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

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.