Friday, December 28, 2007

"One Day"

Every kid wants to be a rock star one day, in whatever industry she chooses to call her own.

One day I'll be a filmmaker! One day I'll be a famous artist! One day I'll be a CEO! One day I'll be a Creative Director! One day I'll be a Venture Capitalist! And so forth.

Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for "One Day" is over. You're either doing it, or you're not. And if you're not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis'.

The other day, someone fifteen years younger than me asked me what I wanted to be "One Day".

I answered, "Doing exactly what I'm doing now, just with more money. And if the money doesn't come, well, that's a shame, but it's not the end of the world, either."

No more dreaming of "One Day". I am here and now. This is it. I can highly recommend it. But I had to kill a lot of dreams, a lot of beautiful dreams, in order to get there.

- Hugh MacLeod


I've been thinking about this a lot since Hugh's post showed up in my feed reader, especially as we get closer to the new year.

I may not be a rock star in my chosen area of expression - more like an indie artist. And it's taken a lot of dream-killing to get here.

Maybe it's that inner knowing - if this is all there is, it's OK - that we are ultimately seeking.

I'm off to Myrtle Beach to reflect, hang with friends and play mini-golf.

May you have a successful and happy 2008!

Odds and Ends

Yes, I AM the center of the universe. Thanks to David Armano for reminding me of this.

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Yes, Janet - I agree. The conversation about tracking competencies and the conversation about collaboration and connection are 2 aspects of the same problem. You explained this beautifully (and I like the pretty pictures).

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Wouldn't it be cool if there were a button on bad tutorials labeled just that?The...'Oh....My....God.......(somebody kill me)' button. - Janet, from her comments to my Tutorial Karma post.


You know, I'm thinking of implementing this idea in future tutorials. Except I'm going to call it Next.

Somebody Kill Me might take too much space.

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That same post also triggered this idea from Dr. Bob Cherry:

My prejudice on this is to favour the short movie approach (using Camtasia).. I find that three short (less than five minute) high impact "videos" are a lot more effective than workthroughs. You can see an example (HTML editor) on my Facebook page.

Also you then offer a student choice. If you have a small armory of videos - each addressing one key point of understanding - then the students can watch with a need to know attitude.

Even more attractive is response to feedback. If a student asks a good questions - I may screencast it up... they love that.. :)


I'll admit I'm a little biased against movies - if only because I have the attention span of a gnat and I need something to keep my fingers occupied, otherwise I start surfing the net after 45 seconds. It may also have something to do with my audience at the time and the subject matter.

I did a brief, not-very-scientific study during a pilot of one of my eLearning projects. I showed the doctors (most of whom have attention spans of gnats on 15 cups of coffee) a 3 minute movie, then a 3 minute interactive tutorial. Facial expressions and level of engagement (they actually said something related to the topic of the tutorial) were much higher with the interactive piece.

That said - I think the idea is a great one. Particularly the video feedback response. Kids like video.....And we all need to be reminded to keep it short. I know I never want to sit through a 3 hour eLearning session again.....

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Congrats to Christy on 1 year of blogging! Happy Anniversary!!!

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A big thank you to the 10 people who voted for me in the EduBlog awards! I'm still amazed I have that many readers!!!!! Mom and Dad don't even read this thing!!!!!

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Oh yeah - and 2 new years resolutions for the blog are:

- To comment more on the comments I don't receive many - but the ones I do get are fantastic. Especially now that I know that others have a fighting chance of seeing my comments to their comments (thank goodness Blogger finally put in a "subscribe to comment thread" feature).

- To finally get around to tagging all of my previous posts.

Hopefully, I won't have to make these same 2 resolutions next year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How to Get Me to Do Your (Professional) Bidding

Thank you for all of your help with the project. I'll take a closer look at the module today or on 12/26, and particularly look at #s 3 and 19. If need be, we can always aim to get other images in place for those slides, if it's not too much trouble for you.

Have a great long weekend, and happy holidays to you and your family.
It's great to have you on board...!



Actual e-mail received last week from the Director of Student Affairs.

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If this man does not know how to write the nicest e-mail....

Why am I so smitten?

1) He gave me dates to expect when he is going to complete his review. (BTW - he did exactly what he said he was going to do on the dates that he gave me - early morning, even.)

2) He obviously paid attention to my questions / concerns. The usual response I've received in the past has been either stony silence or, if I'm lucky, vague direction. This time, I am confident I will get a real solution driven by the person who should be driving the project rather than me guessing and praying that I'm right.

3) He is taking responsibility for the things he (or one of his people) should be responsible for. For example, he's the one finding the pictures he wants in the tutorial to represent his organization. I could do it, but he's taken this upon himself - something I wish I would see more often.

Though it's not in this letter, he's also been working with me to figure out ways to most easily transmit those images and information in a way that makes it easy for me to incorporate into the project and that is easy for him to post. (I heart Google Pages). Win/win. And we are both noticing that the project is moving much faster as a result.

4) He asks me if it's too much trouble! (Wow! Someone who actually respects the amount of work online tutorials take! I'm trying to remember the last time I saw that....)

5) He actually THANKED ME!!!!!

And I know he means it! He took the time to type 2 custom sentences thanking me and making me feel welcome!!!!

It's not "Thank you though I don't mean it and want you to do lots of stuff for me that I needed yesterday and oh by the way I have lots of complaints about the stuff you haven't done for me because you couldn't read my mind and complaints about the stuff you did do because you couldn't read my mind....."

or "I'm thanking you because it is an automatic part of my signature line so that you think I care about your feelings."

Even if I hadn't met the man in person before (and I have), count me impressed.

Can you imagine if EVERYONE worked this way!?! Think about what we could accomplish (and how much lower our blood pressure would be)!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Doors and Details



Some of my favorite fantasy men.....
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One of the fantastic things about holidays (and a boyfriend who loves to sleep until 1pm) is the ability to watch MY shows.

This weekend's choice - a This Old House marathon.

I've been watching this show since I was a kid. This Old House triggered my love for seeing how stuff happened "behind the scenes."

Watching Tom Silva (the contractor) install a door, I was struck by the level of detail these gentlemen put into even a prosaic project. Go to the site and watch one of the videos to see what I mean. The man had tools I didn't even know existed! And I've spent quality time at Home Depot over the years. (A clamp to help you drill doorknob holes - who knew?)

I live in a rental and have no business improving anything (as badly as the apartment may need it). And I generally don't tackle large (and many small) projects without the supervision of those more skilled, more patient and less klutzy than I. This many years later, I still find home improvement shows endlessly fascinating.

Thinking about it, I realized that these gentlemen (don't see too many ladies on This Old House, I'm afraid) are able to pay attention to this level of detail (a DOOR for pete's sake!) and still manage to get projects done in a reasonable time. Multiply all of the little details, still keeping an eye on the big picture, and you can see how the overall quality of the project goes up.

I see this in eLearning tutorials. A little bit of attention to details goes a long way. Removing the clicks and breathing from the audio track. Checking navigation for consistency. Making sure the captions are the same color and font specified in the style guide. Building a style guide in the first place. The little things that add up.

I find that when I don't take the time to do these little things, it eats me up every time I take a look at the project. And, invariably, someone more retentive than I am notices....

OK - so I'm a bit of a perfectionist.

Of course, I do these things with an eye towards the important goal - helping to teach someone to do something.

Much like building a house - it's pointless to pay close attention to doorknob placement when the wall is falling down. But when you have a sound structure, the little details really do make all the difference.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are YOU Allowed to Write Like This?

Thanks to the nice folks at Signal vs. Noise for finding this tutorial.....

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Peerless Faucets put together two fantastic online tutorials. One to uninstall your old faucet. The second to help you install the new one.

How often are you allowed to create things like this......





Love the pictures!!!!!

These tutorials make me want to go out and replace my bathroom faucet....even though I'm a renter and I don't have to / shouldn't.

Come to think of it, I wish I had instructions like this when I installed a water filter in the fraternity house for my "little sister project." Retelling this episode is a source of great amusement almost 20 years later.....

My tutorials are much drier. They are "approved by committee." Can't offend anyone. Gotta be "professional." What you create can and will be used against you.......

But then I think - what's really stopping me from creating something fun? Developing a tutorial that makes the person want to go out and DO that thing you are teaching them?

Fear? Some misguided sense of professionalism (which I have obviously chucked writing this blog)?

I'm currently working on a tutorial for new student employees in our Student Academic Support department. It's filled with formal "don't do this, don't do that" type stuff. The legal department has approved the text and script and the project has been in the works for over a year.

I stare at the Captivate slides, listen to the audio (capably done by some of the university's graduate students) and think that if I was a student, I'd NEVER want to work in that department. I'd be paralyzed with all of the things I shouldn't do.

The sad thing about all of this is that the folks involved in scripting the tutorial seem to be fun-loving, interesting folks. The graduate students who did the audio were friendly and engaging. I've had a great time working with these people. There has to be a way to reflect that personality in the tutorial.

I'm hoping to release a draft for review today. Maybe I can convince them that adding more of their fun-loving, engaging personality into the presentation would do more to encourage the behaviors and values they wish to instill in their new employees.

Any recommendations?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tutorial Karma

All of the bad interactive tutorial things I have ever built have come back to haunt me.

As part of my new job learning, I am working through the tutorials for the university's enterprise system.

Oh....My....God.......Is this what I'm doing to my audience?!?!?!

While going through the introductory tutorial (which took me about 2 hours), I noticed that I was trying to "game the system." to get through it. I also found myself becoming more aggravated as I worked through the tutorial. I don't think this is the emotional response the instructional designer or eLearning developer had in mind.

I was dismayed by my reaction. What caused it? The eLearning Developer took time to create these tutorials and worked very hard to make the tutorials themselves very user friendly so the student could focus on the material. He or she also had some strong Authorware chops, judging from some of the interactivity.

In comparison, I looked at one of the tutorials JM built before he left. It was a straight movie, but I found it infinitely more useful and engaging.

Why?

Here's what I think:

1) Audience - trying to please multiple audiences means that you please no one (best case) or confuse them (worst case). JM's tutorial had a distinct audience - the university's end user. The vendor tutorial tried to provide end-user training + information for the developers so they could make configuration decisions. They should have been treated separately, especially since 98% of the end users will not have control over how the system is configured.

2) Context - context gives the audience something to relate to. As a result, they are more likely to pay attention. The vendor is at a disadvantage here since they have to focus on the most general workflow. JM could build things that are very specific to the organization. That's to be expected.

In one of the tutorials, the vendor provided a general workflow for application processing (student applies to school, information entered into system using x form, etc). Fine. But then they quizzed me on it. Uh - what if my university has different practices.

I would rather the vendor focus on how their application behaves rather than telling me how to do business unless there is a very specific technical reason why I have to do something a certain way. Oh - and tell my WHY it's best this way. It's something I've done for my students. Why can't the vendor do it for us? It will save a lot of heartache on all sides. (I think this has to do with the "sales function" a lot of vendor-supplied training has to perform.....)

Wendy begins her climb to the top of her soapbox....

3) I hate multiple choice questions for assessing application training - There, I said it. I say this in person and I'm saying it here: A, B, C, or D - which tab do you click does NOT tell me whether the person knows how to use the program (or even where that tab is located). It does not tell me whether the person will be accurate or efficient using the program once they leave my tutorial. So WHY ARE WE STILL BUILDING THIS TYPE OF ASSESSMENT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Yes, I KNOW they are easier to build. But with some of the tools we have at our disposal (Captivate does have easy click boxes. And Captivate 2 and 3 have easy ways to administer this interactivity) - can't we score THAT instead? You can include click boxes in the Quiz results..... We can even use the text entry in the Quiz results!!!!!!

The crazy woman on the soapbox begins jumping up and down....

4) If you are going to provide a demonstration of a workflow, then have me "practice" - at least make the example in the practice different. This is what triggered me to "game the system." As soon as I realized the demonstration was the EXACT SAME THING as the practice, I looked for ways to avoid the demonstration.

AT LEAST MAKE ME THINK JUST A LITTLE BIT!!!! PUHLEEEZE!!!!!!

Yes, I know this won't be popular with our audience - but if we're gonna start encouraging "learning" in our charges - the least we can do is make them use their brain a little.

5) If you are going to have me interact with the program - at least give me a scenario rather than have me press buttons at random. I went through 5 practice exercises where I was pressing buttons at random. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why. There was no workflow or particular reason. The buttons I pushed didn't accomplish anything. I finished that tutorial more confused about how the application worked than when I started.

I don't think that's what the instructional designer had in mind.

Wendy steps off her soapbox.

I am going to continue torturing myself with the vendor tutorials as I prepare for some of my projects. I hope I don't wind up boring/aggravating my students the same way....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Results from Pinging the Network

The feedback I've received from my little "pinging the network" experiment has been quite informative. More for what is missing than for what I received.

After a couple of weeks, here's what I've learned:

1) Don't ask a question that's too nebulous. Thank you Christy, Tony, Dr. Cherry for encouraging me to clarify my request. And for other potential avenues to try...

2) Don't ask too many questions at once. I think my attempt at clarity got a bit out of control. The silence was deafening. It was worth a shot.....

3) The purpose of social networks is the people, not the information. The information comes with the correct people.

Still haven't figured out the most efficient way to configure my Captivate projects for porting into Skillsoft. Thus far, the only response I've received from the vendor has been "take a look at our content library." A standard vendor response (the polite version of RTFM). I've looked at the content library and the information will be very helpful for marketing the e-learning initiative to the end-user, or if I was programming for SCORM compliance cold. Not so much for configuring Captivate projects.

I've also been informed that there is a Custom Content team. I would be very excited to work with the Custom Content team if they would give me some names and contact information. The vendor has not been particularly forthcoming. And I promise not to bother them too much. Really.

So if any of you happen to know someone who works on Skillsoft's Custom Content team (or better, someone who works with both SkillPort LMS and Captivate) - please contact me via the blog or wwickha1@gmail.com.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blogging and the New Job

I find that new jobs offer an opportunity to start fresh and learn new things - both professionally and personally. As I've gotten older, I'm realizing how important sussing out the culture of a place really is. I'm really lucky that my co-workers have proven to be willing and candid guides in this new environment.

Of course, this time, I've also made more of a point to ask questions BEFORE acting. Something I was not conscious enough to do in my previous jobs.

On the first full day - I asked my co-workers about my blogging.

You're not going to say anything bad about us, are you?

Only anonymously - and I will talk to you first. I don't want you being surprised by anything I say in the blog. It was a courtesy I made in my last job and I had no intention of changing that policy.

We can live with that.

I know my co-workers read this blog (Hi Guys!), so that makes these discussions important.

The main reason why I got the job was because of this blog. They are fully aware of my usual subject matter and I wanted to make sure that I could continue talking about projects. I think that sharing both the good and bad of a project is incredibly valuable. I do this for myself (mostly as a form of therapy), but it seems to help my 5 readers as well (Thanks Janet for pointing this out!).

I still speak for myself and only myself in this blog. Besides, I would much rather talk about my personal foibles than expose others. Strikes me as the right thing to do (even if it is a tad bit foolhardy), especially when speaking in public.

I am still in the process of getting comfortable in the new job. So far so good.

Wow! I'm Gamer 3.0!!!!

So this old dog can still be taught new tricks....

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I'm always amazed by what Karl Kapp seems to get out of his students.

A recent batch built this cool Gamer Rater.

He's looking for feedback. I'm trying to figure out how they did it and praying they didn't use a lot of complicated programming or Flash techniques....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Enthusiasm Trumping Talent

Much to our collective surprise, the bowling team has managed to maintain either first or second place for all but 2 weeks of the season.

Even more surprising, our obnoxious behavior is slowly winning over some of the more serious teams in the league.

We cheer when one of us strikes.

We cheer when one of us spares.

We cheer when one of us gets a nasty split. And yell "Field Goal!" as the ball goes through that split. (Nothing more satisfying than watching 4 of your closest friends act like a cheerleading squad. Now if I could only convince the boys to wear wigs, pompoms, and skirts....)

We cheer when one of us picks up a tricky shot - or sends the ball into the gutter (We call 2 gutterballs in a row a "Dodo." I've had a few of those).

And we do the same thing for the other team - at least the strikes and spares and good shots. The mocking we save for each other.

Last night, we played one of the most serious teams in the league. They have the best bowler in the entire alley (a 200 pin average). Everyone else on the team hold 150+ pin averages.

By the second game, even the 200 bowler was smiling and high-fiving us. Other teams looked over at the jacked-up freaks (us) in alley 36 wondering what the heck was going on to loosen up the "serious team". I don't think the league has ever seen the 200 bowler SMILE before.

One of the ladies on the serious team was not bowling well that night.
"You know, I'm bowling almost 70 points below my average..." (I was having a good evening and actually beat her 2 of the 3 games). "And I'm having the best time bowling in years!!!!"

That was the best complement we've received all season....

4 of the 5 of us on the team still believe that our emphasis on bonding with each other Monday nights is more important than our scores. (Fearless leader is not entirely convinced yet - but the rest of us will slowly break him down...)

And I suspect that our enthusiasm is going to get us through this season with flying colors. Who knows, with our crummy handicaps and obnoxious attitude, we may pull out first place at the end after all.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Captivate and Skillsoft

This is my attempt at clarifying what I'm looking for. I'm hoping that I'm not confusing things further.

I really appreciate all of the help and feedback I have received thus far from the eLearning community. I'm also going to be sending the link to this post through Facebook and to the eLearning Guild group (thanks for the idea Christy!).

I'm going to summarize everything as I get information and try things out. If all goes well, I hope to publish a step-by-step in the reasonably near future.

If all doesn't go well - I'm sure I'll tell you about it.

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Publishing a tutorial to an LMS has 2 parts:
- Creating and publishing the tutorial
- Importing the tutorial to the LMS

I need help with the settings for the Captivate tutorial.

I am going to work with Skillsoft for how I should set up the course within the LMS.

The best way I figured I could explain what I need is through a series of pictures...(at least until I can figure out how to get .swf files into Blogger...)

If you have a Captivate file (.cp) you are willing to share with me, please send me an e-mail at wwickha1@gmail.com.

Oh - and any other advice you all might have in working with an LMS vendor is greatly appreciated as well.

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Individual interactions (click boxes, text entry, etc.)
Any recommendations for formats for the Objective ID and the Interactive ID?



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Quiz Reporting - Does Skillsoft prefer the score reported as a raw score or as a percent? Does it matter?

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SCORM Manifest - Any recommendations for the format for the Course Identifier and the SCO Identifier?

I know that in Skillsoft the Mastery score in the Captivate file needs to be the same as the Minimum score in the Skillsoft course.



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LMS Customization settings - When I talk to Skillsoft, is there anything I need to ask regarding these settings?



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Project Quiz Settings - Do the Objective and Interaction ID in the project settings need to be the same as in the individual interaction? (I've never been entirely sure how this works...)



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PENS - Is there anything I need to consider when I talk to Skillsoft about these settings? Information I must make sure I have to make these tutorials successfully run in Skillsoft?



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Again - thank you so much for all of your help!!!!!!!

Playing Games: Dance Dance Revolution

Thank you to my Facebook network and the blogger community for your feedback on my search for ways to best import a Captivate SCORM project into SkillSoft LMS. I am currently working on a post to, hopefully, clarify what I am looking for.
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I'm not as good as this kid.....


My clothes are still a little tight after that 3 week vacation. And I REFUSE to buy more clothes because I don’t want things to settle in. So, as part of my strategy to readjust my distribution of fat and muscle, I got Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) Ultramix 2 for the Xbox.

I have no rhythm (see Guitar Hero). The only time you find me in clubs is when my not-so-well-meaning male friends decide they need a female in the hunting party to make them seem “desirable and harmless.” Those evenings usually end up in wounded male egos or “romantic misadventures” for them and high entertainment for me.

As a result of my prior experiences, my hatred of aerobics (I go to an aerobics class at least once a year to see if my mind has changed. Not yet.) and my inability to dance, I'm shocked I find this game so engaging.

Here's my thoughts after 1 week of play:

- The music makes interesting background noise. I wouldn't listen to 95% of it voluntarily, but then - I wouldn't inflict my taste in music on anyone. At times, I feel like I'm in an aerobics class led by hopped-upHello Kitty fans.

- There is a practice mode that is quite useful. It allows you to practice the same song and steps ad nauseum to develop the motor memory to impress friends (not that I'd let any of them see me play this thing) and casual observers.

- It's actually EASIER to play DDR with the music at speed than it is when it is slower. This klutz was surprised by this finding. When the music is slow, it is all about making sure you hit the pad at the exact moment. When the music and steps are faster, it's easier to develop a rhythm and hit the steps at the right time.

- That said, once you lose your balance or get off rhythm, it's harder to get back on.

- The game only sees whether you miss steps. It does not check to see if you've hit the wrong thing. As a result, on really fast songs, I find myself "jump-roping." Great exercise, but I'm not entirely sure that's the point of the game.

- Good luck with this game if you are color-blind. The psychedelic backgrounds and the flashing arrows are occasionally hard to see when the arrows and the backgrounds match.

- Much of the game is about finding and executing patterns. I find myself scanning for the next move maybe one or 2 steps before I have to execute. If a pattern develops, I scan further down to see when it will change. After a few exposures, I discover that I'm trying to predict the next move or pattern and will my legs to execute. Because of my iffy kinesthetic intelligence, execution does not always match intent.

So what did I learn from all of this?

Well, I think DDR will help me with my balance and coordination, as well as my cardio fitness. I don't think it's going to help me bust moves on the dance floor or encourage me to go clubbing anytime soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Testing the Power of Blogging

I need help!

Situation: Part of my new job includes implementing Thomson NetG/SkillSoft to replace GWU's homegrown GLearn system.

As a result, I need to convert all of the existing Captivate tutorials to be SCORM compliant and publishable to NetG.

Do you know anyone that uses Captivate and imports it to NetG who would be willing to share one of their working Captivate files?

You can leave a comment here or contact me at wwickha1@gmail.com

I have also sent the same message to my Facebook network.

Thank you so much for your help. Please let me know if you need more information.

Wendy

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Reason for My Absence

During any major change - there is a period of chaos where you start putting together patterns and habits to incorporate that change.

I've started my new job and am in the process of learning all sorts of new stuff.

I do have some posts ready (kinda) - it just may take me awhile.

I'll tell you all about it when I've got life in some semblance of order.....

Thank you for your patience. See you on the flip side....

What I Learned about Learning

The Learner needs to be responsible for their own learning.

All we can do is help....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Archive of EHR / EMR Posts

I will not have to administer, train, or even look at an electronic medical record in my new job. After 5 years as an EMR trainer, you have NO IDEA how much this excites me!!!!!! The new job should provide more exciting tools to play with.

This series of posts is essentially a diary of a major upgrade project. With all of the ups and downs high-stakes projects entail. I've divided the posts up into sections for easier searching.

Preparation / Planning

So Why is the LMS Such a Big Deal?

What Keeps Me Up At Night

Adventures in Customer Service

Further Adventures in Customer Service

Gearing Up for the Big Project

So Much for my New Years Resolution

A Political Monster Gets Real

Grappling with Demotivation

Defining the SuperUser

Thanks Karyn!

Reducing my Scope and Checking the Box

How Intuitive Is It?

Meeting with Practice Administrators

Joining Me on My Planet

Letting Go

The Train Derails

Piloting Clinician Training

Jackhammers and Spoons

From Theory to Practice

Promising Trends in Health Care

Experimenting with Letting Go

When Will They Go Away!!!!

Oldsters vs. Youngsters

Working in Parallel

Big Bang Implementations

5 EHR Training Tips

Perspective Smacks Us In The Head

Working in Circles

More Training Pilots

Working Past Overwhelm

Results of the Staff Training Pilots

Disconnecting Input and Output

Evolving Meetings

Update

More Hoops of Fire

Cold Feet

Training

Working with Contract Trainers

Starting Shorhanded

Week 1 Day 1 - Losing the Beginner's Eye

Week 1 Day 2 - Deer in Headlights

Week 1 Day 3 - The Calm Before the Storm

Week 1 Day 4 - The Freaks and the Procrastinators

Week 1 Day 5 - Flexibility and Goodwill

Week 2 Day 1 - Where Did Everyone Go?

Week 2 Day 2 - Getting Informal

Week 2 Day 3 - Mucky Muck Visit 1

Week 2 Day 4 - Mucky Muck Visit 2

Week 2 Day 5 - Successful Benchmark

Go Live Week

Go Live Weekend

Support Day 1 - Did It Stick?

Support Days 2 and 3 - Fighting Back

Aftermath

Post Upgrade - Groundhog Day

2 Weeks Later - Things Forgotten

The Dog and Pony Show

The Organization Gets Serious

EHR Upgrade: One Month Later

Motivational Problems

Opportunities for Comparison

Bonding Between Sides

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Final Thoughts - I hope I NEVER have to do a project of this sort again. Completely personal opinion here that will not be popular with my ex co-workers (but they are already aware of this, so I don't feel so bad about putting it out there:

Rushing major upgrades of mission critical systems may look glamorous but you can cause serious long-term damage. To the morale of the IT team, to the goodwill of the end user. And to the system itself if you have a partially finished product.

It has taken months and they still have not recovered. No one's fault, but very preventable.

Archive of Moodle Posts

My new job will not use Moodle. They are transitioning from a home-grown, simple web page with a database to Skill Soft. This transition should make great writing fodder in the future

Here's the Moodle implementation - start to finish:

Implementing Moodle

Moodle from Local Host to DNS

Convincing the Boss

Convincing the Boss - the Demo Courses

Convincing the Boss - a Successful First Benchmark

Next Step - Convincing Senior Staff

Arguments for Open Source in a Corporate Environment

Finding Talent Right in Front of You

Stupid Moodle Tricks - Setting Up LDAP

Moodle Human Issues - User Accounts

Decisions Part 1 - User Accounts

Stupid Moodle Tricks - Moodle Videos

Breaking the Impasse

Moodle Benchmark 2 - Convincing the IT Staff

Moodle Benchmark 2.5 - Checking in with the Boss

Issues of Trust

Training Pilots

Crashing Moodle

The Senior Management Un-Meeting

The Middle Manager Meeting

Talk vs. Action

Physician Reaction

Update: Talk vs Action

Practicing Subversion

Preparing for the Moodle Upgrade

While My Moodle Server Weeps

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Final Thoughts: Because our EMR implementation was so rushed, and my priorities wound up on projects for sale outside of the organization, we lost a fantastic opportunity to really implement Moodle effectively as a support and teaching tool.

The best opportunity we had was during the training weeks for the EMR Upgrade. I didn't have a chance....

I have finished most of the tutorials for getting through the clinic visits. Administrative workflows are still not finalized so I couldn't build those tutorials, and the Vital Sign function only started working last month. Sadly - I won't have the time to start the sales pitch on the new tutorials.

I've pretty much left Moodle in a position where it can be ignored for awhile until someone decides to take ownership and start the reintroduction process. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

The organization still needs to get through 1 more major system upgrade (the EMR upgrade screwed up our system so badly that the Business Systems vendor REFUSES to start the project until our systems are stable). They have a project on the books that has them absorbing another hospitals IT systems and bringing them up on our EMR (the hospital is as big as we are...and has a whole 'nother set of issues). And I'm hoping they will be able to stop the groundhog day rounds: taking help desk calls, trying to fix them, reporting them to the vendor, testing the fix, reporting new bugs, taking help desk calls, repeat.

Oh yeah - and they are still going to be short-handed. According to the boss, they are bringing at least 4 people, not including my position, a system administrator position that has been vacant for 18 months, and an interface specialist who is leaving in January. I hope those people come soon......

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Discovering Guitar Hero

Discovering Guitar Hero

My brother is a bad, bad man.

Hey Wendy, I got Guitar Hero III for the Xbox 360. Wanna play?


Of course!!!!

Guitar Hero strikes me as a fancy version of Simon with much better sound.



For us non-musicians - this thing is harder than it appears.

If you know the song - it's much easier to predict where the song is going.

After 2 separate encounters, I can report the following:

- I managed to get through Pat Benatar's Hit Me with your Best Shot on the first try. Yes - I like Pat Benatar. Whatsittoya......

- Foghat's Slow Ride took me about 3 tries. I forgot how great this song was.

- Heart's Barracuda took me 2 tries. Thank goodness for those long chords....

- I am shamed that I am embarrasingly bad at Kiss' Rock and Roll All Night and Rage Against the Machines' Bulls on Parade.

- This thing is almost embarrasingly addictive. Because dangit - I'm gonna figure out that riff!!!!

I talked to my Dad and Brother about how this might translate into learning how to play music. Their consensus - it doesn't.

Dad's Take (he plays trumpet and ukelele): You get good at a specific skill - getting good at Guitar Hero. But there really isn't a translation between this and playing music.

Bro's take (he plays drums, ukelele and bass): It might help with rhythm a bit - but that's about it. Sometimes the riffs are different from what you expect from the music. I suspect that's why it doesn't translate to real life quickly.

Thankfully - Dad and Bro have the family music ability so I don't have to.

So now I have a weird new addiction. My next goal - find Guitar Hero III for the Wii, so I can spend endless hours trying to get through Bulls on Parade.

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Karl Kapp's wife has also discovered Guitar Hero. And I agree with her - the interface is a lot of fun....

Spit-Takes and Good News


Nothing like having a shock that winds up shooting Starbucks out your nose....(BTW - not a pleasant experience....)

Cruising through my feed reader, I found this from Tony Karrer.

I generally trust what he has to say, but this was so out there I had to check it out. Danged if he wasn't right.

Oh yeah - I voted for Tony. Because he's one of those folks who keep me informed about what's going on outside of my cubicle and takes the time to send me thoughtful feedback. The other blogs are fantastic too (can't we have check boxes so I can choose all of them ?????) and deserve a place in my reader.

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Second piece of good news: I'm changing jobs!!!!!!!!

This turn of events is a direct result of my blogging. Let me explain....

Tony Karrer found my blog when I first started. Other, highly educated people started reading and I developed some fantastic contacts.

This summer, Dr. Karrer was kind enough to ask me to contribute to an article on blogging for Training and Development, September 2007.

JM, one of the trainers on the academic side, read the article and decided to contact me.

One thing led to another and, next thing I know, I'm leaving health care and going back to higher education. Literally moving across the street....

Oh - and the new job is going to allow me to go to eLearning conferences without having to grovel!!!!! I'm so excited I can barely stand it!!!!!! I'll finally get a chance to meet some of you!!!!!!

None of this would have happened (this easily) if I didn't start blogging.

I start next Monday. Hence my silence - I'm trying to wrap things up in the old job.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Cat/Dog Experiment Round 2

Kaia""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5135643166888186706"Kaia

Kaia (boyfriend's dog) has come to visit for Thanksgiving. Spike and Chainsaw (the cats) are handling the interloper visitor with their trademark combination of caution, studied nonchalance and moderate alarm.

Spike and Chainsaw have become much more comfortable with their surroundings since Kaia's last visit. The obligatory layer of cat fur has been placed around the apartment. Daily patterns have been adapted to the new environment and stabilized. As a result, the cats feel better prepared to handle any challenge.

They have also seen this particular interloper before and remember some things about dealing with her:

Chainsaw
- Chainsaw is large enough that Kaia won't go after him. Therefore, Chainsaw plays the role of "defender" when Kaia notices Spike and decides she wants to "interact" (i.e chase Spike). Thankfully - all parties are so old (Chainsaw is 15, Spike is 14, Kaia is 13) that this doesn't happen very often.

Spike
- Kaia is losing her eyesight. Therefore, Spike figures if he moves real slow - she won't notice. He also takes advantage of his grey coat - using high spots, dark areas, and feeder woman (me) as cover.

- All parties have established their optimum "hang out" locations. Kaia has claimed underneath the coffee table and an area by the front door. She also has the main bedroom. Spike and Chainsaw have the top of the couch (the perfect location to keep an eye on the dog) and the guest bedroom.

Despite the intrusion, Spike and Chainsaw insist on maintaining their daily patterns. Spike still gives the morning and afternoon state-of-the-beastie address. Chainsaw MUST have his humidifier treatment and morning shower (which consists of him sitting next to the shower, waiting patiently for me to get out of the shower, then hopping into the bathtub and rolling around on the wet porcelain - much more effective than licking fur). And, as long as the dog doesn't try to eat their food (Kaia loves cat food), they are perfectly content.

The familiarity with the environment and prior knowledge of the interloper has made this particular visit less stressful on all parties.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dipping in the Sample Cabinet

Psych departments in multi-specialty practices have the best sample cabinets. (We keep trying to convince them to share...but they are very protective of their stash.)

It figures that a Psychopharmacologist would dip into that cabinet to come up with this video:



I will never be a psychopharmacologist - but I suspect Dr. Stephen Stahl is a heck of a teacher.

Found by the nice folks at The OmniBrain

PG-13 Sesame Street

Maybe I'm just over-reacting...but does anyone else find this disturbing?

According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”


WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!
Have we become that fearful as a society?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I am going to seek this out for my 1 year old nephew (along with unedited versions of old-school Warner Brothers cartoons).

I think his parents will approve.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sound Familiar?

....Life in America feels like perpetually rushing to five-alarm emergencies in an ambulance pulled by stoned cats
- Martha Beck - WebMd


I'm glad it's not just me.......

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Random Grab Bag of Unrelated Ideas

Courtesy of Dave Snowden:

Any writer who can use the image of Paris Hilton as a researcher to make her point has my utmost respect. Jennifer Ouellette must have been inspired by Ms. Hilton's charitable work towards saving the drunk elephants. Cocktail Party Physics is highly entertaining reading.

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I share Karen's mixed feelings. On the one hand - I'm thrilled that anyone with an elementary school education can read me (though much of the subject matter would probably bore them to tears). On the other hand - I'm cowed by those who write at a higher level. Especially when they use the "big words" (e.g zeitgeist, paradigm, any -ology or -onomy) correctly.

cash advance

Then I remember the rant I would give my students when I taught University-level history: If a 3rd grader can't understand what you are saying - how do I know that you know what you are talking about?

Understand that the above rant is directed at kids right out of high school - NOT the eloquent bloggers who populate my Google Reader and who are willing to engage me at their level and let me know that I am not completely out of my mind....
(Thanks again, Tom!)

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So THAT'S why I've sprouted more gray hair this year!!!

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This post from gapingvoid makes me revisit if there truly is a difference between "education" and "marketing". How many vendor tutorials look like lengthy sales pitches? How much time are you spending in your classes "selling" your topic?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Effects of a Lengthy Vacation

I just completed my first few days of work in over 3 weeks. Though I was sick for part of that time - I am finding myself coming back to my job with more focus. Some of the focus is directly related to the vacation. The rest of the focus is related to an exciting change I will announce in the coming weeks....

- Time off and AWAY FROM WORK (not checking e-mails, etc) gives you a new perspective on what you do. I find that it is very difficult to get that perspective when I am at home but still working. I suspect this is because in our hyper-connected world - you never quite get away unless you completely unplug. And having reduced everyone's expectations - I'm noticing my phone is much quieter upon this return than it was after previous vacations. I've gotten more space to catch up. (BTW: from reading my hundreds of e-mails - looks like I didn't miss much....)

- Things work just fine without me there. And that's OK...... Over the years, I've learned that it is much easier to move on and gain the space to learn new things when you are replaceable in your current position. If I improve what I have and share my knowledge with others to the point where I'm not needed - that's a victory. If I continue to generate results - I'm OK.

- The extended time off allows me to do some planning. What do I want my career to look like? What type of relationships do I want with my co-workers? What changes do I need to make in the way I operate to be more efficient and effective and nicer to be around?

- It's easier to practice ways of coping with the inevitable pressures of work when you are not under intense stress all the time. With enough practice when stress-reduction strategies are NOT needed, I hope I can use those practices successfully when do I need them. Except for 1 slip (which was justified - I have a practice manager who refuses to take responsibility for anything and I finally called her out, with the approval of my boss of course) - I've done OK. Now I just have to learn to turn off when I get home...

- I've discovered that I've hit the point in my life that taking 3 weeks off and doing very little physical activity (plus having the refrigerator right there and lots of time to cook) is a great way to ensure that my work clothes fit snuggly upon my return. OK - I was sick for about 1/2 of that time, but still....

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the ability to take 3 whole weeks off without worrying about a paycheck or whether I have enough vacation days to cover the time.

There are some big changes afoot over the next month. I'll announce these changes after Thanksgiving. If I can contain my excitement for that long....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The 16-second Challenge

Any visit to Daytona Beach has to include a visit to Daytona International Speedway - mecca for all things NASCAR.

Any iconic American tourist destination has to have it's special museum. The Daytona Speedway has Daytona USA.

One of the attractions is the 16-second Pit Stop Challenge. Essentially, 3 people are chosen from the crowd to change a tire. 1 person retrieves and lifts the tire, 1 person mans the air gun, 1 person mans the lift and removes the old tire. Ideally - they would beat the time of the house "Pit Crew".

Watching this made me wonder - how quickly can someone learn a new task?

Prerequisites to the experience: Ostensibly, none. But I have a feeling the majority of the folks selected to participate in the experience have watched pit crews on television. And I have a feeling most of those selected have also changed a tire at least once. Because of the size and weight of the tires and the type of equipment used during the demonstration, I doubt that kids are selected.

Demonstration: The show starts with the house pit crew changing the tire. This provides a benchmark for the selected team as well as a demonstration of the task.

Training: The standard video is played. But for the actual participants - this serves as background noise as the pit crew quickly shows them how to use the equipment. How to use the jack and it's quirks. The on/off and directional switches for the air gun. Optimum placement and strategies for changing the tire. I wonder if this multi-pronged approach helped the participants or distracted them.

Testing: Soon after the video ended, the newbie pit crew was expected to perform. The participants in our show managed to change the tire in 14.23 seconds. Best time of the day (12:30pm). Not sure if anyone beat them that day - but for three guys who obviously did not know each other and had only learned the material right then and there - they performed respectably.

I guess the real test would be to bring those same 3 guys back a day later, then a week later to see whether the information stuck. I would also be curious to see what impact a delay between training and performance would cause.

The show is a lot like many of our training programs. It is much easier to demonstrate performance improvement directly after the fact than it is after a delay of any sort. Depending on how much related prior experience those 3 gentlemen came in with - they may have quickly forgotten what they did to change the tire. They will remember the emotions and the story....

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Two other questions came up while I watched the 16-second Pit Stop Challenge:

Are spending way too much time on the explanation / demonstration piece and not enough time on the practice piece? What is the minimum we need to do? How much of our explanation / demonstration time is really CYA?

Would playing information related to the material in the background (while the students are fully concentrated on another task) improve immediate and long-term retention?

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Yes - it's been a great 3 weeks away from work.....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Taureaux Piscine (Bulls and Swimming Pools)



Those crazy French....

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One of the beautiful things about a computer moratorium is the necessary rediscovery of books.

For whatever reason, I find myself in ruts when most of my life is on a computer. Meandering through libraries and random reading help me broaden my knowledge pool of odd trivia.

Case in point - Taureaux Piscine. Discovered while reading Calvin Trillin's Travels with Alice on the 6am flight from DC to Orlando.

The entire point of the exercise - stand in the makeshift pool with the bull. Do so - you win. Do it again, win again.

Trillin interviewed the "inventor" of Taureax Piscine, Emile Bilhau who said that the "sport" was meant to be a replacement for the boring amateur events during bullfights.

So why combine bulls and swimming pools?

"I wanted to find the comical point of view. What is there that's comical? There's water. There's a custard pie." - Emile Bilhau


There are other variants as well:

Taureaux Football - soccer in a bullring with a bull in it. 'Nuff said....

Taureaux Pasteque (Bull and Watermelon) - Competitors are seated at a bench with a piece of watermelon to eat - in a bullring with a bull. They must eat the watermelon only at the bench. Those eating contests would be much more interesting to watch if the competitors had to worry about being gored.

I would sincerely like to see what Taureaux Custard Pie might look like....

So much of what we do is a variant of other stuff we already do. It's easy to get into a rut. Mr Bilhau took something common (in his culture at least) - bullfighting - and added an element that created a new sport (of a sort).

What simple thing can you add to your project that will make it out of the ordinary?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Watching Surfers

Last Saturday, I spent the afternoon on the Cocoa Beach Pier watching the surfers.

The surf is not particularly high at Cocoa Beach on a normal day. Maybe a couple of feet. With Hurricane Noel spinning in the Atlantic this weekend, the surf was 8-10 feet with higher swells. Surfer's dream.

The Cocoa Beach surfers were out in force on Saturday - many of them hovering around the pier, where the sand bars created the best swells. Watching the surfers, I spied a couple of strategies:

Catch every wave you can

These surfers would swim out to the end of the pier, sit for 2 waves to catch their breath, then attempt to catch the next wave. Once successfully caught - they would swim back out to the end of the pier and repeat the process.

These kids do more actual "surfing". But it's not always quality. Often, they are trying to make their way back to the pier when the big ones come. And they tire out early - especially if they are getting hit by the big ones while they are trying to swim out. I noticed these kids are out of the water after an hour.

Wait for the big ones

These surfers would swim out, and wait. It looks like they are not doing much. Just sitting on their boards....waiting....watching....looking for patterns. When the situation looks just right, they surf.

Some of these surfers misjudge the wave and find themselves on a dud. Some of these surfers don't quite catch the wave because they start paddling a bit late. But a lucky few catch the big ones.

These surfers are able to stay out longer. And they seem more rested. If they misjudge a wave, they swim back out and wait. Eventually, they catch one of the good ones. Some of the surfers using this strategy were out the entire afternoon.

So what's your strategy?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Taking a Badly Needed Vacation

Thankfully - the shingles cleared in time for me to take my planned vacation. My badly needed planned vacation.

So I'm off to Florida - to play golf in the rain (pesky TS Noel), visit family, and enjoy warm (if rainy) weather.

Most importantly - to get away from the computer!!!

I love my computer, but we need breaks from each other every once in awhile.

I'm offline until Tuesday (or so). By then, I hope to have more material and an improved attitude.

Have an awesome week!!!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

VP or Catalyst

I don't want to be management.

There, I've said it publicly.

I don't want to be in charge of people. I don't want to spend my entire day in meetings. I don't want to have to maintain status quo while "growing the company" or what have you.

I don't care about titles or corner offices or "perks" like "free iPhones" (a perk with an ulterior motive if I've ever seen one....)

At the end of the day - I just want to get stuff done. To see real progress towards a useful goal. The days where I have concrete evidence that I've accomplished something (finished a tutorial, mapped out next steps on a project, completed one of those steps, etc.) are the days I go home satisfied.

Harold Jarche reminded me that there are other, equally valid, career paths beyond just climbing the corporate ladder.

One of the five requirements for a successful starfish organization is to have a catalyst. In many ways, I think that is the role I’ve played, or tried to, in various organizations over the years, and it explains why I quickly lost interest in climbing the corporate ladder.


Catalysts are bound to rock the boat. They are much better at being agents of change than guardians of tradition. Catalysts do well in situations that call for radical change or creative thinking. They bring innovation, but they’re also likely to create a certain amount of chaos and ambiguity. Put them into a structured environment and they might suffocate. But let them dream and they’ll thrive. (p. 131 - The Spider and the Starfish)


As I've aged, I'm discovering that I'm not cut out for climbing the corporate ladder. And that I've, sometimes unwittingly, played the role of the catalyst (even despite my best efforts to be the good corporate soldier). I think back on all of the jobs I've had over my career and in almost all of them I've left the job with something useful and lasting for the organization. For example:

- New warehouse processes and forms for tracking equipment availability (back in my stagehand days)
- Building a portable video teleconferencing system (before cheap webcams, broadband cable and compact communication protocols)
- Transitioning medical practices from paper to computer.

I find that once I get things somewhat stable, I get restless. Planing, creating and building are fun. Maintaining, not so much. And I've never been a big fan of breaking things just to keep myself entertained.

Over the past few months, I've found myself second-guessing my career aspirations. And getting advice from well-meaning friends and family:


Don't say you're not interested in promotion publicly. Then they will never see you as leadership material.


But leadership comes in many different forms. And in my mind, being a VP or mucky muck of some ilk does NOT automatically make you a leader.

The ability to create positive improvement in an environment, in my mind, is one of the characteristics of a great leader. Notice I did NOT ambiguously say change.

Often, I find mucky mucks like creating big change for change's sake because it makes them LOOK like a leader. They can get people running around, looking busy, and proclaim, "Look!!!! Change is happening!!!!!" I'm finding, however, that this type of change often does more harm to the organization than good.

Small tweaks can create positive progress. And it's the ability to know when a major change needs to occur (not as often as we think) vs. a small adjustment that marks an intelligent leader.

I'm going to embrace my role as catalyst. With all of the personal instability that entails. In the end, as long as I leave wherever I'm at better than I found it, I've been successful.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Techology to Bring Back Intimacy

I suspect that higher technology is bringing back the kind of intimacy we lack when we are separated from the world by visual perspective. And an intimate world seems more human. What an artist is trying to do for people is to bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing: you wouldn't want to be an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought. I am constantly preoccupied with how to remove distance so that we can all come closer together, so that we can all begin to sense that we are the same, we are one. That is what I think removing distance on whatever level means, and that is why there are so many parallels, in science, in publishing, in printing, in communications generally.

- David Hockney, That's the Way I See It, 1993.

Physical locations function more like "groups and walled gardens". Stephen Downes has sensitized us to the shortcomings of restricting any of the valuable diversity of an open network. Besides there's no way with live bodies to tag, bookmark, link back or add comments 6 hours later to what got said in passing.

- Tom Haskins, 10/24/07

Both of these quotes have me thinking about the value of distance and the exercise of bridging that distance. When David Hockney saw "higher technology" as being a tool to bridge distances and, more importantly, bring back intimacy - he did this in the context of an environment where the internet was still new and used in highly isolated pockets (I was one of the few in my graduate department in 1994 to have a sendmail account). Before Web 2.0 and online social networks became buzzwords. When any online networks occurred within small groups (such as the bored engineers at VA Tech with their IBM 500s, 19.2 K modems and Procomm Plus talking on bulletin boards) and the chances of meeting the folks you talked to virtually in "real life" were practically 100%.

It has me thinking about the relative value of our physical "real world" networks (the ones we don't necessarily choose, but we are a part of simply due to proximity and circumstance) vs. the value of our "second life" networks (the ones that we choose due to shared interests and experience).

I am wondering if it is a mistake to value one network over the other. To see one as more important than the other. I find myself with a bias towards my "real world" network. Not necessarily because I get more out of my interactions with this network - often, I don't - but because of the "instantaneousness" (I suspect that's not a word) of those interactions.

Physical proximity leads to a sense of immediacy, whether the issue at hand truly has long-term importance or not. It's easier to share emotions (good or bad) when you are standing in front of an angry customer or sharing someone's excitement in person than it is when you are typing an e-mail or instant messaging or blogging. Physical proximity also has a way of making issues more urgent than they really are.

E-mailing, blogging, and instant messaging allow you to archive and reflect in a way that face-to-face conversations don't. Telephone, video conferencing and in-person conversations provide levels and layers of instantaneous feedback, adding tone and, in some instances, body language to the words. Neither are superior. And both provide various ways of establishing intimacy between people.

My recent enforced period of isolation has made me better appreciate the virtual communities I participate in. I value not having to make snap judgments. I love that I can read through ideas, categorize what I read and write for later reference and generally process my environment in a more leisurely (and frankly more meaningful) manner. And the feedback I receive from members of the virtual community is more thoughtful (thanks Tom!).

I suspect that the time spent engaging another person is more a measure of intimacy than the "stuff done" or "things gotten" that we often do to show how much we care for another.

This isolation time has allowed me to see exactly how rushed and panicky our "real life" environments get (for no apparently good reason). People feed on the urgency. Busyness = importance right? Hate to say it, but many people are addicted to that type of rush. Or, like myself, they get used to operating at that level of anxiety.

It's been interesting to find that "real life" communities are not necessarily more intimate than their "second life" counterparts.

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Yesterday, I was mentally writing off my recent blogging conversations with a dismissive

"This is fun, but I have no idea how I'm gonna use this in my real life"

And I'm realizing that these virtual conversations don't necessarily have to translate to "real life" for them to be important.

Just like scientific research does not always have to be immediately applied.

This time has been a real eye-opener.....

Friday, October 26, 2007

1 day I'll come up with a great title for this post

It's amazing what happens when you are not forced to think or do for an extended period of time.

1) It's really impacted my ability to come up with pithy post titles. I see myself being reduced to "Today's Post" for my next few postings (whenever those might happen...)

2) I think I inadvertently helped Dr. Karrer with his presentation. KNOCK 'EM DEAD TONY!!!!! Can't wait to hear how this goes....

3) You have more time to truly process the information and events surrounding you - and take in any feedback. Case in point, my blogging conversation with Tom Haskins about reflection and work. BTW Tom - I'm still processing....

4) The Freudian slips that occur when you are having a hard time developing coherent thoughts turn out to be valuable. Even better, people who are thinking more clearly (i.e. Tom Haskins ) can then take those ideas and run with them.

5) I'm re-discovering that illness serves a purpose. I'm going to quote Tom because he's more eloquent than I ever hope to be....

For years, I've noticed myself creating a "mandatory timeout" via illness when I was stressed out, incapable of reflecting, and caught up in too much action. A two week convalescence is a superb break from the action. Given the clarity, depth and expanse of Wendy's insights here, I'd say the hidden purpose of her case of shingles is getting well served. When we've been acting like human doings, we all need time to feel like human beings again.

It's almost easier to relax when your body FORCES you to than when you do so voluntarily. I find that if I feel even remotely capable of doing, I go do. Even if I plan a 2 week relaxation time (no illness), I still feel obligated to "be productive." Guilt, self-esteem issues, fear or whatever makes it difficult for me to truly relax when I am "well" and "on vacation."

It's taken me a few days, but I am slowly rediscovering what "relaxing" feels like. And, from the feedback I'm getting, it has been inadvertently productive. Whether this sort of productivity is going to help my co-workers (who I'm sure would have been much happier if I was there answering phone calls from frustrated doctors) remains to be seen.

Come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure why it matters.......

6) I discover new things to play with. Some cases in point:

Drunk Elephants. 'Nuff said....

The World Series.
I'm sure I have the quote wrong, but I like what Bob Apodaca (the Colorado Rockies pitching coach) said to his talented rookie Ubaldo Jimenez:
Pitch to Contact

Essentially - trust the team behind you. Your stuff is good enough to beat anyone and everyone else will help.

That's exactly what Josh Beckett (Boston Red Sox Ace Pitcher) did when he pitched that brilliant game in Game 1. A perfect example of what a very talented person can accomplish when he trusts the team behind him.

And an entire season of playing together built that trust..... NOT weird team-building games....

The Arlington VA Library online catalog.
Finding stuff in ACORN is about as much fun as browsing the stacks. And browsing library and book store stacks is one of my favorite things to do - so that's saying lots....

7) I find I have way too much time to babble in public (also known as "evidence of reflective thinking" hahahahahahaha.......)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Things I Think I Think

With apologies to Peter King....


1) I think that corporate culture (in general) DISCOURAGES the development of reflexive learners (platitudes to the contrary).


For those of us working in corporate environments, the stress is on DOING stuff (or, at least, APPEARING to DO stuff) rather than thinking/reflecting/planning/anything that requires NOT ACTING INSTANTANEOUSLY.

Evidence of reflective learning looks suspiciously like goofing off.... Yes, I am writing, but I'm not writing a step-by-step guide on how to schedule a patient. I'm writing about how do teach that better. Why is that important when our old way works just as well (never mind the phone calls from folks who didn't understand the material in the first place)? Therefore, I am goofing off.....

2) I think that encouraging an organization requires serious culture change for most of us.

Question for those working in corporate environments. How many times have you been faced with a student / students who say point blank "just tell me how to do it!" You tell them, then they call you back the same day accusing you of not "teaching" them because you just told them how to do it? Is it just me?!?!?!?

3) There has to be some way to nudge / cajole / wheedle / bribe an organization into at least allowing reflexive thinking practices - or, at least, not actively preventing them, at ALL levels of an organization.

Whenever I've seen reflexive thinking in an organization, it is at the highest levels and/or within individual, isolated pockets of rebellion. Hmmm...maybe if we bridge those pockets somehow......

4) The only way I can think of starting (as Tom said) is to model the behavior as best I can.

I only truly have control over my own actions, right? At least, more control over my own actions than over others (over which I may have persuasive ability, but no actual control).

5) The only other thing I can think of doing is to encourage this radical behavior one individual (or really open group) at a time. Just like we are doing amongst each other in this little corner of the blogosphere. Enough individuals and we have tipping point, right?

6) Blogging while ill is a dangerous thing...

Still fighting the evil Shingles. Wendy, these are like chicken pox, but worse, and that takes 2 weeks to clear up. You didn't think this was just gonna go away in a weekend, did you????

Something I've re-discovered during my convalescence, clarity of thought comes at a premium when you are ill / under stress.

My apologies if I didn't make much sense.....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Random Things in My Head

Watching the Washington Capitals - they looked sooooo promising the first 3 games. What happened?!?!?!

Still thinking through how to create an ideal training program that encourages intrinsic self-motivation in a corporate environment. Tom Haskins has given some excellent ideas both in his comments and later post. He continued his thoughts the next day. I'm still kicking the issues around - but I haven't had enough quiet time to really meditate on the issue and come up with a clear idea of what I want to say. Right now - it's all unformed gut feelings.

I want to see a Cleveland / Colorado World Series.

I am 0-6-0 in Fantasy Football. The yucky part - I've been top 3 in points most weeks. Just I'm being beaten by people having good weeks. Curses! (And no, I won't tell you the name of my team. Not appropriate for a "g-rated" blog)

My stress relieving attempts have failed miserably. Evidence of this fact: I was diagnosed Friday with a case of Shingles. The good news - I'm not contagious to anyone who has already had chicken pox. The bad news - this stuff HURTS. No itchiness like chicken pox. Plan, flat out, focused radiating pain.

I knew something wasn't right this week. Friday afternoon, I called in a favor from Dr. F. (one of the side perks of working in health care - informal consultation). Showed her the rash, gave her a list of symptoms and timeline. She did a 2 minute exam. Classic case.

I'm not surprised. You've been under a lot of stress this week. And it really seems to have been wearing on you. When are the rest of the vendor folks coming....?

So I may finally get time to think about the issues Tom and I discussed. Hopefully through the haze of antiviral medication, painkillers and regular applications of calamine lotion and Aveeno skin relief cream (for the allergy rash that has appeared in tandem because my immune system is currently whacked out), I might be able to come up with something.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bonding Between Sides



Mark - thank you for the link.
The giggles are sorely needed.

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During periods of high stress within the organization (like when our enterprise systems refuse to work and fixing the issue requires time and infinite patience), it's easy for IT to see the doctors as "the enemy" and vice versa.

I am often impressed and surprised that the docs in the organization I work have the level of emotional intelligence that they do. Thus far, during this very stressful 6 month period, I have only been the recipient of 2 major, inappropriate temper tantrums. To the credit of the organization, these outbursts are dealt with strictly and at a very high level.

I don't blame the doctors for being incredibly frustrated. To their credit, they understand that we (IT) are not the culprits and that we have little control over the current situation. My job this week has been reduced to 3rd line application support. This consists of remotely going into the computer, capturing screenshots and whatever workflow the doctors have time to give us, trying to work around the issue to get them functional again, entering the information into the vendor's helpdesk system, and, during a pause in the action, wandering to where we have the vendor's head of development and lead developer chained to the chairs (we have been feeding and watering them, so they seem happy right now) and sharing further information / trends.

During one such troubleshooting session, Dr. F (one of our Internal medicine attendings) said You know Wendy - our jobs are very similar.

What do you mean?

Well - you diagnose the problem, but you are often powerless to fix the problem.

If you are not certain about a problem, you can go to the next level - in my case, the specialist. In your case - the vendor folks.

If the problem can be fixed, it often takes more time than you or the customer (in my case, the patient - in your case - us) wish it would take.

And sometime, all you can do is mitigate the pain.


I hadn't really thought of our jobs being all that similar but on a certain level, you're right. The big difference - my decisions are ultimately not life or death.

But Wendy, in a certain way, they are. We rely on that information to help us with our job. Without the information, we could make a major mistake in our decision-making. So it may not be directly a "life-or-death" decision, but you are indirectly making life or death decisions too.

Not that I want to give you more pressure or anything......


Nope - no pressure at all....(Wendy laughs nervously)

In the throes of dealing with minimally functional systems and aggravated doctors, fielding 2 phones worth of calls at the same time, and trying not to take everything so danged personal - my conversation with Dr. F. reminded me that we really aren't that far apart. And sometimes, the day-to-day efforts you make to help others have much greater importance than the immediately obvious.