IT dept as experimentation agent: Podcasting at MIT

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/18

Came across this MIT podcasting site via Dave Winer this AM.

What I find interesting is how their “Information Services & Technology” group is actively encouraging the intentional and informal exploration and experimentation of emerging learning technologies like podcasts. From the site —

IS&T encourages members of the MIT community to contribute podcasts and other audio downloads of content of value to the MIT community. We are pleased to collect these contributions and to promote understanding and use of this emerging communications mode. … Submissions from members of the MIT community that are more informal, ad hoc, and open. These submissions can be directly added via the IS&T Podcast Wiki.

Until our IT and Web groups see themselves as agents of exploration, we’re not going to see much of the exciting and promising informal learning technology take of “inside the firewall” of organizations.

It’s only through trying stuff on that we can find things that work.

Until our IT depts are not skittish around words like “blog-podcast-tags-wiki-opensource-wordpress-php-mysql-yada-whatever-amen”, we’re gonna have a hard time trying stuff like this on to see what works.

Kudos to MIT’s IT dept for showing us a different way to go about things.



Captivate 2.0 Beta is underway!

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/17

Great news for those of us who are Captivate fans — Captivate 2.0 is in Beta 2 (closed beta) — those of you who were worried about the future of our beloved sim tool post Adobe/Macromedia merger, fear no more.

I’m part of the beta group and have to say that it is very nice. Some fantastic enhancements are on the way with usability, productivity, and architecture.

Can’t say more, but would suggest you keep an eye on Silke Fleischer’s new Adobe blog.



Avoiding corruption with blank default dialogue text in Firefly

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/11

Here’s a helpful addition to the info from yesterday’s post on customizing UI text in Knowledge Planet’s Firefly (v 4.1.19).

Don’t make any text under “Simulation >> Customize Interface >> Customize Text (tab)” blank — ever.

My best understanding at this point is that this is what will corrupt your custom text settings and make them un-editable.

Work around is that I put some blank HTML font formatting in when I want to make some of the systems messages blank (no time to explain why you would want to do this — just trust me that there are some compelling reasons to do it). Code I’ve used is —

*CONTINUE_INSTRUCTIONS = <font size="0"></font>

This seems to be enough of a placeholder that the Firefly edit routines for these setting will not choke and corrupt them.

Will post more info if I come across anything to the contrary.



Yahoo! makes it easy to do the right CSS thing

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/11

Yesterday Yahoo! released another in its series of open source CSS/AJAX framework resources. This one includes a pretty cool Grids CSS library that will take the headache out of trying to do CSS layout.

For quick reference, take a look at the examples of their available templates and grids.

As someone who’s been trying to make the jump to CSS layout for a while, dealing with the necessary browser quirks has been a bit too much for me to make the full jump — most of the projects where I’ve tried to go full CSS have been too short for me to really get my head around things.

Standardized libraries like this make it easy.

This is where I think that Yahoo! really understands web developers and Microsoft just doesn’t.

I was at the Real World AJAX Seminar a couple of weeks ago in San Jose and got to hear Eric Miraglia from Yahoo! Presentation Platform Engineering present on why/what Yahoo! is making freely available with these libraries.

They have basically made these libraries free (even to their competitors) to make it easier for developers to increase the quality of user experience on the web — that makes me happy as a developer because they are making it easier for me to do the right thing (CSS layout, cross browsers support, etc).

Conversely, at the same conference, I got to see some of the Atlas platform from Microsoft that is supposed to do the same kind of thing — it was cool, but when MS keeps rolling out products that don’t support other browsers — well, it’s not a bridge builder for a developer like me.

With these two very different ways of doing business, it becomes clear, very quickly, that MS and I do not hold the same things dear — and that’s where they are losing this race with developers like me every single day.



Formatting Default Dialogue Text in Firefly

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/10

UPDATE: The tricks used here for formatting are no longer necessary as of version 4.2.25 of Firefly (released 7/18/2006) which added richer text formatting to the default dialogs. This is a real compliment to the Firefly development team — they are very quick to incorporate customer feedback.


I am in the midst of laying the groundwork for a new eLearning initiative at Lucile Packard Children’s Hopsital at Stanford. Very excited about it because I’m using a new tool to create our eLearning simulations.

It’s called Firefly (by Knowledge Planet) and it’s really robust — very easy to create sophisticated sims (can you say multiple correct paths with every object in a screenshot being interactive? All in, literally, a few screen clicks?).

My initial impressions of it are that, the things it does well, it does really well.

Yet, as goes with learning a new tool, there are a few ins and outs to discover. My plan is to document some of these as I go so that I can 1) remember points for future references, and 2) share the knowledge.

First up is the formatting of default dialogue text within a simulation.

At first glance, while Firefly will allow you to customize the verbiage of some of it’s default dialogues, there is no obvious way to customize the size and face of the fonts.

A few attempts to throw some formatting in finally met success when I put in some old school HTML font tags. So, under “Simulation >> Customize Interface >> Customize Text (tab) >> *WISH_DEMO”, I modified the default to this –

<font size="5">Do you want me to show you?</font>

And now my dialogue comes in a nice, big, inviting text size — so very Web 2.0.

One very big hazard to note — if you mess with the text under “Simulation >> Customize Interface >> Customize Text (tab)”, you can easily corrupt your install of Firefly – I know, it shouldn’t be that easy, but it is.

One of the things I tried first was putting in a <b></b> tag to see if it would accept some basic HTML formatting. When I did that, the entire “Customize Text” tab became un-editable — not sure if I forgot to close the tag correctly or what.

Fished around the Firefly install on my tablet and found that this text is stored in an XML file named “StringTable.xml” in Firefly’s program directory. Path for this is –

C:\Program Files\KnowledgePlanet\Firefly 4.1\system\ StringTable.xml

Noticed that this file was empty on my problem machine. Restored that file and everything came back up.

Kinda obscure, but thought I’d share the knowledge – in case I do it again and forget what I did to restore it. So — before you go messing with this Firefly file, back it up — you’ve been warned.



Brightcove to TiVo: Screencasting just got epic

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/10

Another paradigm shifting announcement yesterday in the world of web video. Online video service Brightcove inked a deal with TiVo to bring Brightcove video to TiVo’s.

From the article —

“If it’s on Brightcove, you’ll be able to watch it on your TV using TiVo,” Jeremy Alliare, Brightcove’s CEO, said in a statement.

Now, if you are unfamiliar with Jeremy, he’s the guy that created Cold Fusion, Adobe’s (formerly Macromedia’s) easy to use server scripting language and was Macromedia’ former CTO.

What this might mean for eLearning is that, if you put a video on Brightcove, depending on the details, you may also be able to distribute it to TiVo.

If this is true, mark the day — screencasting just got epic.

Thanks to Prismix (a flex blog) for calling this one out.



Tidal Shifts Once Again: Warner Bros. to sell movies via BitTorrent

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/09

This Reuters story on Yahoo News this AM confirms that “Warner Bros. to sell movies via BitTorrent“. This is easily the most commercial use of BitTorrent to date and, with one fell swoop, pushes it into the mainstream.

What this means for eLearning is that BitTorrent is about to move from being an edge technology to distribute media — particularly video.

If, as Dave Winer suggests and rumor has it, that next version OS’s from MS and Apple have BitTorrent baked in — I would venture to say that it will transpearantly become the defacto large file distribution standard — for anything semi-popular anyway.

With this tipping point clearly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about builiding BitTorrent into our eLearning and conetne management web applications.



Research survey on tagging

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/04

From the Ma.gnolia newsletter comes a call to participate in a research survey on tagging via ma.gnolia.com —

Tell Baruch College Why You Use Ma.gnolia Tagging is an active topic in academics these days, and the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College in New York city would like your help in their research. The faculty of Statistics and Computer Information Systems are conducting a 10-15 minute survey about your experience with Ma.gnolia. The results will aid developers of all tagging websites create a better experience for you. The survey is anonymous and can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=450142014755. Please note that Ma.gnolia is not affiliated with this independent survey, and no individual information will be shared or published.

After a few Mind Camp 2.0 discussions on tagging last weekend, I’m more interested than ever on getting ahold of some good research telling us why users use these services — and where we can find concrete ROI’s with them.

Right now, there seems to be general agreement that tagging and folksonomies are useful (except for Dave anyway, who, at Mind Camp, made some really good points about tagging being an early adopter edge case activity that regular folks will likely never do — consistently anyway).

My thing about all of these discussions that advocate things like tagging or informal learning tools like blogs/wiki’s is that they are very anecdotal. Am looking forward to some research that will help us separate fact from fiction.



Nothing like a closely followed policy

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/04

From the annals of “The Daily WTF” comes “Hungry Hungry HIPAA” — a story of healthcare IT training (my specialty) gone awry — very very awry.

The lead in (quoted below) is great — the story is priceless — hard to read if you are at all security minded — you’ve been warned.

I get pretty excited whenever a new regulatory framework like HIPAA or SOX is enacted. Not only does it bring the potential to sit on a committee responsible for deciding the procedure needed to formulate a project request to initiate the creation of group responsible for determining the key players on a compliance assessment team, but it brings some pretty interesting stories of non-compliance like this anonymously submitted one …


Mind Camp 2.0 Video

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/02

Dave Geller of WhatCounts quickly turned around this really cool Mind Camp 2.0 video that really captures the vibe — I’m on the road until late Thursday, so until I can write up my highlights, check it out and pass it around.



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