Recently in Work Category

March 10, 2007

New EarthLink VP Jonathan Young's house ..

Jonathan Young recently joined EarthLink as a VP overseeing, among other things, our security products.

I've known Jonathan for over 10 years now, and been friends with him since he took the momentous step of moving from his beloved New York down to Atlanta. We both worked for CNN; me up until 5 years ago, and him until just a few months ago.

Jonathan is a high mucky-muck now, but I was still surprised when I looked at Dave Coustan's EarthLink blog and found a very nice piece featuring Jonathan talking about about how a computer security expert deals with home security..

The piece is centered about the funky place Jonathan bought after he tired of living the life of an apartment dweller. Atlanta is a town of traditional suburban homes, but Jonathan managed to find a place that would look right at home in Manhattan.

If you read the piece, you might get the impression that Jonathan likes tinkering with his tech setup. No kidding! Of all the people I know, Jonathan always has the coolest stuff. Even all those Next cubes in the closet - and old Sun gear, too? - are pretty cool. I love going to visit him to get up on the latest cool stuff.

Oh, and Jonathan's comments are right on, I think. Security is about a balance between risk and cost. You have to be able to live with the overhead; going paranoid, in computers or homes, leaves you a prisoner of your fear.

December 15, 2006

EarthLink likes bloggers

I work for EarthLink, and so long as I say the equivalent of "I'm speaking for myself and not on behalf of EarthLink," then the new company blogging policy says I can talk about EarthLink.

So. (Ahem.) These are my opinions, and I'm not speaking on on behalf of EarthLink. Magic!

EarthLink has been pushing into the blog space for a while. It started with the hiring of Dave Coustan more than a year ago as a company blogger. Dave runs Earthling, "an official EarthLink blog," which means that Dave is speaking on behalf of the company.

Dave and some other folks held a "Blogging Boot Camp" at lunch time today to get people familiar with the blogging policy. Dave has been collecting links to blogs written by EarthLink employees, and he says he already has 75+ blogs.

I think this is a wonderful idea. Lots of companies fear employees blogging about them, and attempt to control the message, which results in pain and bad feelings all around. Instead, EarthLink is actively encouraging blogging by employees - the reasoning being that they'd like to y'all to know that EarthLink is a company that is cool and is doing cool things. Sounds ok to me... At a minimum, it got me to post!

March 31, 2005

Trying to get by without those bullet points

Terry Frazier clued me into an interesting idea: banish bullet points in your PowerPoint presentations. The idea is explained in a book called Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson. Cliff has a supporting web site with some good ideas.

Atkinson cites research that says if you put bullet points up on screen and expect people to then listen to what you're saying, you're fooling yourself. Atkinson advocates stripping your PowerPoint slides to an almost Zen-like level: a short phrase as a title with an image that support your idea. The title should be an actual thought or useful idea, not a category. Most PowerPoint slide titles are categories: they tease, but don't provide real information. Atkinson further suggests putting the real meat of your presentation in the PowerPoint notes area, and using complete sentences in those notes rather than bullet points. The real payoff: when you do your presentation, people will have to give their full attention to you in order to find out what it's all about. One part of Atkinson's message hit home: if you do 20 slides each with 7 bullet points, you've just put 140 discrete pieces of information in front of your audience. And you really expect them to remember any of it?

I was intrigued by the idea and bought the book; it arrived two weeks ago. By chance, I had a presentation I was ready to start working on. I thought I had two weeks to put it together, but schedules changed, and I ended up with just a few days to put together a 45 minute-plus presentation.

I decided to go for it. I took the plunge. I did a presentation - 42 slides - titles only, no bullet points on the slides, lots of juicy meat in the notes. I didn't have time to put together supporting visuals, so the slides were stark, bare, just the titles.

Using complete ideas in the titles was a win. Instead of vague phrases like "Disaster Recovery Issues", I used concrete phrases like "Disaster Recovery is difficult because we have multiple farms" and "Keeping the customer data replicated is the key" for my slide titles.

The response was positive. I can't separate the feedback on the form away from the from the story I told, but perhaps that's the point. (I did take care to warn people that the lack of content in the slides was deliberate.) I did the presentation remotely, so I emailed everyone the complete PowerPoint file. One person apologetically told me he looked at the notes view during my presentation.

I did have a bit of trouble with one aspect of the approach. Atkinson's books leans heavily on what he refers to a Hollywood approach - a three-part structure that relies on a formula that goes back to the Greeks for presenting a story. He recommends you establish a setting, an imbalance (the problem you want all to consider), the balance (what you need to do to fix the problem), and the solution (how you intend to fix the problem.) That's all part of what Atkinson calls Act I, an appeal to emotion. Act II is the meat of the presention - an appeal to reason. Act III closes it out with a restatement of the problem and pressing for acceptance of your solution.

My problem was that my presentation was basically information, not meant to present a problem and a solution. I had to work to come up with a problem/conflict that I wanted people to focus on. But hat struggle was valuable, though; Atkinson correctly points out that you need to give people a reason to care about what you're talking about. And the structure forced me to concentrate on the story I was trying to tell, not on a laundry list of details.

I got good feedback after the presentation, so I'll use the technique again. Maybe next time I'll actually get some images to go along with my naked slides.

June 4, 2002

SCORM and Modules

SCORM and Modules.

SCORM and Modules

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about standards for courseware and CMS allowing "mix and match" development:

For the first time, evolving technical standards for software are making it possible for colleges to customize distance-learning programs by easily mixing online-learning software from multiple companies.

This is of course exactly the approach to a CMS system that makes the most sense to me. One of the standards the article refers to is SCORM, "the Sharable Content Object Reference Mode." Here's a good overview of SCORM. The difficulty is that talking about a standard is one thing; actually adhering to it is another, far more important step.

[Instructional Technology]