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Training Development and Delivery in the Digital Age

Traditionally, face to face, instructor led training has been how we have been taught in schools and at work. So far it has been the most effective method of cramming a brain with new instructions. Instructors have always had a preference of being able to look a student in the eye in order to gauge the level of understanding and comprehension as they deliver the course material. However, now, more than ever, multi-media is playing an ever increasing role in both the content and the delivery. Instructors have to tackle problems ranging from setting up complicated multi-media projectors displaying content that was created by a 3rd party and stored on servers located in another country. The dependency on the Internet to provide this content is driving the development of the content and delivery methods. We have to be aware of live streaming or recorded streaming issues and how to download the content for viewing offline (just in case the Internet connection is lost).
Now the next trend has emerged and that is the virtual training scenario. Instructors are faced with delivering training via webcams to an invisible audience. To make matters worse, instructors have keep the students engaged and are willing and engaging participants in the training. In some cases, the students are eager and ask questions, and in others, the instructor feels like they are just talking to a webcam with nobody listening or paying attention.
Now we can add another element of uncertainly to the equation; the Internet and bandwidth issues. Factors such as geographic location, time zones, Internet availability, computer capability, the list goes on. There are now many factors that must be considered when not only delivering the content but building the courseware. Will everyone that takes your training have English as a first language? Do they have the latest version of the browser that supports the multimedia plug-in? Or will you use 3rd party technology like Skype to broadcast the training and interact with the students. How will you measure the level of participation of your students? There are many questions and a variety of answers to these questions. One that I am constantly dealing with is time zones. Are your students just waking up or are they just about ready to climb into bed? Or is it the middle of the night for you and how do you stay awake?
The last point that I want to bring up is the content itself. As we develop new training solutions, one thing is common. The overall size of the training content increases as demand for content grows. What I mean to say is that what we used to be able to delivery as a traditional courseware book converted to slides is now a fancy multi-media presentation with hands-on interactive training. Added up, with hand-on training, the content could fill a DVD. Try delivering this across the Internet to a broad audience in a virtual environment and suddenly you are faced with a variety of points of failure. Now look at the common student that is attending the training and suddenly multiple points of failure appear.
In the traditional classroom, you could take attendance and quickly determine how many students you have in attendance. In a virtual world, you never know who has stepped away from their computer or even lost connectivity and is frantically trying to get reconnected.
Finally, when developing the training, you have to keep in mind your target audience. How will they access the training? Will they need to view it on a traditional computer or can they use a cell phone to stream the content in small chunks.
All of these questions I pose to you as I think about how to develop solid training content to an international audience who all face different challenges in just accessing the content.

What's in a Twitter Background

One year, for me, has gone by very fast. It was a year ago that I finally joined Twitter. At the time I couldn't see any real value in it and had to be convinced to join. Once I was in, I went crazy with trying to create a profile, avatar and background that would stand out and tell people that I was someone that they HAD to follow.
That was a year ago and now I have a completely different outlook on Twitter profiles, avatars and backgrounds. Anyone can upload a picture, create a bio and then a snazzy background with all kinds of cool graphics and photos. What has become apparent to me is that it isn't the bio, avatar or background that will compell me to follow you (or for you to follow me). It all comes down to the content of your tweets. Are you an engaging person or do you just drone on without listening or interacting with other people out in Twitterville.
When I look at a person's page, I am more interested in what they are tweeting and who they are engaging with. Some of the more clever bots will interact but they only interact with other bots or random people. It takes some work but it soon becomes apparent who is and isn't a bot.
But I digress. Back to the topic at hand. For me, it is not important what kind of background, profile or avatar is on your page. What is really important to me is your tweets. A great example of this is @Kim. Go ahead and take a look at her page. Interesting isn't it. Did you notice how many people she has following her?
With all of the different software programs and ways to interface with Twitter, people's Twitter pages are only viewed when you are sitting in front of a computer and browsing to their page using a traditional browser. So now when I think back to what I went through to create that perfect bio, avatar and background, I wonder if that time wouldn't have been better spent engaging and meeting new people on Twitter.
Just thinking out loud....
If you have any comments or thoughts, please feel free to leave comments (I promise I won't delete them...really!)

You Can Never Tell.....

Part I
I have to start this posting with a story. This past weekend I was out running errands. While out driving from one place to another, I had a driver in a mini-van start to slowly drift into my lane. I was inching my way to the curb to avoid a collision, thinking that the driver would quickly notice where they were and self-correct back to the center lane. It became very clear to me that this wasn't going to happen so I quickly tapped my horn (twice I seem to recall). This startled the driver who snapped back a hand gesture that wasn't very appropriate or kind. Before I could even react to this, the driver turned left and darted into a parking lot where a kid's football game was about to start. Now I can handle a little hand gesture now and then (well, maybe not) but when the van is full of young children, I begin to wonder what other life lessons these children are learning from someone who they are suppose to look up to for guidance and direction.
Part II
So now I'm thinking about what I see posted on Facebook, Twitter, blogs,YouTube, the list goes on. People tend to say what's on their mind. Sometimes it is positive, and other times it can be cruel and vendictive. You can never be 100% positive that what you read or see is in fact the entire story (or the truth). As I look back at the driver of the mini-van, his reaction to my beeping of the horn was (IMHO) not what I would have expected. The same can be said for tweets, posts or video blogs that I've seen posted (look at all the false reports of famous people dying over the summer). Without knowing the whole story, I can't tell if what I see or read is in fact the entire story. Maybe the driver thought that I was deranged and about to throw down a smash-up derby challenge. Maybe the van was filled with a bunch of wild people who were about to terrorize the park. I will never know the whole truth. What I can say for sure is that any blog, tweet, or post is only one side of the story.
So the lessons learned are:
1) Never over-react to a tweet or blog. In the story of the mini-van driver, my reaction was to mind my own business and keep on driving. As I read tweets, Facebook posts or blogs, I choose to keep my comments positive or silent. Since I don't know both side of the story, I could end up saying something that I will live to regret. As we all know, once it is posted to the digital world, there are no mulligans or returns.
2) Be careful who you choose to look up to and support on the digital roadways. Are they a mini-van drivers on the verge of a nervous breakdowns because the kids wanted to stop at McDonalds before the game or kind and gentle souls who would stop to help the homeless?
I'm not going to dictate to you how to react but at least you know what I will do in Cyberspace.

Stay safe and drive between the white lines.

I could use a little less Spam

Lately, the number of spam accounts on Twitter has reached a point where it is THE place for anyone who wants to sell something to jump on board and make a quick buck. The bad news for those of us regular Twitter users is the number of spam messages that magically appear in our twitter stream is on the rise.
This had led me to a best practice approach to dealing with the spam. You could simply block these users using Twitter or you could Block and Report Spammers using Tweetdeck. This is weapon of choice.
There is nothing worse that getting a tweet from someone that you don't follow and it is an obscure reference to something that you know nothing about. (ok, maybe there are worse things that you could get, but this would be a close second, or third).
I can understand receiving tweets from people that I don't follow when it relates to something that I tweeted about. This is one way of engaging and building relationships. But when the message has nothing to do with life or even something I am interested in, I can only assume that it is a spammer bot in action.
Spammers are employing this technique to make their stream look more lifelike. It is easy to look at someone's Twitter profile and twitter feed to quickly see that they are pure spam. But to look at a feed that has RTs and @ replies make it a little more difficult. Fortunately, I have discovered that there is a trend to these spam accounts. They all use the same tweet messages and are identical. This is a clear sign that I have spammers following me.
My advise at this time is to Block and Report. Don't just ignore them and let them continue to follow you for a day or two. The more people that report these spammers, the faster Twitter will get their accounts shut down. I know what you are saying. They can just start another account up. True, but if you block them enough, they will stop trying to follow you. This practice seems to be working for me.
Oh, and one last thing. If you auto-follow, shame on you!

Twisting the Top Trending Twitter Topics

Something that I have noticed lately are the tricks that people use to rank high in the top Twitter trending topics or get their message into the top trending topics.
I heard of one person setting up at least 100 twitter accounts to post their hashtag. This allowed them to avoid the spamming rules as well as get their information out as one of the top trending topics. Is this fair? That remains to be seen but until Twitter changes the rules, it seems like it is a fair way to get your trends noticed. This is no different than sending in one thousands entries to a contest. It just increases your odds of winning.
The other trend that I've noticed and isn't as nice is people spamming their content in tweets but using the top trending topic words to lure people into reading their content. The Tweet's content usually has nothing to do with that trending topic and in some cases can be very offensive. Twitter truely is becoming a place where you have to be careful on what you click unless it comes from a trusted tweeter.
If in doubt, use one of the many services that expands shortened URLs.
If after you expand the URL and it is still pointing to a short URL, I would advise not to click on the link unless you have pop-up blockers enabled and good, current anti-virus software installed and running on your system. Twitter isn't as safe as it used to be.
Oh, and one more thing. Please check out that website that is referenced in a Tweet before you RT it, unless you want to look like a fool for RT'ing a tweet that leads people to garbage or offensive websites.

Digital Assets and the Afterlife

I have often thought about what happened to people when their Twitter profiles goes silent or their blog posts suddenly stop without any further updates. Two thoughts comes to mind. That person has either gotten very bored with the Internet or they have met a sudden and untimely accident or death.

This got me to thinking about how I would go about letting people know if something goes wrong with me. I was thinking about an OnStar alert system for my online life. How would I alert people if I was in an accident? This is when I started thinking about a dead man switch. Imagine my surprise when I found this website. Death Switch is the digital equivalent to the dead man’s switch. You are prompted on a regular basis to provide a password to keep the system from being set off. If it goes unanswered after a predetermined number of unanswered email prompts, your pregrogrammed email (with or without attachements) is sent out to your distribution list. It is both a very interesting solution as well as morbid way of informing people of your demise.

Another option that doesn't involve responding to an email on a regular intervals is Legacy Locker. It is the equivalent of digital safe deposit box. It allows you to assign beneficiaries who can access your account in the event of an accident or sudden death (proof of death required). Equally morbid but if your websites are revenue generating and a source of income, you will want to ensure a smooth transition to your estate.

I guess the other option is the more costly but secure lawyer. I would only go down this road if my domains generated enough money that I could afford the retainer fees. I can see it now. Close family and friends sitting in a lawyer's office, listening intently to who will get what domain name, Twitter profile or blog site (or maybe not).

The last (safe) option is a real safe deposit box or my own personal favorite, my little black book and an inter-dimensional time safe.
What do you do to protect your online assets?