Tutorials (and marketing) should NOT be boring!

If I haven’t said it before, I’m saying it now: CommonCraft’s video tutorials ROCK! This is a company whose “product is explanation.” They have a distinctive style that is uniquely charming and effective because they capitalize on making it look low-tech with paper cut-outs. Don’t let that fool you, they really know what they’re doing.

Even their latest Halloween message is a brilliant example of a well-executed, memorable, and effective tutorial: Zombies in Plain English

IMHO, it’s impossible not to love a tutorial that includes the subhead “Step 3: Kill the Undead”

Watch it all the way to the end. And watch out for those zombies!

What Sounds Interesting? Podcasting and Learning Styles

Yesterday, while I was reorganizing my storage loft, I was catching up on listening to some podcasts. I realized something: One advantage of podcasting is that sometimes complex topics become more comprehensible and resonant when explained in a human voice, rather than by text.

One of the oft-cited disadvantages of podcasts is that you can’t really “skim” them – that is, it generally takes 30 minutes of your precious time to listen to a 30-minute podcast. And if you stop listening early, you may miss great stuff that came later in the show. Many people find this frustrating. Sometimes I find it frustrating, too.

However, the human voice can be incredibly powerful and effective – and sometimes this can offset the inconvenience of the time that listening requires. For me, this happens often enough that I keep finding podcasting a compelling medium, even though many individual shows or episodes don’t offer me much value. It’s the pearls that make it worthwhile.

Here are two such pearls I found yesterday…

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This Paul Graham Essay Will Change How You See Business

Recently one of my favorite authors, Paul Graham published an essay that I’ve now read three times and I’m about to read it again. It really is that important. Plus, it ties together several themes I keep encountering these days in my work and my life.

See: What Business Can Learn from Open Source

I promise, this article is not at all techno-geeky. It’s philosophical and plain-spoken. Here are some key excerpts, and why they resonate with me…

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Very Basic Blogging Workshop: Register Online Today!

After a bit of effort, I’ve now gotten everything working for online registration for my upcoming workshop, Very Basic Blogging. This event will be held 9am – noon on Wed., Aug. 24, 2005 at the Boulder Outlook Hotel (Boulder CO).

If you currently know little or nothing about the world of weblogs, or if you want to know how to get more out of blogging (or even just reading weblogs), then this workshop is for you. It will get straight to the point. You’ll learn how weblogs can help you achieve your professional, creative, community, or personal goals more effectively.

REGISTER NOW! The earlybird fee (available only through Aug. 15, 2005) is $97. After Aug. 15, the cost is $107.

Here’s a sneak preview of the event…

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I, Reporter: My New Citizen Journalism Project

Over the last few months I’ve become intrigued by the emerging field of citizen journalism (citJ, for short): news, features, analysis, and commentary produced and published by people – including some bloggers – who are not hired by news organizations.

I’m drawn to this field because I’ve grown to realize that traditional versions of news, journalism, and journalists are no longer enough. The cult of officialdom has reached its limits. There is more than one way to gauge relevance and credibility. We need more kinds of news, from more kinds of sources, to adequately serve the information needs of our communities and the world.

After spending months watching this field sprout, I’m finally ready to dive in and help it blossom. My longtime friend and colleague, A. Adam Glenn (who recently left his Senior Producer position at ABC News.com to broaden his media horizons) will be my teammate on this exploration.

Fortuitously, last Thursday I was interviewed by Randy Dominga of the Christian Science Monitor on the topic of citJ.

UPDATE: The Monitor article which mentions me (in the lead) is now online! See: Write the news yourself! Great headline, and great article. Read more about that coverage, and the associated blogosphere buzz. Thanks, Randy Dotinga!

So what exactly are Adam and I up to on this front?…

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My NewsU Course has Launched!

My career involves many kinds of content work, including e-learning content development. I’m pleased to announce that an online course I’ve been working on for the last year, Covering Water Quality, is now available via the Poynter Institute’s News University.

Curious? Visit NewsU and sign up (it’s free). This is a completely self-paced online course, no instructor involvement, so you can work through the lessons comprising the course in your own preferred order and on your own schedule. There are lots of exercises and interactivity, too. The target audience is journalists from any beat who are interested in covering (or who find they must cover) drinking water quality issues…

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E-Learning Grab Bag

Here are a few items on the theme of e-learning that have caught my attention lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Experiencing knowledge to succeed, by Michael Jones, Yafle.com, Dec. 13, 2004. Excerpt: “Many in education – and especially many in e-learning – forget a simple truth. It’s not what you learn, it’s the process by and environment in which you learn it…

“Those who attempt to boil down information to a set of standardized learning objects that can be consumed interchangeably and acontextually risk losing sight of the contextual and collaborative elements of learning. Now, for some types of learning (e.g., procedural training), it’s perfectly correct and efficient to simply transfer information from A to B. This is simple knowledge transfer and acquisition. More complex learning, however, is essentially experiential and deeply contextual.”

Read the rest of this list…

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