Adobe Captivate 2 Announced

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/09/06

Adobe Captivate 2 (aka RoboDemo 6 or 7 depending on how you count) was announced yesterday. Should ship in October. I’ve been a beta tester of it for the last few months though have not had much time to actively test it in daily production.

That said — this is definitely the most robust version of Captivate yet. Would recommend an upgrade for anyone using it regularly.

Silke Fleischer from Adobe has a good writeup here.

Notable new features include —

  • Visual scenario branching
  • Manage project interactions globally
  • Flash Video
  • Reusable content via project library
  • Zoom in or gray out
  • Custom skins and menus
  • Custom scoring slides
  • Better UI (yay layer locking!)

I think Captivate still stands up as the best mid-to-entry level tool for rapid development of interactive screen based demos/sims.

The downside to it’s model is that it is difficult to update/maintain/scale large projects over time because so many things are not editable. Things are, for the most part, cut-up screenshots with some interactivity overlayed for the single points of interactivity that are automatically captured.

Adding multiple points of interactivity involves manually creating a lot of interactions. While you can (and I have) do many amazing things by exporting to the Flash IDE as a FLA, it does require a lot of technical knowhow.

In my perfect world, Captivate 3 would be able to incorporate the object level richness that Knowledge Planet’s Firefly does.

I would love Captivate to be able to capture every object in the screen for each interaction in a way that is editable later (like change the text on a button) and that multiple interaction paths could be easily created by drawing relationships between screens and doing the required action.



Teens self organize a learning experience in Second Life

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/09

Just heard about via the Second Life Education Mailing List –– teens have self organized a learning experience on creating awareness about Child Sex Trafficking. Happened in an area of second life called the Teen Grid.

Looks like they created a maze that users would move through, digest facts, answer questions in exchange for Second Life stuff, and were given the opportunity to donate Second Life dollars at the end.

Pretty inventive and striking in it’s informality and self organization.

Here’s some details from the Global Kids blog entry.

On the effectiveness of the design ––

The thing I found interesting about this was how, by trying to address teenagers from a route which many are more comfortable in, and spend quite a bit of time in, they’re also managing to educate them, quite willingly in most places. As I went round the maze I saw many people stopping at each of the case studies and fact cards and reading them.

On the self organizing nature of it ––

Also evident throughout second life are members educating themselves or each other. For example, a lot of items are created by the members, who have had to learn how to build them, then learn programming for more interactive elements. Many of the kids on Teen grid didn’t know how to programme when they first arrived, however, through tutorials and people willing to help each other, they have learnt enough to complete items they are building, or have learnt where to go to find out more so they can continue to educate themselves.

On the inventiveness of their methodology ––

Raising money was also another part of the event that seemed to be working quite well. It can often be hard to get teenagers to donate money, however, within the virtual world they were a lot more willing. The one donation box had raised about L$6500 within a few hours, which is about $22. Although it does not seem that much, If the same people had passed a donation box in the street for the same cause, would so much have been donated?

 



Shall We Roll Our Own YouTube for BarCamp Vancouver?

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/07/28

UPDATE: We’re starting a planning discussion of this via the comments below. You can track it via this RSS Feed for this post.

Was chatting yesterday with Roland Tanglao of Bryght. He’s one of the organisers of BarCamp Vancouver. Talked about me going up there to work on a video web cast of the event.

After the initial live video feed idea (which is cool in itself — there may be an internet 2 feed we can access), things got very interesting.

I pointed to this ‘roll your own open source YouTube’ post from Flash Insider (a summary of this original concept from Daniel’s Random Mutterings).

“Why don’t we roll our own YouTube” says I… “That would get the geeks excited!”

Wheels turn — “What about storage costs?”

S3” we nearly chattered simultaneously (Amazon is looking cool to devs these days).

So now Roland and I are hot on the idea — what about you?

Calling geeks (esp. Amazon’s Jeff Barr), can you help us make this happen? What a viral proof of concept that would be, eh?



IBM selects Drupal for new developerWorks series

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/07/11

Interesting post from Digg on IBM choosing Drupal as an open source CMS for a developer tutorial project.

The popular IBM developerWorks site has started a new series entitled “Using open source software to design, develop, and deploy a collaborative Web site”. After reviewing numerous open source packages such as Typo3, Mambo, and the ever-hyped Ruby on Rails, they “decided to use Drupal”.

More details at Drupal.org and IBM.

I particularly liked the detail of their selection process comparison of Drupal, Mambo, Typo3, Ruby on Rails, Movable Type, WordPress, and TextPattern.

I was recently at Drupal Camp in Seattle and have to say that I loved getting to know some of the developmers in the community — very cool (and active) bunch of folks.



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.



Trim eLearning Video Fat with Click.tv

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/04/17

In this age of the attention economy, trimming the non-essential from your eLearning is imperative if you want your content to engage (and not put your users to sleep via boredom and irrelevancy).

Don’t know if you follow web video trends much, but there are a lot of things happening that are going to make web video a much richer (and more easily integrated) tool for eLearning along these lines.

From TechCrunch this AM comes a short profile of soon to be launched Click.tv — which will allow you to set and link to specific points in a video without having to do the tedious job of chunking it up into many different video files.

Go look at the Click.tv demo to have a look.

Why is this important?

Good video is more memorable than just text or just audio (and in the age of the attention economy memory is everything). The problem with videos, however, is that relevant/compelling portions of them have always been too hard to extract for regular folks.

Click.tv-esque functionality makes it easy for eLearning content creators to link just to the chunks of a video that are relevant to a given lesson they are creating. This gives the creator the ability to tightly trim out irrelevant (and boring) parts of a video.

The ability to mashup interesting parts of content for a given audience/topic is always a good step toward ensuring that your stuff is not a snooze-a-thon.



AJAX Heat Map Mouse Tracking: Crazy Egg on the way

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/03/15

Nearly missed this Tech Crunch post the other day about Crazy Egg (Thanks Gernot!). It’s a new AJAX extension to your website that allows you to view heatmaps of user mouse tracking patterns.

Sounds like it’s dead simple to install — go to the article to look at the picture to get an idea of how it works.

Seems like some very useful visualizations to me — another arrow for the UX quiver (quiver, who says quiver anymore, really?)



Cox on “Don’t Make Me Think” CMS litmus test

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/11/14

A couple of weeks ago, Jon Cox, of Xaraya fame, picked up on this post comparing Sharepoint to increasingly robust open source technologies (like Xaraya).

Jon noted that he did not think that Xaraya would pass the “Don’t Make Me Think” (DMMT) litmus test I referenced.

It was great to continue the conversation through comments to his post — I was able to clarify what I was saying and make a connection with folks I greatly respect and admire.

My main point there is — I think Xaraya can pass the DMMT test because developers/implementers can configure the various public and editorial facing interfaces into just about any presentational look and feel they want — which is not the case with the current version Sharepoint (though, I get the impression that this is going to change in upcoming versions).

This makes Xaraya much more powerful in my book — because usable interfaces can be slapped onto it when necessary.

Cox’s point is well taken though —

Xaraya is not very DMMT out of the box for the site implementer — it takes time to get your head around the way the system works — which makes sense for developers (where much power is possible, much training is usually required) — but this should never be the case when we are talking about the end users like anonymous site visitors or editorial contributors.



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