Visual Clutter

So why do we feel the need to fill the space with signs and notices.

At my local library/community space, I noticed how cluttered the new café area was with notices and signs. The end result was not clarity, but a visual cluttered mess.

The Campus Cafe

The nice and probably somewhat pricey wooden café sign is now covered with notices and menus. There are lots of notices and signs on the noticeboard behind the counter too.

Now I am sure whoever designed the new space probably didn’t think it would end up as cluttered as it has been. Likewise I am sure that the people who put up the notices didn’t start putting up notices and signs in order to clutter the visual environment. They probably had very good reasons, such as wanting to change behaviour, following a complaint that there wasn’t a sign, or there is an event they need to publicise.

The problem with visual clutter is that too many notices and signs usually has the end result that none of the signs work any more. We don’t see the signs and notices because there are too many.

Most new spaces start off as a blank canvas and then because of various issues, behavioural ones usually, signs are put up. Notices are also added to inform and advertise.

In order to maximise impact you can put up a large temporary sign or notice for a short amount of time. They key is to make it large, bright and visible. The other thing to note is to remove it, but don’t immediately replace it. The impact will be more noticeable and it might have the effect you are looking for.

I have often seen similar things in libraries, you have a nice clean visual environment, and then before you know it, the place is full of signs and notices. Signs telling you to work quietly, not to eat or drink, not to use the PCs for Facebook.

In terms of signs about behaviour, just because there isn’t a sign doesn’t mean that the behaviour is acceptable and just because their isn’t a sign doesn’t mean that you can do what you like. When I ran libraries we didn’t have a single sign saying no cycling, but that didn’t mean we would condone cycling in the library, and if there was a cyclist in the library, I doubt a no cycling sign would make any difference. Just because there wasn’t a sign, that didn’t mean that entitled someone to cycle in the library, as there wasn’t a sign.

So next time you are about to put up a notice or a sign, ask yourself is this the best way to achieve what I want to achieve?

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #090 : Location Independence Day

Lawrie

We explore what is Location Independent Working and the issues and challenges that surround this issue.

With James Clay, Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps.

This is the 90th e-Learning Stuff Podcast

Listen to the podcast

Shownotes

The blog post discussed in the podcast: Something, not somewhere, and increasingly somewhen

Notes: We’re using a different hosting service for the podcast, so we don’t have the old embedded player. We still need to add it to the podcast feed, so not yet available in iTunes or through the podcast feed.

No, I am rubbish at Twitter

Train

Last Wednesday it was pouring with rain and I was travelling to work. I don’t usually do this (even if you think I do do this) I posted a couple of old school Twitter status updates.

and then this one reflecting on the fact I didn’t catch a bus…

So I have to say I did smile when later that day I read Kerry Pinny’s post on why she thinks she is rubbish at Twitter and she said

I follow a number of people who tweet regularly sometimes about the most mundane topics like drinking coffee or the weather.

Her post did make me think and reflect on how I and others use Twitter.

Going over my tweets from those early heady days of the Twitter when I started back in 2007 my use was very much “rubbish” and lightweight. There were no hashtags and I appeared to tweet lots about coffee. I know why I did that back then there was very little idea on how the Twitter could be used. So in order to make the most of it I disciplined myself to try and tweet at least once or twice a day. I did that with other service such as uploading photographs to Flickr and recording Audioboos. Usually I would be working, have a break, make some coffee, sit back down and think to myself I must use that Twitter. What am I doing , oh yes having a coffee.

Back in 2009 there were many more people using Twitter. What was happening was that lots of people were publishing blog posts on how to use Twitter in a professional context and there was a right and wrong way to use Twitter so I wrote this blog post: Ten things people say about using Twitter, but really they shouldn’t.

One of the things that does annoy me about Twitter is the way in which people like to dictate to you how it should be used and how you should use it.

I still stand by most of what I wrote back then. Don’t tell people how they should use Twitter, let them know how you use Twitter and why.

As time went by I found Twitter useful in conferences, remember Twitter walls for those who didn’t do Twitter? As I started to deliver workshops and keynotes I found Twitter really useful for making and maintaining contacts and networks.

Twitter became an important source of news and links.

I now use Twitter for lots of reasons. I don’t just use it for my professional life I also use it for other stuff, sometimes serious, occasionally funny and usually tedious and rubbish stuff.

Yes I post links to my stuff, other people’s stuff and stuff in the news. Yes I post about conferences and contribute to tweetchats, I even ran one once.

I also post photos of my coffee and my lunch. I post photos of trains and boats.

I post mundane comments about the weather and the fact that I haven’t locked front door.

An important part of Twitter for me are the conversations.

I remember once someone saying they didn’t use the Twitter because it was just people posting what they had for their breakfast. I never saw that, so decided that every Sunday or so I would post what j had for my breakfast with the hashtag #thisiswhattwitterwascreatedfor and why not.

What I found interesting about that hashtag and tweets was how many people engaged with it, and why not?

I am for all and intents and purposes rubbish at this Twitter and the 4500 people who follow me must also be rubbish at Twitter. The 50 odd people who start to follow me each month must also be rubbish at Twitter.

The main conclusion I came to was we are all rubbish on Twitter.

If you find Twitter useful for something then use it. If you find the tweets of others useful then follow them.

Useful can mean interesting, fun, silly, inspiring, informative, whatever you want it to be.

Go do Twitter and be rubbish at it.

The impact of the fickle nature of the web

Broken Web

Over on my tech blog I have been writing about the fickle nature of the web, it is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.

Now as I write this blog post, it would appear that the BBC have climbed down somewhat and the recipes will be moving over to the commercial BBC Good Food website.

Screengrab from BBC Food website - Eton Mess

The impact of archived, expired and missing content may be annoying for me, but it is probably more annoying and frustrating for teachers who have created or curated content using third party links and embedded media and find that the learners are unable to access the third party content. These links need to be fixed or replaced, embedded media needs to be found again, or an alternative discovered. I know when I was working with staff, this was an issue they found very frustrating when creating courses and content for the VLE.

Personally I when writing content for my blog, I try not to use third party sites (in case they disappear) and try not to embed content if I can help it. There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.

As I said over on the tech blog, sometimes I think, why do people and organisations like the BBC do this? Then I remember I have done this myself and sometimes you have little choice.

WCC Logo

Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a nice little website and the domain of westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down and the domain lost.

Back in 1998 when I created my first web site, using Hot Metal Pro I used the free hosting that came with my ISP account. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site up, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!

I remember creating a course site for my learners using one of those services where you got a free domain name and free hosting, should I have been surprised when they shut down and asked for large fees for transferring the site and the domain. It was often easier to create a new domain and get new hosting. The original site was lost in the midst of time.

We have seen services such as Ning, which were free and well used, but once the money ran out and they started charging, lots of useful sites shut themselves down. People then moved to different services.

For these small sites, it probably is less of an issue, annoying, slightly frustrating, but you can live with it, it’s part of what the web is about. However with big sites, like BBC Food, then it becomes more than annoying, especially if you have a reliance on that content for your course or your teaching.

Since I wrote my blog post yesterday , the reaction on the web has intensified (and it looks like has had an impact). One blog post from Lloyd Shepherd, one of the original team who worked on the archive makes for interesting reading.

It was my team that ran product management and editorial on the new Food site, and the site that exists today is largely the site we conceptualised and built at that time.

He explains the basis behind the site

The idea was very simple: take the recipes from BBC programmes, repurpose them into a database, and then make that database run a website, a mobile site, and who-knows-what-else. Create relationships between recipes based on ingredients, shows, cuisines, and who-knows-what-else. And then run it with as small an editorial team as possible whose job was simply to turn telly recipes into database recipes.

He continues to point out that as far as the remit of the BBC as a public service broadcaster, the food archive hit two key points.

Did we discuss ‘public service remit’? You bet we did. Every day. And it really came down to two things:

These recipes have already been paid for by the BBC licence fee payer, and they’re being under-utilised. A new service can be developed out of them for very little up-front cost.

Nutrition is now a public health issue. Obesity is draining NHS coffers, government guidelines are badly understood and terribly publicised. There is a role for the BBC to play in this, and this is the way to do it.

Though at this time we don’t know for sure where the content will be archived, rumour has it, it will be archived on the Commercial BBC Good Food site, one impact which I know it will have will be on catering courses that use the BBC content to support the learning of the students. A lot of the recipes are from professional chefs and provide guidance and inspiration to learners who are starting out on their careers. Additionally the way in which the archive works, they can find ideas and recipes for different ingredients. Even if the archive is moved, one aspect of the BBC Food site that will be missed, is the lack of distracting advertising.

It would appear that the BBC are moving away from an archive to library of content, which can be “borrowed” for 30 days before it expires. That got me thinking…

In the olden days when I was running libraries, we use to “weed” the collection of book stock which needed replacing, was out of date or no longer been used. We would buy new content to either replace or update existing books, or buy books that were completely new. One thing we were clear about was that we were not an archive, old stock was to be removed and got rid of, usually recycled or sold. The copy of the Haynes manual for the Hillman Imp from 1972 was interesting in its own right, but from a teaching and learning perspective wasn’t actually of any use any more.

Haynes Hillman Imp manual

We didn’t have the space to store and keep books and journals just for the sake of keeping books and journals. Of course with online materials that space argument becomes less critical, but there is still the resources required to manage curate large quantities of digital content to ensure that the content is accessible, searchable and relevant.

I personally don’t think the BBC Food archive is a library that needs to be reduced, refreshed and restricted, I think it is a great archive that should be kept. For me there are two services here, one is the archive and the other is a service delivering current and new content. It’s a pity that the requirement of cost savings means one was planned to go. Hopefully the recipes will be saved and restored when they move over to the new site.

In my post on Ning starting to charge  back in 2010 I mentioned above,  I did say one of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever.

Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.

I still think what I said in 2010 is still relevant today when talking about services and web tools.

At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.

Use what is now and in the future use what is then.

Though that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain and moan when something like the BBC Food “closure” happens, as sometimes there aren’t real alternatives, especially when it comes to content rather than a service.

What this whole story tells us is that the web can be fickle and relying on the stickiness and permanence of web content can be a challenge for teachers and lecturers. How do you cope with the transient nature of web content?

Image Credit: Broken by David Bakker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The half-life of a keynote

keynote by James Clay

I have been to many different conferences and events, some years I would attend a range of events and would get a feeling of déjà vu listening to some keynotes. I had heard what was been said before, sometimes it was virtually identical, other times it was a variation, but essentially the same.

During my professional life I have delivered many keynotes at conferences and events, most recently at LILAC 16 in Dublin. These keynotes have been on many different subjects, mobile learning, the future of learning and more recently digital capabilities.

I was often asked to deliver keynotes as a result of someone watching a keynote I had delivered and asking for something similar for their event or conference. This was fine with me as I could re-use the content, tailored (slightly) obviously for the audience, but in most respects the same presentation I had delivered previously. The audiences were usually very different and so it didn’t matter to me if the content was virtually identical, as the new audience wouldn’t have seen it before.

With watching other people’s presentations I realised that I wasn’t their typical audience, I was attending lots of conferences and events, probably more than most.

fote10001

Thinking about this recently having delivered a fair few sessions on digital capability about how long you could keep delivering the same keynote before it either ran out of steam (as in topicality) or the audience came around again and had seen it before. Was there a keynote that you could use and then leave in the cupboard for a while and then bring it out again and hopefully it will have freshened up enough to be fresh for even the same audience.

I know of one individual who delivered forty eight virtually identical keynotes over a four year period across different events, I never even came close to that!

It was nice now and again to deliver something completely fresh and different. The ULCC FOTE events were often the kind of event where I would create a new keynote. Though I would often use those presentation again at another event. Looking over my slideshares I realise that there are lots of similar presentations, but there is also variety too.

One of the reasons why I always created a new presentation for FOTE was that the audience usually was made up of the same people. They wouldn’t want to see the same keynote I had delivered the previous year.

James Clay talking at ALT-C

Reflecting on all of this, I did wonder if I should feel guilty or bad about doing basically the same keynote more than once? One way of looking at this, is am I just being lazy? Or am I more like the Dad’s Army repeats on BBC2, content been repeated for a new audience, who will get something from it as much as the original audience did.

I delivered a session at FOTE 2009 in October called The Future of Learning. In December of the same year I delivered a similar keynote at ASCILITE 2009 also called the Future of Learning. The following May at EdTech 2010 in Athlone in Ireland I did a keynote called Cultural Shifts, but was a version of the Future of Learning keynote. The keynotes were all very similar, but to be honest I believe that I was asked to keynote because of what people had seen before.

This is the version I delivered at the MIMAS Mobile Learning event.

There is something about repeating yourself, and there are some people who will still come and listen again, more so, if they enjoyed it the first time. I know that if someone like Dave White is on the conference programme I will go and listen to his session, not saying he repeats himself, but I know he has delivered many keynotes on Visitors and Residents.

altc201403

Sometimes I feel that I have a back catalogue of keynotes and that though I may want to deliver the new album, people would rather hear the classic hits from the past!

So if you deliver at conferences, have you delivered the same presentation at different events and why did you do it?

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