Friday, December 6, 2013

Giving is a Global Thing...

I've always believed in giving without expecting anything in return. It just makes sense and a random act of kindness can often reap enormous rewards in business or simply for your soul and well-being.

My friend, Yury Uskov, CEO of iSpring, did something recently which touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes and showed me, without words, what a caring and kind man he was. Not only that, generous too. He would be embarrassed by this blog because he's a humble man, but some things should be shared.

In this season of giving and Christmas, his action reminds me of what giving is all about.

I worked the iSpring booth as a guest the past DevLearn 2013 show in Vegas, One of the people in the booth is a young and brilliant man named Brian. Brian suffers from ADHD but it does not impair him, on the contrary, it helps him be quite brilliant. But many people don't understand brilliance and passion so he feels alone sometimes.

As Brian and I talked during dinner at the show it became apparent that his intelligence and energy level needed an outlet. We talked about many things but one thing came up and it was music, and how much he used to love drumming. Being an ex-drummer myself (a bad one I might add), I understood where he was coming from. Brian felt music was a great thing for him and how he missed it. Dinner ended and that was that.

I sent a note to Yury afterwards and mentioned what a great time we had at the show and how Brian and I had chatted for a long time. I said, quite in passing, if you ever want to give Brian a good gift, get him an electronic drum set. I also sent a link to one from Alesis that I plan on buying as well. The link was so that Yury could see what I was talking about not knowing if Yury was a musician or not.

A very short time later I got a note from Yury that Brian was to receive a special gift in a few days... a drum kit! Not only a drum kit, but the expensive one I had mentioned. I teared up. It was a selfless act and I can imagine the smile on Yury's face as he hit the Amazon "Place order" button.

Brian was also very touched by this act.

Yury is a generous man but I don't think he thought twice about it. His comment to me was that it was a good holiday in Russia and giving was a good thing and brought good luck too.

Giving is the simple act of sharing and empowering someone. For that, Yury, I thank, commend and respect you. Well done!

Give something to someone or group that needs help this Christmas season. It's a good thing to do...

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

SO... So... So.... So WHAT?

There are many linguists who say that language evolves with time. The language we speak today will be different 100 years from now.

One thing they really don't talk much about is the entropy of language. Modern English, for example, seems to be in full entropy vs 'evolution'.

I'm not talking as much about the written language as I am the spoken one. Written language changes more slowly while the oral language quickly evoles, or devolves, based on trends, fads, common vernacular, etc. But, beware, as people become more illiterate, the verbal language will more quickly infiltrate the written one...

I was watching several video podcasts and some news interviews today. One thing was sadly noticeable and, after a while, completely annoying. What was it?

So, I was watching podcasts so I learned some things. So what was I watching? So they were all about technology. So they were pretty cool. So, the news interviews were, so, revealing so I really understood what they were saying. So it was great today!

What word do you see at the beginning of every sentence in the paragraph above?  If you guessed, "so", you'd be so correct!

I'm not sure when this trend started but it is almost more annoying than 'like' every other word... Why do we have to use 'So' all the time? We don't and it shows a lack of vocabulary, sentence structure and verbal communications skills. It is a verbal crutch, a filler word used incorrectly all the time.

Do you use 'so' before every sentence you utter? If so, STOP!!!

It wouldn't be as bad if only illiterate people used it. Oh no, while illiterate people far overwhelm literate ones, 'so' is used equally by the college graduates (including PhD and Doctors). It is used by lawyers, podcasters, and just about anyone that says anything verbally.

Verbal crutches are a real problem in spoken as well as written language.  I have seen a lot of instructional design storyboards making extraordinary use of verbal crutches. Some of these include over-use of:

Now let's...
And now...
Like... or
Press Next to continue (on every single page!)

and there are more of these... But this is a good start.

Typos are another issue (of which I suffer from on occasion... But that's another topic.

Please pay attention to the verbal crutches. They will say a lot about you to others and it may not be what you think...j

And, make it a point to avoid using, 'so'...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Best eLearning Tool is... is... hmm?

Since I started down the road of eLearning development back when the "e" in eLearning meant "electricity", the time honored question has been, "Which is the 'best' authoring tool?"

Well, times have changed and tools have come and gone. Each year we can say that the best authoring tool is...


We're asking the wrong question! In fact, we're answering a question that can never really be answered to anyone's delight.  The authoring tool shoot-out can get as crazy as a religious or political debate. It often simply becomes a discussion about preferences, fanatical loyalists or arcane feature sets.

Can anyone really answer the question of what makes an authoring tool the best one? Or for that matter, what constitutes a 'good' authoring tool. I suspect we'll have as many opinions as there are users (except for loyalists to whatever tools which are often blinded by their own loyalty and need to belong to something/anything).

That being said, we have tons of blogs and awards given to the "best" authoring tools all the time.  But, does this have any value? More often than not these awards are based on popularity or hype versus any scientific method.

In fact, you cannot scientifically ever say which tool the best one is. Why? Well, there is one variable that can never be controlled or made constant: the author/developer.  You will never find two authors knowledgeable in two tools with exactly the same skill set, same problem resolution abilities or same  level of dedication to any specific tool. Therefore, any attempt at rating the "best" tool is an exercise in futility and being "partisan".

Now that we know that we can never truly identify the 'best' authoring tool, let's look at which tool is the best for you (here's where things get tricky and the ground starts shaking and the heavens part and, ok, you get the picture...)

The best authoring tool for you is the one you curse the least at (expletives deleted).

Now that was simple, wasn't it?

All authoring tools will do things you like and things you don't like. Some do it better than others.  Some do it worse than others. What is 'it'? It, is whatever feature you think is important to your development that you've got to have. 'It' could be animations, it could be text processing, it could be layout or it could be simply that it loads quickly or doesn't blow up on you.  It, is variable and your tastes and desires will change over time. So judge 'it' carefully for 'it' is evanescent and temporal... If 'it' is great today 'it' may suck tomorrow when a better 'it' filters into your consciousness...

So when someone asks you, "Which authoring tool do you think is the best one?" The correct response is, "It depends..."

I know this post won't stop the war for long,if at all. But stop for a moment and realize that it's a non-winnable  war with many casualties along the way.Enjoy the tool you work with and strive to make it better. And do keep your eyes open for 'better' tools that may solve your needs more appropriately in the future.

What's my favorite tool? LOL, it depends!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 Great Voice-over Talent Recommendations!

Running a media and eLearning development company,, you can imagine we have a need for voice-over talent... and we do!

Following are five of the best and easiest to work with voice talent artists you could ever ask for.

Jason Bishop

Jason is a very talented professional voice talent with decades of experience. He reads beautifully and the way you want. He has a great recording studio and delivers on time and budget all the time. And his voice is strong, deep and engaging.

Matt Baker
You've probably heard Matt's voice on numerous Discovery channel shows, commercials and more. He's a fun guy to work with, great voice, good equipment and a pro in all senses.

George Washington III
George has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. It's warm, pleasant, engaging and, to boot, he's darn easy to work with. He even sings beautifully! George reads well and delivers on-time and budget.

Perry Norton
I love Perry. Enough said! Seriously, Perry is adorable! She has a beautiful voice and is very talented in how she uses it. From serious to cartoon, she does it all. Great gear in her studio and a wonderful reader, actor and always on-time and budget.

Linda Joy
Linda is, well, WOW!!! She is so talented and easy to work with. She's also bilingual (English/German). Linda was Disney's voice in Germany for many of their movies and you'll probably catch a little of that background in her voice-over work. She reads wonderfully and is very easy to work with and the consumate professional. Don't tell Perry, but I love Linda too... :)

These are five of the best VO people in the industry and you wouldn't know it by their humility. Great talents, one and all and an asset to any project you have.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

New book, "Learning Articulate Storyline" from Packt Publishing

It's been a while since I've blogged so I thought a book review would be a great way to start blogging again... And that review gets easy when it comes to the author, Stephanie Harnett!

I think Stephanie and I have talked once in the past on the phone and we've communicated on and off in the social media world. Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Stephanie. She is professional, smart, passionate and always interesting in her many Screenrs that she's done on Articulate Storyline and Articulate Presenter.  That said, aside from being her fan, I really enjoyed her book, "Learning Articulate Storyline".

Articulate Storyline has been around now for about 1.5 years in production mode. It's still a version 1 .x product with several updates released as time went on. Storyline is fun and engaging to use. Is it perfect? No. But it delivers in most of its claims and does a good job of creating good and compelling eLearning.

Storyline helps you think interactively!!!

Stephanie's approach in this book is a combination of guided tutorial with great advice, tips and tricks, as well as a reference manual with exercises. This is the book that should have been included with Storyline!

The book starts with a basic overview of the "story" in Storyline. This is a crucial chapter as it introduces basic concepts that are foundational to learning the tool.

In Chapter 2: Adding Content into Your Story, things get more interesting. We quickly get into the timeline, slides and working with objects like text, pictures, animations and transitions.

Did I mention that there are many, "Follow Along" exercises in every chapter... Oh no, no slacking in this book; Stephanie puts you to work to ensure you learn what you need to know, which is good!

Chapter 3 covers Interactivity...  The concept of States, Triggers and Buttons are crucial elements of Storyline interactivity and the introduction is complete and functional. Youu even get to practice a publish of your project! Stephanie, is a task master! Triggers are also introduced in this chapter and they are a crucial part of making things happen... Without "triggering" an object to do something, Storyline would be very boring...

The book does a great job of introducing Triggers at exactly the right time. Almost everything can rely on a trigger for something so pay close attention here...

But things keep getting better as we head into Chapter 4: Adding Characters and Audio... This is a great chapter as it gets into the use of characters and their "states" as well as how to create interactive "conversations" between characters. And unless you like silent movies, which I'm sure some of you do, voice narration and timing is also explained.

In Chapter 5: Extending Slide Content, we continue to have fun with Storyline. In fact, to this point we've built some pretty impressive eLearning interactivity and no one was injured in the process. On the contrary, if you're like me there's a smile on your face as you realize that this is pretty easy!  Layers, hotspots, markers, buttons, lightboxes and, of course, more triggers!

At this point, we're halfway into the book and, believe me, you now have a working knowledge of Articulate Storyline. You'll be doing things with what you've learned that can make your content engaging and useful. But wait, there's more! I know, I get happy when I read a good book...

Chapter 6: Using Variables to Customize the User Experience. Enough said... At this point you're adding more power to your course and also getting into the beginnings of text entry and simulations.

Chapter 7, covers the joy of branching and going places where no learner has gone before... Branching is fun and easy in Storyline and there are good examples of how to do this properly without going into dark corners where evil may lurk...

OK, now we come to everyone's favorite thing: Questions! The major ones are covered here with some intermediate tips.  That was Chapter 8, but you'll be tested on that shortly so don't worry if you weren't paying attention (low organ music in background...)

Chapter 9, Adding Visual Media to a Story... Stephanie left some of the best stuff for last like using video, Flash files, screen recordings and the ever popular pans and zooms.

We've learned a lot so far but it won't do us much good if we don't know how to publish it... Chapter 10 makes sure your project can be shared with the world, or at least your co-workers, and the local LMS (learning management system).

In Chapter 11, Stephanie offers advice on re-usability, templates and other goodies which make for a great ending to a very good book.

An appendix is included and the book includes many screen shots and is aesthetically pleasing.

While it has a lot of content, it is a quick read (a little slower if you actually do all the "follow alongs" in the book. It is a great beginner to intermediate level book with some material that even advanced users could find useful. More importantly, it is very well organized and the information is in useful, bite-sized chunks.

Bottom line is that I am still a big fan of Stephanie Harnett, have a great reference/tutorial on Articulate Storyline for the more junior members of our staff and enjoyed reading the book. Here's the link to get the book (and you should)...

Learning Articulate Storyline by Stephanie Harnett

Thanks so much for reading the review and stay tuned for Stephanie Harnett's appearance on our show, eLearnChat, in the very near future.

eLearnChat episodes