joining the twitter world

12 01 2009

so as i get back into the swing of things, i was advised that one of the things i needed to do was get on twitter.  oh boy! another killer app to integrate into my online presence.

twitter_logoso i’ve done it.  you can twitter me at dcleesfo.  (for those who don’t know, that means my twitter homepage can be found at http://twitter.com/dcleesfo.)  i have to say that twitter is very easy to use.  You type in anything you want – twitter suggests you answer the question “what am i doing?”  but you’ll quickly see that many people stray from this initial advice.

if you want to keep track of what someone is posting, you go to their home page and indicate you wish to “follow” them (or i guess follow their tweets is more a propos).  people can choose to follow your tweets as well.  you can block them from following you if you want – but i’m not sure why.  perhaps twitter suffers from spam as well.

there are all kinds of applications and extensions that people have built to let you use twitter from your iphone, your regular cellphone, and other applications (i’ve linked my toodledo account to twitter so i can call up my to-do’s via text message on my cellphone.  why? i’m not sure yet, but i have!!!!)

it seems the big initial challenge is to learn about @direct tweets versus public tweets so that you don’t accidentally share what you intend as a somewhat private message with the entire twitter world.





driving real value in b2b customer education

20 04 2008

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about business-to-business (b2b) customer education recently.  My comments here are particularly focused on software/webware, but the principles are just as relevant to other tech sectors as well as service-based industries and equipment suppliers.

i find a johari-square analysis to be particularly helpful to understanding where real value in generated via customer education.  in this post i will focus my comments on the training component of the customer education ecosystem.

along the horizontal axis is a continuum of the level of knowledge a customer has about an application – from basic/introductory usage to a full understanding of all features of the application.

along the vertical axis is the nature of the application to the organization’s particular practices – from generic, non-specific usage to very company specific usage.

The lower left quadrant then represents basic usage being applied in very generic, non-differentiated fashion. This might include data entry, simple reports, basic search functionality, etc.

the upper left quadrant represents the efficient transfer of current company knowledge and practice into the application. Examples would include self-help resources, document repositories, FAQ’s, etc.

the lowr right quadrant represents the application of new processes which are enabled by the advanced functionality of the application and/or templates and add-ons which expand the applications capabilities.

the upper right quadrant represents innovation and creation of new business capabilities and insights which are very specific to the success of the particular customer’s organization’s needs and goals.

The yellow arrow represents what can be considered the desired customer learning path.  The goal is to get the customer to use the application in a way that drives the success of their business.  Unfortunately, in the past, training has had limited means to deliver the necessary learning experiences to the customer. Instructor-led training in a brick and mortar setting with ink on paper content is very expensive. By the time the learning needed to get the customer through the lower left quadrant was successfully completed, the training group had run through its budget. the most innovating training groups might have been able to sneak in a bit of the upper left or lower right content, but that was limited.

the emergence of elearning tools and techniques along with systems that enable an organization-wide customer education ecosystem has created new opportunities to spread training resources further along the customer education learning path.  online tutorials, document repositories, online forums, wikis, instant messaging, and web conferences can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of ILT and ink-on-paper content. This leaves face-to-face contacts available to help customize and innovate new solutions to particular customer needs. Strategic deployment of resources across the customer education ecosystem can drive value in the customer’s organizations.

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work at learning/learning at work blog carnival

17 04 2008

in march, dave ferguson started a new blog carnival centered around topics in workplace learning. blog carnivals are “events” in which bloggers contribute posts on a given subject which are listed on a host blog. The host blog usually rotates from one blog to another on a regular basis.

Check out the first work at learning/learning at work blog carnival event on dave’s blog.

Manish Mohan has taken on the task of hosting the next event on his blog Life, The Universe, and Everything about eLearning and Content Development. Manish is particularly looking for contributions from learning and development professionals who are working from outside North America. He asks that you provide a permalink for your post and a short intro, but he doesn’t give clear direction on where to send it. I received his call for contributions through facebook so you can try there. You can also find him on LinkedIn and of course through his blog.

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finally facing facebook

28 08 2007

i have to admit that i’ve put off checking facebook. the idea of joining yet one more social networking service was too much to bare. but recent comments by a number of learning professionals piqued my interested to the point that i had to check it out.

i have to report that after a week or so of getting to know facebook, it seems like a great service. i can identify a few macro features that i can point to as huge benefits over most other networking tools.

first is what i’ll call a low threshold to entry. it’s incredibly easy to get your profile up and running. unlike most tools i’ve used, you don’t have to have a “complete” profile before you can enter the community. in fact, every piece of your profile that you complete seems to trigger one community benefit or another. so there’s great motivation to keep going back to add a few more things when i can.

second is the intuitive interface is clean and the user can redesign it easily. so many of the other tools are cluttered and determine what you will see on each screen. what if i don’t have a blog on the network? why do i have to see that blank box reminding me that i’m not a true community participant because i haven’t started a new blog on the community site? (see my comments on blogging below for more.) the interface makes is incredibly easy to understand how i can add new features/applications to my facebook and control what will happen when i do. so i want to use the “my questions” application. i can decide whether my questions and/or answers are displayed on my homepage. what about my friends’ questions and/or answers? They can be added to my homepage as well.

a third feature that i absolutely love is that i don’t have to write a new blog in facebook nor do i have to replicate and republish my posts to eelearning to have them appear in facebook. i can simply link to eelearning from facebook and i can list eelearning’s posts on my home page. my friends can link to eelearning as well just as i can link to their blogs! finally! this has been one of the most annoying things about social networking tools to date. everyone expects you to create a new blog for their community! this has been annoying because the technology has been available to do exactly what facebook does. but nobody has done it until now. this alone will keep me coming back to facebook.

my initial impression is that the possibilities for networking with facebook are very extensive and powerful. am i just in a honeymoon period? what’s your experience?

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a new twist on an old reference

14 08 2007

recently i was goofing off and hit my stumble upon button to see what would come up from the world wide web. i was pleasantly surprised when one of the first sites to come up was visuwords. visuwords touts itself as a graphic visual dictionary. the only online competitor to visuwords that i know of is visual thesaurus which i have reviewed in eelearning wiki.

you can enter any word you’d like to learn more about into visuwords and you will be presented with a virtual tree of not only the word and it’s meaning, but all the words in visuwords that are related to your word. For instance, i entered “blog” and came up with this little two branch tree.

visual dictionary blog example

visuwords wins points over visual thesaurus with it’s very stylish design and easy to read graphics. the graphics are the key to visuwords and a key to the shapes and colors is provided at the bottom of the screen. (see the full image of my “training” tree by clicking on the image below.)

learning example of visuwords

the fact that visuwords is based upon Princeton University’s wordnet – an opensource database constructed by faculty, staff, and students. because the technology used to make visuwords work is also opensource, this powerful resource is available for use at no cost. (visual thesaurus costs a minimum of $19.95/year) the one feature that I noticed visual thesaurus wins out over visuwords is the fact that visual thesaurus organizes the words related to the search word in semantic groupings (similar meaning). visuwords just scatters the related words where ever they best fit on the page.

both tools are fabulous and should receive consideration by students, writers, and anyone else who used to lean on their dictionary for spelling, synonyms and nuances in meaning. while $20 isn’t alot of money, why spend it on visual thesaurus when visuwords is very similar and is free?

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the three purposes for rss

31 07 2007

This past spring I was working on a workshop to help learning professionals who were novices with web 2.0 technologies understand the basics of blogs, wikis and rss. obviously, i wanted to keep everything as simple as possible without watering he content down to a point that would render it useless. in addition, I wanted the 90 minute workshop to be as hands-on as possible.

I figured the best way for the participants to truly understand wikis was to just get in and use one. So much of the activities involved them editing a wiki I create for the workshop. i also shared jon udall’s heavy metal umlaut video. it never fails to help people grasp the concept of a wiki far more easily than i can explain it.

With blogs, I created a graphic heavy “anatomy of a blog” that I’ll share with you in the near fRSS 1-2-3 diagramuture.

When it came down to RSS, i, of course, pointed to stephanie quilio’s fabulous post on back in skinny jeans – how to explain rss the oprah way. but as wonderful as the oprah explanation is, it leaves much of the power of rss beyond the basic learner.

As i played with it, i came to realize that there are really only three quite simple purposes for rss: to publicize, organize, and guide. Simple as 1-2-3!

rss-1.gifTo publicize what you’ve written. Every blog publishing platform that i’m aware of includes at least an rss feed of the posts to the blog. some offer comments feeds or specific post and comment feeds. or you can create a feed in any number of tools like feedburner and then share it with your readers and other communities so that what you write can be seen easily by others.

rss-2.gifTo organize what you read. this is what quilio’s oprah definition covers. via feed aggregators, email feeds, or mobile feeds, you can decide exactly what you’d like to be presented with to read.

rss-3.gifTo tell others what they should read. you can use tools like grazr, mysyndicaat, or yahoo pipes to create a list of current readings from multiple blogs. you can then present that new list on your blog, wiki or website for your readers’ edification.

That pretty much covers the key purposes for the use of rss. at least as far as the very basic concepts of the technology. it seemed to satisfy the participants of the workshop as they gave me unanimous 5’s for the content of the workshop.

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Top Ten learning tools

30 07 2007

Jane Hart extended to me an invitation to join her Top 10 Learning Tools exercise.

My list of favorite tools is focused on web-based tools. While software-based tools in most cases have greater functionality, the baseline capability of their web-based counterparts is rising very quickly. These tools have baseline capability that will satisfy most users.

  1. Vyew – easy to use, collaborate, multi-functional, free for use, and accessible from any computer connected to the internet. You can’t beat that combination. Enables both formal and informal group learning activities.
  2. del.icio.us – At first I simply didn’t “get” del.icio.us. it seemed to simple. But it’s simplicity is its secret. With the launch of the Firefox del.icio.us extension, I was won over. Enables easy storage of found resources by individuals or groups. Tagging opens all resources labeled as “not private” to any del.icio.us member.
  3. Zoho Creator – This application is very sophisticated for those who need the best but also modulates so that it is accessible for all customers. Creator takes away the hardest part of anecdotal data which is the establishment and maintenance the databases. Simply create your data collection files and then create any number of reports from that particular area. Forms and reports can be into websites and blogs to perform data collection and subsequent reporting.
  4. CoComment – Allows you to track comments to posts in blogs across the blogosphere to track the conversations – whether you comment or not. you can do this for your own reading purposes, or you can utilize a widget that will post comments you’ve made throughout the blogosphere in the sidebar of your blog.
  5. LinkedIn This social networking site for business minded folks has been compelling from its start and remains so today.
  6. Google Documents, Page Creator, Gmail – Why they don’t have the power and depth of Microsoft Office, these tool make up for it with their simultaneous editing capabilities, their easy of access to and from the web and their overall usability.
  7. Ning – a tool designed to enable anyone – regardless of their knowledge of programming and/or mark-up languages – can create their own online social network. Ning is intuitive and easy to use. The have begun to add all sorts of widgets and other add-on functionality to allow any community to customize the environment to make it uniquely their own. Enables instructors to create classroom communities, organizations to create viral interest groups, informal learning through communities of interest, etc.
  8. Firefox and its Extensions and Add-On – Firefox out-of-the-download is a great browser. Easy to use, good speed, few if any display issues for any type of content. But it is the extensions and add-ons that really put Firefox way ahead. Some of my favorites include del.icio.us bookmarks, MeasureIt, HyperWord, and Tag Editor.
  9. Trailfire– Simply the best web notation tool yet put out there. It can be used by individual and groups to make and organize notes about websites that appear as a callout when they visit that site. It can also be used to create a “tour” of websites around a particular topic. Each of the “trailmarks” has the ability to display text, audio, video and enables blog-like comments regarding each note. Trailfire enables the creation of pre-designed tours of the web for new employees, collaboration amongst team mates who contribute best practice sites and comment on each others contributions, or can serve as a mini-blog on competitors and market conditions for a sales force.
  10. Mind42 and Mindmeister – I’m currently torn between which of these tools I prefer. They are very similar in the capabilities and what they have that none of the other online tools has is simultaneous collaboration. Team decision making, project planning, strategic planning, and brainstorming are a few of the activities that can be enhanced through collaborative mind mapping.

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