mLearnCon 2011: Our impressions

My colleague Paul & I attended a mobile learning conference in San Jose last week. We interviewed each other to record our impressions of the conference while it was still fresh in our memory. See it here: 

p.s. We made the video in a hurry so some details are missing from the video or are incorrect.

1. Jeremiah Owyang Keynote slides are here: (And my last name isn’t Johnson, so I shouldnt comment on someone’s last name.)

2. A brilliant young chap by the name of John Park co-presented with Alison Rossett. to their presentation here:

3. NexLearn doesn’t just sell SimWriter but they build custom sims. And Brandon Andrews, the presenter at the session I attended is THE expert to learn how to write simulations from.

Make it simple!

This week I heard a NPR Planet Money Podcast that’s probably the best piece on Instructional Design that I’ve come across in a long time. I think it’s very relevant because a majority of e-learning designers write courses for regulatory or technical compliance and we often work with SMEs whose viewpoint on the subject matter to be taught resembles the view of the attorney in the piece who thinks every line of the credit card agreement is important and that every one who receives such a notice should read it (like she does!)

I encourage all my designer colleagues to give this podcast a listen (click here)! Not only is the content excellent but the podcast uses humor so well to make its point.

Taleo buys some thoughts on consolidation

This morning I learned of Taleo’s purchase of through a Bersin e-mail alert. Bersin goes on to say:

” This announcement marks the beginning of a fundamental change that Bersin & Associates projects in the stand-alone LMS market. Our research shows that this market is rapidly bifurcating into integrated talent management systems and highly specialized learning systems.”

While I understand this trend of leaders in Talent Management software (SuccessFactors, TaleoPeopleclick Authoria, Kenexa) growing through  acquisitions and it doesn’t come as a surprise, I think what’s happening is bad for customers. All these vendors are good at only specific parts of the TM process (like Recruitment, Compensation or Performance) .  The part that made them a leader. (Taleo with recruiting, SuccessFactors with Performance…) They are often poor or mediocre at other parts of the process. Customers buying these ‘integrated talent management suites’ are often locked in to a suite and have to re-engineer their processes to map to the mediocre or poor parts of the suite, losing some of the complexity and richness they enjoyed in the software they used to manage the process previously. Furthermore, the promise of integration is often superficial. Data from one part of the suite does not seamlessly flow to another.

I think this approach of buying one tool or suite that does it all seems outdated. When you see what’s happening outside the world of Enterprise Software, we see that a bunch of sites and platforms interacting seamlessly (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa etc. etc.) What might be useful is to build a framework like Open Social specific to Talent processes and data that allows seamless flow between different TM tools and other related platforms like ERP, CRM and Enterprise Social Networking and Knowledge Management.

footnote: I think this post relates to my previous post on fB Places and checking in. fB places is guaranteed to be popular because it’s got a captive audience of 1/2 a billion. Yes, more people will use it because it shows up in an app they already visit. But it does not have the richness of foursquare. foursquare was purpose built to do check-ins. It has interesting game elements, badges etc….And it even integrates with fB. But fB users will see none of that richness of foursquare.

What is a check-in?

Recently I was at a restaurant with my wife’s family and decided to use facebook’s new Places feature using my iPhone. Among the people I tagged in the check-in was my 74 year old Father-in-law. The next day I received an e-mail from him asking me what a check-in was. Here’s my response: A check-in is a way to announce to your friends through facebook that you are at a specific geographical location, a bar, a restaurant or an airport. That way if they are at that location they can meet you in person.

This exchange got me thinking about a previous post I wrote about “Social networks will be like air.” The geolocation piece adds a whole dimension to ubiquity. What’s the impact on learning? talent management? Oh..the possibilities! More soon.

Performance Review – Part II

Performance review… that a hot button issue? Guess who has once again made it a big topic of discussion. Dear Old Prof. Culbert who has now expanded his WSJ article (that I referenced in this post) into a full book.

This morning I caught this post on facebook from NPR which drew quite a response. Other posts on NPR’s feed such as Zombies And Giant Squid: Summer’s Monster Hits! or Spy Exchange Would Be A Cold War Flashback draw on average a couple of hundred “Likes” and 50 to 100 comments. The post Annual Job Review Is ‘Total Baloney,’ Expert Says at this time has drawn 1213 Likes and has 265 comments. And you guessed it…most people hate the Performance Review.

Social networks will be like air

I was watching a presentation on YouTube by Charlene Li (author of Groundswell) at Google and was struck by this statement she made about social networks. At first blush it sounds terribly hyperbolic. But she went on to elaborate on what she meant by it.

And it made a lot of sense.

I don’t think she was referring to social networks as they exist today: facebook, myspace or twitter. I think what she was referring to was the impact of social networks, the information transacted in them or on other sites linked to them or probably anywhere on the internet on our behavior. An easy example is one of Amazon showing us not only the highest ranked reviews for a book but also what our friends thought about the book. Or Yelp alerting me my friends hated a restaurant I am about to enter.

I can easily see how this lends itself to suggesting learning experiences within the enterprise based on what my colleagues, who have interests or aspirations similar to me, enjoyed participating in.

p.s. What also blew my mind was that Charlene said all this sometime around March 2008!

Apple Everywhere!

I was amused by how Apple totally took over Technology reporting in the days preceding the iPad launch. A screenshot from the Times Skimmer coverage from Feb-4-2010. Even the stories that weren’t about the iPad, like the Mcmillan disagreement with Amazon were influenced by the release. Oh…and by the way,the page is sponsored by Blackberry! 🙂

p.s. The article by Steve Lohr about Steve Jobs and the Economics of Elitism was really good. Innovation is not all about crowdsourcing or using social media.

Teaching Mom Internet – Part 1


Last fall when my mother visited the US, I gave her an old laptop. Now I get questions such as this one I received last night, after I sent her some videos on YouTube:

“Why are the videos stopping in between and then getting started on their own? First two and the last one didn’t stop, but the other two stopped.”

Here’s my not so perfect answer to her question:

The videos start and stop during playback because of two reasons:
1. Speed of your connection to the internet, this may limit how much information you can receive from YouTube within a given time
2. The ability of your computer to process the information sent by YouTube and convert it to Video

Some sites help avoid this from happening by making you wait when you first click play so that there’s enough time for the site to send the information through to your computer and also giving your computer to the ability to process this information. This is called buffering. In your case, YouTube didnt do this well to ensure that there were no interruptions when you played the video.

Got a better explanation for my mom? Is there a Common Craft type of video I can send her to explain this better?

How to read a book

Lately I have been feeling a bit challenged in…yes…finishing books I start reading. This problem is particularly acute when it comes to works of non-fiction or works of fiction that don’t have a lot of pictures.

While browsing for what ironically (and disappointingly) turned out to be a curated reading list of non-fiction books, I found this gem: A paper by Paul N. Edwards at School of Information in University of Michigan called How to Read a Book.  A little snippet from the 9 page article:

“So unless you’re stuck in prison with nothing else to do, NEVER read a non‐fiction book or article from beginning to end. Instead, when you’re reading for information, you should ALWAYS jump ahead, skip around, and use every available strategy to discover, then to understand, and finally to remember what the writer has to say. This is how you’ll get the most out of a book in the smallest amount of time.”

I am going to read this article and see if I can change my behavior and read more non-fiction books.

I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Some thoughts around User Generated Content

User Generated Content is all the rage on the internet. Large billion dollar businesses such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp rely solely on their users to generate their content. All they provide is a platform where users can post content and share it with their friends or the world at large. And it is rare that these large businesses compensate their users for creating this content. It begs the question: Should this desire to create content be leveraged inside the enterprise to create learning?
I recently came across an excellent post by John Hathaway at the Velocity Made Good Leveraging Learning Blog about User Generated Content in Learning. John suggests that the question is not IF but WHEN. Here’s a quote from the post:
“So, let’s ask the question “When should we use User Generated Content?” To me, the answer depends greatly on the nature, audience, and goals of the content.”
In the post, he goes on to suggest that while core content critical to the business should probably be produced through a formal and structured process, niche content doesn’t need to be. Particularly because it’s possible that you’re not creating it currently because it has a niche audience and producing formal learning is not cost effective.
Read the full post here and let us know in which areas in your organization would YOU be comfortable with content generated by your end users.