to increase my productivity with git for routine things.

My Favorites
The most promising apps for me are SourceTree and Tower (naturally the most expensive ones too). Tower has some nicer overall polish, but SourceTree has a views I like better and seems to regularly improve with use (and across releases).

I'm on Day 6 of a  30 day trial of Tower and like that it supports git and svn, integrates with many other client tools (e.g., with CodaKaleidoscope TextMate, etc.) and is super easy to configure for either GitHub or Beanstalk back-end repositories. With SourceTree, I'm understanding git better and seeing things more clearly, but missing some of the polish back-end integration seen in Tower.

Git Client Apps for Mac OS X
Here's a run down of some options and links for those on the Mac App Store. There is a good response by Mason on StackOverflow that runs down pros and cons of a few of these tools. I too didn't care much for the cross-platform-y compromises of SmartGit, but some may like it. Here what I consider some Mac OS X contenders:

For a git UI client, I may end-up sticking with GitX for a while though, because it is free. If I can justify the expense, I'll likely go with SourceTree or Tower, depending on CFO approval and/or any pricing specials. My next post will address git and svn viewers on iOS for the iPhone and iPad.

Migrating My Projects to Github

Github is a wonderful service and it is free to host public repositories. I'm starting to migrate projects to my account on github to make it easier to manage version control, updates, distribution and to act as a back-up for me.

The first projects to be migrated are:

Github and git are a great tool set. Github goes far beyond being “just” a remote repository and I really like what I was able to do for the “fyi” project with Github Project Pages.

Sidebar- Beanstalk has a free trial account that provide 1 private repository for svn or git. There is a good Wikipedia Comparison of Revision Control Software if you want to compare git, Mercurial, svn, etc. I used Beanstalk with Xcode 3 and svn for the duration of the UW iPhone Certificate Program and it worked very well.

With Github you can get unlimited free public repositories for free. Both Github and Beanstalk offer SSL with the free accounts. Since Xcode 4 has built-in support for git, you may want to compare account plans for Beanstalk, Github and Unfuddle git hosting. That said, I'm going to primarily use Github, but will hang on to my Beanstalk and Unfuddle accounts.

In a few days I'll post a quick run down of what I've learned about git tools for Mac OS X and iOS.

fyiPad Bookmarklet

UPDATE: April 19, 2011 - Project now hosted elsewhere, see fyi-bookmarklets on Github

This is a follow-up to an earlier post on the fyi Bookmarklet. This version is optimized for iOS, and the iPad specifically. It makes it very easy to share a snippet of a web page and the URL by email.

Compared to the built-in iOS Mobile Safari action “Mail Link to this Page,” the fyiPad Bookmarklet adds the capability to automatically insert selected text from the page, without having to paste anything.

Unlike the Firefox fyi Bookmarklet, this bookmarklet can not be triggered by typing  a keyword. The install is slightly different because of Mobile Safari restrictions on adding javascript: bookmarks (bookmarklets).


Use Mobile Safari to visit the fyiPad setup page and follow the instructions on that page to save and edit the bookmark. You will likely want to rename the bookmark. On my iPad the bookmark is named “fyi” just like on my desktop Firefox browser. It is saved in the “Bookmarks Bar” folder.

Tip: For greater convenience on iPad, use the “Settings” app to choose “Safari” settings and set “Always Show Bookmarks Bar” to ON. Usage:

Activate the “fyiPad” bookmarklet by using the bookmark menu, or by tapping the bookmark in your Bookmark Bar.

This opens a new email with the page title in the email subject. The email body contains the page title and URL. If any text on the page is selected, then the selected text is also included in the body.


Version History:

Version 1.0 (April 6, 2011) newer versions available on Github

Known Issues:

Tested on iPad with iOS 4.3.1. Likely to work on iPhone.

No way to activate by typing a keyword. No way to pre-populate the new email with a recipient address.




Source on Github

Please use comments here or Github to report bugs or provide feedback. Thanks.

fyi Bookmarklet

UPDATE: April 19, 2011 Project now hosted elsewhere, see fyi-bookmarklets on Github

I wrote a simple bookmarklet to make it very easy to share a snippet of a web page and the URL by email (see Install and Usage below). I was inspired by Mike Chamber's “fyi” Firefox ubiquity command which has served me well for years.

The “fyi” command (and now the bookmarklet) is a very handy way to select some text on a web page and fire off an email quoting part of the page and including the URL– with minimal typing and no copy-and-paste work. As Mike put it in 2008:

I wrote the command because I am often finding myself forwarding URLs to friends and co-workers. This is normally much more tedious than it needs to be, involving the following steps:

  1. Copy the URL from the browser
  2. Switch to mail client
  3. Create new Email
  4. Paste URL into the email body
  5. Switch back to the browser
  6. Copy the post title
  7. Switch back to email
  8. Paste the title as the subject
  9. Switch back to the browser
  10. Copy a snippet from the page
  11. Switch back to the email
  12. Paste in the snippet
  13. Enter the TO email address
  14. Finally send the email



Well, no more. By using the [ubiquity] “fyi” command, you can quickly and easily forward information about a page to anyone.

Unfortunately, ubiquity is now an inactive project of Mozilla Labs.


Fortunately, Mozilla Firefox Custom Keywords allow you to easily make bookmarks or bookmarklets that can act like a command with a dynamic parameter. If a bookmark has a keyword, you can type that keyword in the Location Bar (address bar) and Firefox opens the bookmark. Even better, you can type string of text after the keyword and that string is passed to the bookmark. Just edit your bookmark putting a %s where you want the string to be substituted. Asa Dotzler and Daniel Wang explain it well on the Firefox Custom Keywords page. So well, in fact, that I was able to whip up a work-alike bookmarklet in a few minutes (and then spend last night tuning it and drafting this post).


First, bookmark this fyi link in Firefox. To bookmark a link you can right-click on it and “Bookmark this Link” or drag the link to your bookmark bar.


Second, add fyi as a keyword property of the new bookmark. To add a keyword, use the “Bookmarks” menu to select the “Show All Bookmarks” menu item. In the resulting “Library” window, navigate to the new bookmark and highlight it. If necessary, us the control beneath the property labels to expand the property panel to reveal the field for “Keyword”. Finally, enter the keyword fyi.

Firefox Library, property panel with keyword attribute set to fyi

Close the “Library” to save your changes.


fyi [to_email]


Activate the “fyi” bookmarklet by using the bookmark menu, or by clicking the bookmark in your bookmark bar, or (ideally) move the cursor into the Location Bar and type:


and hit enter. This opens the default email program and creates a new email with the page title in the email subject. The email body contains the page title and URL. If any text on the page is selected, then the selected text is also included in the body.

If typed, the command optionally takes 1 argument, that includes one or more email addresses, separated by semicolons. The email address(es) will be put in the TO field of the new email.


Version History:

Version 1.0 (April 6, 2011) more recent versions on Github

Known Issues:

Tested with Firefox 4.0 on Mac OS X 10.6 and Win XP. May or may not work with Chrome, IE or Safari. A version optimized for iOS Mobile Safari is also available.




Source on Github

Use comments to report bugs or provide feedback. Thanks.

App Icons for iOS, AIR and Android

I've been making HTML5 apps with PhoneGap and helping co-workers using Flash CS5 with the iPhone & Android packagers. There are a bunch of icon sizes needed when you make a cross platform mobile app, especially if you want to cover the sizes for phones, tablets, normal and "@2x" retina display resolutions.

Here is a table I've I made of the various sizes needed for iPhone, iPad, Universal iOS, AIR 2.5 for desktop and AIR for Android. Hopefully this will be helpful for others, too.











AIR 2.5

AIR Android









































































Total Validator Desktop Tool

A few months ago I wrote about Total Validator. It is disappointing that attacks have taken a very good tool offline. However, it is comforting that Total Validator is available as a desktop tool. Please support it.

Manifest Generator for TextMate and Text Wrangler

I whipped up versions of the Coda extension "Manifest Generator" that run in TextMate and TextWrangler. See the previous post on a HTML 5 Manifest Generator for Coda.

TextMate plugin bundle icon HTML5 Manifest Generator for TextMate

To install the bundle- just download, unzip, and double-click. TextMate will open and install the bundle as "Mobilemind" with a command, "Generate Manifest". Usage is as you would expect in TextMate. Feel free to move it to a more appropriate bundle grouping, like say HTML.

Shell script plugin icon HTML5 Manifest Generator A 'Shebang' menu Filter for TextWrangler

To install the Shebang (Shell) menu item- first download, then unzip the shell script. Finally, move the script file into the directory:

~/Library/Application Support/TextWrangler/Unix Support/Unix Filters

Then make sure the script is executable by doing the following in Terminal:

chmod 755 "$HOME/Library/Application Support/TextWrangler/Unix Support/Unix Filters/Manifest Generator"

Then to use it the first time TextWrangler:

The options should "stick" for next time you run the Filter.

If you want to use it as a raw shell command, I'd recommend copying the file "Manifest Generator" to "manifest-gen" and putting the copy in the directory "/usr/local/bin". That will save you typing lots of quotes and/or long paths.

Coda Plugin- HTML5 Manifest Generator

Offline web content is readily done with an HTML5 Cache Manifest, as well described and demonstrated by Mark Pilgrim. Though the manifest file itself is simple, creating it can require some tedious work. This Coda Plugin attempts to address that. The guts of the plugin are a relatively simple perl script that gathers relative URL references from the open HTML file and generates a manifest. I wrote the perl script so that it can also be used as a stand-alone shell command too. From the manifest-gen script's "-h" option

Generates a default HTML5 'cache manifest' file from HTML input.

The manifest includes items referenced by HTML tags with attributes for href, longdesc, and src. The items are sorted with duplicates removed.

The manifest excludes items that specify a protocol scheme, i.e. non-relative URLs.

To install the plugin- just download, unzip, and double-click. Coda will open and install the plugin.

Coda plugin icon HTML5 Manifest Generator

To use, open an HTML file and use the Coda Plugins menu to select Manifest Generator. The command will open a new document with a sample manifest. Remember to save the file and add the manifest attribute to the <html> tag of the main HTML file. See Mark Pilgrim's excellent book for details.

Given sufficient interest I can also make the bare command/shell script of the command available for download. It works on a named file or you can pipe in standard input.

PhoneGap Lessons Learned- Windows Edition

The first lesson learned is that there is a lot of stuff to install to get a Windows machine ready to roll with Eclipse‑Android‑PhoneGap development. Second, I learned it is all really finicky regarding version of Ruby, paths, order of install, etc. Third, I learned that getting a stable setup for this on Windows can take a few hours.

You will need to download and install the following:

  1. Java JDK (I got the latest Java at the time; Java SE 6 Update 23. Regardless of the version, be sure to Download JDK not the JRE.)
  2. Apache ANT (Instructions aren't too clear, I just downloaded and unzipped to c:\android-sdk-windows)
  3. Ruby ** DO NOT GET THE LATEST RUBY (currently v 1.9.2); get 1.9.1 **
    Check PhoneGap docs to see if/when 1.9.2 or later ruby for Windows may work.)
  4. Git (msysgit)
    (Here I felt comfortable getting the latest,, since it is not directly in the build process.)
  5. Android SDK
  6. Eclipse IDE for Java Developers* (Eclipse 'Helios' version 3.6.1 worked well for me)
  7. Eclipse Web Developer Tools* see paragraph below
    (Not mentioned in PhoneGap Docs, but the ADT  Plugin has a dependency on the Eclipse Web Developer Tools. Another option is to get Eclipse IDE for Java EE developers which already includes the Web Developer Tools).
  8. ADT (Android Developer Tools) Plugin for Eclipse
  9. PhoneGap-Android (Long term you'll be better off cloning via git instead of downloading. Later instructions help with using git clone…)

You can dive in and do the installs like I did, using the instructions from Getting started with Android PhoneGap in Eclipse. Note that there are a quite a few potential gotchas. I'll try to call out some major ones. Some are alluded to above, like "Gotcha #0"— ruby version sensitivity.

Gotcha #1: Order can matter.
Solution: For better results, download and install the the Java JDK first. See gotcha #2 for some tips relating to the Android SDK, Apache ANT, and where you put the phonegap‑android directory.

Gotcha #2: Paths (and names) matter, especially if they contain spaces or special characters (or if environment variables have an unneeded trailing '\')
Solution: The PhoneGap wiki mentions the work-around in numerous places, but I found it easiest to install key components to C:\ (the root) rather than deal with the hassles caused by paths with spaces in the names (ie, C:\Program Files\…). Thus,

  1. When running the Android SDK installer, change the install folder to:


  2. Extract or move the Apache ANT directory to the root (e.g., c:\apache-ant-1.8.1)
  3. Change to the root of the C: drive when you are ready to:

    git clone

  4. Really make sure all the environment variables are set properly— proper names, proper distinctions use of User and System Environment variables, and proper syntax (e.g., no trailing '\').
  5. When you are ready to

    droidgap gen projectname

    do NOT use hyphens, spaces or underscores in the project name… weird things will happen as the ruby scripts don't quote the names and also rely on some implicit naming conventions and use of the underscore.

Gotcha #3: The ADT Plugin requires Eclipse Web Developer Tools, but the basic Eclipse Java IDE doesn't include those.
Solution: After Eclipse is installed, if you picked the basic Eclipse Java IDE you can add the Web Developer Tools as follows:

  1. Launch Eclipse
  2. Use the Eclipse drop-down menu for Help to pick Install New Software…
  3. In the dialog for "Install" use the drop-down list to select "Helios -". Then scroll down to "Web, XML, and Java EE Development". Expand that item and then check the boxes to add at least Eclipse Web Developer Tools, Eclipse Web Developer Tools, Eclipse XML Editors and Tools, and Javascript Development Tools. The image below may help.
    Eclipse Install New Software dialog
  4. Select "Next" and continue on, accepting the agreements (if you agree).
  5. Be sure to quit and restart Eclipse before Installing the ADT Plugin (see instructions at that link).

Gotcha #4: Environment variables matter. (aka "Gotcha #2 Returns: Paths Redux")
Solution: Make sure you properly set the necessary environment variables and verify them at the command prompt.

Gotcha #5: Proxy settings may be needed and seem to conflict. Settings for msysgit aren't obvious, and seem to interfere with Eclipse proxy settings (creating "msysgit proxy misery"). I discovered this one at the workplace yesterday, where using the proxy server is a must.
Solution: The proxy settings for Eclipse are fairly straightforward (eg, use the drop-down menu Window to select Preferences. Then expand the tree control for General and select Network Connections.)

Not-so-obvious are the proxy settings for msysgit, nor is it obvious that they can clash with the Eclipse settings. To set the proxy for msysgit, you use environment variables. I set these using User Environment Variables (see above) and setting the following variables:

Where is the fully qualified name or IP address of a proxy server and portnum is the active port for said proxy server. After setting those two variables, I was able to successfully clone phonegap-android using this command with the prompt already set to c:\ as the current directory:

git clone

Unfortunately, I needed to go back, and "un-set" (delete) the User Environment Variables for the proxies in order for Eclipse to work with updates, installs, etc. In hindsight, I might have been able to leave those environment variables in effect and set Eclipse to connect "Natively" or "Directly" without a proxy, instead of removing the variables and using my Eclipse manual proxy settings.


  1. Errors in Tip about PATH. I left some elements out in the PATH tip above. I updated it and forced a line break for clarity. You may find PhoneGap docs that contradict my tip, but it works well for me as is.
  2. Proxy settings. Earlier today I was able to get Eclipse to work just fine with the HTTP_PROXY environment variables in place and the Eclipse preference for General > Network set to Active Provider "Manual" with proper proxy server address and port values.

Whew. I'm not going to make this even longer. Much of the rest of the installation and usage is relatively well documented elsewhere.

I'll watch comments for feedback on this lengthy post. A follow-up post will address turning a generated phonegap-android project into an Eclipse project. In the interim, I'll likely post something shorter about getting phonegap-iphone going in Xcode.

PhoneGap Lessons Learned- Mac edition

In the last week I've learned quite a bit about using PhoneGap-Android with Eclipse on Mac and Windows. Earlier this month I spent alot of time using the iUI library with PhoneGap to make stand-alone iPhone apps from HTML. I thought I'd share my experiences. I'll begin with using the Mac with PhoneGap for Android. Future posts will address Mac set-up of PhoneGap for iPhone, Eclipse set-up, and Windows set-up of PhoneGap for Android.

First lesson— update PhoneGap early and often. Learn to use git, learn how to use PhoneGap utils to update existing projects and check PhoneGap documentation. It has changed dramatically since last March when I first experimented with it, especially on the Eclipse + Android SDK side. I went down quite a few dead-end paths based on old assumptions and some seemingly helpful blog posts I found from last summer. Please apply my lesson and double check the docs if any of my "tips" below don't seem to work for you.

Second lesson– Make sure the user you are signed in as has administrative permissions. If you're unsure, launch the Settings application, look in the System category and open the settings panel for Accounts. Make sure the box is checked for "Allow user to administer this computer". Don't worry, you can turn it off after you've done the setup. As a little security step, I rarely run as Admin on my own computer.

Basic Setup
Git- Your installation will begin by getting git if you don't already have it. On Mac the easiest way is to download and run the installer from:

PhoneGap Repositories- Next, I cloned some repositories from the phonegap repository on github to my Mac Home directory. With git already installed this is as easy as starting and immediately entering:

git clone

git clone

Those two commands will copy down the latest PhoneGap iPhone and Android frameworks, respectively. Note: As a convenience, we're getting the iPhone repo while we're at it, even though it won't be used in this post. Watch for a future post on "PhoneGap for iPhone - Basic Xcode Setup."

Environment variables for paths- Since Terminal is running, we'll skip ahead and add some path information to the shell environment. These updates are only needed for the Android and PhoneGap-Android toolchain. Again, in Terminal, enter:

open .profile

In the resulting editor window, add the following lines to the .profile file.

# add Android_Home for Eclipse builds
export ANDROID_HOME=$HOME/android-sdk-mac_86
# add tools directory for shell access to SDK tools

# add PhoneGap bin for shell access to PhoneGap tools
export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/phonegap-android/bin

Save the .profile file. Close the editor. Quit Terminal. [Really do quit Terminal, because that will help ensure the .profile changes are applied when we get to testing things below.

Android SDK for Mac- Download the Android SDK for Mac from here:

Unzip the downloaded archive and move the whole android-sdk-mac_86 folder to your home folder. There should now be a folder named android-sdk-mac_86 at the root level of your home folder. [There are more Android SDK setup instructions found at if you need them.]

Test your basic PhoneGap setup- We can test the basics now, without even installing Eclipse and the ADT (Android Developer Tools) Plugin or using Xcode.

First we'll test the PhoneGap Android command tools by creating mysample as a sample project. Open the Terminal again. Enter:

droidgap gen mysample

NOTE: Don't get fancy and use a different name for testing. I found out the hard way that you'll get ruby script errors if the name includes a hyphen. I suspect spaces and other special characters may also wreak havoc with PhoneGap ruby scripts.

It will take a minute to do its work. If all worked well, it should have made a new sub-directory named mysample inside of your Home directory. Verify this by looking in Finder or typing ls in Terminal and looking for mysample in the list of files.

Debugging PhoneGap Android command tools- If it didn't work, then some likely possibilities are that something got copied to the wrong place or an environment variable (a path) was set wrong. Make sure your Home folder contains the following folders:


Check your paths by examining the current value environment variables. To do this, enter the following in Terminal:


Scan the output and make sure the line with PATH= includes something like:

Edit .profile again or move folders if necessary. Quit Terminal, re-open it and try again. That's about the best help I can offer, other than the PhoneGap Android docs.

Test your basic Android SDK setup- Now we can try the Android SDK. Again, in Terminal, enter:


If all goes well in a few moments you should see a window that looks like the small thumbnail below, and you can continue on to Install Android SDK Packages.

Debugging Android SDK Basic Setup- You should know the drill by now; check the folder structure and names and check the environment variables. In this case the key folder is android-sdk-mac_86 and the corresponding environment variable is ANDROID_HOME which should contain something like:

Install Android SDK Packages- In the Android SDK and AVD Manager Window (shown above), scan the list in the left column and select Available packages. Check the box next to Android Repository and also check the box next to Third party Add-ons.

At this point, I was tempted to be conservative and download the bare minimum. It turns out better if you just downloading everything. That way you can easily publish for a broad range of Android devices by having the most basic and the most current APIs available.

With everything checked, click on the button for Install Selected. It may take awhile.

If you've got this far you've got all the basics and are ready to proceed to Eclipse or get started with PhoneGap for iPhone with Xcode. Both of those are separate posts though.

If you want to jump ahead, you can make use of the Android Developers Installing the SDK instructions. That will help you with installing Eclipse and the ADT (Android Developer Tools) for Eclipse.

Keep in mind that you have already completed their steps #2 (Downloading SDK) and #4 (Adding Platforms and Other Components).

Quickly Open Directories or Files

Here are a set of "Finder Droplet" utilities that I found very helpful when working with PhoneGap, and lots of other things too. Consider this a follow-up to my previous post on shell commands for Coda and TextMate.

Finder Droplets for Coda, git, TextMate, Xcode, and Terminal
Finder Toolbar showing droplets

Having these utilities in the Finder Toolbar utilities gives quick access in Terminal to any directory I can see from Finder. They also let you easily use a specific editor to open one or more files. This is very handy if the default association isn't convenient for the task at hand— especially so if there are multiple files involved.

The handiest of these utilities has been OpenTerminal. I am going to describe that second because the Shiny Droplets utilities have much better set-up instructions.

Shiny Droplets
What can I say? They are good. They are open source. The 52 second demo/how-to video explains it all. Apps like Expresso, BBEdit and others are supported as well as my favs– Coda and TextMate. Go get the Shiny Droplets now, watch the video, install and come back for more.

Open Terminal
Same concept, with detailed instructions in a PDF instead of a video. I copied Open Terminal to the same folder as Shiny Droplets. Once added to the Toolbar of your Finder window, simply click the Open Terminal icon. Bam! You are there, without doing a bunch of cd ~/Documents/folder/subfolder/sub-subfolder typing. Go get it and be sure to read the PDF.

Open in Git GUI
Last, but not least is a droplet to open the Git GUI for the current folder in Finder (or the dropped item). You can get it here:

If you prefer GitX then you might try a similar droplet;

That's it. Enjoy.

Coda and TextMate Tips for Mac OS X Terminal

Here are some tips for easy shell access to open files with TextMate and Coda from the terminal. I found and modified these while I've been dinking around with PhoneGap for iPhone (love it) and Android (jury is still out).  PhoneGap will likely be another post.

These tips allow you to easily open a file or files (or a whole directory in the case of TextMate awesomeness).  To open an html file in the current directory from the shell prompt becomes as easy as:

coda index.html
mate index.html

Opening all the HTML files (Coda) or all the editable files (TextMate) becomes:

coda .
mate .


1- Open Terminal
2- In terminal, enter: open .profile
3- Scroll to the bottom of the file and add the following lines of code

# TextMate
# set path and simple shell function
export TEXTMATE_PATH=/Applications/
mate () {
    $TEXTMATE_PATH $1 $2 $3 $4 $5 $6
# svn for TextMate (default editor, end-of-line types)
export LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8

# Coda
# set path
export CODA_PATH=/Applications/
# function roughly like 'mate .' by expanding '.' to '*.htm*'
coda () {
if [[ "." == $1 ]]
    open -a $CODA_PATH *.htm*
    open -a $CODA_PATH $1 $2 $3

4- Save .profile
5- Quit Terminal
6- Restart Terminal and try one of the new functions

Obviously you must have TextMate and Coda installed for this to work. Likewise, there are more robust ways to achieve this. However, I like using shell functions in .profile, so that I have only one place to look for customizations when migrating to a new Mac.

More robust implementation approaches can be found for each command at:

My next tips will be some über-handy apps for Finder, allowing you to easily open the Terminal with the current Finder window as the working directory or to easily drag-and-drop to open files in a preferred editor.

Total Validator for HTML

A little help can make a big difference when you're trying to improve on writing valid and accessible HTML— whether you are doing it for better performance or for compliance to US ADA Section 508 (or compliance to W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines). I was recently reminded of just how great of a help the Total Validator tool/service is with HTML5 validation— and I also experienced their great customer service.

First, a bit about the service from their site:

Total Validator is a free one-stop all-in-one validator comprising a HTML validator, an accessibility validator, a spelling validator, a broken links validator, and the ability to take screenshots with different browsers to see what your web pages really look like.

They add, Total Validator provides the following main features (my emphasis added):

It is super-easy to use, especially with the Total Validator Firefox extension (Linux/Mac/Win) or Total Validator Desktop version. Here is a 1 minute demo of using Total Validator with the results for a simple page. Note that I deselected the screenshots option of Total Validator for a faster response.

Now here is a great customer service/responsiveness story about Total Validator. Last Saturday morning I modified the Pastelets utilities that I've been known to obsessively update. With everything debugged (thank you Firebug) and the layout looking good, I load the paged from my site and click the Total Validator TV icon in my status bar. Though everything looks fine, I get an error about an invalid link/protocol with a tag–
<img src="data:image/png;base64, …">
It didn't seem to like use of the data: URL protocol, even though the image rendered fine in 3 browsers. I double-checked my code and everything looked good and seemed to work, so I reported an issue to Total Validator. Early Sunday morning I get an email back and the Total Validator team has fixed the issue. That was quick!

Do yourself a favor get the Total Validator Firefox extension try the free Total Validator service to help with the accessibility and validity of your web pages. It validates better than Dreamweaver CS5 and validates HTML5.

Even better, purchase a license to the Total Validator Pro Desktop version for ~$37 USD to remove some limitations on checking and add capabilities like being able to check an entire web site at once, while excluding certain areas of the site. After your initial purchase, annual renewal is about $8 USD a year.

Updated Pastelets for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch

The Pastelet utilities easily create javascript: bookmarks (bookmarklets) that paste a custom text string into a web page form in Mobile Safari on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. A super-handy way to have a scrapbook of text snippets you can use without leaving Mobile Safari.

The most recent releases are a very significant update. The utilities are written in HTML5 and leverage HTML5 input types for data entry. This means you can use the Email/Login version and get the email-friendly version of the Touch keyboard. Similarly, the Telephone version pops-up the numeric keypad.

Likewise, the generated bookmarklets are HTML5-savvy; when selected they “paste” their designated text into the first email form field or telephone number field found on a page (and do so in a clever way that works well with older HTML too).

Here they are with as a hyperlink and a full URL:

All of the iOS pages look a lot like the older version(s),
old “Make Pastelet” utilitynew “Email Pastelet” utility
but they do a lot more.

There is still a desktop version that also works with Internet Explorer-

For basic information, see my original post, Paste (Frequently-used) Text into Web Forms on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch


Watch for more updates on bookmarklets and some updates on travel applications soon.

Thoughts on Learning in 3D- Virtual book Tour

I'm fortunate that this blog is an early stop on the “#Lrn3Dvirtual book tour for Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration by Karl M. Kapp and Tony O'Driscoll. There is much to come on the tour, from colleagues and friends widely held in high esteem through the learning and training profession. My perspective on virtual worlds may cast me as an outlier, and therefore warrant some explanation. If you can bear with my explanation and thoughts about it, there just may be a book discount in it for you.

Though I am competitive, I'm not a gamer. I'm considered a technologist by myself and others, but I'm not a fan of virtual worlds and Second Life. I've tried them a few times and they have served little purpose for me. I suspect it may be awhile before they do. [Although Stephen Colbert recently said that “…more and more of life is becoming 3D.”]

The previous paragraph is an odd transition into a post about Learning in 3D. However, I believe my post, like the book it is about, will benefit both others like myself, and those at the other end of the spectrum. Personally, I am challenged to understand and find the benefits of these environments. It often seems that training needs can be better served by more widely understood and widely adopted technologies combined with sound instructional design and basic business acumen. Virtual Worlds and 3D for learning are areas that deserve thought and resources whether you find yourself enamored, intrigued or skeptical.

As an avowed skeptic, I found information in the book to expand my understanding of these areas and tools to apply to learning in 3D (as well as simulations and training in general). Two things in particular helped me become more understanding of virtual worlds for learning. First, an alternate view– not thinking of the technology, but the plot or story. As contributor Randy Hinrichs puts it in Chapter 4:

Virtual worlds are about theater, character development, relationships with other characters, plot, conflict, denouement, catharsis, and conclusion. We need to design for the full immersive experience in which the users must adapt to the environment, survive in the environment, and fail if they haven’t learned well enough.

Second, I benefited from frameworks and scaffolding as schemas for concepts and as job aids for design and development. The authors deliver on these with useful tools like a model of design principles for 3D Learning Experiences (also in Chapter 4). There are other useful checklists presented as rhetorical “Key Questions” throughout.

Finally, I found it refreshing to review the case studies both for the successes and the lessons learned about design and implementation. It’s not just pie-in-the-sky, but gets down to brass tacks about what worked, what didn’t and how it can be done better in the future. These are real case studies from major organizations, and there are nine of them. Each has some innovation and some challenges. I really appreciate that they also share the lessons learned about implementation, orientation, design and evaluation.

That just skims a few parts of the book. I’ll leave it to my colleagues to provide broader and deeper analysis— I just touched on a few areas, mostly from Chapters 4 and 6. If you’d like to learn more about the book, stay tuned to the virtual book tour, visit the book web site, book wiki or for awhile buy it from the publisher with a 20% discount using code L3D1.

iPhone Travel Apps: Me v. National Geographic

One screen of my iPhone is dedicated to essential travel apps and I'd like to share that list with you. For comparison I'm also including a link to and the short list of Travel Tech: Top 20 iPhone Travel Apps from National Geographic Adventure.

My key travel apps for iPhone (prices as of July 3, 2009):

  1. TravelTracker with TripIt $7.99If you take more than 6 trips a year get this app and sign up for TripIt service on the web. TravelTracker shines over the free TripIt app because it keeps past trips and has many more features. Silverware is a good company and this is a good app. Loved the previous TravelTracker incarnations on the Newton & the Palm, and I got it on iPhone as soon as it came out as a new-from-ground-up, smarter app. I'd hold off on getting the “Pro” version for now though... there are some iPhone 3.0 issues to sort out. In a few weeks I will be upgrading to TravelTracker Pro though, so I can get live flight status plus download and upload to TripIt. Update: A new version of TravelTracker posted to the App Store today—July 3, 2009.
  2. TripIt for iPhone FreeHuh? You just said TravelTracker. I use both. The TripIt app is less cluttered and faster— for the current trip, but I can not easily forward an itinerary or do many other things that TravelTracker does so well. I use TripIt for quick access to info on the current trip, like hitting the rental car info with my big fat thumb as I dash away from baggage claim.
  3. The Weather Channel FreeAs National Geographic puts it:

    [The Weather Channel app] gets the nod for customization and the ability to check out conditions in multiple locations at a glance.

  4. AroundMe FreeI admit it, Starbucks pwns me. AroundMe helps me quickly find that essential latte, or a local equivalent and other conveniences (ATM/bank, restaurant, pharmacy, retailer). I've tried coffee-specific apps and a few brand-name bank/retailer/restaurant finders. This particular app works well and seems current most places I go, and does away with having a slew of category/vendor-specifc apps.
  5. Currency FreeFantastic currency converter that auto-updates exchange rates. Shows a purchase amount in multiple currencies of your choice at the same time. Easily switch from entering in one currency to entering in another. Very helpful on my trip to Singapore when trying to figure out what $5 USD was in SGD or what $900 SGD is in USD (answer: 1 nice watch).
  6. Taxi Magic FreeGreat app for getting a taxi when you aren't in an urban center or near a taxi stand. It electronically hails a taxi and sends your current location to your choice of cab companies. You can even create an account & use it to pay for the ride, without using cash or credit in the cab. Cities supported include: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, LA, Minneapolis, Nashville, NYC, the OC, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, Dan Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington DC.
  7. Urban Spoon FreeThe best way to break the logjam of “I dunno, where do you want to go.” Also nice to find something interesting & local instead of the shopping mall-perimeter chain restaurant defaults.

Then there are the airline superstars of iPhone web app-friendliness. The standout here is JetBlue, who has a very useful and colorful web app. Honorable mention to Southwest Airlines, who made great use of the very cool iUI iPhone templates found on Google Code.

To make the most of any of the web apps below, just visit the URL on your iPhone and then bookmark with the “Add to Home Screen” option.

Great iPhone web apps from airlines to add to your iPhone homescreen (actual iPhone/Touch home screen icons shown):

I heard back from @Alaska Airlines on twitter that Alaska is working on it. Go Alaska! No word from United Airlines on when will become more iPhone-aware. Sadly, the very-cool, but Flash-dependent site of Virgin America doesn't make the iPhone cut either (as of July 3, 2009). Btw, lots of airlines are on twitter, as I found out working on @AICC followers.

A Few Extra Travel-related Apps
Rounding-out my travel page I have Aeroguide Lite (Free) to recognize things like that rare Ilyushin Il-62 I once saw over SFO (an Il-62 looks like MD-80/DC-9 with 4 engines or a Vickers VC10).

Other miscellanneous items on the page include: Gas Cubby ($9.99) for recording and charting the MPG, etc. of my own car; FedEx Mobile (Free) for help with shipping; and Google Earth (Free) for miscellaneous mapping and geographical visualization.

The National Geographic Adventure List
To get more detailed information on their picks, please see Travel Tech: Top 20 iPhone Travel Apps from National Geographic Adventure. I've add my opinions to their list below where I had feelings one way or the other. For reference, here is their list:

  1. Next Flight $2.99
  2. Urban Spoon Free
  3. HearPlanet reg $5.99 (on sale for $1.99 on July 3, 2009)
  4. Air Sharing $4.99(Nix I say, get FTP On the Go)
  5. Tweetie $2.99 (Nice, but nix say I. Get free TweetDeck or Twittelator Pro for $4.99, or both as I did)
  6. IAmHere $0.99
  7. World Customs $0.99
  8. Wi-Fi Finder Free
  9. The Weather Channel Free
  10. Google Earth Free
  11. Packing $1.99 (on sale for $0.99 on July 3, 2009. This one *I* might try)
  12. Room Free
  13. FlightTrack Pro $9.99 (Nix, I say, get TravelTracker w/TripIt)
  14. Lonely Planet Phrasebook $9.99
  15. Skype Free (I totally agree here–a very popular app, 4M downloads & estimated to be on 10%+ of iPhones)
  16. WriteRoom $4.99
  17. (Amazon) Kindle for iPhone Free (I totally agree here too)
  18. Cheap Gas Free
  19. Babelingo $3.99 (on sale for $1.99 on July 3, 2009)
  20. Where Free

LETSI Tech Meetings Live Blog

This is a temporary location for the Live Blog of LETSI Tech Meetings being held during June 2009 at IEEE Headquarters in New Jersey. Ultimately this post will be come a link to this blog hosted on the LETSI site.


iPhone Travel- Save on Calls, SMS and Data

Avoiding excessive charges is one key trick for International Travel with an iPhone. International travel can include a quick cruise to Mexico or the Caribbean, or a full-on international flight. Either way, some tips I've learned will save you money. I spent a week in Singapore and saved $60 over what the roaming rates would have totaled for data, SMS and calls.


More Details

Service Add-ons:
Use AT&T myWireless Mobile app to activate/deactivate additional services rather than calling AT&T. I recommend doing this at least 72 hours before you leave the USA.
Tip: When you activate the add-ons, immediately set an appointment or “To Do” to de-activate 10 days after you return. You'll save a few dollars that month since it is pro-rated, and won't accidentally carry-over the service into future months.

If you need to call or just prefer it, note that you'll need to make 2 calls. First call the regular service number (611 on mobile or 800-331-0500 from another phone). Second, call International Wireless Care at 800-335-4685 or if already abroad, +1-916-843-4685 to add your “Data Global Add-On” for International Data. Do this AT LEAST 72 hours before you leave; it can take 24 hours or more to activate.
Tip: Add “AT&T International” as a Contact with the 916 number above. You can quickly call for support or to update service.

AT&T World Traveler” is just $5.99 a month and is pro-rated. It can save you $0.30 to $1.00 per minute on calls you receive (rates here). The cost of each SMS message can drop a similar amount. The gotcha is be sure to leave it active for ~10 days after your return. If there are delays in international billing you'll get hit with the higher rate if you already de-activated this add-on.

Regarding the “International Roaming- Data”- Pick a plan that suits your needs. I watch my data budget tightly and did fine with 20MB ($24.99) for a 6 day trip. I turn off “Data roaming” often and use WiFi where I can. I was ready to call and upgrade if needed though.
Tip: Before you travel, reset the iPhone Usage and watch it for a 2 days to see what your data budget might need to be.

Buy in US dollars before you go (or stay in euros if your account is already in euros). Don't switch currencies on your Skype account; you'll get hit with a currency conversion charge. I started on Skype years ago when Euros were the only option. I'll only switch to US Dollars when my account is at zero.

72 hours before leaving the USA, Scout for WiFi. Check with the hotel or conference venue to see if WiFi is available. That can greatly reduce 3G data needs. It will also help you decide how large of a data plan to buy.
Tip: Check if the hotel has a frequent guest plan, many hotels offer free or reduced WiFi for frequent guests. Sign-up before you leave the US.

Data Misers:
Set a recurring alarm for “data off” (bedtime) and one for “data on” (wake). Toggle the Data Roaming setting accordingly. You can still get calls or use alarms, but won't be disturbed (or charged) for night-time email updates. Get them in a batch at a WiFi spot or when you turn on 3G data again.

Preload maps by searching for directions while at a WiFi spot. You can still get updates via 3G while out and about, but the larger map will already be downloaded.

48 hours before leaving the USA, turn off or dial-back on SMS updates. Why 2 days before leaving? So you can catch that one extra service you forgot. Likely sources of SMS reminders to turn off are: Google Calendar, Jott, Remember the Milk, TripIt Premium, twitter.
Tip: Once you've established your new locale, do more than set the iPhone time zone. Also set your twitter time zone preferences to reflect your “do not disturb” hours for the new time zone.

Don't be surprised if you receive 1-2 SMS messages from AT&T as you travel. AT&T will alert you when you're in a roaming zone and you are not charged for those messages.

Switch iPhone from MobileMe to iTunes Sync Without Losing Bookmarks

Once used on the iPhone, turning off MobileMe sync for bookmarks will result in deletion of all the bookmarks on the iPhone. Furthermore, there is no way to force the iPhone bookmarks to over-write things on the Mac if the sync ever goes awry.

If, like me, you ever end-up with the "good" bookmarks on the iPhone and "bad" on the Mac, there is just no way to sync the good over and replace the bad. However, one can do some tricks with the iPhone back-up preferences file (plist) and Mac Safari export/import bookmarks to achieve a transfer from iPhone to Mac. Once complete, two-way sync will be restored via iTunes. Unlike the MobileMe sync, you can turn off the iTunes bookmark sync to Safari without losing bookmarks on you iPhone.

I'm not responsible for lost data. Back-up everything before you start this process. Do NOT sync the iPhone until the process is complete. Others may have some shortcuts or improvements to this process [eg, convert Mobile Safari plist to Mac Safari plist instead, or use XSLT or shell script improvements, etc.]. I welcome those suggestions and will re-post them. Leave a comment or send email to me at mobilemind (at)

Here's how I managed to save my iPhone bookmarks, recover them to Mac, and switch off MobileMe bookmark sync without losing data. Now I just use iTunes for Bookmark sync.

1. Download iPhone / iPod Touch Backup Extractor by clicking on the big honking icon on that page. (I sent him $10 USD because it worked so well for me. Send him a few Euro if it works for you too.)

2. Launch the Extractor, open a backup and extract “iPhone OS Files”.

If your current back-up is questionable or to deliberately use an older version of iPhone bookmarks do the following. First make a copy of the current back-up, and put it in another location. Then use Time Machine or your back-up utility to find and restore a "good" previous version of the backup, from:

  ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup

Remember that “~” is shorthand for the user home folder (Home icon in Finder, or Shift-Command-H).

3. Save the “iPhone OS Files” extract to a new folder, and find the Bookmarks preferences file. It should be in:
  newfolder/iPhone OS Files/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist

4. Convert the binary preferences file to XML. Open a terminal window and go to the folder with Bookmarks.plist. Then issue this command:

  plutil -convert xml1 Bookmarks.plist

Leave the terminal window open, you'll need it in a minute.

5. Open Mac Safari and do File > Export Bookmarks… to save a backup. We'll use this if anything goes wrong, and it's a handy reference example of the bookmark file format. I saved mine as “Safari Bookmarks.html” and put an extra copy in the same folder as “Bookmarks.plist”.

6. Get or make some shell magic with grep to reformat the XML plist preferences file into a rough approximation of a Mac Safari bookmarks import/export file. I found a great bit of code from Dave Taylor here.

I took Dave's example and removed some stuff like the sorting (more on that in a minute). Then I added the necessary opening and closing tags for a Bookmark file, with some comments. Here is my shell file for you to download:

7. Save the shell script and make it executable. Save the shell file to the same folder as the converted Bookmarks.plist file. Then go to the terminal window and make it executable by you (the owner) and your group.

  chmod 774

8. Execute the script and direct the output to a new file. I called my output file "MobileSafariBookmarks.html" (no spaces to make the shell command easier).

  ./ >MobileSafariBookmarks.html

9. Clean-up the “MobileSafariBookmarks.html” in your favorite editor to make it match the folder hierarchy of your iPhone Bookmarks. I used Dreamweaver CS4 and TextMate to open my reference file ("Safari Bookmarks.html") and the new file ("MobileSafariBookmarks.html"), bouncing back & forth to make sure I got the tags right.

Have your iPhone handy to check the folder structure. That helped me as I did edits. The comments put in by “” should help you understand how and where to create folders (or nest them).

Keep in mind that the iPhone has a few built-in bookmark folders and bookmarks, like the “History” folder and the bookmarks for “Yahoo!”, “Google”, “AT&T MyAccount”, and “iPhone User Guide”.

10. Prepare to import Mobile Safari Bookmarks into Mac Safari. Make sure you have a back-up of your Mac Safari bookmarks. Then open Safari, use Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks, and delete ONLY your bookmarks. Do NOT delete Address Book or other items. In m case, I selected Bookmarks Bar and deleted all the items there. Then I selected Bookmarks Menu and deleted all those items.

11. Import the Mobile Safari Bookmarks into Mac Safari. Use File > Import Bookmarks… to import “MobileSafariBookmarks.html” as cleaned-up in step 9.

12. Verify Mac Safari against Mobile Safari before you disable MobileMe sync of bookmarks. Remember, that will delete the iPhone bookmarks. Carefully check the list and URL addresses of the bookmarks now in Mac Safari against the list and structure in Mobile Safari on iPhone. Quit Safari on the Mac when you are done. Quit Mobile Safari on the iPhone too.

13. Take a deep breath and delete the bookmarks on Mobile Safari by disabling MobileMe sync of Bookmarks. On iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Then, under Accounts select your MobileMe account. Change Bookmarks to OFF. iPhone will warn you about deleting bookmarks. That is OK, because we now have them in Safari and will soon sync with iTunes from Mac Safari back to iPhone.

14. Disable iTunes automatic syncing for devices to allow us to make changes. Do not connect the iPhone yet. Start iTunes. Open Preferences and select Devices. Check the box that says "Disable automatic syncing for iPhones and iPods". Close Preferences.

15. Connect the iPhone and change iTunes to Sync Safari bookmarks. After the iPhone connects, it may sync anyway. That is OK. Select the iPhone in the left panel. Then select the tab labeled Info in the large main panel of iTunes. Scroll down to the shaded bar for Web Browser and check the box next to Sync Safari bookmarks.

16. Apply the change to sync. Click the Sync button in the lower right corner of iTunes and wait.

17. When the sync is done, all the bookmarks moved manually from the backup to Mac Safari, will be restored to the iPhone. From now on, the iPhone and Mac Safari will sync via iTunes. Changes on one will be reflected on the other after each sync. As an extra bonus, the MobileMe "push" should be a little shorter and a little less battery draining, since bookmarks are no longer synced over-the-air.

If you want, you can even turn off iTunes bookmark sync and add/restore your original Mac Safari bookmarks, either to keep things separate or to merge them back to iPhone later.

IMS QTI Still Relevant Despite 2.1 Being Revoked

IMS withdrew the QTI 2.1 spec, despite some existing implementation and information going back to 2006 that is was imminently ready for use. The official IMS wording seems to be toned down a bit, but there is also a clip from early wording on Rowin Young's blog. Other early opinions ended up on list servers like this. I've fired up a Google alert on this issue and will be tracking it. Meantime, one of my co-workers at Questionmark and a key contributor to QTI 1.x, John Kleeman, has penned, Why QTI Really Matters.

Check it out and watch for updates here. I expect a few more QTI experts and pundits from other specification bodies to have some observations soon. However, an unnamed organization with a litigious nature may be unwittingly suppressing discussion.

SCORM Vulnerabilities + IMS Spec withdrawal = Excitement

Exciting times for elearning standards. Lots of discussion about two unrelated events. First, SCORM “cheats” are published and the community rallies to address the issues. Secondly, and coincidentally, the IMS recently withdrew the QTI spec from further work by IMS membership. I'll follow-up on the IMS QTI issue in a subsequent post (likely linking to more detailed information from others).

What is SCORM Cheatlet?
I coined “cheatlet” as a portmanteau of cheat and bookmarklet (itself a portmanteau of bookmark and applet). A bookmarklet is a browser bookmark that uses the javascript: protocol prefix instead of the typical http: prefix used for web pages. This allows one to create a bookmark that runs JavaScript code in the browser.

I dove into bookmarklets when developing my iPastelet utility for iPhone in the summer of 2008. It immediately occurred to me that this technique could be an interesting way to hack/cheat the SCORM JavaScript API. Thus was born my implementation of the cheatlet. It worked easily and nearly immediately. By clicking a bookmark, I could send a score to an LMS. I tuned it to send a time, a status, and in a sinister turn, close and then nullify the API object handle to prevent any legitimate data from overwriting the hacked score.

Cheatlet Concept goes Public
In late August 2008, with a working demo of this code in hand, I sent it to major players in the SCORM world, including a major ADL contract agency, major LMS vendors, SCORM code suppliers of various types, and tool vendors. Many vendors responded that it was simply an instantiation of a hack to a known issue. One indicated they were well aware of this and raised the issue early on to discourage the AICC from deprecating HACP for the JavaScript API, that vendor was Questionmark (Disclosure, I started work for Questionmark in January 2009).

I seemed to be more concerned than others. In late August, I submitted a paper on the issue to the LETSI SCORM 2.0 Workshop, without disclosing precisely how to implement or code the exploit. The paper, Security Before Features was discussed online and at the Pensacola meeting in October 2008, but little seemed to happen as a result. Work continued on SCORM 2004 4th Edition without any API changes.

Cheatlet Example/Running Code Goes Public
Flash forward to a few weeks ago. Working completely independently, Phillip Hutchison had a similar moment of inspiration and crafts his own SCORM “cheatlet” bookmark. The big difference was this included a working cheat as a link right in the blog post (chealet linked since removed, but code is still available by request to Phillip). Soon this issue received broader attention. Reaction and opinions flew about the internet. Plateau proactively sent a letter to its US government LMS customers about this issue to help calms their fears. Ironically, I think this also drew further attention and discussion.

Defense Approaches, Work-arounds, Opinions
Soon after the example code hit the internet, opinions flew between experts on twitter, email and blogs. I posted a overview of the issues on the Questionmark blog, along with a follow-up post on general defensive strategies, including some specific solutions to support those approaches.

The ADL posted workarounds for some aspects of the vulnerability. Both are more clearly aimed and HTML/JavaScript coders, but that may be exactly who read this blog.

Some feel quite strongly that SCORM has never been suited for more than the lowest-stakes elearning events. I feel that stakes must always be viewed as a continuum. Furthermore, I believe it is far easier to consider the high stakes end of the spectrum first and back-down as necessary. In any environment, is incredibly difficult to start with little or no security and patch your way up to a secure system.

Others may see it differently. I'm sure there will be plenty of opinions. I'd say my views on this issue tend to align with Phillip Hutchison (whom I've never met, but respect) more than Mike Rustici (whom I've known & respected for many years). I'll come back and update this post as they emerge. Other opinions include:

They Saw It Coming, BUT... Newspapers Now, LMS Next

I just read Clay Shirky on Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. Substitute “LMS/Central Training Department” for instances of “Newspaper/publishers” and it is a real wake-up call.

Read it. Think about it. Who are the real-world, radical change-observing “pragmatists” and who are the in denial status-quo with incremental-change “revolutionaries” in your organization?

Are the people who say that the now and the future is in informal learning, collaboration, mobile and social networking the revolutionaries,or the pragmatists? Are the experts those wizened experienced people who say learning & training have been and always will be structured, pre-defined and centralized, (and they often add or else it is wasteful and inefficient).

Look outside your windows (or preferably Mac) there is a whole world (-wide web 2.0 ) happening. What the heck, check it out on your phone or Xbox or …

See past the matrix illusion of the Central Committee's integrated-firewalled-siloed starts-and-stops-at-your-enterprise LCMS-LMS-authoring-tool including Centralized Succession Planning, now with connect-to-your-actual-cubemate-Social-Networking™.

Got it? Good. Now go read two Jay Cross posts, New Roles for Former Trainers and then Agile Instructional Design. For bonus points tonight or tomorrow, twitter (+2), text (+1) or email (+.05) a few colleagues and collaborate on how you can apply scrum techniques on your next training or elearning effort.

Feedback? Like this kind of post? Let me know, I've got a few more cans of elearning willy pete in the armory.

Geek Cribs Follow-up: “The Setup”

Via Daring Fireball, I learned of “The Setup”; a series of posts/interviews with techno glitterati describing their work setups. A much cooler (and computer-centric) approach than my early December post, What if… MTV Cribs for iPhones.

So far The Setup covers Alex Payne (of twitter), YACHT (I can't describe YACHT), Gabe Newell (of Valve videogames), Steven Frank (of Panic Inc and Transmit fame) and John Gruber (the famous fantastic Daring Fireball and Markdown maker).

Elearning Events Updated for 2009

The Elearning Events Calendar is updated with key elearning conferences and trade shows from January 2009 - June 2009. I didn't do a good job of updating it from August-December 2008, but I'll try to be better. If you are aware of a conference I missed, send an invite or email to events(at) and I'll add it soon after I hear from you.

I've added events from AICC, ADL, Articulate, eLearning Guild, I/ITSEC, IMS Global, the Masie Center, Questionmark, SumTotal, Training Magazine, and more. I'll add links for the Plateau and Saba conferences when details become available (they are usually in Fall).

I also moved the calendar to a separate page to make it easier to read and navigate. The link to the new page is in the header navigation of my site as Events, as well as the first link in the opening paragraph of this post.

Happy New Year 2009.

What if... MTV Cribs for iPhones and Macs

It'd be cool if there was a “geek work cribs” that showcased the preferred tools of geek celebs (and minor celebs). If there is, I don't know about it. Nonetheless, we all find posts and pages to that effect here and there. Recently, fellow geek (and elearning celeb) Aaron Silvers kindly posted a page-by-page list of what's on (and no longer on) his iPhone. There are some cool ways to do things like this that I'll share too.

First, get an account (or two) at, but do NOT populate it- yet.

Next, get AppFresh, a Mac OS X application that helps you keep apps, widgets, preference panes and plugins up-to-date. Conveniently, it also connects to you iusethis account for Mac OS X. Run AppFresh, and it will create a list of your Mac apps and check for new version. Add your iusethisaccoutn via the AppFresh preferences.

Once the list is populated by AppFresh, you can easily click to add items to from AppFresh. Now you have a readily updated list that you can share as a page or RSS feed (see link at bottom of your apps or event page on the iusethis site).

The iPhone section of the site isn't quite as auto-magically updated. I'd love to see AppFresh or something like that scour your iTunes directory to populate such a list though (hint). Fortunately, the folks at iusethis do make it easy to find iPhone apps on their site or add your favorites while their forms pull in data from the iTunes App Store.

Now for the mobilemind iusethis lists:

Once you are signed up and sharing like this, iusethis will also identify like-minded neighbors by way of your application set. Note that the respective OS X and iPhone sites also have overall lists for New, Interesting and Top apps.

Hey Aaron are we iusethis neighbors? (PS- I too dropped Appigo To Do for the freeRemember the Milk app.) Poor Appigo, first To Do dropped for the free RTM app, and now AccuFuel has been replaced with the $4.99 Gas Cubby. All good apps, just a matter of preferences and $4-$5.

Will Adobe XFL revolutionize Rapid Elearning Workflows?

For some time Adobe insiders and followers have been talking about XFL, a package file format for Flash (here, here, here and more in search). XFL combines XML and some binary assets in a zip archive. Currently Adobe CS4 applications use XFL as an interchange format.

How does this impact rapid elearning? Office automation tools are also using package file formats, such as the somewhat controversial Microsoft Office Open XML format. This is the metaformat that subsumes the underlying markup languages for word processing, presentation and spreadsheet content.

Taken together I suspect we will see the rise of many custom workflow and “homebrew rapid elearning” applications. It will be easier than ever before to use common zip and XSL tools to take “SME content” in .docx and .pptx files and transform them into XFL. From XFL to published SWF is an easy step for CS4, and will allow for expert tuning/enhancement in Flash itself. That sort of tuning isn't possible in current tools.

Corporate developers and elearning shops will likely create their own tools and workflows like Mohive and CourseAvenue Studio, but optimized for their market, clientele, content, style, work cycle and requirements.

Still others developers will bypass tools like Adobe Presenter, Articulate Presenter, and iSpring Pro, Rapid Intake ProForm, instead creating their own tools. These tools will likely work with specialized, optimized and more structured Word or PowerPoint files/templates, but also provide more optimized workflows and optimized content.

I think the opportunities for more flexible rapid elearning development will increase. The race is on for Articulate and Adobe to improve their offerings with richer tools and more instructional design savvy built-in. Wonderful as it is, Articulate Engage could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Likewise, CourseAvenue Studio and Mohive will need to expand the value of their workflow, repository and shared template capabilities.

Elearning professionals can contribute design skills to these new custom processes. Those with Flash skills will appreciate content flowing more easily from Word and PowerPoint to Flash, allowing upstream production efficiencies while still resulting in “raw” Flash files that can be enhanced and enriched with animations, effects and AS3 code.

It will be interesting to observe as the likely home brew solutions, open source tools, tool kits and SDKs emerge– all making it easier for content to flow from office automation tools to Flash source code file formats. I suspect other package file formats will also emerge and contribute to interesting solutions.

Social Networks: Support, Abuse and Filters

Today I received a spammy-spoofy email that looked like it was from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a service I trust and respect; it moved conscientiously and cautiously in the face(book) of pressure from multiple social networking sites.

As times get tight, it will be interesting to see what happens with social networks. The pessimist in me suspects that schemes and scams will increase, as well as sincere, legitimate requests for connections and job assistance from true friends.

I hope people will be supportive of their closest contacts and colleagues. Tim Sanders' Love Is the Killer App is a quick read and perhaps too touch-feely for some, but the premise is good— be open, trusting and giving with your social network.

As a social network, we can help stop abuse from scammers and schemers. Here is,

What I Did and you can do, too

  1. Check the message title and source in email headers. (Yep, spoofed as L:inkedIn)
  2. Check my own LinkedIn network and groups. (Did someone I know harvest names? Nope.)
  3. Check the LinkedIn groups that I manage (AICC and LETSI). (Not a member; if so I would have bounced them out of the group. I will be monitoring these groups.)
  4. Check Terms of Service. (No, this does not seem consistent with TOS.)
  5. Report the abuse if any. (In this case, I turned on full headers and forwarded the email to abuse (AT)

The LinkedIn User Agreement is notable for a few key sections that I appreciated:

2. Your Rights — What You May Do
3. Our Rights and Obligations — What We Must And May Do
11. LinkedIn User DOs & DON’Ts

I'll be tracking this one, since this scammer is quasi-promoting LinkedIn, via their claim to be an expert on using LinkedIn for job-hunting and encourages its use. That seems to be a conflict of interest for LinkedIn. We'll see.

UPDATE November 21, 2008: LinkedIn got back to me on November 19, indicating they were investigating the spam. As of November 21, 2008 the alleged scammer/spammer is still on LinkedIn promoting their personal network of 2M “friends & colleagues” along with their skills in recruiting and life balance. Draw your own conclusions.

Meantime, there are plenty of ways to find experts on job-hunting with LinkedIn. We also all need to be aware of way Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody ) labels as a “failure of filters”– in social networks, emails, twitter and even blogs. I encourage others to filter actively and with fairness.

Social Network Terms of Service and Abuse Reporting

Why didn't I think of this

Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate (and the consistently fantastic The Rapid Elearning Blog ) just posted: Is Google Making Our E-Learning Stupid? I love the phrase, the idea, and am certain the mere phrase resonates with everyone in the industry.

I might have taken the article in another direction, but, as always, Mr Kuhlmann makes it great, digestible and practical. He provides rapid elearning tips and approaches that transcend any specific tool (and apply to more than just rapid elearning). Bravo Tom.

Seattle Bunko Breakfast: Video Clip 1

Dan Pink, author of The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need visited Seattle in late July and was kind enough to host a happy hour version of a “Bunko Breakfast” at the Arctic Club Hotel. There were 15-20 people in attendance including 3-4 from the Snohomish County Workforce Development Council, as well as designers, web designers, electrical engineers, school administrators, construction safety managers and a range of other individuals.

Recently, Dan called out that I was posting video, so I figured I better get to it. I pinged Aaron Silvers about how he converted his Spring time “Bunko Breakfast” Chicago session videos. Armed with his tips, I then went off and learned a bit about Vimeo as a nice hosting alternative, with some constraints (500MB/week upload limit).

The full video came off my flip Ultra video camera as a single 1 hour, 1.44GB file. (By the way, the camera is cheap, fast, easy and wonderfully effective for things like this— much better than the $400 Cannon ZR850 video camera I deliberately left at home. One might compare the flip to manga, as the clips will illuminate.)

I'm learning as I go, but it seems that 5 minute chunks might be the best way to post this. Here is the first segment, where Dan provides some of the backstory on the genesis of the book.

Dan Pink: Johnny Bunko Breakfast in Seattle Clip 1 from Tom King on Vimeo.

Over the next few days, I'll upload more segments of about 5 minutes. Once I have 2-3 more uploaded, I'll post again with a link to the Vimeo site where I will have the videos with titles and bullet point highlights for each clip.

UPDATE:I uploaded another video, perhaps with the quality setting too high. Apologies if the high bitrate makes the video hiccup for you. I'll fall-back to the tighter encoding for future clips.

Both of the current clips and the remaining clips will be posted to the Vimeo Channel “SeattleBunko” found at:

iPod-based Language Learning w/Virtual Characters

I saw that 9to5 Mac picked up a story on iPods as mobile training devices for soldiers to learn new spoken languages. I immediately recognized this from some demos I'd seen from Carol Wideman of Vcom3D. Fantastic to see that this is in the field, well-received and effective. We'd met several years ago and a NATO training council meeting and this was mostly a concept then.

The story is written up on the Fort Hood 1st Cavalry web site, including some pictures of the ipod with battery and the wearable holder/case. (Note- The webmaster must like the yellow/black Purkinje effect.)

I'm glad to see Vcom3D get well-deserved recognition. Now its time for some forward-thinking corporate trainers to look at off-the-shelf and thinking-outside-the-box solutions like this too. I'm sure there's plenty of time- and cost-effective training applications for virtual characters that model real language and cultural gestures-- and plays back in common digital video and interactive Adobe Flash formats.

LETSI got Cuil Faster than SCORM

Playing around with the Cuil search engine earlier this morning…
Cuil search results: We didn't find anything for SCORM

Cuil search results on LETSI

Fortunately my typical vanity search did find me. Even more interesting is that Cuil quickly “learned” about SCORM in just an hour or so. Click either image to see more current results.

Paste Text into Web Forms on iPhone or iPod Touch

Here is a new utility web page to easily create javascript: bookmarks (bookmarklets) that paste a custom text string into a web page form in Mobile Safari on iPhone or iPod Touch–

On iPhone and Touch, that page will automatically re-direct to, which includes all the instructions and code needed to make a bookmarklet that pastes text (an “iPastelet”).
Save an iPastelet (thumbnail)
On the iPhone/Touch, Save an iPastelet provides a form to enter your text string and a button to update the page URL. Then you need to save the bookmark, then immediately edit it to remove the http:// prefix and mobilemind URL. The directions on the page explain it all.

On desktop machines, the page does not re-direct, but instead takes you to the “classic” iPastelet Maker that I posted last December. The desktop browser version of iPasteletMaker creates a bookmarklet for you to save in your desktop browser (Mac or Win) and then sync to your device via iTunes.
iPastelet Maker(thumbnail)
This approach might be a little more handy if you already sync broswer bookmarks and want to create a bookmark Scrapbook folder with lots of these.

Thanks to Erica Sadun for the original bookmarklet code and inspiration. Special Thanks to Craig Hockenberry (IconFactory / Twitterific, Twitterific for iPhone), Joe Maller (Transmogrify), Joe Hewitt and the iUI team (, and Ankur Kothari (Make the most of the iPhone SDK) for inspiration and examples.

Ping Pong with Brooks: Clarifying that Challenges != Death

PING- In response to my post, Call for Whitepapers on SCORM- Do SOMETHING please Brooks Andrus wrote a blog post titled, The Elearning Industry Is Dead. [That is a provocative statement that might leave one feeling a bit conflicted if one possessed 10 years experience with multimedia, Flash and elearning, and worked for TechSmith, makers of Camtasia Studio, a software product to: Train. Present. Persuade.] Kidding aside, I'm glad one of the 250+ subscribers of this feed thought enough to follow-up

I'm always ready to throw a few stones at learning and training, yet also ready to come to the aid of an industry that has comfortably paid the bills for me. [I'm a bit conflicted myself, but it is an industry that has provided cost-effective, mission critical training to sales associates, fighter pilots, jet mechanics, commercial aviation mechanics, construction managers, accountants, law enforcement personnel, healthcare professionals, and even software developers.]

PONG- So I wrote a comment to Brooks' post, feebly defending the industry that is my patron. [Dang, I want to drive a Boxster again.] Seriously though, if the point is to raise awareness to improve things-- I am all for it. Allow me a brief aside on criticism.

People have found fault with elearning, computer-based training and its precursors since the days of TICCIT and PLATO. It might just be endemic to any form of compulsory knowledge transfer; few text books or training films ever become a NY Times Bestseller or a box office smash.

All along the way the criticism has generally raised the capabilities, quality and effectiveness while lowering the costs. Expectations rise too. Things change. Cutting edge and high quality always has a price, but those expectations are a moving target. The green screen training that had text-based role plays, probably took as many development hours as a similar Flash-based piece with a digital avatar today. BUT it only played on the corporate or campus mainframe, and you were quite lucky if it did more than show text and beep.

So, Hail to the critics, they have challenged the industry and industry has responded. Likewise, Condemnation to shameful designers, they besmirch our trade with discouraging and unimaginative content. While I've been bored during presentations anchored with snazzy multimedia PowerPoint, I've been wrapt with fascination by compelling speakers with simple Kodachrome slides.

Thus my point, great content transcends technology. Great technology enables. Clever designers focus on the content first, and make good use what the technology enables. Was Shakespeare held back by the lack of Microsoft Office for Windows Vista or empowered by a simple quill? [Personally I think he would have used a Mac though.]

As I heard Dr. Michael Allen say earlier this year, "It is a poor craftsman who blames his tool." And I might add, it is a poor industry that never improves its tools.

PING- Brooks posts again, Why Elearning Is Dead. And I respond here, to the problems he cites. With a veritable volley to each point. Hang on.

PONG- First point from Brooks.

  • Reusable content, the raison d’être of SCORM / AICCC [sic]...

PING- Actually, the AICC exists to...

Quoted from the AICC FAQ page. As I recall, driving factors TWENTY YEARS AGO when the AICC formed, were economics and interoperability issues. Issues were things like the fact that there wasn't a widely adopted digital audio file format (WAV didn't exist). The CMI (Computer Managed Instruction, aka Learning Management System) specification work started a few years later, and focused on interoperability. At that time the desired level of re-use was the LMS itself. Believe me, it was NOT better when each set of training materials came with its own proprietary LMS silo capable only of running the corresponding proprietary content developed in that vendor's proprietary authoring tool.

As for SCORM, a few of us remember when the "R" stood for Repository. I don't know the back-story of why it was changed or by who. I like to speculate that it was partially a marketing maneuver to secure political support and funding.

PONG- Later in that point, he continues.

...reuse just falls flat on its face. I’ve found it to be near impossible to achieve reuse across departments within a single organization

PING- I'll generally agree. I recall having conversations with Phillip Dodds about my desire for a disposable content object model. Meaning content object wrappers so cheap and easy, they became to consistent quality learning what the disposable cup is to the Starbucks latte.

PONG- Next point.

  • Testing (SCORM + LMS) has been a failure. Despite all the fancy API features you still can’t reliably certify results. Physical environments and instructors are still required for anything needing mission critical result certification. We might as well be using simple survey tools rather than bloated standards.

PING- At first, I thought he meant the LMS certification test. I'd consider this point a "FOL" as I've seen in called some bug bases-- a Fact Of Life, not a criticism of SCORM or AICC. Unattended remote testing for high stakes certifications (lives or livelihoods at risk) generally doesn't make sense. If you must do medium or high stakes testing to do electronically there is just one way to go in my opinion, Questionmark. A great product, a company filled with people of great integrity, and they can more than manage low stakes testing, assessments and surveys too.

PONG- Next point on costs [or salesmanship].

  • The cost of developing lean forward elearning experiences is at least an order of magnitude greater than its pitched at. In fact elearning is pitched as a cost saver when in reality its usually a net loss. Most elearning is PPT based because the cost of creating a compelling experience from an SME’s physical course is so high (at least that’s been my experience).

PING- Almost too easy to rebute. We've all seen things oversold, maybe even been reluctant participants in some way. As a developer/consultant, I had to backpedal on sales promises made at more than one previous employer.

I'd feel sad and try to avoid projects where my work is (un)recognized as a net loss. As for PPT versus costs-- not every piece of elearning replaces a SME's course. And in many cases a great blended design might shorten the overall length of a classroom course, and allow the instructor to convey better/richer material. In such cases the elearning serves the role of individualized instructor allowing each student to slow down only when they need to do so. This as opposed to an instructor slowing down a whole class of 25 for the one student challenged at the current moment. This works great for classes where students may speak different languages. Likewise, a shorter footprint for classes can be real savings when you have high volumes of students to train or training must span the globe. Sending students or instructors across oceans isn't cheap, and you'll need classrooms and hotel rooms too.

PONG- Next point on failures [or bad situations].

  • Every LMS / LCMS vendor I’ve worked with gets a FAIL. They’re bloated, difficult to administer and use, and often require organizations to wrap their infrastructure around them (which just doesn’t happen too much). Again these tools are pitched as cost savers, but typically require full-time administrators and the large vendors have notoriously bad service track records.

PING- Sigh. More sadness. I know it happens. I guess I've been fortunate, working with some wonderful customers and vendors. I've been tremendously impressed with Accenture, American Airlines, Boeing, Herman Miller and others. They all faced challenges with partners and vendors, and both sides dealt with it well.

PONG- On to more failures, such as discoverability.

  • Distributed content / repositories reign supreme whether on the Web or across organizations. Again the LMS / LCMS get a FAIL and SCORM SCOs have had little tangible value.

PING- Remember when the "R" stood for repository. Now I sigh for myself. I thought CORDRA was supposed to move things forward on this. It has not. Time for some good thoughts to be shared and popularized to solve this. [See original call for LETSI white papers]

As far as SCO's having little tangible value, I think a few million Korean parents might disagree regarding the SCORM-based elearning their children receive. I believe Chrysler also has some hard numbers on savings they achieved with SCO's, you can find it via this Google search.

PONG- Home stretch now, second last point is on community and standards.

  • A real infrastructure and community never really developed, at least not on the scale we should reasonably expect. Actually you could say the Web raced ahead and that search (GOOGLE), Wikipedia, Creative Commons, etc. form the backbone of real elearning. Adding community features doesn’t mean your going to build a great community and standardization here might hurt more than it helps.

PING- I'm personally amazed that the little presentations I saw in 1996 and 1997 led to something the size, diversity and adoption level of SCORM. I don't know what scale Brooks was expecting. It's bigger than I ever expected when I helped form a tiny company to build an early standards-based CMI/LMS in 1993. Back then we had to explain what learning management was, it was all just content. The typical training management decision was build-versus-buy. The tools skills an CBT/elearning designer, developer or consultant had with one system had very little applicability to another

PING- Last point, on a failure to change the classroom paradigm (I'll add, that is something that I never thought AICC or SCORM set out to do).

  • The elearning industry failed to fundamentally improve the old classroom led paradigm. Big institutions still employ SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) as course developers and instructors. The elearning movement as we know it has largely failed to create tools that can effectively allow SMEs to create elearning courseware. This meant the introduction of a new class employees–IDs (Instructional Designers) and Courseware Developers. In most cases we’re talking about new hires under different managers and even departments. There’s a huge level of distrust between these groups based on paranoia, ego and organizational allegiance. All of this results in increased operational overhead (financial and development).

PING- In my experiences, when big institutions change it is either almost imperceptible slowly or relatively quickly due to major disruption or catastrophe. The good news is that for big institutions, elearning has not been a major disruption or catastrophe. Lots of big organizations get lots of content out quick, almost too quick. I'd now argue for more filters, and shorter content, and less content, as much as better content (which I think such filters would also bring).

Even better, for small and medium institutions, elearning been a huge improvement. It allows them to time-shift training with self-paced e-learning, span geography with virtual classrooms, and keep training far more current than classroom approaches and scheduling would ever allow. It makes it worthwhile to send out 5, 10 or 30 minutes of training. Far below the threshold of the duration we might expect for a class (hours or days) to take.

We shake hands after a game well played. Finally, the denouement.

All this said, there are some really fantastic people in the elearning world–maybe they’re going to kick some ass and surprise me with SCORM 2.0. :-P

I hope so Brooks. I hope you're surprised, and I hope you're one of those fantastic people.

Call for Whitepapers on SCORM- Do SOMETHING please

LETSI is soliciting white papers on SCORM to help identify the issues and ideas that are key priorities for the learning and training community. The submission deadline is August 15, 2008 and more information can be found on the LETSI web site SCORM 2.0 page or in the PDF file LETSI White Paper Solicitation on SCORM.

I think this is important, as we could be at the cusp of a make-or-break situation for evolution (or revolution) of learning and training infrastructure. Much of the current e-learning and LMS infrastructure is grounded in the learning and training approaches of the 1990s ('80s? '70s??). By comparison, today's technical and learning environment is much more “read-write”, collaborative, social and nomadic-- all while being more personal and individualized.

Excuse me while I meander, ramble and eventually get to the point of why it is important.

Recently, I realized I have been unwittingly (and somewhat weakly) channelling the thoughts of Dr. David Wiley regarding the isolated "read-only" static nature of LMS-centric training, by mentioning this in conversation and scattered bullet-points in presentations over the last year. I discovered this thanks to Brian Lamb, who I have never met, but who I remotely and greatly appreciate via his blog abject learning.

Brian in a passing credit mentioned that David provided a lot of meat for many of his own presentations last year, and then lead me straight to Dr. Wiley's 2007 presentation Openness, Localization and the Future of Learning Objects. If you can't take the time to watch/listen to the whole presentation, I'd strongly encourage you to advance the slides and time marker to the following points:

If that doesn't inspire you to respond to the call for papers, perhaps it might get the attention of Dr. Wiley or Brian Lamb.

E-learning isn't completely broken, but current specifications and infrastructure don't match how we live, learn and work.

Interoperability specifications can't completely fix that, but maybe, maybe, the specification efforts can be oriented to enable and facilitate more effective and more congruent approaches. Too often they seem resistant and brittle towards innovation.

I'm certain that LETSI looks forward to learning from and sharing your white paper ideas.

Develop iPhone Web Apps w/out an iPhone

I saw my friend Aaron twitter a question about this topic, so I thought I'd pull together a quick post with some resources for those with a Mac (and 1-2 for Mac or Win Firefox) and general tips. Briefly the tips are:

Safari- Go to Preferences and check the box for Show Develop menu in menu bar.
thumbnail view of Safari Preferences
Then you can use the menu Develop > User Agent > Mobile Safari 1.1.3 – iPhone. That will allow Safari to present itself to website (and your code) as the iPhone web browser. Hovering over a menu option will also display the full User Agent string.
thumbnail view of Develop menu - User Agent - Mobile Safari

iPhoney- iPhoney from MarketCircle is basically a shell around WebKit that acts like the iPhone browser, Mobile Safari. It does support rotation, but isn't exactly like iPhone (address bar can't scroll (but can be hidden), it does add vertical/horizontal scroll bars in some cases were iPhone wouldn't). That said, it is a nice way to get a quick "iPhone Preview" of any site from your laptop or desktop computer.

iPhoney in horizontal/landscape view

Tip: I found that I get more "iPhone-like" results with many sites by having iPhoney use a custom user-agent. The User Agent string below matches exactly what a web server sees for my iPhone user agent with the current firmware, whereas the iPhoney returns a slightly different version (Mobile/1A538a). Just use the appropriate menu item to enter the text below as "Custom User Agent".

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/4A93 Safari/419.3

Switch User Agent- Firefox users (even those already using Firefox 3.0) can use the User Agent Switcher extension to also mimic the iPhone web browser user agent, with the same User Agent string as above.

Firefox extensions for Javascript development- While you're at it, you may also want to get a couple of other Firefox extension that are generally useful for web development– the Web Developer extension is from the same author as User Agent Switcher, and the latest Firebug extension beta release seems to work well with Firefox 3 (and help a lot with debugging). Firesizer isn't is compatible with Firefox 3 (yet) now, and it allows you to quickly switch Firefox to different screen sizes... helping you preview an iPhone sized window of (or even test other web sites & apps at common sizes like 1024x768).

iUI- iUI is set of CSS, HTML and Javascript that hails from Joe Hewitt of Facebook, who also originated Firebug. iUI is available from the Google code site, and includes code to provide a more iPhone-like look and feel to your web applications while providing the ability to handle page orientation changes (rotation between landscape & portrait views).

Apple Developer pages and Google Groups- There are a bunch of resources on the Apple site and there is an active iPhone Web Development Google Group too. Visit the Apple Web Apps Development Center and Apple iPhone Dev Center. Then check out the Google Groups iPhoneWebDev.

iPhoneDevCamp- Finally, there will be a second iPhoneDevCamp at the Adobe offices in San Francisco. It is scheduled for August 1-3 2008, and you should watch the official iPhoneDevCamp 2 website for more information.

Story, Comics, Manga and Elearning

People pay money for stories. People tell stories. People learn from stories. What is the story in recent elearning you've taken or developed?

In his book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink cites a great quote from Ursula K. Le Guin:

The story—from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace—is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no great societies that did not tell stories.

Stories are powerful things. I love hearing, learning from and re-telling (sharing) stories. Last October, I met Dan Bliton of Booz Allen Hamilton at Learning 2007. We'd just seen Dan Pink's presentation and Mr. Pink (there are 2 Dan's in this story, but "Mr. Pink" sounds so Pulp Fiction) mentioned his upcoming book on manga. Manga had been on my radar for about a year and this seemed like an interesting area, and an area of shared interest with Dan Bliton.

One thing led to another, and now Dan Bliton is going to share a presentation he's done on on Stories, Comics, and Manga - Oh My! Making Learning Stick For Your Audience! Dan's presentation shares insights and lessons learned in several markets and from Booze Allen Hamilton's award-winning learning organization. A take-away job aid and web site references summarize the approaches discussed and list additional resources

The live e-seminar will be this coming Thursday, March 13, 2008 10:00 A.M. PDT (yes, daylight savings time, the USA switches this weekend) and you can register for the e-seminar for free here:

As always, I'm looking forward to the presentation. Dan (Bliton) has a lot on stories and will even have a web comic embed in the live presentation. We might even riff a bit on manga and comics as catalysts for elearning storyboarding and user-contributed content.

I'm quite interested in the read-write nature of manga in Japanese culture. In fact, I'm already going to pre-order Dan Pink's manga book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need which is due out on April 1, 2008 (no Foolin).

A shame I won't have this in time to chime in with and ask for comments on Johnny Bunko from the other Dan. That said, the session will still be really good, and is always better with the discussion with the live audience.

The interaction, the audience and the re-telling (or the desire to re-tell) is part of what makes an event a story, and what makes the word transcend the page. With fond memories of reading The Left Hand of Darkness in my high school sci-fi literature class, I'll close with another Le Guin quote.

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

—Ursula K. Le Guin

Elearning Events Calendar Updates

I updated the public Elearning Events Google Calendar with major industry events from April through October 2008.

Updates and additions include CLO Spring Symposium, Learning Systems 2008, WATS, Training Leadership Summit, and Learning Impact Summit, as well as events in the early Fall.

Update: CNET Reports Gizmodo Banned

Unsurprisingly the CEA (CES organizers) have banned Gizmodo and are looking at further sanctions.

CEA's take on CES Gizmodo prank: Banned!

This results from the earlier presentation-fouling pranks, Gizmodo CES horseplay reported all over the web.

Lesson learned for presenters & trainers, prepare for the juvenile-- turn off IR ports/devices/remotes you don't need or tape them over, or make sure they provide some basic security. Require pairing for BlueTooth devices, turn off the "Discoverable" setting, and so forth. Mac users should pair their infrared remote or even disable it if not used. Wired connections are preferred.

I'm almost surprised there haven't been widely-publicized incidents with wireless mics at conferences, yet. I guess we'll all need secured ultra-wide band wireless microphones soon.

Rapid Syndication Surfing: FeedDemon & NetNewsWire

Reading blogs has become a primary source of news for me. I sorely missed FeedDemon when I switched to Mac. Then I found about about NetNewsWire, but dawdled on buying it. Surprise, BOTH are now free. My favorite apps list just got bigger and free-er. I'll expand on the details of each below.

Feed readers make your blog reading more productive. Yes, I know about Bloglines and Google Reader (and other web-based readers), but these desktop readers are my preference for a few reasons. Those who live in the browser or bounce between machines may prefer web-hosted solutions. However, putting me in front of a browser, leaves me itching to hit a few favorite bookmarks, check AdSense, frequent flyer miles and other BBADD ideas (Browser-based Attention Deficit Disorder). Plus, lately I've been getting paranoid about having ALL my data at Google, so I spread the data to make the harvesting a little harder, even if that expands the password/identity hassles/risks.

The "fog of surfing" quickly crushes my plans for focused RSS raids in Firefox (apologies to Carl von Clausewitz). In contrast, I find that FeedDemon gives a comforting and quick "customized newspaper" my favorite feeds. NetNewsWire has a little different interface paradigm, but I can still sail through feed faster than plain surfing, Firefox Sage extension surfing or using Bloglines and succumbing to BBADD temptations.

UPDATE 1/11/07: Nick Bradbury himself discusses, Why Use a Desktop RSS Reader? (Note he does NOT make it a all-or-nothing argument like some).

Windows RSS Reader: FeedDemon now $0
FeedDemon comes from the genius of Nick Bradbury, who also developed the original HomeSite HTML editor. I bought FeedDemon years ago when he sold it directly. I've always loved the newspaper view and the innovative blog-search-results-feed. The search lets you create a "feed" that is the dynamic results of searching across blogs-- VERY handy when you want to stay on top of emerging news on a few related topics of interest.

Mac RSS Reader: NetNewsWire now $0
This one is a little newer to me, but I'm liking it a lot after 2 days of heavy use. NetNewsWire has the features you'd expect and a nice capability to open posts in either your preferred browser or the built-in browser. Opening things in the built-in browser reduces the clutter, while still letting you easily read the full-featured verison of the posts. Besides an nice Outlook-eque 3 panel view, the NetNewsWire browser pane also includes sharp, useful thumbnail views of each open "tab" of blog posts content.

Both readers really shine if you use the feature to clean-out infrequently read feeds (literally NetNewsWire "dinosaurs"). For further blog-reading productivity boosts, you can become a FeedDemon speed demon by applying the Inbox Zero techniques from the 43 Folders organizational site to RSS reading. I've tried it and it works great!

Speaking of BBADD behavior, have you seen the Gizmodo CES horseplay? I'm not sure I'd be proud of that.

Applications I Loved in 2007

Here is the promised new year follow-up with applications I really like and use.

Open source stuff [Windows & Mac]: Firefox 2, Flock, Thunderbird 2, FileZilla, and Audacity
All of those worked great on Windows and great on Mac. In 2004 when still using Windows for daily work, I dumped IE & Outlook and switched to Firefox and Thunderbird and have never regretted it. [OK, Calendaring needs work. Will Sunbird/Lightning ever break out like Thunderbird?]. In 2005, I even switched my wife's machine and my father-in-law to Firefox/Thunderbird. Works great, with no trouble for me or them. Soon, I'll blog about my favorite must-have Firefox extensions and Thunderbird extensions.

In 2007, these open source apps eased the transition to Mac. I just copied directories over and installed the Mac version and voila, it all worked. Well, I didn't bring Flock data over from the Windows machine-- I just installed it after Firefox and let it pick up my bookmarks from there.

With FileZilla, I did need to re-enter my servers and passwords, but I work with only a few FTP sites. However, all the application UI and workflow experience transfers back-and-forth just fine. Over time, I expect I'll go buy YummyFTP since it is incredibly fast, efficient and more Mac-integrated. In terms of features/version, Audacity lags a bit on the Mac, but it worked fine for my needs. TUAW recently posted a call for Mac developers and hopefully it will catch-up soon.

Finally, Flock turned out to be a great tool for blog surfing and blog writing and social surfing. It is especially strong with, Facebook, flickr, and ma.gnolia and twitter.

Password Managers [Windows, Palm, PocketPC]: Ilium eWallet $30
I used Ilium eWallet with Windows and a Palm V... then PocketPC... then a Treo. It worked great and provided a fantastic way to secure and manage tons of passwords, PINS, access codes and WPA codes. With the availability PocketPC and Palm applications and synchronization it also provided a way to securely access information on Windows or take-it with me.

Password Managers [Macintosh, iPhone]: 1Password $30
I ordered a MacBook Pro in May both to jump on the Switcher bandwagon and in anticipation of having a more iPhone-friendly platform. Much to my surprise, I came to love the Mac and abruptly ended my initial affair with the iPhone after 6 days. 1Password from Agile Web Solutions turned out to be both a password manager and the friend that helped reunite me with iPhone (OK Steve Jobs and a $200 price break helped too). 1Password manager is great because it secures data leveraging the Macintosh keychain system, works simultaneously across multiple browsers (Camino, Firefox, Flock, Safari), and syncs with the iPhone via a clever use of encryption with a Javascript bookmarklet that keeps your portable data secure.

XML, XSD and XSLT [Windows]: Altova XMLSpy $500
I would hate to do any XML heavy-lifting without the latest version of Altova XMLSpy. If you're going to make or edit XSD schema files or make or edit XSLT, just get it. Generally, the Professional version is recommended. I've never needed more, but I haven't worked with WSDL. The Altova site offers a confusing array of offerings, but just look for the basic version of Altova XMLSpy Professional [30 day trial here]. It is expensive, but well worth it.

Manipulating any sort of text file [Macintosh]: TextMate $60
TextMate sings with any sort of text file you can think of editing. Built-in bundles and extensibility make it fluent with everything from Actionscript to XML. It is a ninja at replacing, reformatting, realigning and re-anything with text-based content in a single file or across a multi-file project. Using Textmate I've munged .htaccess, Javascript, PHP, plain text, robots.txt, sitemap.xml and big gnarly text file hairballs of data, with preternatural alacrity. Be sure to check out the author's blog and the Textmate in Action screencasts for some great tips and speed editing demo's.

Blog writing [Windows]: w.bloggar [donationware]
w.bloggar on Windows was my favorite, but fell into disrepair by October 2006 (and didn't resurface until a year later). I have not used it since late 2006, but development seems to be on once again. The December 2007 update looks promising and I may pop it on a USB thumbdrive for some portable client-side blog editing on Windows Machines.

Blog writing [Macintosh]: Ecto $18
Ecto rocks! I've been using Ecto 3.0 since it went alpha and am very happy with it. Ecto offers round-trip editing with WYSIWYG and HTML source views. You'll find tons of handy features to paste URL links and automate entries. Ecto really shines if you contribute to 2 or more blogs, and want local editing, saving drafts, and automatic publishing. One cool feature I've come to appreciate is the way it automatically submits the post title and a TinyURL link to twitter

Sitemap Utilities [Macintosh]: Rage Google Sitemap Automator $30
If you're responsible for 2 or more public-facing websites with at least dozens of pages each, then get Rage Google Sitemap Automator now to improve your search engine optimization and indexing. It is rare for a niche need and a solution to exquisitely and harmoniously unite as a solution. Rage Google Sitemap Automator does just that and kicks asterisk. Point the Rage Sitemap Automator at your web site and it scours the bugger for every possible page that could be submitted to Google sitemaps or Yahoo Site Explorer. Then you can easily add filters to set the refresh frequency and priority of whole batches of those pages (or even exclude some). It is highly configurable letting you easily add extensions to exclude (or include), which came in very handy for adding pages with a ".pl" extension from a site that uses YaBB. Sitemap Automator also does more than typical sitemap generators by letting you easily make batch changes the sitemap without rescanning the whole site. If you're responsible for 2 or more public-facing websites with at least dozens of pages each, then it is well worth the $30 to get Rage Google Sitemap Automator [or at least use the trial version].

Services/Web Solutions I Loved in 2007

Year transitions mean two things in the media (and the blogosphere)– old year recaps and new year predictions. I predict that I will get to prognostications for 2008 in a future post. I also predict I will love these things in 2008. Meantime here are some great web tools/services I had the pleasure of using in 2007.

Call an 800 number and send a transcribed message via SMS text or email to your contacts or a group lists (or even twitter, tumblr, a blog or group, or remember the milk). Jott is fantastic for me. It is quite good at speech recognition for transcription, and Jott offers the option of including a link to original audio.

I stumbled on to this service via the task manager iGTD and a since-abandoned integration that allowed you to Jott to yourself and have to-do items automatically show-up sorted, classified, and scheduled in your task manager. Now I am thinking it will be a fine way to avoid entangling myself with the new 2008 Washington State Law against texting while driving. (I admit I've done this at stop lights and clogged-up off-ramps, but at freeway speeds or in moving traffic, txt'ing and driving is insane.) With Jott, you just speed dial an 800 number and speak what becomes that SMS saying/sending "I'm still stuck in traffic" message to an individual or group.

Basically, OpenDNS runs a network of high-speed DNS servers. Things like MySpace pages and Facebook may call content from tens of different domains. Every millisecond needed to resolve each of those domains slows down the page loading. OpenDNS is free, fast and has nice instructions to setup a Windows or Mac computer to use it or even setup a router. SOHO or small business system administrators can also use it as a sort of filter to reduce phising scams, filter "adult" sites, provide some 'branding' for DNS errors and more. Simple to setup up, and for me, faster internet at home.

Yes, this former scourge has become indispensable. Remember when Plaxo seemed like a virus, always pinging you about someone who wanted you to update your contact info. All better now, they are much less invasive and more useful. I do contract work and my client has me using Outlook on equipment they provide. With Plaxo, I'm able to sync calendar and contacts between Outlook, Thunderbird, Google Calendar, Palm Contacts, Palm Calendar, and eventually Macintosh Address Book and iCal. and iPhone. I'm calling it a service, but in this case I also use Plaxo client add-ins for Outlook, Thunderbird and Address Book / iCal.

Imagine having the same home email address for 10 years. I have had just that, despite using 3 different dial-up services, 2 cable companies and a DSL service. Pobox is a sort of email forwarder that gives you a stable address for receiving (and sending) email, no matter how many times you change the forwarding account where it ultimately lands to get read.

Can you also also imagine having 99%+ of your spam stopped at the server and never reaching your "real" address, during that entire time? Pobox does that too. The Pobox spam filter set is amazing-- it can be very automatic or let you fine tune the settings. It combines already powerful filters like Sender address verification, SPF, black hole listings, SpamCop, Cloudmark, HELO tests, and even region-based flagging and bouncing. Bouncing is great, it makes your pobox email look failed/dead to spammers. I used the basic service at $20/year for several years, but have upgraded to more expensive service for the last few years.

Family members have been happy with the $20-- even those "backending" it with Gmail (already excellent spam filtering), because they feel free to switch services anytime without having a forced address change. Me? I'm happy to have 7 inbound email addresses from 3 different domains filtering through Pobox to one forwarding account. I just did a report and in the last 30 days there where 0.001% false positives where mail was blocked that should not have been blocked. Meantime, I got 4 spam emails in the last 7 days, and see only 6 "possible spams" that were held and not bounced.
I'm getting paranoid about WiFi hotspot security. PublicVPN gives me a nice no-fuss solution for securing transmission of personal data over public wireless (or wired) connections. I tactically purchased a 30 day subscription to cover time when I was going to be out-of-town at conferences. As my subscription approached expiration, I got a renewal notice offering 10% off. I deferred a bit and once again renewed to cover 2 more conferences. PublicVPN service worked great from St. Louis, Orlando, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, San Jose and Seattle. When the next renewal notice (and discount offer) arrived, I re-upped for a full year at $55. It feels good to support a relatively local (Oregon) company and secure my data. All this without the hassle of adding VPN firmware to a Linux-based router and configuring/maintaining it, OR buying an expensive SOHO-solution.

Bunches of things Google
Google Search, obviously. But I've also benefited from and used Google Alerts, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google AdSense, Google Sitemaps (Webmaster tools), Google Analytics and Google Talk.

Hmm, that's a lot of my data. Can you see why I'm hesitant to jump on with Google Docs for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation. So far, online spreadsheet EditGrid (online spreadsheets) seems just fine and offers VERY iPhone-friendly version. Plus I'm not chained to Microsoft Office, and am really enjoying using Apple iWork '08 with Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets & light data, and Keynote for world-class presentation capabilities-- and all for a total investment of $80.

That reminds me...

Apple Quick Tip of the Week via web or iTunes
Short podcasts/video-podcasts (most are less than 1 minute) that give you easy-to-follow and very useful tips for Mac OS X and Apple software. <blockcomments>Jeff Burton</blockcomments>

Oops, looks like I squeezed in some references to applications. Seems like that could be a whole other post. Look for that one soon.

Quick Firefox Tip: Open Location + Address Completion

Here is a quick tip for Firefox: Enter Ctrl-L company Ctrl-Return. [Use Command-L and Command-Return on Mac.]
Bam! Firefox completes it as and goes there.

Here is how it works. You use Control-L to automatically place the cursor in the URL address field and highlight all the text. Then type just the company name for a website (say "Amazon") and do a Control-Return.

Firefox completes it as and goes there. This doesn't work for "non dot com" domains like .edu, .gov, .org etc. So I still have to fully type for instance or start typing m-o-b-i-l... and use autocompleting when it finds a match.

This combination works great because the Open Location shortcut (Control-L or Command-L) does the effort-saving act of getting the cursor in the address bar ready for a new address, and the URL-entry + completion shortcut (Control-Return or Command-Return) skips the "Google-search + 'I feel lucky'" default behavior of entering just a word in the address bar. This combo also bypasses issues with proxy servers or use of the OpenDNS service, which might otherwise bring up some sort of results page to disambiguate your entry.

I now use this all the time. It saves fishing for the mouse to go to the address bar, and it is s a wonderfully handy speed combo when you're behind a proxy server on the corporate intranet or at a hotel hotspot. No mouse fishing and you avoid that disambiguation/search results page.

Baby Got Backlinks

OK, I just watched the last 2 segments of VH1 100 Greatest Songs of the 90's on Tivo, so please forgive the back-dated back reference. Maybe I should have gone with "D'oh, FINALLY Got Blogger Backlinks Working."

Using RAGE Google Sitemap Automator has been all the rage with me during the holiday break, but I kept learning from Google Webmaster Tools that I was getting pages with weird links ending with %3C$BlogBacklinkURL$%3E. It turns out that Backlinks have been broken here since forever. However they are now fixed, thanks to the informative (but 2 year old) post I found at A Consuming Experience, Display links to your posts via Blogger Backlinks, Icerocket Link Tracker etc. If you're having a problem like this, you probably have a customized Blogger template, so you should see the section titled Blogger: backlinks for custom templates.

Watch for some real content to appear here soon.

OLPC Arriving Soon, Mosquito Nets Already in Mali

Two cool updates with cool videos too. First off, the OLPC Give One, Get One 'XO' laptops are on their way. I got an email note on Saturday morning indicating mine should arrive by January 15. Coincidentally, I just stumbled on to a fascinating video with XO designer Yves Behar describing key features. Watching the video and understanding the thoughtfulness of the design, I couldn't help but think of A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. Subtle features and textures abound and combine to an air of quality even at a low price. Who knew Bono and The Edge did the start-up sound for the XO? Who new the camera could easily link up with a simple malaria self-test?

What a segue. the Malaria No More bed nets made it to Mali Africa almost 2 weeks ago. Soon after they arrived, Elliott Masie posted a few interesting videos about the impact the nets will have and even some information on how local health advocates engage in learning and training. Here's an interesting video on the train-the-trainer and communications for the "Health Relays:" Field Lessons. There are other interesting observations and videos on the Learning Gives Back blog , that address everything from differences in mobile phone culture, to holidays, and even a bit on the Amazon Kindle.

One more bit on the One Laptop Per Child. Read what children and teachers are saying about OLPC and the XO at Learning Around the World. If you miss the December 31, 2007 deadline for Give One, Get One and are still interested, there are other Ways to Donate.

Google Trends: Authoring Tool Trends

I used Google Trends to plot search popularity of Authorware, Toolbook, Lectora, and Captivate since 2004. It may not be a direct correlation to sales or interest, but there seems to be some consistency with gut-level reactions for industry positions. Authorware trending down since 2004, Toolbook relatively stable but lower, and a pretty good horse race between the seemingly indirect competitors of Captivate and Lectora. A sample image follows below, along with links for some other interesting plots.

Google Trends: plot of search popularity for authorware,toolbook

Authoring tool comparative search popularity plots

Obviously, the comparisons depend on having a rather specific and unique search term. I unsuccessfully tried doing a comparison of AICC and SCORM, but things like All India Congress Committee (AICC), Antwerp International Cat Club (AICC) and other AICC's left me feeling like it was inconclusive regarding LMS specifications. Through my work with one AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee) I've already seen seasonal variations in web traffic due to All India Congress Committee and election cycles. However, I wonder if occurrence/popularity of a common word (e.g., Captivate) is relatively stable in the common usage and in that case product references might drive dynamic changes to indicate realtive changes.

TryPhone or iPhoney = iPhone + Lost in Translation

The TryPhone site run by MobileComplete is very nice if you want to check out the menu structure and general user interface of most popular cell phones. It breaks down a bit on more complicated user interfaces with gestures, button double-clicks and shortcuts. It gives you the general idea, but the graphics are a little coarse and something is definitely Lost in Translation compared to an actual iPhone.

TryPhone image of iPhone

They do have some Captivate-esque animated demos, but they seem to be driving the TryPhone simulation rather than playing animated captures or video of the phone. Anyway, check out TryPhone if you're looking at a new mobile for a Christmas gift. Just be aware that the iPhone emulation gives a weak impression of the experience.

Mac users- If you're developing pages to be viewed on iPhone, check out iPhoney from MarketCircle. It is basically a shell around WebKit that acts like the iPhone browser, Mobile Safari. It isn't exactly like iPhone (address bar can't scroll, not multi-touch obviously, and adds scroll bars in many cases were iPhone wouldn't). That said, it is a nice way to get a quick "iPhone Preview" of any site from your laptop or desktop computer. You can even rotate the phone to vertical or horizontal/landscape view.

iPhoney in horizontal/landscape view

Tip: I found that I get more "iPhone-like" results with iPhoney by using a custom user-agent. The one below matches exactly what a web server sees my iPhone user agent as, whereas the iPhoney returns a slightly different version. Just use the appropriate menu item to enter the text below as "Custom User Agent".

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/3B48b Safari/419.3

Easily Create iPhone Bookmarklets

Not sure if I got frustrated, creative, generous, or all of the above. I made a web form called iPastelet Maker that lets you easily create custom bookmarklets that paste text into web forms on the iPhone. Use it to create bookmarklets for common recurring entries, like user ID's, email addresses, IP addresses, host names, etc. You might even create a bookmark folder called 'Scrapbook' and keep a bunch of common text snippets there. If you have a few services/servers you log-on to and use the same email/ID's over & over this can be really convenient.

Since they are bookmarklets, they obviously only work in a browser, and work best in Safari/Mobile Safari. However, it is best to create them with your desktop browser (preferably Safari on Mac and IE on Windows). Then, use iTunes to sync your bookmarks over to the iPhone and voilá.

It's free stuff, so feedback is welcome, but support is nil. Thanks to TUAW and Erica Sadun for awareness, code and inspiration.

Kindle Review for the Masie Consortium

I've had an Amazon Kindle for a week now. In fact, I've even read a book already and passed it on to friends and colleagues to get their feedback.

It was kind of cool to get the jump on folks like ZDNet and have real Amazon Kindle review done by last Monday. Their "initial impressions" reviews just showed up in my inbox today. However, last Monday, Elliott Masie shared his take on the Kindle in a video posted for the Masie Learning Consortium and also posted a PDF of my review. Recently the same material was also shared with the broader learning community via the Learning TRENDS Newsletter he publishes. Here's a quote from the December 5, 2007 entry:

Kindle Reader from Amazon - Perspectives: We have been testing the new Kindle Reader device recently released by Amazon. This is the latest in a series of e-book readers that we have seen and reviewed at The MASIE Center. While the new device has some flaws and usability challenges (including the absence of a touch screen), it is an important "baby step" towards the dream of more accessible digital content. Just as Apple's iPod and the iTunes site popularized the concept of buying and downloading a song for a dollar, Kindle is aimed at doing the same for books. Our Learning CONSORTIUM will be doing a series of experiments with the Kindle and other e-Readers to see how they could best be integrated into corporate learning. You can take a peek at our work by going to

Elliott has a nice 6 minute video overview on the page at the link above, which also has a link to a PDF that he has referred to as, "[Tom King has done] a more technical, in-depth "first look" at content models for the Kindle as well as human factor issues." Cool and not even entirely self-promotion for me. :-)

Speaking of promotion, if you plan to purchase a Kindle, please consider using the link below so that I will receive an Amazon Associates referral fee. Thanks.

Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device

Dear WebEx, It is 2007

<rant> Dear WebEx, please help your product become less sucky. We live in a web world. People use different web browsers, different Java versions, different OS platforms, and some people even (gasp) have smartphones. I had a horrible experience with your product today. Bad enough for me to spend the time writing this rant. Bad enough that I will now to my best to cancel or avoid any meeting requiring me to join a WebEx meeting.

I think we've all had other challenges and bad experiences with your product in the past. For me this relationship has got to end unless you can change. I 'll no longer budget 10 extra minutes to get into a WebEx meeting, and then be distracted for the first 15 minutes of my co-workers actual meeting as I install, cancel, uninstall, reinstall, check and change browser settings, get Java versions, then download WebEx Meeting Manager, deal with WebEx support and eventually give up on the WebEx meeting.

The recurring Java and ActiveX hassles I had with the WebEx Windows versions a few years were a recurring mild annoyance. The fact that it is 2007 and WebEx still offers only a 2003 "PowerPC" version for Mac was the last straw. You've known about this for quite awhile. It's embarrassing. You are no longer the only one scaleable and available. Have a little respect for yourself and your victims/users. You are Cisco now for heavens sake. It is not me, it is you. Yeah, sure, maybe we can still be friends.

PS: WebEx competitors, no need to get all smug and happy yet. I'm still looking for something that will exceed WebEx features and works reliably and well on Mac and Windows and Linux, with at least 2 browsers on each platform.

PPS: Besides geeks like me, a couple hundred thousand kids will get OLPC Linux machines. They're selling USD $2 million worth of those things each day for the last few weeks with Give One, Get One. Look into getting those kids and their governments a solution. Might even be good for your business. Even Microsoft is starting to think that way about OLPC.

PPPS: The world has a couple billion mobile phones. Pretty much enough for each of us who can use one, to have two. We use them. A lot. Please figure out how to easily, centrally (?automatically) mute the call from the guy walking past the leaf blower or breathing like Darth Vader. When you've got that licked, see about getting at least a slide show or still shot screen sharing on 3-4 types of Smartphones-- a couple million of us will be happier.

OLPC GO,GO Extended and/or Help Stop Malaria for $10

Last night on TV I saw am advertising spot for the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative that featured Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura from NBC's Heroes) and then I went and checked online and it looks like the offer is extended through December 31, 2007. If you'd still like to try out the Give One, Get One ("GO,GO") offer, then follow the link or see my previous post. I'm also including links here if you want to learn more about the OLPC initiative or the technical specs of the 'xo' laptop.

While we're all in a thankful and charitable mood, how about helping to stop malaria for $10?

In many developing areas a simple mosquito net can help save children's lives by protecting them from nocturnal mosquito bites (ok, technically mosquitoes are crepusclar instead of nocturnal, but who knew that). Insecticide-resistant mosquitoes are emerging and a cheap $10 net can be quite effective at protecting vulnerable young children when they are most likely to be bitten. Malaria No More is a non-profit that helps procure and distribute such nets. I was lucky enough to be able to donate at Learning 2007 and have gone back and donated again since then.

Malaria No More - Education and Donation Information

Awesome One-Laptop-Per-Child Charity Option

I'm probably late to the party, but there is an awesome charity opportunity for anyone supportive of the OLPC One-Laptop-Per-Child initiative. I just found out about this through the JiWire newsletter, and it seems to be a great thing for anyone who is both involved in elearning and a charitable individual. Here's the link to Give one, Get One. This offer runs until November 26, 2007 for US and Canada. Now the description from the JiWire Newsletter

After several years of development, MIT's One Laptop Per Child initiative to put computers in the hands of children in developing countries has started to become a reality. And now that manufacturing has started, there's just one week left to give an OLPC laptop to a child in a developing country, and get a matching one for yourself (or for your favorite kid). For $399, the two-for-one deal also includes a huge sweetener: a full year of T-Mobile Hotspot Wi-Fi service, a $360 value in itself (normally $29.99 per month with a 1-year contract). If you already subscribe to T-Mobile, why not take advantage of the special deal, then cancel your current plan? Throw in the $200 tax deduction for the donated laptop, and you may even come out ahead of the game. Not to mention you'll have a great gift for a lucky kid, and do a good deed. Note that is will also be the ONLY chance that US buyers have to purchase an OLPC laptop directly.

Just remember to sign up by Monday, November 26 at While you're considering it, check out Laptop Magazine's review of the OLPC hardware, especially the 8-year-old's viewpoint!

Elearning Events Public Calendar Updated for 2008

I just added or updated 8 events from January to June of 2008 in the Elearning Events Calendar. If you have additional events to add, please contact me via

See the blog sidebar for sample HTML to embed the calendar, or click the link button below to view the calendar as a full page in a new tab or window.

Elearning Events Calendar, via Mobilemind

Adobe Solutions Panel for Authorware

Short notice, I know, but there is an Adobe online eseminar today (November 14) at 11:00am Pacific time that will essentially repeats the DevLearn discussion panel on Authorware End-of-Development issues that occurred last week at the Adobe Summit. Also worth noting is the availability of preliminary results from the AICC Survey on Authorware End-of-Life Issues and Impacts.

As I understand it, the panel discussion will be recorded. I will post a link to the recording area when or if it becomes available to me. The PDF with the AICC survey information has data from about 40 responses. Since last Thursday there have been about a dozen additional responses. The AICC post indicates that the survey will be open for data collection until November 16, 2007 and provides a link to access the survey.

Learning from Navisite Failures

Because of Navisite, what was supposed to be a 14 hour over-night change for became a 34 day tragic comedy of errors, with 200,000+ sites besides mine down about 3x longer than expected. Not a big deal for me; I have my own email elsewhere and you all surviced fine without this web site available. But perhaps this was a good lesson from a bad example of communication and collaboration.

After repeated postponements Navisite still messed up royally on the relocation that was supposed to happen from 10pm Friday night to noon Saturday (Eastern time), instead starting late, encountering challenges, messing up on communication and taking from 10pm Friday until 2:30pm Sunday mid-morning Monday.

What was scheduled as 14 hours expanded to 41.5 60+ hours including the shift-off of Daylight Savings. Adding insult to injury Navsite was ill-prepared with IT security systems with a claimed DDoS attack happened early Sunday too. Oops. [In hindsight, reading the playback, I wonder if this 'attack' was actually just lots of traffic their own servers generated due to configuration issues]. Recurring missed deadlines, calls after-the-fact, and weak assurances after trust was lost didn't help anyone. Read the saga at if you like.

It's an old lesson, and a good reminder for me- Trust is important. Be prepared. Make commitments you can keep. Communication is critical; stay in contact with your customers.

I am going to give 5dollarhosting a chance to treat customers like me better than the poor way that Navisite has treated them. That said, I do have calls in to AN Hosting, BlueHost, DreamHost and Host Gator. Maybe this will be an opportunity to switch off of Blogger to another blogging system, and maybe even try out Joomla or Ruby on Rails.

Let me know if you have feedback on hosting services, blogging systems (not clients though, I use ecto 3 and LOVE it), or Joomla and lightweight content-management systems. I think Mobilemind is due for an upgrade in late 2007 or early 2008.

UPDATE: Monday, 8am Pacific time– Internet technology resilience proved itself again yesterday. My blog was only online briefly Sunday, but feed readers picked up the RSS. Servers were online and offline sporadically for hours at a time. Even with the server down I was contacted via LinkedIN and twitter messages from friends and colleagues. Thanks to Aaron and others for their empathy and advice. I just got an email from a reporter in Boston who wants to talk to me. It is a very connected world.

UPDATE 3: Thursday, November 9– (Yes, that is update #3, update #2 got lost due to Blogger being unable to reach downed Navisite servers on Monday.) It is 6 days later and 16,000+ web sites are still down. Go Navisite. I'm just not saying where they can go. :-)

Elearning, Machinima and the Law

One of the great take-aways of Learning 2006 for me was Machinima. Now there's some IP follow-up that is due for anyone considering using Machinima content for training. I think machinima is a powerful, effective and low cost alternative technique to "from scratch" 2D/3D animation, graphics and video production for e-learning. However, as always, one needs to be respectful of intellectual property (IP). A blog posting that I recently found is a good reminder of that.

But first, a little background. In February of 2007 I posted some information on machinima when I was fortunate enough to snag Tom Crawford as a guest speaker for an Adobe eLuminary web seminar titled Machinima: When Video isn't Video [description at bottom of page here, direct link to recording here (free registration req'd)]. By the way, Tom did the best job I have ever seen of formatting/encoding machinima clips for use inside Adobe Connect, but that may be a whole other seminar topic.

Since then I have been openly wondering about using imagery and recorded screen captures of Flight Simulator X and other tools for training. Hopefully, Microsoft and other vendors will make their IP policies clearer regarding this use case. It seems the use case for the elearning developer is not to use game storyline, but to co-opt it as a graphics or animation generator. I'm really not sure how this plays into their IP policies.

In August of 2007, Mark Methenitis of The Vernon Law Group posted some informative discussion and commentary on Microsoft and machinima on his blog Law of the Game. from the original post, Microsoft's New Content Usage Rules: A Small Step for Machinima

Microsoft has set forth an interesting new content policy, found here, that seems to be giving the non-profit machinimist a break. In fact, I would go as far as to say this is really what needed to be done, but only addresses half of the issue.

The rules boil down to this: You can use the following games:

  • Age of Empires (all versions)
  • Flight Simulator (all versions)
  • Forza Motorsport (all versions)
  • Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and Halo 3 (when released)
  • Kameo
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Project Gotham Racing (all versions)
  • Rise of Nations (all versions)
  • Shadowrun
  • Viva Piñata

to make machinima, provided you put the following disclaimer on it:

[The title of your Item] was created under Microsoft’s “Game Content Usage Rules” using assets from GAMENAME, © Microsoft Corporation.

The blog entry goes on to list the rules Microsoft requires (which you really should read from the Microsoft page), but I prefer Mark's witty Carlin-esque summary.

Consider these the 7 Deadly Sins of Microsoft Machinima. In short, they are:

  1. Hacking
  2. Obscenity
  3. Profit
  4. Audio
  5. Other IP
  6. Fanfiction
  7. Piggybacking

When using machinima techniques, I doubt that corporate trainers will ever intend to hack, cuss, directly profit, pirate audio, abuse IP, craft fan fiction or support derivative works (piggybacking), BUT even the best of intents doesn't mean that use for corporate training is legally acceptable to the IP owners. I hope that Microsoft will clarify the IP issues regarding use of game-generated images or image sequences for non-game corporate training purposes at the upcoming Microsoft DevCon 2007 or the related/co-located AvSim 2007 conference & exhibition.

In an interesting and relevant turn, the AvSim 2007 conference features guest speakers including both Capt. Mark Feuerstein, the Project Pilot for Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ 747-8 program and commercial pilot and flight instructor, Erik Lindbergh– grandson of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I wonder what their thoughts on training "fair use" might be.

Live from Learning 2007 (twitter and wiki)

I'm already at Coronado Springs for Learning 2007. I doubt that I'll really do much blogging at all while I'm here. However, as a Masie Fellow, I try to dabble in what may be avant-garde for learning, so I'll try to update my own twitter more often. I also created a L07 (L-zero-7) twitter at so folks can follow or @reply.

If you're not familiar with twitter yet, I have some links to share to help you understand twitter or even activate twitter for your phone. You can also find people/events to follow without signing-up.

It is far less avant-garde now, but still quite useful to use a wiki. I'll also try to update the Learning 2007 wiki for session that I am facilitating (or even those I attend) That's all the best of intent though. We'll see what really happens as I head into the blizzard of ideas and activities that seems to define a Masie Learning event.

Here are the wiki pages for the sessions that I am directly involved with:

I think Larry Israelite has made me a (dis)honorary member of the Liars Club (Learning Edition), so I may be a drop-in at his More Lies About Learning session too. (btw, check out his Lies About Learning book now in paperback).

Whew. It's late here (1:20am Satuday) and I have lots to do tomorrow.

Please consider contributing to any of the wiki pages, or sending a tweet. I'm interested to learn what ideas you might have for the L07 twitter and how we could use it. You might even comment here on the blog.

A Friend Passes

Artist, inventor, innovator, collaborator and colleague Philip V.W. Dodds passed away on Saturday morning. Please help me recognize and celebrate his accomplishments and the lives he continues to touch.

I tried to write this yesterday and just couldn't. I truly believe the elearning community would not have SCORM as it is today without Philip's contributions as a visionary thinker, organizer, architect and evangelist. He was a man of art and a man of science. He loved technology, yet took great pride and active participation in true and faithful restorations to his historic home. He was drawing electronic circuits on blackboards at an early age, did R&D at ARP Instruments and Kurzweil Music, and led the charge to make CD-ROMs and sound cards a standard part of personal computers through his efforts with IMA and the MPC "Multimedia PC" standards efforts in the late 80's and early 90's.

I'd encourage you to learn more about him real soon now, courtesy of a page available through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Meantime, here is what Elliott Masie had to share about Philip in a message to the Learning Consortium:

"What are we saying to each other?"

That was a single line, spoken by the sound engineer at the end of Close Encounters of a Third Kind, as he played chords and a friendly alien spaceship played music back.

The role was played by a young sound engineer who was spotted by Steven Spielberg and given the on-screen role to be the interface between these two worlds. That man, Philip Dodds, was still young and inventing, as he passed this Saturday morning.

Philip Dodds was the Chief Architect of SCORM and the force behind sharable and reusable content. He was deeply involved in the evolution of interactive multimedia and expanding the possibilities for learning via technology.

If you use a Learning Management System, author an interactive learning module or talk about the future of Web 2.0, take a moment to thank a man who you probably never met. Philip's work was KEY and CRITICAL to the exciting world of learning, knowledge management and collaboration that we take for granted.

Philip's dreams were to create a global set of standards and specifications that would allow content to be searchable, reusable and expandable.

Philip, we thank you for all that you have done and we'll keep asking that question: "What are we saying to each other?"

With respect and sadness,

Elliott Masie

P.S. wikipedia reference at:

UPDATE: I cross-posted this to the AICC News Blog, and received a comment that suggests we share our memories of Philip there. If you'd like to post a comment on this topic, please do so at the corresponding post on the AICC News Blog- The Passing of Philip V.W. Dodds.

Authorware Impact Survey

The AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee) is hosting a discussion forum on Authorware End-of-Development and developing an Authorware Impact & Issues Survey to help assess the impact and move towards solutions for heavily-invested corporate customers. A presentation used for live discussion is available from the AICC site, as are the AICC Meeting Minutes with additional notes on the matter.

If the Adobe end-of-development of Authorware will have significant impact for you or your organization and you might have helpful feedback or are looking for information, then please visit the Authorware End-of-Development Discussion Forums.

The AICC deadline for feedback on survey questions is October 9, 2007. See this AICC News Blog entry for information on participation.

Elearning Events Updates

I added a few more items to the Elearning Events Calendar (to subscribe via iCal or view HTML see this entry). Recent additions include:

More iPhone Tech Talks

It seems like just a month ago (ok 2 months ago) that Apple sent me an email with information on the first iPhone Tech Talks. Now more iPhone Tech Talks are scheduled during October and November for Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. As a bonus, despite the proximity to his residence, I can assure you that my friend and anti-fanboy curmudgeon Jeff will not attending the Minneapolis session.

See Apple iPhone Tech Talks for details.

I'm excited to be going to Learning 2007, but sad that the iPhone Tech Talk in Seattle conflicts with it.

PS: Yes Jeff, I do have an iPhone once again, even if I am not sorry that I returned my initial iPhone after 7 days. It did help that it was now $200 less. Note that unlike others, I am NOT whining about price slashing. I love the new price, and I paid activation twice and a re-stocking fee once-- unlike the loudest whiners. Also, unlike them, I'll cheer when the price goes down again. So there. Don't complain about what you paid then or others pay now. The parable of the workers in the field strikes me as somewhat relevant. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? -- see Mathew 20.

Cheat This Book- Gadgets, Games & Gizmos

I'm barely in "Gen-X." I'm about 12 years too young to truly appreciate the Abbie Hoffman reference I just made. I'm about 12 years too old to be a real "gamer." Nonetheless, here I am in my 40's staying up late to write a book report on Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning by Karl Kapp. Sorry Mom.

I apologize to my mother, my beloved late-night term-paper typist, but NOT to you dear reader. This book is pretty good. I am going to apply a little gamer style that I learned from the book and mix it up with a little of my own Yuppie Yippie geezer pre-gamer culture jamming of my own. (Whew, too much social anthropology to parse there, no wonder one of the reviewers/contributors has a background in Anthropology.)

Learning Designer/Developer Cheating Tips for Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools and Techniques for Transferring Know-How from Boomers to Gamers

  1. Use the Corporate Card to buy it. It's expensive, but you'll come-off like a super-genius. Plus you'll want to share this book with co-workers and clients. Boomers will be able to throw down some gaming terms, and understand what makes gamers tick. Gamers will even gain some insight into Boomers.
    Bonus tip: Independent consultant like me? Buy it anyway and "Stick it to the man." It's fun, even if you are "the man."
  2. Read Chapter 1 first, and read it all. Well, duh. It's like doing the tutorial at the start of a game, you'll get further faster. This chapter has a lot of the background and research references that helped shape the book.
  3. Jump to Chapter 5, it's about cheats Why? 'Cause one man's cheats is another man's job-aid (or performance support tool). Besides this whole post is a cheat, right. Don't hate the playa, learn to game the gamers.
  4. Now skip to Chapter to Chapter 10, it's about the coin You're going to need budget or at least time to do some interesting games, get some gizmos, design networked social learning and generally do other cool stuff. Chapter 10 gets right to the new math of explaining that not just playing, but designing games is critical and worthwhile. You'll need to justify this stuff.
    Bonus tip: Now go back and read the "Workplace Implications" from Chapters 2-4 and 6-8-- they'll have some good fodder for the Exec Summary of that budgeting proposal.
  5. Refine and Polish Go back and skip around, read more in any order... don't be so linear dude. Refresh some basic ISD in Chapters 2-3 and re-orient it to games and gamers. Think about recruiting them in Chapter 9. Think about how you obtain, train and retain across the board for boomer and gamers alike.

Not exactly a book report, but hopefully an interesting stop on this virtual book tour. I like the book for the anecdotes, data and scenarios. Those are things that resonate with me and I find memorable, repeatable and applicable. Right there at the front (p. 16-17), Karl pulled together a nice chart of the attributes of the games and gamers across 4 "generations" of gamers from Gen I Pong and Odyssey to Gen 4.0 Halo, The Sims and GTA3. I'm starting to use bits from this table like a mini Meyers-Briggs assessment for quickly sizing up and adjusting to gamers. Check out the book on Amazon, or do a little more recon and learn more about it via the current virtual book tour that is underway.

Learning in 2012 with the Masie Learning Consortium

As a Masie Fellow, I participate in monthly Masie Learning Consortium calls hosted by Elliot Masie. This month's call was on Learning in 2012. I won't give away the store and undermine the value of Consortium, but I'd like to share a few interesting thoughts from the discussion of what learning organizations and training will be like in 5 years.

I heard some trends on the call that people are both observing and hopeful for these trends continuing. One trend (or goal), is moving training departments from a cost center to a revenue & performance contributor; integrating what was "training" into performance, knowledge, collaboration & compliance integration. This may take a variety of forms.

An additional trend was the increasing role of leaders in leadership development. More organizations are seeing their own leadership as critical in being active participants, presenters and resources in leadership development training.

Another one of the many trends discussed was the move to shorter & tighter e-learning modules and transitioning of learning modules into performance support tools. I couldn't agree more and I think this is reflected in all the Rapid Elearning and SME-authoring trends and tools we've seen in the last 4 years. That said, there will always be a need for fundamental skill development, and it is my opinion that performance support and SME-authoring are not the most effective approaches for fundamental skills development.

Elliott also made some predictions that he stands behind and are quite clear. The predictions focus on disruptive (to me, enabling) technologies that will undoubtedly impact organizations in the next 2-4 years. They are Multi-touch and haptic interfaces (like the iPhone uses), ubiquitous mobile device with parity in broadband connection speed relative to current desktops, and mobile devices with "big" high-resolution display capability (it may be in the form of wearable, virtual or projected screens or ???).

There was tons more talked about and it wouldn't be fair for me to publish it all here. So if you are a Learning Consortium member and missed the call, be sure to visit the members site and check out the recording later (hint: login and scan the page or use search to find 'podcast'). Who knows, your organization might already be a member as many big corporation are, or your organization can consider joining.

1 Million Hours of Coaching

I stumbled on to a great little untold story of a coaching success. In early August, I finally got around to watching the Walt Mossberg & Kara Swisher interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates from D5 last Spring (free iTunes video podcast here, but you can probably find it elsewhere too). First off, it includes some old video in the intro with a little skit from 1984 with Mitch Kapor and a very young Bill Gates. That said, the intro continues and it takes 8 minutes until the interviewing really starts. The fulll 90 minute video is definitely worth watching for anyone who spent 10 years or more working or playing in the Windows or Mac ecosystem... maybe some good history for Gen Y's too.

For me, the interesting surprise came 01:26:00 (88 min) into it. Steve casually mentions the Apple one to one program, which I had never heard of before. For $99 a customer can register for a single membership that allows up to 1 hour of 1:1 training each week for a year. (OK, technically it is 50 minutes to 1 hour, but you can ask your lawyer or psychiatrist how that works.).

In just 1 year of operation the one-to-one program scaled up to an annual run rate of 1 million hours per year. ALL of that training is delivered in Apple retail stores. That is a LOT of 1:1 coaching. It also seems to shatter the myth that elearning is the only way to effectively scale training.

Here's an exercise for the reader:

  1. How many hours of 1:1 coaching could or should your organization realistically scale to deliver?
  2. Would you consider 1:1 coaching formal or informal learning?
  3. How could collaboration tools, social networking and web conferencing help it scale even better?

Comments gladly accepted.

SALT Call for Papers

The Society for Applied Learning Technology (SALT) has a call for papers. Abstracts are due September 15, 2007. Authors of selected abstracts will be contacted September 30, 2007. Papers are due January 20, 2008 and the SALT New Learning Technologies Conference is February 20-22, 2008.

Paper/presentation topics include:

For more details see:

The SALT Conference for 2008 and several other events have also been added to the Elearning Events Calendar (See February 2008 for the SALT Conference).

Time Off for Good Behavior

I'm taking a short vacation. When I get back, I'll update the Elearning Events Calendar and blog a bit about an organization that has recently done 1 million hours of coaching.

Adobe eSeminar on SCORM- August 3, 2007 at 10am Pacific

I'm hosting an Adobe eSeminar on eLearning this Friday and my guest will be a good friend & colleague and a true SCORM expert/pioneer, Schawn Thropp of CTC. CTC has been a key contractor for the ADL to do the coding and development of SCORM, and Schawn has been there since the begining. Here's the official session description from the Adobe site.

SCORM Solutions, Myths & Misunderstandings
In this eSeminar, Shawn Thropp will share solutions for common SCORM questions, from getting started to installing ADL software, dealing with metadata fielded and interoperability issues. Together with host Tom King, Shawn will dispell myths and rumors about SCORM development. Join us to discover how to work more effectively with SCORM.

Register for Luminary eSeminar Series: eLearning Events

Schawn will provide a high-level overview of SCORM and we'll drill into some of the widespread misconceptions and challenges around implementing SCORM, including solutions to some of the most common issues addressed by the ADL HelpDesk. Good stuff.

Second Life and Wii: Are we ready for the Goldrush, Backlash or both

That last post on the Wii and SecondLife was supposed to be a quick puff-piece, but as I mulled it over it grew and grew until I split it into two with this opinion post as the second part.
Personally, I think something good is brewing with Second Life, but first we're headed for (already in?) a goldrush that will be followed by backlash, similar to the era when companies rushed to establish a presence on dial-in line networks likethe Source, and CompuServe, and Prodigy, and America Online, (and others- anyone remember GEnie or Minitel or ...) . It was relatively cheap and tremendously popular to build-out forums and email lists and knowledge bases there, but it all got eclipsed by the internet + the web.
Second Life also just feels too "siloed" for my tastes, with no good way to interact across worlds (yes, I am aware of various SL mash-ups). The virtual worlds and games reek of the multiple ID's problem of the early 90's. I remember when you were really cool if your business card has like 6 email addresses on it. I also agree with folks suspicious of the hype and over-the-top "me-too" crowd it is attracting now, again like the AOL-era landgrabs. Here's some good quotes and interesting data I found on a quick web news search:

More often than not, you'll hear that "Second Life" boasts millions of users. But the truth of the matter is that no one knows how many people are using the service other than Linden Lab, the company that hosts "Second Life."

According to Clay Shirky, a faculty member in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University who's made a four-month study of Second Life's audience, the number of regular users is well under 200,000.

Virtual worlds may indeed play a big role in the future of the Internet. But for the moment, the talk far exceeds the actual worth of these services-- at least in business terms.

If fewer than 200,000 people are regularly using "Second Life," it's not the best marketing tool. And though virtual worlds are certainly a means of long-distance communication, it's yet to be seen whether this makes sense — in the long term — for anything other than fun and games.

So many companies are entering "Second Life" because it's the thing to do, because the press gives virtual worlds so much attention.

Source: Is Corporate Mania for 'Second Life' Just a Lot of Hype?
As for the Wii, pretty cool, but then so was the Magnavox Odyssey that Dad brought home in '73 to spoil all 5 of us kids.

Does anyone else miss video games that included real dice, poker chips and plastic overlays you had to tape to the screen? We eventually got an Atari 2600, but never bothered with Colecovision, Mattel Intelvision, Sega and the lot that followe-- including the very first PlayStation released about 21 years later.

Dang I'm old.

Wii + Second Life = New Training Simulator

Interesting thoughts on using a Nintendo Wii and Second Life together, from the Gadgets blog of Wired online

Nintendo games have made the Wii controller a satisfyingly realistic controller for pretend tennis, golf and baseball. But how about using it to practice doing surgery, applying pesticides or operating a nuclear power plant?

It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next year or so for mainstream corporate training. For edu-tainment, the surgery bit has already happened. In a March Edition of Learning Trends (link followers- scroll to March 5, '07 #434), Elliott Masie mentioned a Wii application called Trauma Center: Second Opinion that is only $49 and lets you perform a varierty of tests and interventions using the simulated environment and the motion-sensitive Wiimote controller.

More from Wired:

One of the attractions of [MIT Research Fellow David E. Stone] Stone's approach is the low cost. In Second Life, it's relatively easy to build chairs, buildings and other objects for avatars to sit on or walk through. Tools like wrenches or manual controls are also easy to build and, with a little tweaking, users can control them with a Wiimote.

Apple opens registration for iPhone Tech Talks

Apple just sent me an email with information on iPhone Tech Talks that are scheduled for

It looks like an interesting day,and I will admit to a small amount of "return-ers remorse"

Bring your notebook, your code, and your iPhone
After a morning of in-depth presentations and demonstrations, you'll work with the experts to design, code, debug and test your solutions on iPhone. Access to your code is required.

Of course since I no longer have an iPhone and I'm not in L.A., San Francisco, Chicago or NYC, I won't be going. I'm sure Jeff will notice the conspicuous absence of Hudson, WI as a venue-- and feel no disappointment whatsoever.

Is YouTube an Enterprise App for Training?

Google and ZDNet seem to think so. I stumbled on to this Enterprise YouTube coming post on ZDNet in the Googling Google blog by Garett Rogers.

... why would a company want to integrate with YouTube, especially since most are either considering or have already blocked the website from their network? After thinking a while, I came to the conclusion that there are several uses for an enterprise version of YouTube that could make it worthwhile.

Training Videos
Companies are usually responsible for training new hires and even long time employees who are simply moving to new positions. This never ending process takes a lot of man hours that could be better spent in other areas of the organization. It would be easy to create training videos once and upload them to your corporate training application (YouTube) — allowing you to allocate resources more efficiently.

He goes on to cite Corporate Culture and Public Relations as other opportunities for YouTube as an Enterprise App. I wonder about social networking and informal learning as other emerging practices for use of an Enterprise YouTube application. It will be interesting to see what reader comments pop-up on the XDNet site in response-- it obviously has a much wider or more diversereadership than the training and development community and their take on things will be interesting.

Adobe on AIR Events- Premiere Example of "Seminars 2.0"

I just got back from the roving Adobe on AIR barcamp event in Seattle. The bus is cool, the APIs are cool, the AIR product/environment is cool, and the whole event approach is cool. It really struck me as a "2.0" seminar, in the "Web 2.0" sense- early feedback from users/participants, user-driven, high-tech, effective and appealing UI, adaptive, editable, lots of APIs and mash-ups (Flikr images, twitter feeds, JSON APIs and geo-tagging with GPS location data).

It was both organized and ad hoc. Both a tech-y learning event and a corporate mark-com session. A great chance to learn and see what's been done, work with experts, expand your network, and/or submerge head-down in the wireless network if you need to get a little business done online.

I really like that I came away with all the same materials and content that I would have had at a "1.0" seminar at a downtown hotel, BUT it was something that had community, something that will have its own lifecycle and a sort of harmonic sustain. This approach is something I could interact with and engage as it was on its way here, and something "sticky" that I'll want to check back in with and follow as it goes forward. Those are the things that you don't have with classic seminars-- and I'm also going to monitor the Google code site with examples and check out the twitter and camera live-feeds as they wind their way to Vancouver, back to Portland, a week-end diversion to Las Vegas, and then an event in L.A. (then Dallas then Denver- check a map first next time guys).

Good luck to Adobe with AIR and to the remote and local participants who join in the experience. Even if you're not into the product, you should check out the approach and think about creating your own mash-up like this for training and collaboration sessions-- its really quite effective. I'll be editing down some video interviews I did with the Adobe team and then submitting that to the Masie Learning Consortium site next week.

Why I returned my iPhone after just 7 days

A short list of the reasons why my iPhone went back to AT&T on Saturday.

  1. Couldn't accept meeting invites on it.
  2. No Cut/Copy/Paste.
  3. The keyboard.
  4. Not enough fine tuning control over email:
    • Can't control size of email initially downloaded
    • Only checks at pre-defined intervals; 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour...
    • Doesn't put things in "Sent items", instead you automatically cc: yourself on everything
  5. No indicator lamp or LED- can't tell at a glance if I have voicemail/email/SMS messages-- or even if the thing is powered on.
  6. No encrypted password vault or 'eWallet' utility (I depend on this to 'remember' things like seldom-used low-stakes passwords, etc)
  7. No video out; can't use it with the cool display glasses I recently bought.
  8. No removable memory or 'mountable storage'; can't use it to transport files. The SanDisk folding SD card + USB that I use with the Treo has spoiled me.
  9. Lack of 3rd party applications/extensions.
  10. No "museum mode" for the iPod features; most of the training things I want to do I can do better on a video iPod or desktop.
  11. No Adobe Flash.Yet?
  12. It's good, borderline great, but there HAS to be a better one coming 12-18 months from now.

My Computing History

Already my close friend and personal curmudgeon has scoffed at my switcharoo (see his comment here). I have little to comment on his comment, other than to share that perhaps Microsoft provides a most excellent operating systems for the type of person who shuns human contact.

But seriously folks, here is a log of computers I've owned since 1985. In most cases one PC or handheld replaced another of the same type, but there were periods of overlap (eg, the PowerBook 180 soldiered on to 1996).

Some personal favorites were the Apple //c (hot rodded with a memory board), the Mac SE that got me through grad school, the PowerBook (my first laptop), the SmartBook (amazing value 'Wintel' machine like a PowerBook, the Palm Vx (still sweet for its role), and all the "serviceable workhorses" called ThinkPads.

Stinkers? There were a few in the "What was I thinking" category- the '93 Gateway that we managed to use grudgingly use until '97, the Newton (did you say 'Newfoundland'?), the HandSpring Visor (translucent blueberry plastic? uggh), the iPAQ h6315 (that they dared to claim was a phone, except it locked-up routinely while a call was ringing in) and the Treo 600 (non-removable battery and volatile storage, but I was desperate after the HP "phone"). The late model PDA iPAQ (h4150) was almost Palm Vx-like, but added WiFi, very cool. The oldest iPAQS were hot stuff at the time, but in hindsight the dual-PC card "sled" was more like a ridiculously sized toboggan. Oh well, here's the list in all its glory (or embarrassment).

1)Apple IIc (256K) 1MHz 65C02

2) Apple Mac SE 2MB/40MB 68020

3) Apple Powerbook 180 8MB/80MB 68020
4) Gateway Intel 486-33 16/285

5) SmartBook II 486-66 32MB/250MB

6) Newton MessagePad 120 StrongARM 110 162MHz (sold after 90 days)
7) SmartBook IV 486-100 64MB/500MB

8) ChemBook Pentium 133 128MHz/1GB
9) ComTrade P-150 128/4

10) HP 320LX Handheld SH-3 12MB/4MB

11) ThinkPad 770 P-II 233 256MB/5GB
12) Palm III 2MB 8MHz DragonBall

13) HandSpring Visor Deluxe 8MB 16MHz
14) Sony VAIO 490 P-III 600 256MB/20GB

15) ThinkPad T-20 P-III 700 256MB/10GB
16) Palm Vx 8MB DragonBall EZ 20MHz

17) Compaq iPAQ 3650 32MB ARM 206MHz
18) Compaq iPAQ 3670 64MB ARM 206MHz

19) Compaq iPAQ 3870 64MB ARM 206MHz
20) ThinkPad T-23 P-III 1GHz 512MB/60GB

21) HP iPAQ h4150 64MB XScale PXA255 400MHz

22) Handspring Treo 600 32MB TI OMAP 310 144MHz (returned after 6 days)
23) HP iPAQ h6315 64MB TI OMAP 1510 166MHz

24) ThinkPad T-42p P-III 1GHz 512MB/60GB
25) Palm Treo 650 24MB XScale PXA270 312 MHz

26) MacBook Pro, Duo Core 2.4GHz 2GB/160GB
27) Apple iPhone ??MHz Samsung ARM/8GB (returned after 7 days)

The Big Switch Begins

I love computers. Apple is putting the excitement and fun back in computing for me with the MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPod. I plan on using all of those devices to create elearning and/or delivery elearning in the next 30 days. My journey is just begining, and it started in Shanghai (or at least that's where my MacBook Pro started with FedEx).Fedex tracking via
(Visualization of package tracking via, accessed via the cool Firefox/Thunderbird extension that works with DHL, Fedex, UPS and US Postal Service tracking numbers.)

The next few hours will be some get (re)acquainted time for me and Mac-- it's been 11 years since I stopped daily use of a Mac. I'll post some entries here about my preparations and experiences switching from my ThinkPad T43p with Win XP to MacBook Pro and OS X.

Oh yes, one more thing. I won't be able to install much software tomorrow, I have to be in line somewhere for something-- it might be here or here.

Where are you going to be Friday at 6pm? Maybe these links will help:
Apple retail- iPhone Availability Information
AT&T Wireless Find-a-store (hint pick "Apple iPhone" in the list box).

The learning community mourns the loss of Claude Ostyn

The elearning community and especially the specification and standards world mourns the loss of Claude Ostyn ( who recently passed away after a battle with terminal illness. From his long-tenure at Asymetrix and Click2learn to his more recent independent consulting, Claude has been an advocate at the vanguard of learning frontiers.

Claude Ostyn made great contributions to elearning, always showing diligence, dedication and great passion in learning technology, as well as all of his other interests. He was a vigorous and active participant in the work of AICC, ADL SCORM, IEEE LTSC and IMS-- you'll find his name as a contributor and reviewer on countless documents & whitepapers, throughout the support forums, and on delightfully precise ballot comments. The Reusable Competencies Definition group is currently working on dedicating a specification to his memory.

Will elearning standards and specifications be the same without Claude Ostyn?

Basically, in effect, No.

Managers Who Are Gamers Do Well in Business

From a recent Businessweek online edition:

Talk Show:
According to a new study by IBM (IBM ), some multiplayer games teach skills needed to manage a modern multinational.

The computer giant hired software maker Seriosity to watch people play hundreds of hours of games where leadership is required. IBM also surveyed more than 200 players among its own managers. The finding: Those immersed in online worlds linking millions of participants, such as World of Warcraft, get good at gathering information from far-flung sources, assessing risk, and moving quickly to the next challenge. IBM says the study, to be released on June 15, shows such games could be 'management flight simulators' for those trying to lead global teams.

More Blog Housekeeping- Added Tag Clouds

Just added some minor updates to the template for this blog, including labels tags for a bunch of older posts, and the sidebar link to the tagged posts.

I'm also in the midst of a 30 day experiment with twitter and added that to the sidebar. So far, my twitter content is mostly an activity journal, posting point for inside jokes and somewhat needy Tamagotchi.

Let me know if the labels or twitter are useful. I like the labels, and I've got to believe there is some learning, elearning or social learning use for twitter. Is there?

Changing Address for Elearning Events

I'm changing the address to send invitations or new elearning event information due to a barage of unsolicited commercial messages and scams... even with SpamAssasin and re-routing through Gmail there were about 10-20 junk messages per day.

Effective immediately, please send any invitation or request to post a new elearning event to .

Access to the calendar remains the same, see Google Calendar for Elearning Events for details.

Flex for Learning Integration, Visualization and Actualization

These are exciting times for learning & talent management systems and for Adobe Flex. A few weeks ago at LMS 2007, Elliott Masie addressed what he saw as the powerful potential of Flex for visualization of enterprise learning and human performance information. As a follow-up, the Masie Center is working with Learning Consortium members and vendors to create a powerful proof-of-concept that demonstrate web services integration of enterprise applications. This proof-of-concept project will demonstrate how applications like HR, LMS/LCMS, ERP, CRM can be integrated for a "performance dashboard" to visualize related information from these systems, and even allow for taking action that spans applications.

Now, weeks after kicking-off this project Adobe has announced that Flex will become open source, over the course of 2007, under the Mozilla Public License.

May you live in interesting times.

Blogs, Part 2

I'm working around a Blogger issue, so here is the rest of the entry.

Learning and Elearning

Donald Clark- Plan B
Well thought, well researched information and opinions on learning and education. Here's a GREAT example that cites John Locke's thoughts on education and references William James too- Habitual Learning (h-learning). Recently (and informally) dubbed a premiere learning "debunker", he clearly puts thought, time and research into his posts.

Karl Kapp- Kapp Notes
I've known Karl for almost 10 years through Dr. Tim Phillips and the Bloomsburg University Corporate Advisory Council. Karl and I bonded over our shared background with major consulting firms, and interest in instructional design. He recently published an intriguing book on gaming (Gadgets, Games & Gizmos for Learning) that puts forth the notion of certain generations or epochs of computer/console gamers, as well as ramifications and possibilities for learning and training.

Mark Oehlert- e-Clippings (Learning As Art)
Hmm, what can I say except, "Mark is out there. AND he brings it back to share with you." Tons of quick thought, deep thoughts and connections that can be applied to learning, training, development and technology. He is the first one I remember meeting who was genuinely and deeply interested and passionate about using Second Life for learning and training.


John Dowdell- JD on EP
I read John's blog daily to keep up on relevant techmemes, trends and key Adobe news. As a community manager and corporate blogger he provides lots of interesting connection and insights on the blogosphere, journalism and techno-social trends come along the way too. Plus you've got to love obscure references to Donald Duck artists and terms for non-verbal acknowledgment.

Steve Makofsky- The Furrygoat Experience
I started reading Steve's blog years ago when I got hooked on an RSS Reader he wrote for PocketPC. He's since moved into Microsoft and then out of Seattle and into Yahoo. I like the technology themes and random relevant insights of his blog. From him I learned of Kathy Sierra's blog (and subsequently recommended that VNU get her as a speaker for Training Directors Forum). Steve also reacquainted with Bruce Tognazzini whose book (Tog on Software Design) I had read years earlier.

I'll collect more and pass them on in a future post.

Interesting Reading - Blogs I Like

UPDATE: Google Blogger is totally crappy about providing any feedback other than failure, so I'm breaking this into 2 posts. Validating the HTML of the posts with the W3C and Dreamweaver validator is useless; Blogger just silently fails with a blank screen.

I perceive much of my own value as being a node in a network. The connections I make and the connections that pass through are valuable. I like to share them. Here are a few of the blogs I'd like to share with you and some of my personal editorial comments that may help you.

Learning and Elearning

Clark Aldrich- Elements of Interactivity
If you want to apply simulation to professional development, then Clark IS the man. Fantastic on-going posts on the ASTD Learning Circuits Blogand his own blog are great reading, thought provoking and encouraging for those who want to use more simulation to increase training effectiveness and performance.

Jay Cross- Internet Time Blog
My summary about him? Foresight + Insight + Raconteur + ?? = Jay
Example Entry: Now What
Invited to speak about"Informal Learning Goes Mobile" at the Seriously Mobile Summit, Jay realizes they "get it" already and moves on.

The audience had already drunk the web 2.0 KoolAid. I pushed them to think about the implications several years out. As a starting point, I eliminated talk about devices. The previous week, when talking with a dozen very sophisticated learning technologists about mobile, the conversation rapidly devolved into complaints about unreadable screens and buttons too small for beefy fingers. Moore's Law will take care of those in short order, so we started as if it already had...

more to come

LMS 2007 / The Fischbowl: Did You Know?

Yesterday at LMS 2007, Elliott showed a bit of the "shift happens" presentation about the changing world for learners and the job market. It's been posted and talked about all over the web, but I am re-posting/linking here for the benefit of attendees. Here's a brief summary drawn from the original post and a link to it (PPT available there).

The Fischbowl: Did You Know?:So, instead, I decided to take David Warlick up on his idea of telling the new story. I put together a PowerPoint presentation with some (hopefully) thought-provoking ideas. I was hoping by telling some of these 'stories' to our faculty, I could get them thinking about - and discussing with each other - the world our students are entering. To get them to really think about what our students are going to need to be successful in the 21st century, and then how that might impact what they do in their classrooms. It would also help the faculty that are not currently participating in my staff development join the conversation.

There is also a great, tighter 6 minute version posted here:

Elearning Events Updates

I've added this month's ITEC conference to the Elearning Events Calendar (thanks to Mark Tomlinson of ACNS for the invite & reminder). I also added I/ITSEC and a few other shows and events. Later this week I'm at LMS 2007 and in the coming days, I'll add a few more Masie Center events, and see what I can do to flush out the Fall trade show schedule in further detail.

ACM / eLearn Magazine on Second Life for Learning

The Association for Computing Machinery (acm) publishes eLearn, an online magazine about Education and Technology. Just a few days ago they published Another Life: Virtual Worlds as Tools for Learning, by Jay Cross, Internet Time Group; Tony O'Driscoll, IBM; and Eilif Trondsen, SRI-Business Intelligence.

Quite a coincidence, since I unknowingly published an entry about that here last month. Given this article and the interest emerging amongst members of the Masie Consortium, I think SL and Virtual Worlds are going to be a big trend this year, and maybe even a big elearning reality. Earlier this week, I learned of a forward thinking bank in Europe that is also looking to Second Life as a means to support its training efforts as it expands. I'll share more on this as it develops.

Training Video Gets New Life and a Second One too

On February 16, 2007 I hosted an Adobe eSeminar on Machinima as a tool for developing training videos. Tom Crawford explained how one can co-opt video games or re-purpose them for creating cheap, effective training videos.

Using something like The Movies you can short-circuit the painful process of shooting "real" video. You also skip the painful process of morphing your own SMEs or yourself into 3D artists/animators. Instead you can cast, script and "film" in the virtual sets. It is a great way to spend $20 USD and a few hours to develop mini vignettes to bolster the reality of your elearning and add life. It is a cool idea that text does not do justice to, so I'll link to the seminar recording as soon as I can.

Speaking of adding life to training, I just received a note from Kris Rockwell of Hybrid Learning Systems about using Second Life for learning, including a HUD (heads-up display) add-on that lets learners easily blog about their Second Life experiences with geo-stamps of where they were in Second Life at the time/place of the entry. A quick YouTube demo of the SL Blog HUD is online.

Check out the Sloodle site for more info on use of SecondLife for learning education and training. Sloodle is a sort of mash-up of the Moodle open-source learning environment and the Linden Research Second Life virtual world.

UPDATE: Catching up on my reading, I see that my friend Professor Kapp has posted an entry on taking ESL in SL. It usually takes an AICC meeting to get that many confusing acronyms in a sentence. Anyway, check out his post on the experience as a learner and observer.

Captivate 2 bug: FTP breaks SCORM packaging

If you use the current release of Captivate 2 to make elearning intended for an LMS, then do not use the built-in FTP. Likewise, do not use the current Captivate 2 release with FTP and PENS.

When the FTP box is checked, Captivate 2 makes invalid SCORM 1.2 and invalid SCORM 2004 packages. Under these conditions Captivate 2 puts the required zip-archive root-level files like "imsmanifest.xml" down in a directory structure 4-5 levels deep.

   Captivate 2 Elearning Output published with FTP
Captivate 2 Invalid SCORM output published with FTP

   Captivate 2 Elearning Output published locally
Captivate 2 valid SCORM output published locally

This means that when FTP is used, the resulting zip file that gets transferred to the server is NOT valid, whether it is SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004. Adobe was notified of this issue last Fall and confirmed the problem. At the time of this post I can not find a tech note about this issue.

The workaround is to not use the built-in FTP. Instead, use the Publish Dialog to publish for Flash (SWF), select the "Output Options" to Zip files and under "Project Information" select the desired eLearning output format for your package. Finally, after Captivate publishes the zip package locally, use a third party FTP tool or other LMS import capabilities to transfer the valid SCORM package to the LMS. This will give you a better shot at having the package import into your LMS (or LCMS).

   Captivate 2 Publish Dialog settings for local publishing of packages
Captivate 2 Invalid SCORM output published with FTP

Two final notes on this topic. First, this bug means PENS doesn't really work. The work around there is to "trick" Captivate 2 by publishing to one FTP address, and then configuring the Captivate PENS settings to use an alternate URL that has a valid package staged by other means. For anything other than testing the capabilities of an LMS server, I wouldn't bother with this approach-- it sort of defeats the intended simplicity of PENS to manually FTP and publish twice to order to get a single package to an LCMS/LMS.

The second note is that there may be other issues with Captivate content communicating to an LMS. I've received private email from one content developer about some issues and heard from another contact that other settings may not work as intended/advertised. I've yet to verify these, but will post more information once this can be confirmed or denied.

Stability and Evolution in Standards for Elearning

Late last year the ADL reached agreements with several other elearning standards organizations, including AICC, IEEE and IMS. The agreements allow the relevant work of those groups to move forward with SCORM as this portion of the ADL effort transitions to a new stewardship organization.

This is a significant achievement. It indicates the maturity and stability of SCORM, yet also recognizes the criticality of on-going maintenance and refinement. The SCORM 2004 specification is also being formally submitted to ISO, where the technical committees will review it and allow member nations to vote on it. In 2007 we will see more SCORM work being done within other standards work groups and organizations.

The February IMS meeting in San Francisco is an important transition as SCORM moves into this new phase. On February 7 there will be a workshop that is open to the public for discussion of IMS-related work with SCORM. ADL representatives will be presenting and facilitating discussions on how the groups can work together, and on content packaging, a key technical component shared between the organizations. Content packaging includes the organizational and metadata "wrappers" for shareable content objects and is a critical feature for supporting reusable learning object strategies. The ADL will also present information on CORDRA, an architecture for structuring searches and sharing across repositories, and Simple Sequencing and Navigation within courses. See the IMS website for the agenda information, IMS membership is not required, but there is a meeting fee for attendees.

During March there will be a kick-off meeting for a new stewardship organization to coordinate SCORM evolution and maintenances. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 meetings in London. This meeting about the stewardship organization is preliminary. An official charter and transition is likely to take until the Spring of 2008. Those interested in participating in this meeting or the stewardship organization committee in general can directly contact the ADL or request that I forward information.

Elearning Events Calendar Updates

I added several 2007 events to the Elearning Events Google calendar, including:

I have entries clear out until the end of November 2007. However, oddly there are no May events (?yet). If you know of an event (in May or not) send an iCal invite or email message to

Link: Elearning Events Calendar

Lies, Lies, Lies... and Learning

Larry Israelite is the editor and one of the authors of Lies About Learning. I came to know Larry through Elliott Masie and the Learning Consortium, and I love his frankness on this subject, starting with the subtitle of the book, Leading Executives Separate Truth from Fiction in a $100 Billion Industry.

In the book, Larry and the gang take on a bunch of lies and myths, sometimes alternating sides, but always making strong statements. For example, Murray Christensen on Personalization: Learners Are Essentially the Same. Heresy you say? Last year, I saw a few presentations from Will Thalheimer on use of learning styles (or the "lie" about learning styles), and I have to agree, though I am not as courageous as Dr. Thalheimer with his $1000 USD challenge to the first person to demonstrate meaningful benefits from using learning styles in an instructional design.

Back to the book- I've lived and seen some other favorite lies from both the side of the consulting/vendor organization and the customer side of the fence, like:

What about you? Are your pants on fire? Is your nose as long as a telephone wire?

To hear, discuss and share more lies... and how to actually learn from them, check out the free seminar on Lies About Learning this Friday, January 19.

Lies About Learning January 19, 1:00PM Eastern [GMT -05:00] Register here

The seminar looks like it will be a good discussion of some key topics. You can also get the book from Amazon- Lies About Learning. Note that is not an Amazon Associate link so I get squat for the referral, other than karma.

Events Update and Call for Contributions

The Elearning Events calendar has been updated with major elearning events through June 2007. View it here at Mobilemind in the side bar, or see the full page view of the Elearning Events Calendar [Subscribe iCal icon].

There is also an open call for presentations or contributions for iLearn Paris January 29-31, 2007 - presentation abstracts due December 15, 2006.

Effective learning is more than Flash interactions

Learning is more than Flash interactions. Transfering and transforming information into strategic skills, knowledge and performance is more than instructional design.

Too often we use ADDIE and elearning like a defibrillator-- perhaps rescuing the organization during the current "crisis," but doing little or nothing in terms of the big picture planning for preparation, ongoing "treatment", coaching/support and transition to sustained independent performance. Crisis solved. But what about the heart patient with an exercise-free, high-cholesterol, high-stress lifestyle? Would the medical community just move on and wait for the next incident?

The temporary innoculatory effect of booster shots of elearning may work well enough for the tactical "uptick required" compliance training. I understand and appreciate that. Some of it can even be fun, interesting or thought provoking. The tools keep getting better and raising the bar for aesthetics and interactivity. Rapid elearning and the existing ADDIE models of instructional design work extremely well for compliance training and performance support. I really like engaging the subject-matter experts as active contributors to distribute and accelerate production and implementation. Getting the training out there, on-time and accurate is critical. Especially for compliance training and critical updates to already-proficient performers.

However, I'd pose this question, What organization would cite its mandatory compliance training as a key differentiator or competitive advantage? I think that instructional design at its best is a means of creating new, higher and sustained levels of performance through learning. If so, it (ISD) would seem to provide the biggest competitive advantage when the content supports innovation, like dramatically different or new processes for the learner/performer. That sounds more like change management or some sort of intervention, doesn't it?

Last summer Dr. Michael Allen posed the question What's Wrong with ADDIE? in a podcast available here. A few weeks ago I had a peek at some answers to that question during his presentation at Learning 2006. His approach leverages research on making lasting changes in behavior, including breaking addictions or sustaining a medical regimen (ie, taking your pills). It also brings in learning theory and cognitive research to view training in a larger context. I believe using this approach for the right needs will be far more effective than simply specifying higher quality audio & animations and more frequent drag&drop interactions.

If this line of thought intrigues you, please consider registering for (or subsequently viewing the recording of) this week's eSeminar,

A New View of eLearning Design: Reforming the Perpetrators of Bad Behavior with Dr. Michael Allen of Allen Interactions
Friday, December 1, 2006 1:00PM - 2:00PM US/Eastern
Register here

I look forward to seeing the next evolution of this revolution and hope to see you online during the event, adding your own questions and insights.

Nice Maps of Elearning Vendor Landscape

Somehow I stumbled on to this diagram or "mind map" of the elearning vendor landscape at European analyst Elearnity Research.

Elearnity Research - Vendor Navigator

A combination of that chart and the Clark Aldrich Chart of Consolidations might make for quite an interesting discussion of the future of elearning. Or at least make someone look like a genius for talking through both of these in their next presentation.

Are there other charts us genius-wannabe's should be looking at? Let me know.

November 10 eSeminar on Captivate 2

On November 10th at 10am Pacific [1pm Eastern] I'm hosting an Adobe eSeminar on Improving Elearning Experiences with Captivate 2. The presenter is Paul Clothier who will demonstrate design approaches and Captivate techniques that will help you create more compelling content. He has come clever menu example and will discuss use of FLV video with Captivate.

I'm looking forward to this one because I know Paul and most of the session will be demonstration. Last week at Learning 2006, Elliott Masie had everyone on a "2 slides" PowerPoint restriction. That wasn't quite achieved, but the principle did lead to more engaging discussion.

Register for the Captivate 2 seminar online. The same page will enable you to register for that session, as well as the December session with Dr. Michael Allen. Both sessions are also listed on the Elearning Events calendar that I maintain.

Synchronicity: Is ISD Dead or am I dead tired?

I am at Masie's Learning 2006 having a great time working, learning and networking. This is the most lively I've seen this conference or its predecessor since 1998 or so. Lots of GREAT speakers, new ideas, new vibrant attendees, fun things, compelling discussions/sharing and cool technologies too. I've posted to the Learning 2006 Wiki twice already. It is good, but the days get long. I'm schmoozed-out and it is now 12:50am. I look at the session I'm involved with tomorrow:

Great Debate: 610 Instructional Design is Dead!

I open my email and there's a note from Tony Karrer. He's asking me to re-engage with the ASTD Learning Circuits Blog and join in the fray on this month's Big Question:

Are ISD/ADDIE/HPT relevant in a world of rapid elearning, faster time-to-performance, and informal learning?

Hmm, are we spotting a trend here? Mid-life crisis for Instructional Design? (Can't be me, I sold my convertible last August. sniff)

Or this like that triple-positive biorhythm day in college where you could turn the same paper in for 2 or 3 classes? Hmm, speaking of college maybe I should go back to school and study Competencies or Knowledge Management. Seems like these are the new buzzwords for enterprise learning systems. Nah, this ISD "fad" thing paid for the last convertible, so I'll stick with it for a bit. Who knows, maybe I should check Adobe job listings.

Back from MAX and Elearning Events Updated

I'm back from the Adobe MAX Conference where I did a session on Elearning Standards. I hope to get my content posted to the Adobe site this week. If you missed MAX, John Dowdell has nice terse summaries and links to the relevant detailed summations. The more punctual speakers already have their presentations available on the MAX site.

Meanwhile, I updated the Elearning Events Calendar with a few events going out as far as March 2007 (EuroTAAC) and June of 2007 (Training Directors Forum).

Next week will be really interesting at the Learning 2006 Conference organized by Elliott Masie. It is the first time I will be attending as a Masie Fellow and I will help facilitate some of the "Great Debates" like, Instructional Design is Dead and Rapid Elearning: Speed or Quality. There will be a mock boxing ring and participants are encouraged to take strong positions instead of the typical wishy-washy "it all depends" positions so easy to adopt in the world of instructional design. The Masie Center has lined up some great thinkers and speakers, and the Learning Wiki will be reprised this year as an asset and forum for participants.

Oct 20th- Mobile and New Delivery Technologies for On-Demand Learning and Information

The Adobe Elearning Luminaries eSeminar series resumes on October 20th. During the series I'll be hosting presentations and discussions from speakers including Chris Howard of Bersin & Associates, Dr. Michael Allen of Allen Interactions, and Paul Clothier. Seminars are one hour long on Fridays, starting at 10:00am Pacific [GMT -8:00]., and occur on October 20, 2006; November 10, 2006 and December 1, 2006. See the Adobe eSeminar registration page for details or check the Mobilemind Elearning Events Calendar. Here's more information on the first session

Mobile and New Delivery Technologies for On-Demand Learning & Information
Discover the proven solutions and emerging trends identified by Bersin research that will help managers and developers select, recommends, implement, and effectively deploy on-demand learning solutions. Chris Howard, Principal Analyst at Bersin & Associates shares key results of their recent industry study. Learn how training organizations and corporations are using technologies and strategies including:

Chris Howard is a principal analyst at Bersin & Associates. Chris has worked with hundreds of customers in the deployment of online learning solutions. He is recognized as an industry leader on the unique infrastructure issues that companies face as they embrace new paradigms for distributing and managing knowledge. Recently Chris has published the 7-step approach to selecting an LMS, our Best-practices in Leadership Training, Application Simulations:What Works, and Content Integration Challenges. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences including Online Learning, Training, and ASTD. He holds a B.S. in computer science and an M.B.A. from the University of Houston.

Register here.

Open Source LMS Projects

Is getting an LMS accepted and running already so much of a challenge that training managers and departments won't even consider an open-source LMS? There are quite a few open-source LMS projects going on in the academic world. I'm not sure how many of these have significant commercial implementations. There is of course, Moodle, and also OLAT. A few other systems of interest are reviewed in English at the LMS News site originating in Germany, and LMS Talk also has a list of open source LMS resources. I picked up on on the Paris-based ANEMALAB which offers the Ganesha LMS. This LMS seems to support PENS and was demonstrated last month at the LIFE Fest 2006 in Paris.

I started with a rhetorical question about the enterprise, but now I have questions about open-source LMS and academia. Are there just too many open source LMS offerings without a clear leader? Is the open source segment facing the same challenges that the "pre-consolidation wave" commercial LMS market faced? Or is this segment driven by the lack of viable commercial alternatives in academia (eg, WebCT-Blackboard merger, and the Bb lawsuit cloud hanging over commercial implementations in that segment)?

Quick Links- Comics and PENS

Two quick and mostly unrelated links to discuss.

Mark Oehlert references a great book, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, which I first saw back when I was working on training for the F-22 figher in the 1990s. Yes, even fighter pilot training can benefit from storyboarding, communication and visualiztion tips from comic art techniques. Anyway, Mark's post Following up on the 'learning as art' meme - Let's Start With Comics has some great links and a nice example of applying the principles to something as simple as a bulleted list. Check it out. I may even get an extra copy to circulate amongst the team for the current commercial aviation training project that I am working on now.

PENS (the protocol for simplified publishing of elearning, not the Rapidograph tools favored by comic artists), is getting more attention and support. I just noticed the current (du jour?) Wikipedia entry for AICC mentions PENS. Thanks to Google News Alerts, I learned that IBM customers are asking about PENS support in Lotus Learning Management System (LMS) or IBM Workplace Collaboration Services Learning on the support pages. Great to see that PENS is showing up on the radar of more LMS providers like IBM and Oracle (recently at an AICC meeting), and that the list of PENS supporters is growing. Getting a new standard going and accepted is tough work upfront, but it really catches on once a few early adopters see a competitive advantage to supporting it.

New Cool Tool- Articulate Engage

Articulate Engage is an awesome tool to add to your rapid elearning quiver. It isn't the standard PowerPoint-to-Flash tool, nor is it another capture-based tool like TechSmith Camtasia or Qarbon ViewletCam.

Engage gives you interactions that break out of the rapid elearning tutorial "box" that can corner you into only "click next to continue" or "insert multiple choice here." Instead it gives you bigger, broader user interactions like a timeline for discovery learning and common interactions to communicate business concepts like nested circles, marketecture pyramid diagrams, glossaries, etc.

The interactions in Articulate Engage are simple to build and you don't have to snap together a dozen of the tiniest legos in the box to get complete useful interaction structures. Even better, they also give some contemporary looking eye-candy, so business content can look great without making you struggle to become a Photoshop wizard just for clean, current-looking buttons.

Engage isn't intended to replace a tool like Breeze/Connect, or Captivate-- in fact it integrates nice & tight and adds value to the Articulate Presenter PPT-to-Flash tool. Check out the free trial while it is available-
  Download Articulate Engage trial copy.

European Events added to Learning Events Calendar

Thanks to an email from friends at Mohive, I've added a few European events to the November Elearning Events Calendar.

As usual, dates, location, description and site links are provided in the calendar.


Why is it that sometimes animated characters make content more compelling and sometimes they seem, well, creepy? It seems like this can be the case, even for the same use, but just with different viewers. My friend and colleague, Professor Mark Salisbury, produces 2-3 minute segments on Knowledge Management for an NPR affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico among other locations. There are quite a few of these segments (and some supporting graphics) available on his web site (sample radio segments). I genuinely enjoy the segments for their content, as well as the recollections they inspire of good times and good fun working with Mark.

Recently he started using the Oddcast hosting service SitePal to make what I would call "pOddcasts" like this, The Knowledge Worker. I've heard about the research on animated characters and understand the need to more clearly personify the characters or vignettes in elearning-- I even encouraged it while at Macromedia (Animated Talking Characters for Elearning). However, in this case the technology just doesn't add value for me. I don't know if it is because I know Mark and have seen him speak, or because of my demographic (40+, non-gamer), or whatever.

Has anyone else run into this experience with virtual characters? I saw a presentation at the Learning 2005 conference that was titled, Can Virtual Characters Produce Real Results in Simulations? I really enjoyed the presentation by Tomas Ramirez and Greg Sapnar of Bristol-Myers Squibb. They cited some good fundamental research on use of virtual characters and included tools like a Virtual Character Decision Maker's Matrix job aid (from Night Kitchen Media) for selecting and developing characters. They referenced the work of Clark/Lyons and Reeves-Nass on virtual characters. This makes me wonder, was the issue for me that there already was a real character in my mind, so there is some sort of disonance when I see the virtual Mark? How can one ensure that virtual characters increase effectiveness and comfort for the learner?

Does anyone have other thoughts about this or pointers to relevant research?

Online Elearning Seminars Added to Calendar

I've already received feedback on my Elearning Events Calendar and am posting a few online events to the calendar. I just added an ASTD event, Virtual Classroom session- What's Next in eLearning, with Tony Karrer, Ph.D. Next up, I'll be adding entries for the Adobe eLearning Luminary Series that starts in a few weeks with guest speakers such as Chris Howard of Bersin & Associates and one very special guest.

Google Calendar for Elearning Events

When I was at Macromedia, there were always a slew of tradeshows to attend, and I often had to juggle conflicting schedules and opportunities. I regularly pulled together a calendar with all the various events from different sources to help with planning and preparation. Now I'm trying out the new Google Calandar application on my domain and I set-up a public calendar with the major trade shows and events for elearning. The calendar currently includes events from Adobe, AICC, ASTD, Elearning Guild, I/ITSEC, Masie Center, and VNU. For example, you can see October Elearning Events.

Elearning Events Calendar
 HTML view
 iCal/.ics link
 XML view

Anyone interested in adding an elearning event should send an invite or email to me at .

Another vendor adds PENS support- OutStart

Businesswire shows that OutStart Announces PENS Support. I'll update the link to point to the OutStart site, as soon as it is available there.

Great to have another vendor on-board, and I look forward to seeing their implementation working with others at the plugfest that starts tomorrow. The interoperability labs run Tuesday afternoon, with vendor presentations the following morning on Wednesday. I'll post a wrap-up on Wednesday night to document how things went.

How-to use Captivate 2 and PENS

Here is a quick 2-3 minute demonstration of how to publish directly from Captivate 2 to an LMS or LCMS using PENS- Publish directly to LMS with Captivate 2 using PENS. I've been getting a few question about this from end-users and various vendors preparing for the PENS Plugfest, so I thought it would be easiest to just post a Captivate demo. Note that the demo is a plain old SWF from Flash, but using PENS like this requires Captivate 2, since it is a new feature.

AICC PENS Plugfest in Vancouver

I've been busy preparing for the AICC Meetings and PENS Plugfest happening next week. For starters, I added SSL support to the hosted version of the PENS test tools that I offer online (sample HTML form here, and PHP-based PENS command validator here or SSL here). This change has not been integrated to the official release yet. The official release is always available from AICC PENS Interoperability Validation Suite.

I'm wondering what experiences others have had with content-LMS integration issues, and how we can head-off these issues for both implementers and users. With past specs, I've noticed that ambiguities about the format of data elements could be an issue, as could the presence/absence of optional elements. Based on this, the validator checks for the presence of all required elements and the absence of unknown extraneous elements. The PENS validator also applies a regular expression against each element to check formatting, and where possible the regular expression is drawn directly from the underlying RFC or IETF recommendation.

Another area of headaches was code that depended on URLs to literally start with "http://" URLs and then suddenly broke when someone used a content launch URL or a LMS tracking URL that used SSL ("https://"). A similar issue is code that either depends on the URL having a trailing "/" or breaks in the absence of a trailing "/". To test those cases, I've hosted the PENS validator at URLs like which should still work when one sends a PENS collect command to As a beta user, I tested the Captivate 2 implementation of PENS against both those cases. Soon, I'll go back and test with content published to an SSL URL and with a PENS server hosted behind SSL.

Are there other specification implementation "gotchas" that we should look for in the test tools? Things to watch for next week when the vendors gather for the Plugfest? If so, please let me know here, without ranting too much on specific products. Thanks.

AICC Certifications for Oracle and Saba - They Do Care

Congratulations to Oracle for achieving AICC certification of Peoplesoft Enterprise Learning Management 9.0. Likewise,, kudos to Saba for achieving AICC certification of Saba Enterprise Learning Suite Version 5 on September 6, 2006. Back in the Spring of 2006 I questioned the commitment of some LMS vendors to standards. It is great to see two major players like Saba and Oracle stepping up to the task. Saba is now certified for both AICC and SCORM 2004.

We're still waiting for either a SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004 or an AICC certification for the SumTotal LMS that was first released in December 2004. In the same time frame, many major competitors have achieved two or more certifications, as have some smaller firms with solid LMS offerings. Since Claude Ostyn left SumTotal I haven't really seen much corporate participation in ADL or AICC activities from SumTotal. Hopefully, they are still keeping an eye on LMS fundamentals as they move towards performance-management.

Flashform: Form-driven SWF-output Elearning for AICC and SCORM

Rapid Intake took on the task of updating CourseBuilder and Flash Learning interactions last year. Now they've released an updated forms-based elearning tool that is AICC and SCORM compatible- Flashform Rapid eLearning Studio 2.

Flashform looks a lot like the server-based tools you might see from Qmind, Mohive or CourseAvenue. However, it is client side and advanced developers can customize or extend it using Flashform source FLA and XML files. This is a sort of third category of Flash tool. It falls between the sometimes intimidating option of coding Flash content from the ground-up and the constraints of Powerpoint-based elearning converters (Articulate Presenter or Breeze) However, it doesn't assume that one needs the content management and workflow capabilities of the flexible server-based template and form authoring solutions like Qmind. Check it out. Check them all out; there isn't one tool that is a universal solution for all needs.

Flash + Google Maps = Flight Simulator

OK, it's not quite a flight simulator, but Mark Caswell-Davis has built a fun "Flash 8 Google Maps" flight simulator called Goggles Flight Sim. It is really interesting to think about this as a simulation mash-up. Imagine instead of map data if a Flash movie used a business model or other data from a web site/service. One could quickly and simply make some pretty powerful training.

Before you head off and try Goggles, note that

I had a lot of fun with this today. If you want to create your own start locations, it is easy to follow the author's instructions for linking to your own Goggles starting point using Google Maps and Firefox.

Without sounding too much like Elliott, I really think this could be a new model of creating training simulations; lightweight integration into existing services using a UI, some minimal instructional information and a scenario to launch learners into an experience they control and that has inherent consequential feedback from their actions and the response of the model. Note the lack of instructions needed for this example and the effective cost.

Return to client-side blogging

My preferred offline/client-side tool, w.bloggar, is back online after some time away. Something went weird with w.bloggar for me July-ish and I couldn't post using it. I looked for a new copy, but the site was down since at least early August. Meantime, I had been using the Blogger site to do my entries and felt some frustration, so I tried another free blogging client, Qumana. I had tried it once before in a sort of w.bloggar versus Qumana shoot-out. Although Qumana 3 beta 5 is significantly nicer than what I tried before, but still not my cup of tea. If necessary (like w.bloggar doesn't work for THIS post), I'll go back to Qumana.

For now, w.bloggar works best for me and I'm now using w.bloggar v4.00.193 which you can download from the resurrected bare-bones site. Don't let the placeholder-style site fool you. This is a great tool. Then again, if there's something better... just let me know.

Finding the Reload Metadata Tool for SCORM

Reload is a metadata editor that supports SCORM 2004 and the SCORM Simple Sequencing and Navigation constructs. However, I couldn't find it to download it. Looking at the main ADL site, there are quite a few good presentations about it over on the ADLNet site- Reload Metadata Editor Presentations, but no sign of the tool itself with the SCORM extensions. Fortunately, I was able to contact someone who knew where to find it.

Currently, the Reload Editor is available as a download on the Joint ADL Co-Lab site- Reload Editor 2004 v.1.3.2 beta 2. It looks like it was last updated in late October of last year, but it should still do the trick for most of your SCORM metadata editing needs.

Getting to Know CORDRA

The ADL is hosting a CORDRA event this Fall in Memphis, CORDRA at Work. Folks building content for the US Dept. of Defense and government agencies will want to get to know CORDRA as it will likely be a big part of future online training content.

CORDRA (Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration Architecture) is an architecture and specification for registering content in a repository, and being able to do searches across repositories. CORDRA leverages The Handle System to resolve unique, persistent resource identifiers, to handle authentication and more. The simplest explanation I've heard of Handle is that it is "A better DNS system than DNS." The Handle System is being handled by CNRI and is funded by DARPA, the good folks that brought you things like the internet


LMS Updates- Blackboard Lawsuit, LMS CEOs, PENS & SCORM News

It seems like there is so much going on right now. Rather than doing 3 posts I'll do one quick post and hit 3-4 topics.

Blackboard Lawsuit- Disappointing to read about Blackboard filing patent-based lawsuits against other LMS companies. Others have followed this more closely and written about it more clearly than I can, like Stephen Downes has on his blog- see posts like: Blackboard Patent.

LMS CEOs-The Masie Center has podcast (MP3) interviews and PDF transcripts of brief interviews with most of the major LMS/LCM companies CEO or CTO. Free downloads are available off of the Learning 2006 site. There are 15+ short MP3 files (~5MB) to choose from here LMS Panelist Podcasts. Masie Consortium members can also visit that site for a focused podcast with the Blackboard legal counsel on the pending litigation.

PENS- I was busy updating the PENS validation suite PHP for the AICC. The PENS validation code is available on the AICC site, and I am hosting it myself for online testing at the PENS LMS Testing site. The changes to the sample code and server-side validation are described on the AICC blog; PENS Validation Suite Updates. If anyone is interested in collaboration on further updates to the test suite and a certification process, please contact me. I've also been working on a PENS Plugfest to be held in Vancouver September 19-20, see the press release here AICC PENS Plugfest.

SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Public Draft posted Monday If you didn't catch it, the ADL posted a "Final Draft" on Monday, with beta versions of the test suite and sample run-time environment. It seems like a lot of clarifications and some decent clean-up/clarification of Simple Sequencing & Navigation without a major overhaul that would break a lot of things. See the ADL web site (now a .gov domain) for info and downloads ADL site downloads for SCORM 3rd Edition ADL Releases SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Public Draft. The next 30 days is your chance to get feedback to them before it becomes an official, non-draft document.

Transitions and a return to blogging

I'm returning to blogging after taking some time away to handle personal priorities. As I mentioned earlier this year, my mother had a stroke in January and was also diagnosed with cancer. Our family rallied to support her, with my brothers and sisters in Wisconsin seeing her daily. She had a few smaller strokes and was subsequently transferred from a hospital to a nursing home. My mother celebrated her 66th birthday in early July and I returned to be there with her and my brothers and sisters. A few days later her condition further deteriorated and she was transferred to a very nice hospice with wonderful staff. I returned in mid-July and was there when she passed on July 20th. Thanks to everyone who has shown their sympathy and support.

LMS Upgrades- Lessons Learned from ERP

In the March edition of Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), Robert C. Beatty and Craig D. Williams write:

One of the most important IT-enabled business innovations during the decade has been the emergence of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Lured by guarantees of improved business productivity, streamlined business operations and, and increased cost savings, organizations worldwide have launched initiatives to integrate ERP systems into their existing business environments.

I was struck by the similarity between the ERP systems and LMS (learning management system). A quick substitution of LMS for ERP and "learning" for a few instances of "business" and it could be the beginning of an LMS white paper. The goal of their article was to give ERP teams proven and practical recommendations for successful ERP upgrades. I think it just may apply to LMS upgrades too. Here are their 8 top-level findings:

  1. Build your business case on new functionality.
  2. Treat the upgrade like a new project.
  3. Keep the (original implementation team) team together.
  4. This is a business project, not an IT project. [emphasis added]
  5. Watch for hidden infrastructure costs.
  6. Un-customize customizations.
  7. Test like your organization's future sucess depends on it.
  8. Don't skimp on the training.

Of course we've got to like #8. But what about #6? It is so tempting to request customizations, ostensibly to improve the learning experience, but how detrimental are delays or additional costs to the learning experience? Beatty and Williams note that for ERP projects "Dealing with customizations requires approximately 80% of a software developer's and 60% of a business analyst's time and effort.". They recommend that customizations be evaluated and considered for elimination during the upgrade process.

This article is definitely worth reading for any training manager or IT staff involved in an enterprise LMS upgrade.

SCORM 2004 Vendor News

Some other good SCORM news is that Rustici Software is working on a testing tool that will help clarify/visualize Simple Sequencing and Navigation Rules and the resulting activity tree. Beta testing should begin soon, so look for an announcement or contact them if you are interested.

Last month, I bashed a few LMS vendors about not caring about certification for SCORM and AICC (or the glaring lack of certification).

Kudos to Saba for stepping up and getting Saba Enterprise Learning Suite 5.3 certified for SCORM 2004 2nd Edition (Test Suite 1.3.3) in April. Now all Saba is missing is a current AICC certification.

Hopefully, we'll see some other vendors step up to the plate soon for AICC, and/or at least announce a position regarding SCORM 2004 certification (e.g., are they waiting for 3rd Edition?). I'd still love to see a current certification for Oracle, SAP, or SumTotal.

SCORM 2004 News - 3rd Edition Public Draft

I just got back from last week's SCORM 2004 Technical Work Group meetings, and it seems like there will be some great clarifications in SCORM 2004 3rd Edition, particularly for Simple Sequencing and Navigation. That is the good news. The bad news is that it Simple Sequencing isn't all that simple and can be quite confusing for your average trainer or instructional designer (including me). Also, note that it could be a few months before the final docs and then the test suite are available for SCORM 2004 3rd Edition. Although the public review period just ended, you can still get an impacts summary online.

Portable Firefox Released

From | Your Digital Life, Anywhere™:
"Portable Firefox Released"
Submitted by John T. Haller on April 28, 2006 - 12:38pm.

Portable Firefox has been released. Portable Firefox is the popular Mozilla Firefox web browser packaged with a PortableApps Launcher as a portable app, so you can take your bookmarks, extensions and saved passwords with you. New in this version is:
  • Update to Firefox
  • New self-extracting package download (only 5MB)
  • New App/Data internal directories for easy backups
  • New localization instructions so you can use PFF in your own language

Get it from the Portable Firefox homepage at

Now to figure out if it is worth it to add the Authorware Player (lots of read/writes to the USB Flash drive) or not. I'm pretty sure I'll add the Flash plug-in and a few other key Firefox extensions though.

Certification: Do LMS Vendors Really Care?

I noticed that only 1of leading LMS vendor has their current product certified by AICC. Only one major LMS has a current SCORM 2004 Certification. Read on to find out who IS certified. Curious who isn't certified right now for either standard? As of this writing I don't see Oracle, Saba, SAP, or SumTotal when I look on the AICC site (AICC Certified Products), nor do I see any of those products on the ADL SCORM 2004 Certified Products list.

Hmm, sorta makes you wonder why companies have problems integrating their content with their LMS.

Not that the issue is entirely on the LMS side. I don't see many content vendors with current AICC Certification either though. No current AICC certification for Articulate, DazzlerMax, Lectora Publisher, and ToolBook to name a few. There are quite a few I didn't name too.

Content tools fare much better with SCORM 2004 certification , where you will see that Adobe Breeze, Adobe Captivate, Articulate Presenter, EEDO ForceTen, OutStart Evolution and ToolBook are all listed.

Time to run off to Masie's LMS 2006 Users Group that is running right now. It is no wonder that this event sold out.

PS- Plateau has both AICC certification and SCORM 2004 certification currently. The only one out there as far as I can tell.

Must-have Resources for Authorware

It has been 18 years since I first saw Authorware (then Course of Action) in grad school and 15 years since I first drew a paycheck from using it. Once again I am deep into Authorware development. I'm updating some projects to make better use of Javascript and XML technology as well as improvements to Authorware itself. Here are 3 "must-have" resources:

I bought/downloaded all of these myself last week and am quite happy. There's nothing in it for me to recommend these resources, other than sharing good authoring karma. While I'm at it, be sure to check out Andrew Lucking's blog. I've seen Andrew on Authorware forums and around the net, and I finally had a chance to meet him at the AICC meetings in January 2006. His blog has good stuff on elearning, Authorware, web development, video encoding Flash and more. Moreover, I actually find the occasional flyer about boat construction to be quite interesting.

Questionmark 2006 Conference Presentation

I had a great time at the Questionmark User Conference last week in San Francisco. Thanks again to all the Questionmarkers who made it such a wonderful experience.

My presentation was on Monday, with Robby Robson from IEEE LTSC and Eduworks, and Chuck Allen from the HR-XML Consortium. You can download a copy of the presentation here: 2006 Elearning Standards Panel (562K, PDF).

Eric Shepherd of Questionmark acted as the moderator did a great job of introducing standards and the panel, and explaining how Questionmark supports standards. Robby Robson addressed the rationale for elearning standards, and provided a sort of "state of standards" overview. I gave my take on ADL and AICC, and an overview of the elearning PENS specification (Package Exchange Notification Services). Chuck Allen explained how HR-XML works to allow "arms-length" partners and intermediaries to interact using web services. A very practical use of web services and XML gateways to enable secure transactions for HR, like resume extraction, background checks, assessments and more. Take a look at the presentation if you're interested in any of this.

I went to a few other sessions and overall, I'd highly recommend this conference to everyone who uses Questionmark. Fantastic uses cases and best practices from other customers, friendly & helpful folks everywhere, focused technical sessions with their tech teams, a chance to steer product directions, and great keynote speakers like Elliott Masie and Allison Rossett.

CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver 8 has been released

I just checked the Macromedia area of Rapid Intake website and saw that CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver 8 is now available for download.

As a reader observed in my earlier post about the CourseBuilder beta, this release makes CourseBuilder compatible with Dreamweaver 8, but does not offer new functionality (yet?).

Flash in a Flash: Collaborative Template-based Elearning Authoring

I don't know quite what to call them, but they are growing in popularity. They are web-based applications that create "LMS-ready" elearning, supporting SCORM and/or AICC standards. A year or two ago, this seemed to be more of an in-house tactic with 1-2 commercial products along these lines. Now it seems like there are half a dozen commercial products with web-based authoring of Flash-based output.

In some cases they even offer their own LMS, in other cases they partner with LMS providers or professional services companies. Some of the systems focus more on SME-authoring, others on extensibility/customization, and still others on project management. Here are a few I've come across:

Are there some commercial products like these that I am missing? Let me know.

SCORM SCO Presentation Engine (S2PE)

Here is an interesting article by Kraig Mentor on using SCORM with Director, SCORM SCO Presentation Engine. I like how this technique can greatly reduce the HTML page clutter that can build-up in manifests that use simple OBJECT tags. I like how much of the content can be externalized. It seems like a very similar technique could be used with Flash. I do have some hesitations about what this means for bookmarking, obscuring the programming for experts, and securing the content (DRM or otherwise).

I recall a cross-product/platform strategy like this from Wicat that was referred to as "Nemesis". The idea was that a database (or in the S2PE case, XML) contains the guts of a the elearning presentation. Then an "engine" reads that data and renders the elearning.

In the Wicat case, this provided flexibility to deliver training in a customer's preferred format-- they could write an engine in Authorware, IconAuthor, ToolBook, or virtually anything that coul "play" the presentation database.

The challenge with a presentation engine approach is that you lose many of the benefits of the host system or language-- Director Lingo or ActionScript idioms and optimizations are often lost in the database representation, and an individual developer's proficiency becomes less valuable. Conversely, that de-valuing of AS or Lingo expertise, can make it much easier to do automation, mass production, or farm things out to non-experts. Ironically, it can also make things much harder for a host system expert who comes in to a project later; their hands are tied to the data structures in what seems like unexpected ways.

Right Answer: Treo, Ultra Portable, or Laptop

Based on my last post, Paul C thought I was carrying a lot of junk. It's really quite small considering the SD card goes inside the Treo and I've added a charge/sync cable. Click the picture to see an actual size image.
Treo kit

For me, this is a compliment to a laptop, with the minimum capabilities I need in a very mobile form. I don't want to regularly bring a laptop to lunch, use it in parking lots, or stores, but the Treo is perfect for all that and takes calls too.

With the 2GB card I have 1GB+ to spare after loading Gaim, Firefox, Thunderbird, N-vu, and other junk. Plenty of space for transporting the equivalent of a CD-R or two inside my phone if I need to transport data. When I need a laptop, I want the ability to drive one or preferably TWO 1600x1200 displays. That is called for when working on training for avionics displays that run natively at 1280x1024. I really want a desktop-peer, a "luggable", when I want a computer.

For Paul, he probably wants more capabilities than the Treo + PortableApps can offer- a better keyboard, bigger screen, "real" apps, no worries about the OS or configuration issues on "other" machines and so on. A 7 lbs. dreadnought Dell, tank-esque ThinkPad or overweight Alien craft would break his back more than bring "on-the-flyweight" mobile productivity like his Sony TR.

I actually considered all of the computers just listed, and think they all have their merits.

The right answer? D) All of the above. Needs vary too widely for anyone to prescribe universal solutions.

How I Mobilize- Treo, PC and Apps

Someone asked about what I use for mobile work since I wrote about SyncToy and I've written about before. Here's the details on hardware and my must have applications, that I use in conjunction with the SyncToy trick I wrote about yesterday.

Hardware- I use a Palm Treo 650 GSM that I paid to get unlocked to use in Europe too. I ended up just using my Cingular SIM in Denmark and Finland though-- and the Palm worked great! I did disable email though, I think GPRS would have been a fortune that way. Next time I'll look at getting a SIM there with data coverage. Sometimes there is a good deal on Palm Treo 650 at Amazon, I'm not sure I'd do a two year contract now though. I've had mine about a year and will stick with it until a faster Palm-version comes out or the Treo 700W Windows version gets stable and a service pack. Maybe late this Fall or early 2007.

I just bought a Ritek 150x 2GB SD Card for extra speed running Thunderbird and Firefox as PortableApps. I swap the 2GB card in & out of the Treo, and use a SanDisk MobileMate SD+ 5-in-1 Mobile Reader to work off of, or transfer data to a PC. Thunderbird in particular is a little slow to start running off of USB, but the Ritek card makes it more tolerable. The Ritek definitely helps with the SyncToy transfer speeds too.

Software- On the Treo, my must have applications are ChatterEmail, CityTime, DateBk5, eWallet, Resco Explorer, mo:Blog, SeaTraffic, TinySheet, TrackerDog, TravelTracker, Uninstall Manager. I've used most of these for years either on the Palm, PocketPC or both.

Lately the most indispensable Palm applications have been ChatterEmail and SeaTraffic. ChatterEmail provides GREAT, always-on, "push" email WITH NO EXTRA FEES. All you need is an IMAP email server. I can't say enough good things about ChatterEmail and its author, Marc Blanc. SeaTraffic is awesome for this area. Traffic is so unpredictable and often bad. SeaTraffic lets you route around it, or even just brace for the worst before you turn the ignition.

As for PC applications and portability, it is web apps or the stuff I wrote about in the previous posts here and here. For use on my PC (or other PC's) I keep these Portable apps on the SD card- Firefox, Thunderbird+Engimail, and Gaim.

Using Microsoft PowerToys for Portable Apps & Elearning

I have some cool tips on use of the free Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP , specifically SyncToy and Taskbar Magnifier.

Cool tip #1: Set-up your Portable applications per the instructions on Then go get the Microsoft SyncToy. Create a SyncToy folder pair and auto-magically synchronize your desk/lap-top and the portable drive. Then you can carry your offline folders and current address book with you on the USB (or SD) memory. I sync my address book and offline folders, from my Thunderbird default profile directory with the USB. See this Thunderbird link for more information on locating your profile folder.

Below I've used the standard Windows token %AppData%, which expands to the user data directory for applications. On my machine %AppData% is equivalent to C:\Documents and Settings\tomking\Application Data\. Here are the two folder pairs I use for quick Thunderbird synchronizations.

Folder Pair to Synchronize Address Book, Preferences, etc.
Left Folder (Hard Drive):

Right folder (portable memory):

Options for folder pair:
Files to include: *.dat, *.db, *.js, *.mab. *.sig

Folder Pair to Synchronize Offline folders and indexes (for IMAP)
Left Folder (Hard Drive):

Right folder (portable memory)

Options for folder pair
Files to include: *.dat, *.html, *.msf

Depending on your work and travel plans you may want to use SyncToy to synchronize, echo (copy left-to-right, w/adds & deletes), subscribe (update left-to-right), contribute (copy right-to-left, w/out deletes), or combine (synchronize, w/out deletes).

I always use the SyncToy "Synchronize" setting, but I am very careful to make sure my primary Thunderbird is backed up before I use SyncToy. You can use a similar strategy with Portable GAIM using folder pairs with the hard drive folder %AppData%\.gaim\ and the USB drive folder drive:\PortableGaim\userprofile\Application Data\.gaim\.

Cool tip #2: Use Taskbar Magnifier to assist with precision alignment of hot spots and graphics when using development tools like Authorware, ToolBook, etc.

Taskbar Magnifier lets you to magnify part of the screen from the taskbar. This is very similar to Magnifier that can be found under Start > Accessories > Accessibility, except the PowerToy version remains in the taskbar.

Though the PowerToy has a smaller viewing area, it does not interfere with pull-down menus and most "full-screen" elearning applications. After installing Taskbar Magnifier, you access it by right-clicking on the taskbar, selecting toolbars, and then "Taskbar Magnifier." Use a similar process to turn it off.

One stop for LMS Info: Brandon Hall "LMS Central"

Just noticed this in the new Brandon Hall Research Newsletter; they've created "LMS Central" to consolidate all their reports, vendor profiles, comparison lists and LMS-related workshops.

Very handy if you need to shop or just keep current.

AICC News now online

A few weeks ago I was elected as AICC Communication Chairperson. Since then, I've taken on the task of doing some updates to the AICC website, including adding the AICC News blog. I encourage you to check it out if you're interested in seeing some pretty good presentations on elearning and staying current on elearning standards activities too.

For those of you who don't know what the AICC is, here's a little description that I culled from the AICC FAQ page.

The Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee (AICC) is an international association of technology-based training professionals. The AICC develops guidelines for aviation industry in the development, delivery, and evaluation of CBT and related training technologies.

I'll antipate your next question, My company is not involved in aviation so why should I care about AICC? Again, citing their FAQs:

The AICC wants the aviation training community to get the best possible value for its technology-based training dollar. The only way that this is possible is to promote interoperability standards that software vendors can use across multiple industries. With such standards a vendor can sell their products to a broader market for a lower unit cost. AICC recommendations are fairly general to most types of computer based training and, for this reason, are widely used outside of the aviation training industry. If you are concerned about reuse and interoperability of online learning, the AICC is a good group to participate in. The AICC also actively coordinates its efforts with broader learning technology standards organizations like IMS, ADL, ISO SC/36, and IEEE LTSC.

I hope to see you there.

CourseBuilder Beta available for Dreamweaver 8

Adobe (as Macromedia) selected Rapid Intake to oversee the future of CourseBuilder and the Flash Learning Interactions. A beta version of CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver 8 is now available from the Rapid Intake website. Updates are summarized here, (text repeated below for convenience):

CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver 8 BETA release: We have completed internal development and QA testing for the Dreamweaver 8 update. We are fixing some known bugs in the current version of CourseBuilder as well as making sure it is compatible with Dreamweaver 8 for both the PC and MAC. We expect the final version to be released by March 1.

It will be nice to have CourseBuilder working well and stable with Dreamweaver 8. I'm also hoping for more features and tighter SCORM 1.2/2004 integration in subsequent releases.

More Mobile Learning Resources (from The Learned Man)

There is a nice post over at The Learned Man with links to papers from MLEARN 2004 & MLEARN 2005, links to info on Flash Lite, a report from the NESTA Futurelab and more.

The Learned Man: m-Learning New Resources & Update

What if… Google Pack for Elearning

What would a Google Pack for elearning look like? Are there free or open source equivalents for common elearning developer tools? What about administrators and learners? Here's my quick stab at these ideas. Those using RSS feed will likely need to read this post on the web site to view the HTML tables that follow.

For those who don't know, Google Pack is a Free collection of essential software, with a few more niceties thrown in too. It includes Firefox, Google Desktop search, Norton Anitvirus special edition, Ad-Aware SE (anti-spyware) and Acrobat Reader. It also includes Google Earth and the Picasa photo organizer and more. A pretty good start.

Learners, Developers, and Managers/Administrators alike will need other basics- web browser, email, IM, word processor. Developers will likely want the latest and full versions, and some development tools. Its a similar list for administrators, but I'll hold back on editors and development tools. For learners I'll go on a limb and recommend the portable versions. Smaller footprint, easily installed on a desktop and offers the option of a USB thumb drive for mobile learners. Though it looks like I'm picking "lesser" tools for learners, I actually use those tools myself in many cases, and I think other developers should use them too.

I'll cheat a bit and fill out some "development" tools in the learner category. This allows learners to create content, and gives developers a Fee or Free option; use the free "learner" tool if you like. For administrators, I'm going to just go with what likely comes with their machines and open-source where appropriate/applicable. Note that sometimes the SME (subject matter expert) can be a learner and sometimes a manager or administrator.

The table of software applications and links follows below. My own choices appear in bold.

A Google Pack for Elearning
Google/Internet Explorer/Norton Antivirus
Office tools (Word processing, presentations, spreadsheets)
Document processing (more than memos)
Instant Messaging
Learning Management
Desk phone (POTS/VoIP)
Elearning - General
Elearning -Rapid Elearning
Articulate, Breeze, Captivate
Web editor
Web server technology

1-Heavily customized with lots of great extensions.
2-I use this as a PortableApp running off a USB thumbdrive when it's handy to do so.
3-Very interesting, very free, very beta.

Excellent Daily News on Mobile Content

FierceMarkets has done it again. They have an excellent daily newsletter about mobile content. This covers all types of mobile content, such as mobile music, gaming, video, marketing, etc. That is just a heads up if you are into m-learning, but you're not hardcore on all things mobile. However, if you are even close to having a hard core interest in this area; then Fierce Mobile Content, or FierceMoCo, is THE list to register for to get the latest scoops in this space. Click the FierceMoCo link to sign-up.

Good Blog and Links on S1000D

Today at the AICC meetings in San Diego, Bill Shook of Boeing did a really nice overview of S1000D and it's benefits and relevance for training and elearning. The PowerPoint should be up on the AICC web site in the meetings minutes here in a few days. Hungering for more information on S1000D I stumbled onto a blog while surfing the in-room discussion and the blogosphere at the same time.

I have no idea who Martyn is, but I like the content and comments that go on at his blog on S1000D. The reference links are pretty handy too.

S1000D - "Sense Out of Confusion"

A great place to start your S1000D adventures whether you are in technical documentation or training.

I tire of blogging about blogging, so here goes

Despite the title, I must go on with this to share my experience with blogging tools.

Qumana versus w.bloggar. Bottom line: w.bloggar wins as a client-side online/offline tool for making blog entries. I'd like to know if anyone knows of something better, and if anyone has had success running w.bloggar off as USB stick as a portable application. Now for the details.

I need an online/offine blogging tool, ideally supporting Windows and Palm, and the blogging software/services from Blogger and Movable Type.

When only dealing with the Movable Type application, I really like Sharp MT from (plus his blog is much more than mildly amusing). Pocket SharpMT is is also available for PocketPC and I used these tools quite happily for my old Macromedia blog hosted on Movable Type. Unfortunately, I now have need to post on several blogs including other blogging hosts/services, and SharpMT doesn't support Blogger.

I REALLY like w.bloggar, but there are a few nits (no technorati tags, no automated pings, no support for advertising links, podcast support needs updates). The w.bloggar set-up is quick and relatively intuitive. It has a good editor with tools for inserting/formatting common HTML tags, and the ability to display a preview OR view the raw HTML. It also supports multiple blogs using multiple different services, includes spell check, and the ability to retrieve/edit old posts as well as save drafts locally, publish, or publish and post entries. It is also installs as less than <4MB, where as Qumana is closer to 9MB.

I thought I would like Qumana, but I personally found it annoying during a brief trial because:

Know of something better than w.bloggar? If it's not Qumana, then please let me know. There, the blogging about blogging is out of my system. For now.

Elearning Needs Tools for Scenarios, Flows, and Decision Branching

The elearning industry needs tools that visualize learning scenarios for learner decision paths, storyboards and simulation branching. Activity in this area seems to have submarined and it needs to resurface.

Where is the innovation in approachable, ease-of-development for elearning? We have access to all theses cool virtual character, simulation and multimedia capabilities. Expectations run higher and higher with each new release of a millionth game or "bullet-time" movie CGI effect.

However, when we want to get great elearning done, we are still left with hand-waving, white-boarding verbal metaphor communication with a Flash expert. What gives?

Elearning had a plethora of new visual tools for creating content in the late 1980's and early 1990's including Authorware, CBTExpress, IconAuthor, Lectora Publisher, Quest and more. Recently, "Rapid Elearning" for "SME Empowerment"* seems to be the flavor of the month, though high-end elearning content still gets developed in Authorware, Flash or ToolBook (or general purpose tools like Java, or proprietary purpose-built tools & workflows).

I want a tool that lets me, a somewhat tech-savy instructional designer, to script and visualize 80-90% of the scenes, effects, judging, remediation, enrichment and branching of simulations and scenarios. I want to see the paths through the simulation and decision process. I want to easily prune the deep branches of the decision tree to make learning more time efficient, but leave enough breadth and depth to give in realism in consequences and complexity. I want to add points for a fast-path, demerits for recoverable false-steps and stiff penalties for hazardous decisions and actions.

I need ALL of that more than I need drawing or animation tools. A graphic designer or animator can do all those things well, and I'm not ever matching their proficiency. However, there is too much instructional design theory and design to easily, effectively communicate my intent to a programmer via a simple script or block of PowerPoint slides.

Why is this SO HARD? Can't new tools be built now that are friendly for web deliver, and instructional design of scenario-based learning? Project management tools seem to handle contingent, critical path and parallel tracks quite well. Role-playing game & MUD tools and engines accommodates rules and scenarios.

Are there tools from other use cases and applications that can be the basis for what we need?

Here's what got me started on this rant. John Dowdell of Adobe had a nice succinct post on Diagramming interactivity. About the same time, the ElearningPost blog had an entry The Basics of Branching Logic that refers to a Jay Cross interne Time Group blog entry on decision games that I had also read. Couple all this with the high-value long-running series of simulation posts by Clark Aldrich at the ASTD Learning Circuits Blog.

There is clearly a need for an approachable, powerful means to author scenario-based learning and decision games.

*Thanks my friend and colleague Eric Rosen for the cool 60's-sounding terminology the "SME Empowerment Movement" as an alternative for the now ubiquitous "Rapid Elearning."

Prepare for a Flurry of Blog Posts

There has been a noticeable lack of recent entries here. My mother recently suffered a stroke and I travelled back to be with her and my siblings. Though the stroke was debilitating and exhausting, her condition quickly stabilized. She has now begun the arduous process of therapy and recovery. Thanks to all who provided prayers, thoughts and other support.

Prior to leaving (and since), I've seen a few items of interest and had a few thoughts about flows & storyboards, a "Google Pack" for elearning, and elearning simulations. This week I am in San Diego attending AICC and IEEE LTSC/SISO Interface Standards meetings, so I'll have some information to report as well.

Elearning Predictions for 2006

Back when I hosted the Macromedia Elearning Seminar Series I really wanted to get Lisa Neal from the acm as a guest. I appreciate the short insightful look ahead she gets each year, collected from the leading gurus, researchers, analysist and pundits.

Predictions for 2006 E-learning experts map the road ahead By Lisa Neal, Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine

While you're at it check out eLearn Magazine online and the acm itself.

Online Symposium on Simulations at The eLearning Guild

This one looks interesting, and doesn't require travel.

Elearning Simulation and Games Symposium February 8-10, 2006 | Online

Based on the published agenda, I'd check out these sessions:

There are several interesting sessions on using Adobe Flash for elearning, and it looks like Frank Hanfland of safety-kleen will be updating and expanding his Macromedia MAX 05 presentation with additional information on ROI and business drivers for elearning simulations.

Registration is $495 USD for Guild members or $619 standard rate. Joining the guild for $99 is definitely worth it; you get discounts for their conferences as well as the online events, and access to the eLearning Guild library of polls, research and articles about elearning.

Hot on the heels of Flash- Dreamweaver 8.0.1 Updater Available

Just after I wrote about the Flash Lite 2 and the related Flash 8 update, I found out that a Dreamweaver update is available:

Scott Fegette: Dreamweaver 8.0.1 Updater Available: "Attention, Dreamweaver-wranglers- you can download the Dreamweaver 8.0.1 updater for Mac and Windows ASAP from the Dreamweaver Support Center, which addresses many reported issues with the 8.0 release"

Good stuff.

Too early for mobile learning? Or is it?

This domain is going on 3 years old. I got it in February of 2003 expecting to start a whole site on Mobile Elearning. With Flash on PDA's and heading to phone I then thought the timing was right. It was definitely too early. I think we're getting close now though. Since this is Mobilemind, maybe it's time to share some links and resource for information on Mobile Learning.

Some of these resources are getting a bit dated, but they are good places to start investigating mobile learning.

Send me a note at if you have an interesting mobile elearning project that you would like to share.

Mobilemind RSS Feed Change- January 12, 2006

Just an administrative note that the proper feed is now:

In an attempt to somewhat satisfy Feed Validator, I changed the file extension of my feed to ".xml" instead of ".rdf". This eliminates a few of the Feed Validator errors. I'm hoping that will make things more palatable to technorati and the Macromedia/Adobe MXNA Feed Aggregator.

Simulations are Speaking

Expect to see increased use of animated, speaking characters as guides, customers and colleagues in elearning this year and next. The tool are becoming more powerful, more approachable and more pervasive.

Output to Flash SWF format makes it much easier to incorporate these characters into elearning, whether you use Authorware, Breeze, Captivate, Dreamweaver, Flash, Lectora Publisher or Toolbook.

A year ago I posted about Animated Talking Characters for Elearning mentioning Oddcast and Sculptoris. Recently, the actionscript Hero (ash) linked back to my post and mentioned another tool along those lines from CodeBaby.

Vcom 3D also has tools for interactive characters that I really want to learn about. I look forward to seeing (and hearing more from them later this month at the AICC meetings in San Diego.

I saw a really impressive demo of Vcom characters during a NATO panel meeting at UCLA last Fall. Multiple virtual communicators interact with each other and use culturally-specific gestures (yea/nay nods or head motions) synchronized to their speech while presenting or responding to learners. The demo was part of a prototype for training soldiers who need to have dialogs with diverse cultures at checkpoints and in other situations.

It was really cool to see spouses glance at each other while speaking, or catch a child showing deference to a parent (if only it were so consistent in real life). I can't wait to see how this has advanced since then, and how it might be attainable for more mainstream elearning applications.

Speaking of Simulations

There is alot going on with simulations lately.

Learning Circuits Blog- Clark Aldrich and others have been having a running dialog on the ASTD Learning Circuits Blog.

I particularly liked the "SimWord of the Day" series that started back around the 18th of December 2005

AICC Simulation Forum- The AICC will be hosting a mini-forum on Simulations during the AICC San Diego meetings January 30 - February 3, 2005. There will also be 2 full days devoted to researchers, organizations and vendors in the simulation space. I look forward to catching up with some of my Adobe (Macromedia) colleagues who will be presenting.

Simulation Interface Standards (Study Group)- The IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (IEEE LTSC) is working together with the SISO SAC (Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization Standards Activity Committee). Together they are evaluating additional standards are appropriate and feasible for elearning simulations. Together they issued a call for position papers, which is found here on the IEEE LTSC site. Related discussion will be held February 2-3, 2005 and co-located with the AICC meetings.

Talking Head Video is Boring… or is it?

Blog reader Paul Colombo of webLearning wrote to let me know this Jakob Nielsen article was recently slashdotted.

Eyetracking data show that users are easily distracted when watching video on websites, especially when the video shows a talking head and is optimized for broadcast rather than online viewing.

That quote is from Jakob Nielsen's post. In email, Paul indicated that he notices business managers often want talking-head video with an executive message in compliance training. Yet, a still picture of the person and supporting text often works best-- clear, less distracting and highly effective.

I certainly agree with Paul on that, given all the typical costs associated with video. However, I think I disagree with the interpretation of the esteemed Mr. Nielsen-- talking head video isn't boring, it is, however, something people are very good at processing and multi-tasking. I actually like having the talking head and being able to access additional information. If I hear something in the voice, I can jump back to look at the face. I think the talking head is particular effective if the content addresses the affective domain. To me at least, such video obviously has a place in learning. However, as Paul implies, a still image can be just as effective as conveying the source and significance of a message for instructional purposes-- and often less distracting and more cost efficient.

Dreamweaver 8 vs Nvu 1.0

Briefly, Dreamweaver 8 wins hands down. This is a follow-up to my earlier post about tools from

I really wanted to like and use Nvu, since I've come to love Firefox and Thunderbird. Nvu has the right pedigree, extensibility, speed, rendering and more. Nvu just isn't as fully featured as it need to be and requires too many compromises and inconveniences for daily work. Currently, there aren't enough extensions to patch those issues either. For me the key issues were:

I will still use Nvu as my "thumbdrive HTML editor," but even that requires a few critical add-ons.

Conveniently, one of those critical add-ons has a FAQ that reiterates most of my gripes (see

Cool Stuff-

A few weeks ago, I had to part with my laptop and I was worried about getting internet withdrawal symptoms. While I was waiting for my new laptop to arrive, I set up a 1GB USB thumb drive with Firefox and all my bookmarks stored on it for browsing. I also set-up Thunderbird for POP3 and IMAP email access, and GAIM a multi-protocol IM client (simultaneously supports AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo messaging).

This is way cool, I can walk up to any decent Windows machine, pop in the USB thumb drive, and voila-- all my browsing, email & IM clients are raring to go. The only downside is that you must scan that portable drive for viruses VERY carefully if you've used it on any public machine.

I had heard of the USB drive approach over at the FurryGoat blog about one year ago, but never got around to doing it. Now I had good reason to do it and while looking for something about Thunderbird on Mozillazine, I found out about all the other applications that John Haller has helped set-up for this sort of use. - Your Digital Life, Anywhere™ is a community site devoted to the development, promotion and use of portable applications. The site was created by John T. Haller (aka me), the developer behind numerous portable applications (like Portable Firefox, Portable Thunderbird and Portable as a way to centralize the knowledge and development efforts of multiple portable application efforts.

Though I expect to be getting my new copy of Dreamweaver 8 real soon, I was intrigued to see that there is a "portable" version of the HTML editor Nvu (pronounced en-view). This looks like a fairly compelling open-source offering for web-page editing; tabbed document interface, W3C validation, spell check, FTP site management, CSS support and more.

I'm curious to hear if any open-source advocates in the elearning community have tried Nvu. I'm going to give it a shot later this week and report back.

Comments ON

I made some updates to my blog template (roll-over tool-tips for the sidebar links, changing "Macromedia" to "Adobe/Macromedia", updating the IEEE LTSC and IMS links, permanent links to entries via the title of the post, etc). Apologies if this made your RSS aggregators freak a bit as I republished quite often-- editing blog templates can be a trial-and-error-and-error process.

The most noteworthy change is that comments are on now. Hopefully, I'll write something new and comment-worthy soon. Meantime, feel free to comment on older posts.

The other interesting news is that I managed to pass the W3C Markup Validation Service check for XHTML 1.0

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional

Moving on from Macromedia/Adobe

In case you missed reading it at my official Macromedia blog (Elearning Moving Forward), I have moved on from Adobe. December 9, 2005 was officially my last day. Hopefully Silke Fleischer (and others?) will continue the Elearning Blog in my absence.

I just got a new laptop today and I can't wait get started on some new projects. All the software I ordered from Adobe just can't arrive soon enough.

Here are some of the things I plan on working on in 2006:

My Official Macromedia Blog Moved

My official Macromedia blog moved. The new URL is:

New RSS feeds are:
RSS 1.0 -
RSS 2.0 -
Atom -

Rapid Sabbatical

Thanks to Macromedia's great benefits I spent six weeks on sabbatical. Though a sabbatical is rare (but greatly appreciated) in corporate form, it is also a bit shorter than the typical academic sabbatical, which can be a semester or full year to focus on other interests.

I'll be continuing my elearning and technology blog on my section of the official Macromedia blogging site-

The RSS junkies amongst you can use the RSS feed for that site.

Time for a drive

I'm going on another drive and will be blogging once again. Send me an email if you're interested. I'll reply with the URL for the latest sports car excurision web site. The previous "Mobilemind" roadtrip blog is still online. Let me know if you want that URL too.


Blog Portability, or Tom gets official

Now I've gone and done it. Macromedia decided that my anecdote and pun-laden posts are worthy of an official Macromedia blog. --

I copied almost everything that I posted from here over to the new URL. I still have to figure out how to add my own links for standards, events, etc.

Being "official" is good news for all of us involved in elearning with Macromedia products... more visibility AND a comment mechanism.

Oh, I just realized something. Depending on what you think, that comment mechanism may not be so good for me. I'll take my chances and count on your kindness.

Going Mobile

Vacation time for me. I'll be back with more posts soon.


Feedback and Elearning – Go Rapid

When I was in high school, feedback was Pete Townshend manipulating his guitar to eek shrieks and squeals out of Hi-Watt amps. By college, I thought of it as feedback loops and bio-feedback. In grad school, it became assessments and course evaluations, and applying the Kirkpatrick model.

In my early CBT days feedback was capturing student comments *while they were in the lesson* (wow, cool, huh). In the business world "feedback" morphed again, into "soliciting feedback" and trying to get comments, opinions and input from others (like colleagues, customers, learners) via email or questionnaires.

We talk about rapid elearning. I think we need rapid feedback too. Let's get dynamic and real time like Pete. Lets loop-it into the mix and change what we're teaching or presenting *while we're doing it*. Oh, and by the way, lets add some real data collection too.

Real time. Real data. Real cool. Next time you do some Live elearning, include questions, surveys or polls. Be ready to act on the responses and adapt in real time. Heck, be ready to write some new questions in real-time, on-the-fly. No reason why data at almost any Kirkpatrick level can't be real-time. Act on that inner feedback loop during the session. And afterwards, go for the big loop. Play back the tape, analyze the data and plug THAT back into the amp for the next time you go live.

"Ka-whang... waheeeeeeeeeeeee."

Send me your feedback (but not on reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassettes or MP3s, please). If you've got my email address, use it. Otherwise, use:

Rapid Elearning by another name- "Spot"

Spot. Not the dog. Not the Microsoft internet watches. Nope, it is "Spot learning". It sounds a lot like what Macromedia has been talking about as "rapid elearning" (Nov 2003 ELearning Day, white papers). Well, not just Macromedia, many others too. For example, Bersin & Associates has been talking about rapid elearning for some time (Training 2004 course from Feb-Mar 2004).

Anyway, here is an article that instroduced me to "Spot Learning". It is from Elearn Magazine, an offshoot of ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). The interview starts with an analogy, so I was sold immediately. Plus it is only 2 quick pages. A worthwhile read if you like making connections and finding new resources.

“Spot Learning”: An Interview with Jonathon Levy

So that is the upside, connections & validation. Now for me, there are only so many (overtime) hours in the day. Thus, the question becomes-- is ACM yet another association I should (re)join to keep up on elearning? I'm going to follow Elearn Magazine for awhile and I'll keep you posted.

Elearning Discussions- Breeze Live and Almost Live

Almost Live was a great local sketch comedy series done in Seattle. For years (1984-99), a troupe of talented Seattleites did topical humor and inside jokes on Boeing, Microsoft, and local neighborhoods. It came on right before Saturday Night Live, and was the best 25 minute warm-up that SNL never knew it had. Even if you've never lived through grunge rock, slipped on a slug, or been near the Microsoft campus, you'll enjoy bits like "What's Weak This Week", "Sluggy Come Home", "COPS- In Redmond" and the Dibert-eque "Middle Management Suck-ups." Sometimes re-runs show-up on Comedy Central. Look for it.

Breeze Live is another little gem, and one that makes me proud, since I'm involved with it. This quarter we're running a whole series of Live sessions on elearning topics. I'm acting as moderator and am focusing on topics that you'll care about from knowledgeable guest speakers. Topics like "The Future of Elearning", "Rapid Elearning", and "Understanding SCORM". Speakers include, Jay Cross, Sam Adkins, Chris Howard, Nina Pasini, Bryan Chapman, Eric, Shepherd, David Holcombe and others. See more topics and register for upcoming Spring/Summer 2004 sessions here: Elearning Seminar Series. I will also try to keep the Events links on the right side of this page up to date with topics and dates.

Breeze Almost Live is my name for the archived sessions from the Breeze Live Elearning Seminar Series. Some sessions are recorded meetings, others are self-paced Breeze presentations. All are good, (credit the speakers, not the host). Even better, you can "time travel" without a Tivo and catch these at your leisure. More recent sessions done with Breeze 4 offer an automatic index into the session based on layout changes, chat entries, key words and a few other key events. Breeze does all that automatically when recording. The thumbnail below highlights the "toggle" for the index and search and shows the index/search pane.

Breeze player index toggle

See the archives for yourself here: eLearning Recorded Seminars

Elearning Benefits, Costs, and Champions

This was supposed to be a post on the intersection of Knowledge Management and elearning, but the research brought be around to Marc Rosenberg's book [ - eLearning] and the review on Jay Cross's web site. Marc has a deep background with AT&T and is well respected. Rather than retread I'll retire and refer you to Jay's review Book notes - eLearning by Marc Rosenburg

Elearning Market 32% CAGR in UAE

According to recent research conducted by the Dubai based Madar Research Group, the market is expected to grow at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 32 per cent in the United Arab Emirates. The growth in the e-learning market will cover content providers, technology providers... [Online Learning Update]

Clearly this "e-learning thing" is neither a "North America-only" nor an "English-language only" phenomenon. Tools, content and managment is neeeded globally.

Originally found on Bill Brandon's eLearning Entrepreneur blog, as Why is e-Learning a great opportunity. I'd have to agree.

News, resources and experience

To me, a good blog is a personal encounter that provides news, resources and experience. I'm going to try to do just that for elearning, right here. I enjoy a blog with the kind of stuff that Google can find, but I'd never know to look for.

The news and resources stuff is obvious, since we've all stumbled on gem-quality links that way. I hope you'll find some of those here.

The challenge will be to make this blog personal and experiential-- those are the things that turn bits of data into bits of wisdom from someone you know and trust. That will take time and a few more posts, but I'll try to do that too.

How? I'm not entirely sure. 15 years of experience will help... I've earned my M.A. in Instructional Design, done it for a living, built custom CBT/elearning, sold tools, helped design/build/popularize an LMS (and elearning standards) and more. The most valuable part of all that was the good friends and good contacts I've made along the way. I'll do my best to benevolently exploit all of them.

Oh, and watch for quirky puns, analogies and anecdotes. Those are things that make context and make something memorable. I may forget the exact content of this Jay Cross post on "mobile learning", but I will forever remember his boyhood home phone number-- 2. "When I was a little boy growing up in Hope, Arkansas..."