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This site is really about my take on a number of media, technology and music business issues as I smack into them in my life and my business. Among them are: The challenges of running a small record label in the Music 2.0 (sorry) world, audio and music technology and business, learning and instructional technology and media, and just being a 40 something desk jockey with (now - gulp) 10 year old twins. (Sheesh - kids just keep growing and getting older no matter what you do!)

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IMG_0881.JPGI hear that coffee is the new wine - whatever that means. I will say that I have really gotten into coffee this past year. I am no barista and I probably don't even qualify as a coffee geek, but I have put some time into pouring a good cup of joe while supporting fair trade distributors. Currently I am brewing/drinking what so far has to be my favorite source of coffee; Counter Culture coffee. Very fresh, Fair Trade and Organic offerings - check out some of their micro lots. Mmm-Good.

Other good ones: Global Libations in Kutztown Pa, I like their Costa Rican La Amistad, and Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee Wi, thier Dark Sumatra - strong stuff but mmmm good.

Don't forget Joe's Coffee Bar in Philidelphia. Excellent fresh roasted beans and fair trade too!

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« Reflecting on Creativity | Main | Filtering – Clearing and Breaking through the Clutter. Part 1 »
Sunday
May162010

Reflecting on Tech and Tools

There has been a fair amount of discussion in my twitter stream and blog-o-sphere regarding the tech and tools we use to develop and deliver things. Things? Well the discussions I picked up on were in my eLearning universe, but the discussion applies to the tech and tools I use in my music, video, and multimedia worlds as well.

Here is the gist:

My 7 Year old son showing tools from the tool boxThe Man: “We should adopt this tool to:” -Or- “Purchasing this tool will enable anybody in your organization to:” -Or- “This tool is blocking or limiting our ability to:” manage – deliver - create effective, engaging _______ (elearning programs. multimedia programs, video programs, websites, online games, meetings, brochures, signs etc.)

The developer, artisan, artist: “Hey Man, tools do not create and design effective, engaging _______; creative, innovative developers, artisans, artists do.

And then the endless metaphors start: “Getting a power saw to replace a hand saw does not improve the design of the house” etc.

I, like many, have been thorough a lot of these tools and tech debates. The first eLearning (CBT) program that I produced was developed with HyperCard stacks. I clearly remember the discussions at my media production company in the late 90s - “why would anybody want to watch small choppy video on line?” And then the Avid vs. Media 100 followed by the Avid vs. Final Cut camps (still out there).

On the audio and music side – whew, Analog sythns and 30 IPS ¼ inch tape w splice blocks to MIDI (amazingly still around) & the Amiga (heck that was on the video side too – the video toaster!) to mixing and creating “in the box” with Pro-tools, Logic, Albeton Live etc. or even Garage Band for that matter.

Now I can really create something!The evolutionary cycle in technology and how people consume information is ever changing. As a result, we developers, artisans and artists need to constantly assess the tools in our toolbox to be sure that we can “ship our art” (to quote Seth) through the appropriate distribution channels.

In the early 90’s as we migrated from analog to digital, the emergent lesson I (and many) relearned (from the renaissance artists?) was this: Conceive, design, and create your concept, your story - your art. Identify your distribution channel or channels. Then identify and employ the tools required to produce and deliver.

Nothing earth shattering here. Simple. Yet we have all fallen into the trap of either becoming overly comfortable or even dependent on our tools, or the opposite; the habitual early adopter, grabbing the latest and greatest for the sake of having the latest and greatest.

The tools you use to create your art should be comfortable and appropriate for the task. The danger is becoming too comfortable. When you start creating by rote based on the tools you are comfortable with, that should be a warning sign.

PowerPoint

A classic example of this is the recent dust-up regarding PowerPoint.

How PowerPoint is used, or misused, is the real issue. PowerPoint is a tool that has seeped into our collective “think” - our culture. Many have become so comfortable with PowerPoint that they begin to create and think based on their comfort level with the tool, both as creators and consumers of information. The reality is that some concepts are more complex than a single slide info-graphic followed by 3 slides of bullets. This was as true with overhead transparencies or six synchronized slide projectors as it is with PowerPoint. Many have let the tool dictate the art and the distribution channel, instead of utilizing the tool to serve the art and access the channel.

The Learning Management System

In the eLearning world one of the hot discussion points this month regarding tools and tech has been the future and even the usefulness of the LMS (Learning Management System) for providing effective learning in the enterprise. Below are some highlights. Take the time to read them (if you haven’t already). No matter your stance, whether you are an executive or L&D professional or don’t even know what an LMS is, these discussions apply to enterprise 2.0 and any effective management discussion.

What is the Future of the LMS? and A Transition Path to the Future - Jane Hart

LMS is no longer the Center of the Universe and Identifying a Collaboration Platform - Harold Jarche

A case for the LMS? - Clark Quinn

A Defense of the LMS (and a case for the future of Social Learning) - Dave Wilkins

Stand alone LMS is Still Dead - Dan Pontefract

My 2 cents: Learning management systems were initially designed as enterprise facing systems, to schedule, deliver and then track who attends or views training or learning events. For the person looking to learn, the LMS is often a hassle and the butt of jokes. But corporations need the data. In compliance, for now and the near future, those check marks are needed. I think the LMS will rapidly evolve to be a tool that both collects the data for compliance and is a learner-facing platform that includes social and networked learning. But very often an LMS is an example of an expensive tool that is implemented for the wrong reasons. The majority of the time, the clients I work with do not need an LMS.  Nicely designed web sites utilizing an existing SharePoint platform, or setting up a site with something as straightforward as Wordpress would be a far more effective and efficient way to deliver their learning programs.

Flash vs HTML 5

This discussion has been fun to view and participate in and is relevant across all online communication worlds. Here are some great discussions from the eLearning POV

The Begning of Long Slow Death of Flash - Tony Karrer

HTML 5 Let the Games Begin! - Craig Weiss 

Is HTML5 Ready for eLearning Development?Yogesh Agarwal

My 2 cents: This has to do with distribution channels. Mobile is here to stay. That is a fact. In my opinion, this is an area where the developer, artisan, artist has to be nimble and ready to move. I am not going to defend Flash to the end, and I am not abandoning it. HTML 5 is gaining traction so we need to get on board. But also be ready to develop native apps for mobile devices that pull content. This is not a situation to wait and see what is left when the dust settles. The music industry taught us a great lesson. If you keep getting angry and saying wait, you are going to get left behind wondering how some other industry defined how you deliver your art.

I don’t think there is a winner here yet. But no matter, one of your favorite tools will evolve to export to either Flash or HTML 5 (or what they may evolve into).

Just don’t be too comfortable and wait.

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Reader Comments (2)

Very well said

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Lazaunikas

Right on target Steve - as an artist (video editor) I have had to continually re-define myself through the tools that I use; starting back in the day of 2" quad and 16mm, through 3/4" U-Matic and 1" Type C to today's Non-Linear Edit Systems. One constant through all this change has been story-telling, everything else has been an evolution of technology. The bottom line, it isn't necessarily the tool you use, it is the content and user-experience you deliver.

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Persing

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