Nov 23, 2010

Your Friendly Smart TV

The smart TV is an idea that has been around for a long time now. It's an idea that has value but technology and innovation has not quite found the right formula to make it happen on a wide scale. Over the past few years many devices have been popping up with their own formulas. Microsoft's Xbox is a great example of this. I can Twitter, Facebook, play games, watch movies, and voice chat with friends all from my TV (via Xbox). However, Xbox is not the easiest thing to use and does not play well with your existing cable company. Google has already changed the landscape of both the web and mobile technology, is the living room TV the next landscape Google will change? I'm thinking "yes".

Google TV is a new internet appliance that is designed to run on your TV set. It is also a new platform similar to Android on your mobile phone. It is not Android (nor Chrome) but something different. Once again Google is using its searching strength as part of the platform. Google thinks its users will be more comfortable searching for shows rather than browsing through the hundreds of channels on basic cable. And I agree! After all, TV shows are just another type of content. It's not just search though, you will be able to use the Android market to download applications and games. And starting in 2011, applications will start being developed specifically for Google TV.

Applications developed specifically for Google TV are where I think the smart TV will start to mature into something of value. I think Google will lead the charge on this instead of Apple with Apple TV (like it did with the mobile phone). I admit that I can't imagine all of the possibilities here but I'll take a poke at one. When I watch sporting events right now, I've notice that I have a whole gaggle of friends on Facebook commenting on every big play in the game. Instead of having to check my mobile phone every few minutes, and app could be written that gives me the game related status updates on the TV screen itself. Then when the running back fumbles the ball 3 yards from the end zone, I'll get to know what all my Facebook friends or Twitter connections think about it. If I want to chime in with what I think, I can use the keyboard on my mobile phone.

I expect the smart TV to emerge as a bigger player in our daily lives over the next few years now that Google has opened a bigger and better door. Do you think the real value of the smart TV is already here, coming soon, or just a pipe dream? Will this be the end of broadcast TV?

Nov 16, 2010

Self-Paced Success Factors

This fall I launched a series of self-paced online courses. This was the company's first attempt at self-paced online training. Courses were served entirely online and learner results were tracked.  I used a combination of in house custom developed content and 3rd party content. The courses developed in house were based on simulations and interactions. The 3rd party courses were based on video presentations.

The courses went well and good positive feedback was received. Here are some of the reasons I credit with success:
  • Quality simulations and videos - The software simulations created in house were created in Captivate and were high quality with good graphics and animations. The simulations matched exactly what the users see when they log-in to their own accounts. The 3rd party videos were very clear and smooth.
  • Good instructors and SMEs - The 3rd party instructors were well qualified and easy to understand. The SMEs I used for the in house courses had already taught the face-to-face courses and were very knowledgable about the subject matter. I had several experts review the course and were able to incorporate their feedback.
  • Limited technological barriers - It was challenging to find the best way to deploy the content. Originally an LMS was planned to be used but the LMS was behind schedule and unavailable. I choose a web service that was capable of delivering and tracking SCORM based content. The learner simply receives and e-mail and clicks on the link to start the training. There was no LMS to log into. This is not an ideal long term strategy but it works well as a stopgap until the LMS is up and running.
More to come. I will share some of the feedback I received from a survey and from talking with the learners. Also, there were some technical issues that occured as well that I'll share.

Feb 14, 2010

Tools for Creating Buttons

I just finished a new post at the Integrated Learning Services blog about how to use your own custom buttons in Captivate. This had me thinking -- what is the best way to make buttons? My strengths are in web coding and not graphic design but I enjoy tinkering with graphics design and I am trying to learn more.

I used to do this in Paint Shop Pro. PSP has some great built in button shapes that I can use. Some of these buttons are quite elaborate and would take a lot of time for me to create on my own. In addition to the built-in shapes, I've mastered using the bevel technique to create my own buttons. This works fairly well but I'm limited in what I can do easily. For example, I don't have a technique for creating buttons with a glassy look.

Recently I've started using Adobe Illustrator. Because it does so well with vector graphics I thought this may be a better tool to use. However, I haven't found any pre-built buttons to work with (maybe I'm missing something) and the bevel tool is much different than PSP. I have not mastered this yet and all the tutorials I've seen on the bevel tool are for doing 3D graphics, not buttons.

After my experience with AI, I'm thinking of going back to PSP for my button needs. However, I'm wondering if I should explore Adobe Photoshop's capabilities for buttons next.

What's your go-to-tool for creating buttons?

Feb 5, 2010

What's in my pocket? Android.

It's been a busy time for me lately. Thus the lack of posts recently. I finally upgraded my good ol' normal phone to a smart phone recently. I'm loving it! I now have the Motorola Droid phone. And since I'm in the U.S. and don't have the ability to take my phone to any network, that means I'm a Verizon customer. Luckily Verizon has great service in the area I work and live so I'm a happy camper.

I figured the phone would fit my lifestyle well and I was right. Here are some of the ways the phone has made my life easier:
  • I can keep up with friends and acquaintances on the go. I do this through Gmail and apps like Facebook and Twitter.
  • I keep my calendar with me at all times. I've now added my work calendar to Google Calendar so that I can remind myself about that upcoming meeting while I'm out at lunch.
  • My task list stays with me. I'm always remembering things I need to do or want to do. Now I have Remember the Milk with me to add tasks when I'm away from the computer or to be reminded of tasks. If I wake up in the middle of the night with something in my head. I just reach for the Droid and type it in and get back to sleep. Ok, that doesn't happen too often, but its nice to have one place to store all my thoughts and its in the cloud so I can access it from any computer.
  • My Droid is my alarm clock. Since I can put my iTunes and MP3 files on the huge 16 GB card that comes with the Droid, I can wake up to any song in my library. Plus the alarm clock features are great and I can quickly set an alarm or ring tone to suite my needs. I have my early workout alarm, sleep late on a weekday alarm, and weekend settings. Easy peasy.
  • Droid is helping me read the Bible in a year. I've got a great app for the Bible so now I can take a few minutes here or there to read my scriptures for the day. It may look like I'm doing some sophisticated business communication while I'm eating at Moe's but I'm really just reading the Bible. ;)
  • Google Voice. Finally a way to check voice mail that makes sense. Love it!
  • YouTube Videos. I wasn't expecting this but my kids love to jump in to bed with me on weekend mornings to watch children's videos on my Droid. They love "That's How a Pumpkin Grows", "The Elephant Song", and "Red Beard: A Pirate's Story".
Having the Droid is also giving me a lot of insight into how I might develop websites and eLearning for mobile. This will be a big growth area over the next 5 to 10 years and I want to be able to gear my development towards mobile devices when the opportunity comes along.