Most Things Fail First Time Around

I attended a talk by a colleague Niall Sclater (head of the Learning Innovation Office) yesterday where he presented a lecture about innovation and began by asking the audience to turn their mobiles on and twitter or use backchannels if they wish whilst he talked and said it was his task to make the talk interesting enough to keep people engaged. By the end of the talk it was clear that this experiment had not been a total success, the room mics were picking up the mobile ‘talk’ the short bursts of beeps as they try to get signals and at least one delegate questioned him about the fact that the noise was interfering with her enjoyment, questioning whether is was polite to have phones on when others were trying to listen.

I think it failed because of two things:-

1. The technology in the building had not caught up with the changes in the way some people engage and interact with technology. Therefore a technology issue that could be avoided and will be solved as time passes and they design mics that work with mobiles and don’t pick up such ‘talk’ and people feel empowered to text or twitter etc. without disturbing others.

2. Social or cultural awareness of how people use the technology, there was clearly a notion that turning mobiles on would mean that people were not engaging in the presentation and it is seen as a ‘disruptive’ technology however the person next to me (Doug) was on his Mac twittering about the talk and many people were picking this up around the Uni as I found out afterwards. It’s this kind of back channel that makes the technology really add advantage, people outside the talk and ask questions (via people there or directly if they had put up a twitter stream) and people in the place can keep others informed and also have a log of what took place.

I question why people feel so offended when someone uses a mobile compared to someone having a notepad and pen. When you’ve got those things (as I saw in the lecture) some people were doodling and sketching, it’s socially acceptable to do that and be relatively disconnected from the lecture but it’s not OK to use a mobile phone (silently) to do something that is equivalent to taking notes? – There’s a stigma attached to mobile devices and perhaps we need to ‘get over it’ at least a little bit if we want to move forward.

Finally everything fails first time around, when we experimented with using streaming media back in the early 90’s for online course use it only worked for around 50% of the audience (because of the complexity of setting up the client software at the time, sound card and network issues etc.) but now it’s a no brainer as Youtube demonstrates. I think you’ve always got to push the envelope and be prepared to fail at least once before technology and culture catch up.

Connected Thoughts and People

I’ve been taking a break from technology (stuck in forest for a week with the family and no signal!) – It got me back in the zone again and also gave me a chance to do some reading. I’ve been reading “A Theory of Fun” (for game design) by Raph Koster. It’s a very lighthearted look at the whole game culture and well worth a read. It covers quite complex ideas in a way that doesn’t make them boring. It’s given me a few ideas which I’ll get down in a post when I have more time to work them up into something that doesn’t sound lame!

I’ve also been looking at Michael Wesch’s Library of Congress talk which is also in some senses inspirational and some senses slightly disconcerting. I love the bit about the rage culture and also about the mimicking that takes place on YouTube. People do use internet to communicate in a different way and these interactions are not something that should be taken lightly (but possibly lightheartedly).

The video blogging is interesting, personally I’d hate to video blog because I’d feel it was like talking to a huge audience of unknown people whose reaction you cannot judge, therefore it seems to me like performing on a world stage and not personal enough for me, I like to connect with people before revealing myself. Wesch discusses this in the talk and also the people on YouTube talk to YouTube so there are methods people use to define their audience.


I’m very much taken by the changes on our culture that Wesch talks about (away from local stores to big supermarkets etc.) and the disconnection and the effect this has on the people and perhaps explaining why we are using such a myriad of means to keep in touch with each other.

I love the bit about the anonymity and rage too. People using this to feel free to express themselves.

Flip-ping great!

Our flips arrived last week (see my previous post on gadgets for info) and I took one home over the weekend and it’s absolutely fantastic.

I tried it out shooting some footage of Hannah indoors and the quality was great considering the lighting. It’s so simple to use I didn’t bother to read instructions (not that I do very often anyhow but it’s definitely a pick up and go device). The kids love it and can use it really well to without any kind of training. The zoom is quite small in real terms (i.e. compared to camcorders)and of course the quality is not more than standard VGA but it is more than made up for by the simplicity, easy of use and portability of the device. It runs of AA batteries (2) and so far they’ve lasted without any problems. I’ve taken several rough videos and binned some. I haven’t tried the YouTube uploading yet but I’ll be doing that this week to test that feature.

I’m going to take it away on holiday with me and test it out some more. I really really love it….and the price. We paid £78 online price for it. Peanuts for such a great little gadget. I’d rate it right up there with the iPod in terms of life changing technology.

Talking of Star Wars…

My kids are into Star Wars (just as I was when I was nine!) and came across this Star Wars Mashup which is great fun and also an interesting way to introduce young ‘uns to the technology in a more controlled environment than say YouTube (if you get my drift).