Web Browsers

I switched to Mozilla Firefox as my browser a while back, as I was getting concerned about all of the IE security alerts. I like Firefox, especially the tab feature, and will stay with it. It seems that I’m not really an early adopter though, as Cory Doctorow points out in Boing Boing that a Microsoft presenter at the BlogOn conference asked how many people were using Internet Explorer, and no one raised their hand. Things can change fast on the Net.

Eduforge

Eduforge is “a virtual collaborative learning and exploratory environment designed for the sharing of ideas, research outcomes, open source educational software, and tools within a community of learners and researchers.” In the learning resources section is a case study about a hospital in Ireland that decided to shift to an open source IT infrastructure. This included e-learning, and the selected platform was Claroline. The case study provides figures (costs in Pounds) about the difference in total costs:

Claroline
Initial Cost: 1,000
Total Cost / 5 years : 4,000

Closed Source Solution (Name not disclosed)
Initial Cost: 35,000

Total Cost / 5 years : 175,000

Here is an interesting comment from the Beaumont Hospital IT manager:

If you have a product which costs $1 million, it may be appropriate to spend $500,000 on consulting. However if the product costs nothing then spending $500,000 somehow seems to be a more difficult decision to take.

Consulting services from qualified professionals were just as necessary as they would have been with closed source solutions. It’s not all free, but the Beaumont Hospital staff seem to be happy with their solution.

Articulate

I just saw a demo of a new product that allows you to conduct PowerPoint presentations online with synchonized audio, and file attachments for reference. It’s called Articulate, and is quite similar to Macomedia’s Breeze. Articulate Presenter sells for $(US)698.00 while you have to send an e-mail request to Macromedia to get a price quote. Both systems seem to be quick and easy ways to get information, such as product details, to a wide audience.

Update: I have found out that Breeze is only server-based, while Articulate works as a standalone as well as a server-based system, and is SCORM and AICC compliant. It seems that Articulate is a more flexible product, especially for SME’s.

701 Free e-Learning Tips

The MASIE Center has just released this free booklet (PDF) which is a compilation from the MASIE Center’s TRENDS readers and others. It’s a 13 MB download, and here’s an example:

#614 Long Live Gumby (The Eraser)
Expect mistakes and be ready to demonstrate your flexibility as an instructor/facilitator when they arise (Betsy Reynolds, Ingram Micro)

This is a real potpourri of perspectives, but the price is right, and it might be a good source to check once in a while. The text, being in a PDF, is searchable but the document is copy protected.

Blog Rules

I’m being asked more questions about the value of blogs and how they can help to engage customers, suppliers and employees. Via Dina is this story by Stuart Henshall on what happens when a dedicated blogger is engaged by a corporation:

Blog Rules:

  • For blogs to work there must be trust. Let it be a warning to you when an employer is critical of your blog, or implies that they must approve every post you make first.
  • Blogs are strategic, but the messages must be personal. Planning out a blog strategy and topics in advance fails to account for the immediacy of the daily events and the need for responsiveness.
  • Make sure the company is large enough to have "personalities" blogging — otherwise own the company. The blogger is likely to become an important public face.
  • Think through where the blog should be on what URL. Is it better at blogperson.com or under the corporate banner? What is best to harness the blogger and readers?

Warnings to other Bloggers:

  • Your blog may be perceived as a personal asset and not a corporate one. You personal blog can become a corporate asset but only if the conditions above apply.
  • Corporate positioning is a must. If the company isn’t mature enough or is afraid to enable the blogger to talk about "category" developments then blogging will be difficult.
  • If topics and content are limited then you may lose your friends, lose access to thought leadership and potential partnerships and associates for the company – or even simply good press.
  • If the company fears balanced perspective on other products then you will find life difficult.
  • Blogs require a time commitment, if you are not getting it or there is no time left over for it then it is not valued. My target has always been in the ten hours a week category. That includes the use of my newsreader. Make sure your employer signs off on the time commitment to the blog.
  • If the company asks you when you will transfer your blog URL to the company then they really don’t get it.

As the value of blogging as a medium to connect producers with markets becomes more evident, corporate blogging may move into the mainstream, just as telecommuting (which means less control over workers) is accepted in some areas but not in others.

Into the Blogosphere

Hosted by the University of Minnesota’s libraries, is this collection of essays, Into the Blogosphere, looking at blogging from multiple perspectives. It is all under a Creative Commons license as well.

This online, edited collection explores discursive, visual, social, and other communicative features of weblogs. Essays analyze and critique situated cases and examples drawn from weblogs and weblog communities. Such a project requires a multidisciplinary approach, and contributions represent perspectives from Rhetoric, Communication, Sociology, Cultural Studies, Linguistics, and Education, among others. We encourage you to post your responses to the essays …

This site should be a valuable resource for anyone studying the blog medium.

Small Towns & Free Agents

Sackville, New Brunswick, where I live, is a small town of 5,000 people, which increases every Fall by the 2,500 students at Mount Allison University. I think that it is the perfect small town for free agents who run virtual offices. I’ve discussed this with some of the town councillors, but I don’t have any convincing market analyses to show that we could attract some more small businesses to set up shop here. Here are some of the attritubes of this community that I think would be appealing.

We have high speed Internet access, both DSL in the town core, and cable access in the outlying community. My web site is hosted locally. The town is located on the Trans-Canada Highway with Moncton Airport 20 minutes away and Halifax Airport 90 minutes away. There is a hospital in town, and larger hospitals in Moncton (50 km) and Amherst (20 km). We have a number of physicians in town; more than most small towns. Sackville is centrally located in the maritimes, with Fredericton, Charlottetown and Halifax within 2 hours driving distance. We also have a local, live theatre company.

Sackville is a great town to raise a family, as it is safe and hospitable. Many of us were not born and raised here, so the town is open to newcomers. A good house will cost in the vicinity of $(CAD)150,000, but you can even find them cheaper. For families looking to get out of the big city rat race, this may be the place. The school system offers French immersion starting in Grade 1. French schools are available in the neighbouring community of Memramcook, about 20 km away. There a few companies in town, and some free agents as well. We tried to start a loose association, The Sackville SOHO Society, to discuss non-retail business issues, but we never got the necessary critical mass.

So what would it take to interest a free agent to move to Sackville? Do we have what it takes? Are there essential infrastructure requirements, or cultural issues? I’d appreciate your comments.

Update: My neighbour has just put her house on the market, through Property Guys. Search for Listing #2370.

Blogs & Information Literacy

Will Richardson has a good post on how many of the competencies required for information literacy can be addressed through blogging. Will’s quote from the American Library Association:

The information literate student validates understanding and interpretation of the information through discourse with other individuals, subject-area experts, and/or practitioners.

This is the kind of educational outcome, based on a process, that makes more sense than mastery of subject-based content. The content discussed in blogs is not as important as the skills developed through the process of blogging. The content is just grist for the cognitive mill.


Do It Yourself (DIY)

After to listening to an interview with Doc Searls, Jay Cross expands on the analogy of open source software as the material for DIY’ers of information technology.


The DIY crowd just want to build things. The closest analogy is to the construction industry. They share a common language ("builds,""tools,""builders"). Linux is the DIYers’ lumber, a raw material for virtually any job. Neither software construction nor building houses locks you in to a particular supplier. The housebuilder doesn’t say, "We’re building this house on a Weyerhauser platform…."


The fact that Open Source code is free delegates decision-making lower in the organization. You don’t need a purchase order — or official approval — to use it.

As IT becomes ubiquitous, many of us just want to build things that will address our issues, and open source gives us the material to start with. No, open source is not perfect, but without it we couldn’t afford to test out many of our ideas. Open source lowers the barriers to innovation, because you have free building material, and only have to supply the labour.

From Classroom to Boardroom

Jay Bahlis, President of BNH Expert Software in Montreal, has produced a free, online booklet, From Classroom to Boardroom, that will be a good job aid for performance improvement professionals. It covers step-by-step actions and six strategies for aligning training with business goals. Though not new in its concepts, this booklet is an additional resource that may be helpful, especially for internal initiatives. Some of Jay’s cited references may be of use as well:

  • Ford and Weissbein estimated that less than 10% of training expenditures actually result in transfer
    to the job. By focusing on the most important initiatives, you can reduce waste and maximize the
    impact of training.
  • Broad and Newstrom observed that most of the knowledge and skills gained in training (well over
    80% by some estimates) is not fully applied by employees on the job. And more recently, Robinson
    reported that on average, less than 30% of what people learn (in training) actually gets used on the
    job. By focusing on solutions that resolve clearly identified performance deficiencies you can
    minimize waste and maximize performance.
  • Lance Dublin observed that over 90% of training is conducted through informal means such as web
    searches, chats, reference materials and mentoring. Providing the right information to the right
    individuals at the right time “learning at the speed of work” can significantly increase the competitive
    advantage of the organization – allowing individuals to do things they have not been able to before.

Many thanks to Jay for making this available to the community.