Monthly Archives: September 2006

Heroes: Last minute notes!

Interviews & Features – NBC’s Heroes: The Show’s Secrets Unmasked! | TVGuide.com

The show finally premieres tonight at 9pm! I just ran across this TVGuide.com article with some interesting news. For one thing, there will be no “let’s get everyone together and form a team” moment (a la X-Men), and there will be no lack of action. Tim Kring has promised that things won’t be dragged out for 4 or 5 episodes without anything major happening.

In fact, during Episode 2, you just may find yourself looking at the series’ — yes, the about-to-premiere series’ — big finale, the apocalyptic moment, set but five weeks into the show’s future, which our collection of “differently enabled peoples,” to fashion a PC term, presumably will be called upon to prevent.

“No, I don’t have an ending,” Kring says. He then allows, “I have a place where I think it could end, but that ending could be stretched if I need to.”

Set your DVR/VCR now!

Elliott Masie & Josh Bersin: Learning Trends

Learning 2006 – Josh Bersin & Elliott Masie Dialogue

Josh and Elliot, two “thought leaders” in the learning industry, get together and talk about the things they’re seeing in the learning industry. It’s at least partially a teaser for Josh’s presentation at Elliott’s Learning 2006 conference, but there are some good things being said.

For example, Elliott, not for the first time, makes the beginning of a case to make a job in the learning field a part of a larger business career, not a career unto itself. There’s also a discussion about ROI and how it’s not really a sufficient, or even possible, metric to collect. Rather they’d like to concentrate on impact.

An underlying thought to much of what is said, is that learning is not necessarily tied to a “course” model, where you have content, test, content, test, etc. They argue that delivery should be more piece-meal, just-in-time, searchable, nuggets of content, with more of a performance support structure.

That concept is supported by new technologies like podcasts, blogs, wiki’s, RSS, and the like. Personally, I’m all for doing things that way. I’m trying to gently push my company into venturing into these territories (and let me tell you, that rudder is gonna be tough to move). That doesn’t mean abandoning formal classrooms and/or instructional design completely, but their point is a good one – sometimes you just gotta get it out there. They use their own discussion as an example of content that clearly has learning value, but was put together quickly and informally, with no slick interface and no instructional design.

Lest someone read into this that I am advocating dropping ID work, I’m not. I do think, though, that we need to start taking more advantage of technologies that support nuggets of content, and providing a way for the user/student to get directly to the piece they are looking for, rather than concentrating solely on full-blown training events, which is where many training organizations focus.

For a more in-depth look at that concept, listen to Elliott’s podcast on “Fingertip Knowledge“.

[tags]Josh Bersin, Elliott Masie, Learning in a Flatter World, industry trends[/tags]

Heroes web comic

SCI FI Wire | The News Service of the SCI FI Channel

Tim Kring, creator and executive producer of NBC’s superhero drama Heroes, told SCI FI Wire that the the series will be accompanied by a Web comic at NBC.com that will become an integral part of the show itself. “Just to give a little spoiler to everybody, the audience should look for the idea of the comic book to play a huge part internally inside the show,” Kring said in an interview.

I wasn’t surprised to see a web comic pop up related to the show, but it’s a bit of a surprise that the show will reference the comic in some way. Interesting idea.

TV and the web continue to move closer together…

[tags]Heroes, comics, superheroes, web, TV[/tags]

Harry Potter and the Paper-Cut Terrorist

Writer’s Blog: J.K. Rowling vs. Airport Security
Somebody in the TSA has got to get a grip.

[tag]J.K. Rowling[/tag] tried to return home recently and had a run-in with [tag]airport security[/tag]:

Airport security tried to stop her from taking the unfinished, handwritten manuscript of the last Harry Potter book on board the plane as [tag]carry-on luggage[/tag].

What the heck is going on here?! What was she going to do, threaten to read the pilots to death? Give everyone on the plane a nasty paper-cut until her demands were met?

Okay, I can see how that would be dangerous. After all, those cuts could get infected! Those would be dark days indeed…

What’s next? Are women going to be required to remove their underwire bras? Those things can be dangerous, right? What about belts? Heck, you could strangle someone with a shirt, couldn’t you? With the proper training, you could use your glasses as a knife. Maybe we should all just be shipped in suspended animation for safety.

I know the [tag]TSA[/tag] rule-makers have an impossible job on their hands, but these restrictions are getting to be almost cartoonish in their paranoia.

[tags]Harry Potter, terrorism, over-reaction[/tags]

Heroes – the dark side

SCI FI Wire | The News Service of the SCI FI Channel

The latest info coming out about Heroes just bolsters my impression that this is going to be a good show.

In particular, the show will explore the themes of temptation and the duality between good and evil. “It’s one of the things that we’re really fascinated with, … this idea that all of these people have free will,” Kring said. “They are just like any of us. If you find yourself in a time in your life when you are desperate or destitute, and you suddenly discover that you can walk through walls, well, then you may walk through the wall of a bank and rob it and steal money. If you are inclined to do good, and you have the ability to hear people’s thoughts, then you will do good with that. And it really becomes about free will, which is also a part of the hero’s journey. What do they do when they are suddenly tempted by darker forces?”

That same article confirms that not all heroes will remain heroes, and that there will be a super-villain. I’m a little worried that the super-villain will be cheesy, but I hope that’s because I still have the stale cheese of Who Wants To Be A Superhero‘s Dark Enforcer running through my head. **shudder**

[tags]TV, rumors, superheroes, Hero’s Journey, super-villain, free will[/tags]

Are Google’s day’s numbered?

It’s time to reconsider Google | News.blog | CNET News.com

It really might be time for some people to reconsider Google – at least Google’s search and Google Maps. They are no longer so far ahead of the curve that it’s a no brainer to stick with them. The competition is picking up.

I’m not quite ready to switch myself, but if I lived in a region that was covered by online traffic updates, I’d probably go to Yahoo Maps. The functionality is so close to Google Maps that I don’t think I’d miss anything from Google, and they have a real-time traffic overlay that I really could have used today.
The article compares Ask.com and Google’s search results pages. In theory, I give Ask the edge, for the Widen & Narrow boxes down left of the page. That’s an excellent innovation. In practice, though, with the searches I used for testing I think I prefered Google’s results. Maybe if I was doing a different kind of search Ask might come up better, but I was just looking for online references to me. Google had more.

I haven’t tried anyone’s Desktop Search apps, but they do look good. I’ll check one of them out. A friend was just going on about how great they are the other day, so I’m already primed.

One thing that I haven’t seen anyone challenge Google on, though, is Google Earth. See my previous post for more on that. Very cool.

[tags]Google, Ask.com, Yahoo!, maps, search, competition, internet, desktop search[/tags]

Google Earth gets even cooler

Images: New visions from Google Earth | CNET News.com

This is really great! The already wildly cool Google Earth is getting additional information laid on top of it, so you can get information on selected locations from The Discovery Channel, US National Parks, a UN Environmental Agency, Jane Goodall’s institute, and more.

The new information will be available either as overlays (in the case of trails or ape roaming territories, for example) or clickable pop-up references, like a Discovery Channel video of the pyramids, blog entries from scientists, or side-by-side satellite photo comparisons of our changing environment over the years.

This is a big step, in my opinion. It’s taking the maps, roads, and pictures that you would expect and adding in a whole new wealth of information, really beginning to take advantage of the whole “Wisdom of Crowds” idea that is gaining in acceptance, but keeping the “crowd” limited to experts. I hope they continue to add new partners and really expand the type of information you get.

This is a huge thing for education, I would think. It makes looking for information on an area that much more exciting!

You can literally browse the Earth!

[tags]Google, Earth, maps, cool tools, education[/tags]

Podcasting for corporate training example – how I did it

I mentioned in a previous post that I was experimenting with [tag]Podcasting[/tag] for [tag]training[/tag] purposes at work. I thought it might be nice to share what I’ve learned so far, the process I went through, and for better or worse, the result.

The point of this exercise was two-fold: to experiment with the technology and tools, and to introduce potential uses of podcasting to a training industry audience focused in a [tag]manufacturing company[/tag]. The original audience all work with me directly, and the script reflects that so there may be some small things that don’t make sense to a general audience. Overall, though, the content is pretty generic.

[By the way, I should mention that neither the script nor my delivery are works of art (especially the latter). This is just a “get the job done” introductory example.]

The process:

After writing the script, I coerced my wife into playing the part of a podcasting expert so I could “interview” her. (You’ll be happy that I did. Aside from the fact that she did an excellent job, it’s just nice to stop listening to me for a while.) I chose the [tag]interview format[/tag] because I wanted to showcase an informal delivery method.

We used Gabcast.com to record the audio over the phone. It was free to open an account, and easy to use. After a couple screw-ups (mine), we recorded a version we could live with.

I took the raw [tag]Gabcast[/tag] [tag]MP3[/tag] file and played with it a bit in an older version of [tag]SoundForge[/tag] until I realized that I had no idea how to use that tool. I’m sure it will be great once I figure it out, but for now I’m using Audacity. It’s free, pretty powerful, and very easy to use.

I cleaned up the audio a little–took out some hiss, messed with the volume, etc.–and added a free music loop I found as an intro and “outro”.

Then I uploaded the new file to my Odeo.com account. [tag]Odeo[/tag] is also free and provides an upload feature, which isn’t available on Gabcast’s free accounts.

The result:

Then I wrote this post, incorporating Google’s [tag]flash audio player[/tag] (below) to point to the Odeo-hosted file. (Odeo automatically inserts a short ad over the first three seconds of the file.)

or download the MP3 file directly.

And there you have it. That might seem to be a lot, but here’s what it boils down to:

  1. Write a script.
  2. Record a phone conversation.
  3. Optionally, edit/enhance the audio file.
  4. Upload the finished version and link to it.

I hope that’s helpful for someone.

It’s worth noting also that in a [tag]corporate environment[/tag] I’d probably not use the free hosting services, if only because we’d want to keep the content internal to the company. Instead, I’d use a phone tap or a VOIP service (or for solo work, a microphone) to get the original recording, then upload the finished version to an intranet site.

[tags]Audacity[/tags]

Review: The Aviator

I’m of two minds about this movie. On the one hand, it was extremely well done, especially the directing and acting, and the subject was enticing and kept my interest. Unlike many films, my “armchair directing” has failed me: I don’t know what I would have done differently.

On the other hand, it was freakin’ long. Too long. At just under 3 hours, it’s a huge investment to spend the time to watch this movie, so there better be a huge payoff in satisfaction. I didn’t feel quite satisfied. For one, I wanted to know what happened in the rest of his life. Even a quick text summary would have helped. I also didn’t feel as invested in the characters as I wanted to. In some ways I was more interested in watching the actors themselves than in the characters they portrayed.

I do feel like I learned a lot about [tag]Howard Hughes[/tag] (and a bit about [tag]Katherine Hepburn[/tag], too). I didn’t really know much about him before seeing the movie, other than he was extremely [tag]germophobic[/tag] and [tag]eccentric[/tag], and that he was a billionaire airplane nut. This movie paints him as almost single-handedly creating (or at least saving) the airline industry as we know it today, and making huge strides in aviation (and one in film-making), all while being severely hampered by a [tag]mental disorder[/tag] (which looks like schizophrenia to me, from what’s seen in the movie, but I’ll look that up later). If he really had the strength of will to overcome his disorder on multiple occasions under extreme pressure, especially without the aid of medication, he’d have earned my respect for that alone.

But in the end, I didn’t empathise with anyone in the movie. I wasn’t wrapped up in the story. I was always aware that I was watching it from the outside. That’s a major strike in my book, so despite its superb mechanics, I can only give this one three stars.

[tags]Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorcese, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Aviator, movie review[/tags]