Monthly Archives: December 2005

Serenity/Firefly — End of the line

Comcast ran an “exclusive” interview with Joss Whedon, creator of the scif-fi series, Firefly and it’s follow-up movie, Serenity.

Fans of the series have been talking about a movie trilogy and/or a resurrection of the story on TV, but Whedon set the record straight.

In short: it’s over. And there was never any trilogy.

Here are some relevant quotes (in case the page goes away at some point):

So is the story finished?

The, um, the movie is finished. And the story is told. The world is not finished. There’s more to tell, but that’s always the case with everything I do and whether I get the chance to tell [it] or not it is up to somebody else. So I made sure that this movie had completion and didn’t feel like a glorified prequel. It’s its own piece and it wraps everything up. I have a sense of closure that I never had, and I can walk away satisfied. But if somebody tells me not to walk away, I’ll turn right back around.

There were originally plans to make this a trilogy, right?

No, that’s a myth. The original plan was to just make a movie. Had Universal said that they would like to make a trilogy, I would have said, ‘Huzzah!’ But they were taking a gamble on a movie with no-name actors, a first-time director, a universe that’s damn hard to explain, and a premise that’s the same. It was nothing less than a gamble and bless their hearts for gambling once. They weren’t about to say, ‘Let’s do a three-fer!’

Read the whole interview.

“Interesting” idea

Kathy Sierra has a great blog (Creating Passionate Users). I’ve only been following it for a couple weeks, but I’m really impressed. She writes about (predictably) making people passionate about your subject matter. In her case, that’s computer – and more specifically programming language – documentation and training. As luck would have it, that’s one of my interests.

Her latest post is about keeping your writing interesting. Here’s a quote, but I encourage you to go read the whole thing:

So, how do you make things interesting?

If you were a brain, and you’d been evolving for a very, very long time… what would you find interesting?

* Surprise, novelty, the unexpected

* Beauty

* Stories

* Conversation

* Emotionally touching (the whole kids and puppies thing)

* Counterintuitive failures or mistakes

* Fun, playfulness, humor

* Varying visuals

* Faces of people, especially with strong expressions

* Sounds, music

* Shock, creepy things

and of course…

* Sexiness

One fairly straightforward way to make documentation/training/articles interesting is to crank up four sliders Conversation, Variety, Visuals, and Story.

“Gaze Tracking”

Just saw this and had to share it. I hear it’s been around for a while, but it’s really cool that we can track where on a computer screen the user is looking. This obviously has huge implications for usability (hence Nielsen’s interest). It can also help us see how effective we are at building our content. Very cool technology, though, regardless.

Check out this link: Jakob Nielsen’s AlertBox

Training vs. Learning

Is it the “training industry” or the “learning industry”? (Yeah, I know there are plenty of alternates to make this even more confusing, but let’s stick to these two for now.)

I’ve seen arguments about this on discussion boards and had lengthy conversations in meetings about it. Some people can’t even figure out why the topic comes up. I grant it’s mostly a semantic issue (though not entirely, and I’ll get to that), but I think it’s an important one. Certainly not THE answer to training’s woes (not even close), but a contributor.

Here’s the main argument that I’ve heard from the “training” camp: everyone already calls it training and knows what we do, so don’t mess with it.

(Let me quickly make a pre-argument argument here: if what we do is as essential as we know it is, and yet we are at the top of the “cut” list when money gets tight, obviously there’s a perception discrepancy and we need to change the perception of what it is we do, so yeah, let’s mess with it.)

Here’s my argument for “learning”:

  • “Training” puts the emphasis on the event. It is something that you experience where information is imparted to you (i.e., you are a passive recipient of the information). It focuses on what the trainer does to you.
  • “Learning” puts the emphasis on the learner – it’s what you do (hopefully) when presented with new information. The responsibility is on the individual to be an active participant in the learning process. It focuses on what you have to do with the trainer’s help.

Some people see that shift in emphasis as a minor squabble. “Who cares what you call it? A rose by any other name, etc., etc.”

I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

It’s about setting expectations in order to influence motivation, one of the most important parts of a successful transfer of knowledge. If you aren’t motivated when you go to a session (live, online, or whatever), you’re not going to care what’s being said and could miss vital information. So anything that can help improve your motivation to learn, however subtle, is important.

Somebody’s going to say to me, “wait, you’re saying that just calling an event a learning opportunity instead of training is going to improve the event? That’s stupid.” Yes, you’re right. That is stupid. And it’s not what I’m saying.

What I am saying is that it sets the learner’s start point a little higher on the motivation continuum. That means that the trainer might not have to try quite so hard to convince the learner to be an active participant (an essential component of useful learning). Especially in an online situation, anything that helps the user engage is vital.

I’m not saying it’ll be a huge effect, but I am saying that whatever effect there is is helpful.

Now, let’s look at another aspect of the problem. I’ll restate my definitions:

  • “Training” puts the emphasis on the event. It is something that you experience where information is imparted to you (i.e., you are a passive recipient of the information). It focuses on what the trainer does to you.
  • “Learning” puts the emphasis on the learner – it’s what you do (hopefully) when presented with new information. The responsibility is on the individual to be an active participant in the learning process. It focuses on what you have to do with the trainer’s help.

Look at the terms from the perspective of the training professional. “Training” is very inward focused: what am I creating for you; what do I provide to you? (Could be that there are egos involved in continuing to use the term “training.”) “Learning” is externally focused: what do you need to do to be successful; what do you need me to do to help you get there?

Look at where the accountability is: with training, the success or failure is all on the trainer (a heavy weight to bear); with learning it’s more of a partnership, where the learner bears at least some of the responsibility for the outcome.

Within the industry, there has been a lot of talk about making training more “learner-centric.” Great! Why not start at the beginning? Set the expectation that your participants might be called on to think. Call it learning.

X-3 trailer up

Well, what do you know? The first trailer for X-Men 3 actually looks good! I was really worried with all the rumors I’d been hearing. Now I’m looking forward to it! Looks like some really interesting stuff.

Plus, it looks like we’ll see a little more of Collossus, Beast will be prominent, and Jean might be the Phoenix. They’re setting it up so it looks like Cyclops might die, which I have mixed feelings about. My first thought is that they are making it look that way, so obviously it isn’t going to happen. But, if it does, it’s probably what brings Jean back from whatever state she was in at the end of X-2, so there’s that whole self-sacrifice for love angle that does play into the character’s arc. I’d like to see him survive, because he was always one of my favorite characters in the comics and cartoons, but he never seemed quite as strong in the movies, so maybe this would be a good end for him. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.