Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How Did I Get Here?

Karyn Romeis asks the 'elearning blogosphere' on her (excellent) blog how we all started with social media, what our journey into this field has brought us and what professional difference it has made.

Even though I only recently started in the field of elearning, social media have always been a big part of my professional career. Having done a masters in New Media & Digital Culture, it would be sacrilege if it hadn't! But over the years I have seen a change in my use of social media.

Social media for me really did start as something 'social': keeping in touch with friends, a profile here and there, sending some messages, posting party pics on Flickr, those sorts of things. Then I became a student and social media became part of my field of study. During my studies social media became not so much something I used, as well as something I observed. I was watching social media take shape, taking notes and writing some papers about it along the way.

It was during my internships at Mediamatic and Flinders University that social media got a new dimension to me professionally. I started using an RSS reader (Google's) making it way easier for me to tap into new streams of information. A world of blogs opened up to me, a world in which people were struggling with the same challenges I was facing, or were having great ideas, insightful theories and other interesting stuff.

But that's all still observing. It's only recently that I'm starting to interact again, to become 'social' once more. But I have to say that it's coming and going. My interaction with social media hasn't been consistent. This blog of mine is the true testament of that: off and on. But then again, it's a journey. It's a learning experience. I'm only 23, and all around me I see so much to do, so much to see, so much to learn. Social media and its uses are only part of that journey, it adds something to it, but at times requires a bit too much time or effort to actively participate.

It makes me think that Time is key here (even though the fast-forward information-push from media-apps such as Twitter, suggests otherwise). It takes time for social media to root - be it in your social, college, study, personal or professional life.
You need to make connections, you need to nurture those connections, you have to expand on those connections, and most importantly you have to give and take to make it work. Social media are all about connections and growing these connections into relationships. But relationships don't happen overnight. They come with doubt, with listing pros and cons, with joy and the occasional hiccup - they come with time.

Me, I am just starting to make connections through social media. I am sowing the seeds and I am confident that social media will definitely take off more and more for me. All it needs is some time and in the mean time I'll enjoy the wonder of experiencing its growth.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Awakening The Inner Artist

Today I became God.

Well, not really, but I feel a bit like him anyway. Together with my cousin I am making a painting on my kitchen wall and it's AWESOME! We kick so much ass! To start off with I have to confess that I am not the most practical and technical guy on this planet. I am not incapable of doing technical things like wiring electricity, painting window frames, fixing broken equipment or be an amateur plumber if my sink has digestive problems a.k.a flooding. It's just: I don't really enjoy it.

But today I have found enormous joy in being practical, technical and 'creative' in the godly sense of the word. Under our fingers the enormous The Big Wave by Hokusai is taking shape. After drawing the outline on the wall, it is now a really big Paint By Numbers affair. With every stroke of my brush it 'becomes'! I am the Creator and it makes me completely happy.

Take a look at the work in progress, the result of Day 1 - "and God saw it was good":

Hopefully tomorrow we'll get it all done and I'll upload the result.


Ok it's not finished, but jeeezzz all those bubble streams!! It's hard and meticulous work. But still: it's becoming great. The dynamics, the motion, the amount of perspective with only one colour, good stuff!


Ok! We're almost there now! Most of you probably can't even tell that's unfinished, but I assure you that there are still a few parts missing (the big boat in the front wave needs more detail and some more bubble streams) And I've decided to paint the bottom part of the wall the same blue as well, but nevertheless: it's really looking like something doesn't it! I just couldn't bring myself to do any more today, my shoulders ache like hell!! But it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pushing an ex-Australia-backpacker's buttons

Scarlett Johansson singing Tom Waits - it's bizarre and weird, but great
check it out! | watch the single! | (or find the torrent...)

And "Town With No Cheer" holds a special place for me - I know all about Australian buckwater towns :)

Well it's hotter 'n blazes and all the long faces
there'll be no oasis for a dry local grazier
there'll be no refreshment for a thirsty jackaroo
from Melbourne to Adelaide on the overlander
with newfangled buffet cars and faster locomotives
the train stopped in Serviceton less and less often
There's nothing sadder than a town with no cheer
VicRail decided the canteen was no longer necessary
there no spirits, no bilgewater and 80 dry locals
and the high noon sun beats a hundred and four
there's a hummingbird trapped in a closed down shoe store

This tiny Victorian rhubarb
kept the watering hole open for sixty five years
now it's boilin' in a miserable March 21 st
wrapped the hills in a blanket of Patterson's curse
the train smokes down the xylophone
there'll be no stopping here
all ya can be is thirsty in a town with no cheer
no Bourbon, no Branchwater
though the townspeople here
fought the Vic Rail decree tooth and nail
now it's boilin' in a miserable March 21 st
wrapped the hills in a blanket of Patterson's curse
the train smokes down the xylophone
there'll be no stopping here
all ya can be is thirsty in a town with no cheer

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Instructing the Instructor

Just some meeting about a course:
"We need a solid Instructional Design."
*me nodding in agreement*
"So which one should we use as a basis?"
*people looking anxiously in my direction*
"ehhh.. that is a really good question!"

Am I a n00b for not being a classically educated instructional designer in a job as course developer? I don't think so, but still, at times, I feel at a loss. I have a clear idea on the power of stories, on using cases/scenarios to enrich the experience, to try and work from generic to specific (recently found out that Four Component Instructional Design suits this approach), to streamline information into manageable chunks and frameworks, the power of graphics over text, that being concise is what makes everybody happier in the long run (a.k.a. coaxing SME's into killing their darlings) and a whole heap of other stuff I am coming to understand.

But can someone show me the way into 'proper' instructional design? Some books or theories which work for you, which enable you to make better courses/material?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Are We Becoming Nomads?

Via the excellent Six Pixels of Seperation, I came across a couple of articles on digital nomadism in The Economist. The idea isn't really that new in philosophy with thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari and Rosi Braidotti, but sometimes you need to see the practical applications of such theories to realize their potential again.

The series of articles is all about how we are becoming mobile in our work and learning. With the ubiquitous availability of Wi-Fi, ever more portable technology and 24/7 access to our data, we can virtually work anywhere:

"Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don't even bring laptops."

We are moving from oasis to oasis, not in search of water, but in search of inspiration, of connectivity. But where as the Bedouin's oasis was a social place, where one would relax, enjoy the bounty found at the oasis and share it with each other, we are absorbed in our own little mini oasis: our own IP address. At modern day oases like coffee shops, restaurants, libraries or flex-work spots, we do not share, but we work in solitude.

Which makes me think that maybe we are not like Bedouins, relishing in the wonder of the oasis, but more like wanderers who are dying of thirst in the desert: hoping for water and once there, only interested in quenching their own thirst. It's probably because dynamics such as team work, work-ethics and work-processes haven't yet adopted a nomadic attitude. Work is work, we are still afraid of management's Eye of Big Brother/Sauron, we still need to be face-to-face in meetings and we just sometimes need the work-vibe we get from being in an office. We are not completely comfortable in this new oasis environment yet.

Nevertheless, we see that the world around us is shaping itself more and more towards a nomadic way of working: public spaces become multifunctional, bigger spaces become fragmented into smaller spaces to provide more (work) spots and architects are even increasing wallspace, to cater to all the laptop workers who apparently work most comfortable with their back to the wall.

Slowly, but steadily we will become more nomadic, and I don't know about you, but I am saddling up my camel to join the ride!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Big Question

"What would you like to do better as a Learning Professional?"

Was the Learning Circuits question of the month for April. I'm late, but that's still better than never. My answer is: "A lot!" But that's what you get when you are only 6 months into becoming a "Learning Professional". But the most important thing I would like to do better is finding a middle ground in my work: balance.

We have a small development team, but we have big clients and more importantly: big projects. For a big Dutch retailer we are developing a game-based introduction course for their commercial department about the meaning of their brand, marketing, work processes and more. There is a lot to do: content needs to be defined with the client (what is essential, optional, irrelevant), the content needs to be written, a design (graphic, interaction, interface, navigation, storyline) needs to be created, it all has to be developed, it needs to be tested, reviewed and deployed.

Like I said: it's big. And now I need to find a way to balance it. To break the big parts into small parts, to make it manageable, to define roles, to define tasks which I and the rest of the team can clearly see and work towards. But how do I do that? I have to switch constantly from project to project, from being the copy writer to the graphic designer, from content analysis to project management - it's difficult to step away from it and have a clear overview.

Does this sound familiar to any of you? Any strategies or ideas?

Chronically Disorganized or merely Perfectionistic?

In my quest to better understand what I need to tackle to become a bit more relaxed again, I came across lots of interesting propositions as to what I could be 'suffering' from:

1. Chronically Disorganized.
Yes, clutter and chaos have a name now (never forget: giving names to things makes them manageable and tangible)! Everybody who feels buried by clutter, keeps missing appointments, and seems to never be able to find things ("I am certain it has to be here somewhere...") could apparently be suffering from Chronic Disorganization.
But after scanning the "Are-You-Chronically-Disorganized-test" my conclusion is: "No, I'm not suffering from Chronic Disorganization, but I definitely know people who do!"

So for all of those people:

Tips for Overcoming Procrastination for the Chronically Disorganized Individual or Household
Time Management for the Chronically Disorganized

and maybe illuminating for perfectly organised people:

Tips for Communicating with the Chronically Disorganized

There was one of these tips though that resonated with me and hinted at a slightly different diagnosis for me:

"Perfection is the worst enemy of good enough"

2. Perfectionism
That quote hits something. I always associated perfectionism with being meticulous and focussing on details, but I am coming to see that perfectionism has many disguises. For me it properly has to do with being "effective and efficient". You don't have to be a HR professional or manager to grasp the need of working efficiently and effectively (crash course for who really doesn't: Efficient: doing things in the right or best way / Effective: doing the right things)

But how do you know if you are efficient and effective (E&E)? Is there a limit or quota on it? What is the amount of output which makes me E&E? What is my work limit, how much can I take and still be E&E? I simply don't know.
I want to be E&E, but in turn it worries and nags me. "Should I be doing this, or should I be doing that? And now or later? Does this make me E&E?" or to be more specific:

"Can I, from an E&E point of view, justify that I am currently writing this blogpost at home or should I hurry off to work and stare at my screen in the hope a solution pops up for the project I am kind of stuck on?"
I don't know!

3. Procrastination
But there is one final diagnosis left. Perfectionistic, yes, that is probably the case, but how about being a procrastinator? Let's find out! Another test! The verdict? Apparently I am an Overdoer, followed by being a Dreamer and ADD. Adds up indeed: wanting too much, distracted and excited by new impulses, rush of energy at the start of things, but resentful, restless and procrastinating when it comes to seeing it all through and details.

One final good thing about my results: it apparently doesn't really show when I am actually procrastinating - because I am so frickin' busy all the time. Well, that justifies writing this post then!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I am nearing a new landmark: 15 May I will be working for 6 months in my first real job. And it's great, it has brought me so much: knowledge, experience, inspiring contacts, success, even some friends and a house!

But now, now it's giving me stress. HUGE amounts of it to be honest. It started building up somewhere at the start of this year. As some of you know, at that time we landed a pretty big contract with our elearning team. We had poured our hearts and souls in this concept. We had long brainstorming sessions, discarded loads of ideas and in the end created a cool, workable, flexible and engaging concept. Needless to say: it swept the competition off the table and we went home victorious - but that is where the bragging ends.

The battle with the enemy was won, but now a new battleground has emerged: within me. We have to deliver. The concept needs to be become reality. It needs to work. The great ideas, the interactions, the games - it all needs to be build. By me and the rest of the team. But I have never done that, never of this magnitude at least. And so have most of the people within the team. We have a drive, we have spirit, we have ideas and talent, but little experience. On top of that the lines aren't really clear, I'm switching between being copy writer, graphic designer, art director, project manager and I'm starting to mix them up.

But you know what? We have a team and we are in it together and that is good to know! We'll make it. Thumbs up for everybody!