Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish all readers of this blog happy holidays!
May all of you have at least one secret wish granted in the year 2008!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Facebook - what, why, how?

Yes, I know it's been awhile since my last blog post - but rest assured, I haven't forgotten about my blog, it's just that lately I've been dedicating more time to other social channels, especially Twitter and Facebook, and of course also my Second Life. I really believe that you have to get immersed in any new technology in order to really understand it and be able to figure out why it works for so many people.

I already wrote about what I believe to be the magic behind Twitter, and today I'd like to share with you some of my thoughts on Facebook. I decided to choose this subject not only because I find Facebook quite fascinating, but also because there are a lot of people out there wondering what FB is all about and what it should/can be used for. In fact, FB might seem pretty straightforward, but it can take some time to figure it out. And that is why I've decided to share my personal experience with FB.

Ok, let's just start with the basics. As you probably know, FB is a very popular social networking site, which enables you to create your profile and connect with friends. In addition to this, it has its own developer platform, which developers can use to build different applications that enable users to do more or less useful activities. Yes, these apps only work in the closed environment of FB, making the site almost some kind of web operating system that doesn't want to talk to the rest of the web on its own, but requires developers to learn its language (called FBML) to bring the magic of the web and social interactions to it. Not surprisingly, many people criticize FB for being a walled garden, and Google is now trying hard to out open social networks with OpenSocial; but for an average Joe all this is not very relevant. If you've got most of your friends on FB and a lot of fun things to do, you don't really care how it's done, so I'll discuss the OpenSocial vs FB platform (or the new FB advertising options) some other time. Today, I'd just like to focus on the user perspective about various uses of FB apps, which in my opinion are the magic ingredient that make FB so appealing to an increasing number of users (some might add: and such a time waster ;) ).

I think we can divide FB apps, and consequently FB's value for the users, in three main categories:
  • Self-promotion and branding: At its core, FB is a place where you can build your own profile. When we build an online profile, we create our online persona, which will be seen by our friends or even the entire world. We might not realize that, but when we fill in various profile fields or choose our profile picture, we decide how we want to be presented to the world. You might want to emphasize your professional side or your fun side; but in both cases we make a choice in how we "brand" ourselves to our public (which we can choose by limiting our profile only to contacts for example). And there are many FB functions and apps that can help us build our persona (or even our personal brand), for example: various default profile options (picture, interests, work & education info, favorite things,...), joining groups (the FB groups function is awful, but I find it useful to publicly express my interest in certain topics), labeling yourself as a fan of something (made possible by the new product pages), your choice and variety of friends, the choice of profile layout (choosing which info to make public, having your music playlist, favorite quotes or the result of a personality test displayed, ...), your FB statuses, the items that appear in our mini-feed etc.. Some people even prefer having multiple profiles for different personas (for example, a different account for their Second Life avatar). Building our FB persona can be quite a task, and a lot of people choose to use just this aspect of FB. They register, fill in the info and connect with friends, and use FB just to say "I'm online too - if you want to connect to me use my e-mail/phone number".
  • Social play: The next category of FB apps enables us to have fun and keep in touch with out friends. We all have busy lives, a lot of our friends live in different cities or even parts of the world, and it's often not easy to find the time or way to hang out together. And here is where FB can help: it enables us to keep in touch with friend through different social (often playful) activities. Even if you're extremely busy, you can always find a minute or two to poke your friends, throw a sheep at them, turn them into a zombie or send them a virtual pet, flower or image. All these apps help us say "I'm thinking about you" in different ways. It might look silly, but it feels nice to receive virtual cakes when you set your status to ill. We often like to say "It's the thought that counts", and I think the social play apps in FB are a great proof of that. Also, the FB news feed, which displays various news about our friends, can help us feel closer to each other as it's constantly reminding of people, telling us what they are doing and providing an easy way to interact with them ("Click here to hug your friend too"). Sure, the feed items are a great way for developers to promote their app, but it does have some positive side effects I've just mentioned.
  • (Social) toolbox: The last category of apps is represented by a set of utilities that can help you save time, provide useful information and even be more organized. These apps can make FB a more "serious" tool. They enable us things like checking our e-mail, collaborating on documents with friends, getting info about weather, keeping track of what time it is for our friends that live in different time zones (my latest favorite app!), displaying latest blog entries from your friends and yourself and much more. These apps are the main reason why people are considering using FB as a business tool or even an e-learning tool. It's comfortable to be able to do so many different things (from play to work) on one single site, and if we want so, we can even make our "serious" activities social by choosing to display info from utility apps on our profile, and thus provide some valuable info to our contacts (I like to use FB Posted Items for this purpose).
These categories can of course often be overlapping - for example, social play apps or social toolbox apps can be used as a branding tool, and often the line between social play and social toolbox can be a fine one. An important point to remember here is that you don't need to use every aspect of Facebook; use what makes sense to you. It's fine if you just want to create a basic profile, and it' fine if you just want to use FB as a social toolbox and ignore the play aspects.

I'd like to conclude this post with some basic Facebook tips that I hope can help you in the process of getting to know FB and finding the added value of this tool for you:
  • Play with FB, but make sure you've got friends to play with. Try out different apps, explore, and be curious, but try not to annoy your friends while doing that. You don't have to send out invites to ALL of your friends for EVERY app you add (there's always a Skip button!). Show your friends you care and know them by sending them invitations for apps that you are pretty sure will be interesting for them.
  • Take some time to adjust your privacy settings. Decide which info/activities can be public, for friends or entirely private. You can also decide whether you want your name to appear in search or not. In the future we'll have the abilities to group friends and have different profiles for close friends, professional contacts, family etc.; but until we don't, try to figure out the best way to present yourself to all the people on your contacts list. You might want consider using the limited profile contacts you don't know well. You can find all these settings under the Privacy link in the upper right corner.
  • Remember that you don't need to have every app you use on your profile. You can access apps from the left-hand menu or the application list. Removing an app box from your profile only will not delete the app, and you will still be able to receive gifts, bite chumps and do all the other *fun* activities. Your friends can often see your app info (for example: Linkeness score) from the app itself, so there's really no need to keep everything on your profile. I know it's not easy, but try not to overload your profile page. When I choose what I want on my profile or not, I like to think about what info I can provide to a new friend that want to get to know me better, and what info I can provide to friends that I haven't spoken in a while. So, to put it simply, take care of your persona, and remember that you can choose the visibility for each profile element. Some info are for friends only while you might want to have some available public.
But of course, this post is based entirely of my Facebook experience in the past few months, and I'm sure we all have our own story to tell. So I'm really interested in hearing your Facebook story: how and why are you using FB, and what is in your opinion the added value of FB over other social networks? Also, what do you think are the best tips you could give to people just starting with FB or people still trying to figure out what the fuss is about?

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

OnRez Second Life viewer & CSI:NY in SL

Yesterday we were finally able to get our hands on the new OnRez viewer for Second Life that was made for a special episode of the hit show CSI New York (which was also aired last night). The viewer is available both for Windows and Mac OS X and it's got a simplified user interface and a built-it browser. If you're familiar with the existing Linden Lab's viewer you'll need some time to get adjusted to some changes. The most obvious one is the fact that you now have the Friends button in the lower right corner instead of the Inventory button - I suppose they think users will need their friends' list more often then their inventory, which can now be found under a button at the top of the screen and it's been renamed to "My Stuff" (I don't even want to comment on that). The good news is that most of the shortcuts still work, and you still have the client menu and all the advanced options (you need to manually enable the Build menu and the advanced options under the View menu).
OnRez user interface
Some of the new UI elements (the HUD is detachable)
And even better news is that we now finally have the back button (and teleport history) built-in. The home button in the upper menu bar is a bit confusing for me though - it takes me to Central park on the CIS sims, although the usual shortcut for home still takes me to my real home. But the best feature of all (at least for me) is the built-in browser. Sure, it's pretty basic (no Flash for example), but it works, it's fast, easily accessible and it seems like a better way for displaying text help files than through notecards, as web pages can of course be hyperlinked and enriched with various design elements.

My blog in the OnRez viewer
Viewing my blog in the OnRez viewer
Overall I think I prefer the OnRez viewer to the Linden Lab's one. Yesterday I had some problems with textures not rezzing, but now everything appears to be ok (they already had their first update yesterday). You do get CSI pop-ups each time you run the viewer and login, but they can easily be closed. I think I'll stick with this viewer for now - mostly because of the browser.

Now, moving on to the CSI part of the story (note: until now I've never seen an entire CSI episode - I usually switch after a few minutes). Yesterday I already picked up my CSI Toolbar (a HUD) on one of the many CSI Orientation sims, walked through the orientation process, and solved my first crime. I must say the whole experience was quite pleasant and engaging. I think they made a good job of introducing the basics and they also prepared an interesting crime game. They also have nice video tutorials on the special Virtual CSI:NY site. It makes one wonder how we could make some educational sims as interesting...

Investingating a crime scene with the CSI Toolbar
Working on a crime scene with the CSI Toolbar
Anyway, I was also curious to see the CSI TV episode to see how they presented Second Life. I got the chance to see it this morning, and... hm... let me just say I've laughed out loud a few times. I don't know which world they filmed this episode in, but it only looked like Second Life if you took screenshots of the scenes. There was absolutely no lag (!), everything (especially dressing up) was done through a keyboard, no pie menus etc. Not to mention the silly gladiator game effects (there was a large audience at the event - certainly over 40 avatars - and no lag or crashing!), everybody using tools to fly, the silly comments made by most of the CSI team, and some sort of Second Life virus? Somebody's been reading Snow Crash I presume or just playing another video game. Oh well, we've all seen how hacking is usually presented in movies. But anyhow, I'm not quite sure the picture of Second Life on the show would manage to get me interested enough in SL if I were a CSI viewer that's never heard of Second Life. I mean, why would I want to go into a virtual world in which there's a tech savvy professional killer or a world in which you can get a strange virus that keeps a whole team of IT experts busy for hours to fix? I certainly hope the commercials were better than that.

CSI orientation crime scene
Virtual crime and a game I like to call "Guess who's the sponsor of the project"
Anyhow, quite many viewer of the show were apparently intrigued by the whole thing, and at this moment we still have many CSI newbies wandering around (btw we've also got improved versions of Clint & Brandy - they come with skin, prim hair and decent clothing now ;) ). A few moments ago I re-visited some of the orientation spots and I saw a lot of confused users. Not many very talking. Maybe they just didn't realize they can use text chat - in the CSI episode they were using voice chat all the time; yeah I know, how realistic! Actually, just one newbie said hello and asked me "what are we suppose to do or where are we suppose to go?". Hm, maybe not such a good orientation after all. Maybe we should have more greeters at the starting points (I did meet one last night).

Meet the new Brandy - this defaults certainly look better than usually
I think it's still way too soon to make any final judgments on the successfulness of the whole CSI in SL thing. I'm personally glad I got a nice new viewer, but we still have to see if and how the CSI viewers will play along in this game. The Second Life grid survived last night (the load wasn't even that big), but let's wait for a few days to get more numbers and to see how many of the new users will stay in SL after they learn how the world really works.

Oh an by the way - today we have another big Second Life TV appearance on the series The Office. Oh dear. Not sure whether I should be excited or scared about that :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Giving your Facebook profile a Second Life

If you are like me, you probably have some of your Second Life friends among your Facebook friends. And until recently, we had no good way of connecting the two worlds. But now we can; and there isn't just one, but two Facebook applications that can help you with that.
Facebook and Second Life

Second Friends

The first app (by release order) is called Second Friends and was developed by Art Fossett (I'm using the developer's SL names in both cases). The app lets you display your avatar name and picture and a list of your Facebook friends that are using Second Friends on your Facebook profile. To use the app you need to do two things: you need to add the app on Facebook, and you need to pick up a personal key at an in-world kiosk on Eduserv island (you can reset the app and get a new key anytime).
You can then enter the key and your avatar name in the Second Friends form in Facebook. If you got that right, the app will import your Second Life profile picture into Facebook, and you are ready to display your SL name and avatar picture (if you wish so) on your profile.
Second Friends on my Facebook profile
To add and check for Facebook friends that are using Second Friends, you have to go to the My Friends tab under the app, and a list of friends (including their RL and SL names) will be added to your profile. If you wish, you can also choose to display their SL profile pictures instead. The functionality of this app is pretty simple right now, but future plans include adding an in-world tool for updating your Second Friends status while in Second Life and more.

Second Life Link
The second app, Second Life Link, was developed by Fire Centaur and another developer. It enables you to display your Facebook using SL friends in a similar way to the Facebook's defalt friends' list.

Second Life Link on my Facebook profile
The setting up process is similar to the one you have to go through with Second Friends, although it has a few extra functions. You can start the process by either adding the app on Facebook or by touching the in-world terminal in English Village.

In both cases you will get a personal key that you must enter either on Facebook or in-world (again, you can get another key anytime). A neat thing about Second Life Link is also the fact, that your Facebook friends get the option to register for a Second Life account on Facebook (in case they don't already have one) after adding the app. So you can also send invites for the app to Facebook friends that don't have a second life and trick them into getting one ;) After you've confirmed your identity, the app will automatically fill in your friends list with Facebook friends that are already using the app. Then you can also modify your Second Life Link profile by adding your avatar photo and one home and one favorite SL location you want to share with friends. Your SL friends will then be displayed on your profile with avatar photos and names, and if you click the See All link in the app on your profile or access the app from the left-hand menu, you can view whether your friends are online or offline in SL, and you can also teleport to their home or favorite location from Facebook.

Second Life Link friends detail
That's how my friends using Second Life Link can see me
Second Life Link also has advanced privacy settings, as you can see from the screenshot below, so you have full control of what your friends can see/do.

Second Life Link privacy settings

Both apps are still in beta, and I'm sure both developers will welcome our feedback. Currently, I have both apps installed and appearing on my Facebook profile, because they both help me connect my Second and Facebook life in a bit different way. I'm certainly looking forward to new features of both apps; and who knows, maybe we'll soon be able to "throw a sheep at" or "poke" our friends in SL from Facebook (throwing sheep should look spectacular in SL! ;) ). But for now, I'm really excited about the fact that my SL friends can get a special place on my Facebook profile. So, if you're a Facebook and Second Life user and want to connect the two, I recommend you give both apps a try, and let me (and of course the developers) know what you like/don't like, and what features would best for future versions :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Musings on the importance of speaking English

For me, one of the important questions I always have to answer before creating any kind of content is: in which language will it be? Will it be in Slovenian (my mother tongue) or in English (the international language of the web that I've learned as a second language)? This was, of course, also a major question when I started this blog. And sometimes I really hate this question, and I hate having to choose between languages.

On one hand, writing and speaking in Slovenian is always easier for me, but by choosing Slovenian as the language for my content, I automatically limit myself to an audience of probably no more than 2 million people (and the number is even smaller if you consider the number of Slovenian speaking people that are actually interested in what I'm writing about). The fact that a lot of the current tech terms (and buzzwords) don't yet have a good Slovenian translation, also make my decision more difficult because I sometimes feel like I'm writing half in English anyway.

On the other hand, I get a much bigger potential audience by writing in English, but it makes writing/speaking a bit more difficult, and it may also make my content more difficult to understand (or maybe even relate to?) for Slovenian people that don't speak English well or at all. And although I consider myself fluent in English, I often feel a bit insecure or self-conscious when I write or speak in English (especially for an audience of native speakers). The self-consciousness is even more apparent in synchronous communication situations - like IM or more recently with Second Life voice. When I blog or write emails I have the time to reflect, analyze, run a spellchecker, so I feel more confident (though I always worry about making typos that could be interpreted as insufficient knowledge).

But no matter which language I choose, there is always the question: should I translate this to the other language? And sometimes I do translate, but usually I don't because I don't have the time or motivation to do it - and let's not forget that some things are always lost in translation no matter how hard you try. There is just so much good content out there that's impossible to translate it all back and forth to one language and another.
So how can one deal with the language problem? I often choose English over Slovenian just because it helps me to get in touch with so many wonderful people around the globe, but I sometimes miss more discussions in my own language. And that is why on some levels I'm glad I can now also blog for my company's website in Slovenian, but then again: I often wish I could share some of my Slovenian content with my English speaking friends... I guess the language question can never have just one answer. For me, it's always a bit of a struggle, and in the end it's up to each individual to choose his/her "side". It isn't easy, but I guess it's one of the prices you have to pay to live in a flat world.

I'd like to finish this post by turning to you, dear reader, and asking for your answers to the language question. If you're not a native English speaker, how do you choose the language you write/speak in? And if you're a native English speaker, how do you deal with all the non-English content on the web? Do you ignore it or try to understand it by turning to native speakers of the foreign language or by trying to learn a foreign language? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject :)

(And by the way: one of my Slovenian friends answered the language question when he recently started his blog, so I guess I'm not alone in the language dilemma :) )

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Skitch: Fast 'n' Easy photo sharing (review)

Last night I finally got a invite for Skitch, an application (currently for Macs only) that lets you easily capture and annotate photos and share them with friends through web (on your myskitch page), by mail, Bluetooth or just by saving the image to your hard drive. Skitch offers different ways for getting images: you can take snapshots (it's easy to capture just part of your screen), take a photo through your camera or work on any photo on your hard drive or on the web by dragging it into Skitch. Once you've got a photo in, you can add text and various shapes, and do a few basic edits. When you're done, you can easily share it in any way you want. And what if you want to change the text or delete a shape later? No problem, you can always come back to the saved or uploaded images later and edit them again through Skitch (by the way - Skitch can also export images in the svg format; apart from the standard jpg, png, pdf and tif of course).
I saw the promo video of Skitch some time ago, but then I really didn't imagine how great it is to actually use it. It's super fast, very easy to use (I love the fact that you get subtle, not intrusive, and useful help tips just when you need them), and it works like magic (even though it's still a beta). The app was created by plasq, the makers of Comic Life (another application I love to use!), and I can only hope that we all get a copy of Skitch in the next releases of Mac OS X (just like we get the basic version of Comic Life).

I really see myself using this application a lot for different purposes. One obvious use is surely making images for blogs, and I think it will also be great for making annotated screenshots for user manuals (which can be really time consuming!), sharing ideas fast or just having fun by adding captures to photos :) Skitch is surely a great product that wisely uses simplicity and provides with all the tools you need to make photo sharing a bit more fun and fast. I think I'll keep the Skitch icon (it's a cute pink heart :) ) in my dock from now on, just in case I need to skitch something fast (it's surely much faster than Photoshop for simple tasks Skitch was built for). The only negative comment I can make about Skitch so far, is the fact that I didn't get a 100 invites, so unfortunately I can't yet invite you all to try it :(

If you want to know more about Skitch, take a look at plasq's site and watch the Skitch introductory video, which is in my opinion a great example of how to make an attractive video manual for first time users (I usually give up on video manuals after a few seconds, but this one kept me interested).

Edit: Just got 100 invites to give out! Leave you e-mail under the comments or e-mail me at ialja (at) mac (dot) com to get an invite and to try out the Skitch magic :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

5 common myths about Second Life

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time in Second Life talking to new users, and also talking to companies/institutions that want to get into Second Life. And one thing my colleagues and I have noticed is that some Second Life myths are still very popular among people. That is why I think that it's important to talk about what Second Life is and what Second Life isn't with a good dose of realism. So, here is our list of some of common myths that should in our opinion be addressed in any serious meeting/discussion about Second Life (and other virtual worlds):
  • Second Life = Real Life. Second Life is a just a virtual version of the real world with the same business models, customer needs and behavior. WRONG
Second Life is not real life
Many real world limitations don't exist in Second Life. For this reason, the Second Life users have the freedom to behave differently than in the real world, satisfy different needs (for example, the need to have fantasy outfits) and literally take the world into their own hands. Therefore it should come as no surprise that many established real world business and marketing models simply don't work in SL. Real companies entering Second Life must get to know the virtual world and prove their value to the users.

  • Second Life = the world wide web.
    Like on the web, users in Second Life will visit my island to get information about my company/institution. WRONG
Second Life is not the world wide web
Second Life residents are not in SL to receive the same kind of content in 3D as they could on the web. They are there for new experiences, not links to web sites. There is nothing worse for Second Life users than clicking an advertisement and being moved out of Second Life into a new browser window. Established web privacy/value trade-offs (for example, letting a company know your e-mail in exchange for a discount) must be re-evaluated and set based on specific usage.

  • It's easy to make money in Second Life. Second Life will, in a short time, grow my company profits or allow me a comfortable side income. WRONG
Second Life is not a money tree
Yes, we do have money trees in Second Life, but don't expect to get rich in SL with no effort. To make money, an individual or a company must be even more innovative and adaptable than in real world because of larger competition and a level playing field. Success requires time and effort. And don't get in SL just with the vision of making money. Get in, enjoy the ride, and be inspired by what other are doing.

  • We know what works in Second Life and in what direction the future will take it. WRONG
The future of Second Life is not clear
Nobody has a Second LIfe crystal ball, which can tell us SL best practices and future developments of virtual worlds. You can't even guarantee that Second Life will work when you've got an important demo scheduled! It is important to remember that virtual worlds are still in early development stages - think of the state of the world wide web in 1995. Don't trust people that claim they've got all the answers, and check the figures; Second Life doesn't have 10 million unique users! And just as we're all still finding our way around Second Life, nobody can predict for sure what virtual worlds will look like in 5 or even 10 years. Could anybody predict BitTorrent, Facebook, YouTube or Flickr in the Mosaic age?

  • It's useful for me/my company/my institution to start getting acquainted with Second Life. RIGHT
Get a Second Life
After the initial stages of experimentation, Second Life and virtual worlds will likely become a new way of communicating with colleagues, business partners, customers, friends and family and enable us a new way not only of doing business, but of living - just like mobile phones and the web have done in the past. Forward-looking companies/institutions and individuals that start learning about virtual worlds now will have an advantage in future. As I always say: there is no better way to understand a new technology than by trying it yourself. And I'd also suggest you to try different usages of Second Life. I might be spending a lot of time in Second Life for business/networking purposes, but I still find time for fun explorations with friends.

I'd like to finish this post by adding some links to articles/resources that can also be useful when discussion Second Life and virtual worlds:

And what are in your experience the most common myths and misconceptions you have to deal with when talking about Second Life?

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random thoughts about the future of Moodle

Lately I've been spending a lot of time in Moodle; mainly of course as part of my Moodle Teacher Certificate (MTC) program (which I successfully completed last week), but also because of the Austrian Moodle conference, which I attended on Thursday and Friday in Graz (I had a presentation about the Sloodle project). I've been using Moodle in different roles (admin, tutor, user) for quite some years now, and I believe that Moodle is a great platform for e-learning because it's powerful, relatively easy to use, and also expandable and customizable for different needs. What is also great is the fact that the Moodle developer community is very active and always making sure new versions have useful new features and improvements of previous standard modules.

I had the pleasure to attend Martin Dougiamas' virtual presentation about the future of Moodle at the Austrian Moodle conference a few days ago, and I'm really excited about some of the features we'll be soon seeing in version 1.9, and also the roadmap for Moodle 2.0, which in my opinion has the potential of making Moodle 2.0 a great member of the Web 2.0 family. In this post I'd like to share with you some of my thoughts on the future of Moodle. I believe that Moodle has a sustainable future, so I'll focus mainly on discussing upcoming Moodle features and possible future developments.

Among Moodle 1.9 features that Martin presented on Thursday, I was most impressed by the added social networking features. I think it's a great step towards making Moodle even more flexible and user friendly. If you're a Moodle.org site user, make sure you edit your profile and add your interests and try finding users with common interests (check out the page for the tag "moodle" - cool, isn't it?). Right now I sometimes feel limited by the rigid course structure in Moodle, and I really can't wait to have a better way to connect with other Moodle users through tags and shared interests (similar to what Elgg offers). And one of the next steps is hopefully the ability to mark Moodle items (forum posts, resources etc.) as favorites, so each user could create his/her own library of favorite resources.

However, another problem I've been seeing with Moodle for some time now from the perspective of a common user (i.e. student role with no editing rights), was not just being closed in courses, but also being closed and limited to a certain Moodle site. I often found the thought that students lose access to their Moodle resources/activities/data after a course or study year is over disturbing. Of course, teachers have many options to export/import content and date, and move content/data among their courses and among Moodle sites. But the students don't have any easy way to export their work and move it to a new Moodle site or to their personal archive somewhere else. So, I think one of the next steps in Moodle development should also be empowering users and enabling them to create their library of resources and also their Moodle portfolio that they (the students, not the teachers or administrators!) could take to another Moodle site (when changing schools for example). The Moodle development roadmap shows plans of enabling easier connections between different Moodle sites through the Moodle Network, which plans to provide a Moodle Community Hub for sharing content, user info, and enabling better peer interaction. However, I think that moving between Moodles should also be made easy for students, and not just for the teachers.
What I'd also like to see, is improvements in helping students getting around their Moodle courses. Moodle provides a block, which shows recent activity since the last login for each course, and also an overview of your course through the My Moodle page (though I really wonder how many administrators/teachers/students are aware of this option?). Still, I think the overview of my courses pages could and should be further improved by adding more flexibility and customization options. This could be very important for large Moodle sites with a lot of activity (like the moodle.org site, which I find very challenging to follow!). What I would like to see on the overview page is something closer to Facebook News feed page. Students should be able to control what appears on this page, in what order, and in how much detail. Some sort of personal dashboard with more user-centric widgets. Now you can of course add some standard blocks to the overview page, but I miss more tools to help the users organize and plan their learning activities and perhaps an option to set up custom e-mail alerts that relate to specific course events. I really don't like to receive e-mails for every Moodle post in a certain forum (especially for the most active ones), but I think it'd be useful to be able to add a rule to receive an e-mail update whenever a new resource/activity is posted (in any of courses you're enrolled in) or when new topics that match your interests (keyword watcher) are started.

All in all I'm really excited about Moodle adding more social networking features and establishing better connections between different Moodle installations and also the rest of the web. With all these improvements I'm beginning to wonder if in the future we could see Moodle also become a standardized personal learning environment with users in control of their learning data and the ability to move from one Moodle site to another (of course with the choice of moving only necessary portions of your Moodle profile data/library/portfolio)? We'll see what future Moodle development brings us. I certainly think Moodle is worth keeping an eye on, and I can't wait to get my hands on the upcoming Moodle versions :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Starting up a new adventure

As you might have already noticed, my job description on LinkedIn, Facebook and on my blog has changed. Yes, it's true, after weeks of planning and considering different options I finally decided to try something new and co-found a company - Artesia.si that will specialize in 2D and 3D virtual communities. We will be offering consulting for companies wanting to improve or build virtual communities, and I will mostly focus on testing new technologies, planning and delivering (e)learning for our clients, and on presenting our company in Second Life. At least for now we'll be focusing on the Slovenian market, so we only have a website in Slovenian. But we do have a virtual office in Second Life that you can all visit (yeah, we're a real flat world company with no brick and mortar office :) ). And things are actually already moving faster than we could hope for. On Thursday we were invited to help with a piece on Second Life for the evening news on national television in Slovenia! I have the video with English subtitles on Facebook if you'd like to see how it turned out :)

But despite the fact that I'm changing jobs, I still intend to keep this blog alive. It will still remain my personal learning space, on which I'll be talking about my personal learning experiences, emerging technologies, and of course the occasional random thoughts of a geek :) So stay tuned, and if you've got more questions about my new professional adventure let me know!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Giving good directions

Lately I seem to be stumbling a common problem a lot while surfing the web, visiting different places in Second Life or just going to different analogue places by analogue roads. That problem is lack of good directions related to different content and places.

A common example: I often find an interesting blog post, and when I try to find more about the person that wrote it or the purpose of the blog, there is nothing. Nada. On blogs, I often get my hopes up when I see the "About" page, but too often I find the default message to the owner of the blog that no visitor should ever see (something like: "Write something about yourself/your blog on this page"). I really don't expect everyone to provide their full CV and contact information, but even if you decide to be anonymous, you can at least tell us what field you work in and what is the purpose of the blog.

Then another common example from Second Life. I won't even mention those places that are supposed to have a grand opening and can't be found anywhere on the map or under search. What I find even more disturbing is getting to a new place and receiving no clue of what the place is about and no help for getting easily from one part of the sim to the other (i.e. teleporters). Flying is fun in Second Life, but I don't always have the time or will to fly from one corner of the sim to the other to see there is nothing really interesting on the other side.

The immediate reaction to the lack of (good) directions is for me confusion, self-consciousness (thoughts like: are there really no directions here or is it my fault that I can't find them?), and the final result is usually leaving the confusing place without plans to return in the near future. This confusing place should of course never be your online course site, your virtual world presence, or even your personal or professional website.

So, what can we do to avoid users leaving our places, and how can we prepare good directions for our users (students, clients or friends)? Having really good directions is not an easy job I grant you, but I think there are some things we can do to get closer to that goal:
  • The first step is of course recognizing that some directions are needed. In our enthusiasm of building something new we often forget that.
  • Think like a newbie and like an average user of your content when preparing directions, and (if possible) test them on a random person that was not involved in the design process and is not a super geek. If your grandparents can understand your directions you're certainly on the right track!
  • Make directions easy to read, help yourself with simple visual clues (a map, icons etc.). Keep it simple and try to include the basic information. First time users/visitors don't need to know all the details, but they should be able to get to those later when they need them.
  • Make directions visible for first time visitor, but not disturbing to frequent visitors. Avoid using intrusive tools such as pop-up messages. The first time user might appreciate them, but only the first time. On the second visit he/she will start looking for the mute button, on the forth he/she will start looking for excuses for not visiting.
  • Not all directions should look like they're there just because they have to be there. Add value: entertain your visitor, provide additional functions (i.e. teleporting in Second Life, a list of the most interesting posts etc.), make them feel welcome and appreciated.
  • Be polite to all users, not just those that you want to have today or those that pay you. You never know when you'll need somebody, so try to make a good first impression on everyone.
  • Provide personal support options. Even if you don't manage to give good directions, you can be saved by giving your users/visitors/students and easy way to contact you and get personal directions from you or your staff. It's the age of a user-centric web, on which we like the feeling we can all go talk to the boss if we want to.
  • Listen to user feedback. And don't listen just to the users that talk to you. Sometimes you have to make the first step and ask the users for feedback.
These are just some of my guideliness for designing good directions (that don't apply just to giving directions on the internet, but should also be considered in offline spaces!), but I would of course love to hear how you approach the task of providing good directions for your users. How do you, for example, provide directions for the students of your course or visitors of your website, online profile or blog?

On my blog, I try to provide good directions by having a "Who am I?" block right on the top of the blog sidebar, which has some basic info about me and a few links to my extended profiles if the visitors want to know more about me. Also, I decided to visualize my blog purpose with a simple moto (Click. Learn. Share.) and icons right below. I might also add some links to my most interesting posts in the future, but overall I hope I did a decent job in providing directions and different ways for navigation. If you think I'm missing something, please let me know :)

I certainly think that once in a while we should all stop to think about how new users feel when they first enter one of our places. And I think we can often find some little and sweet details to add that will make the visiting experience for first-timers and regulars alike that more pleasurable and memorable.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Catching up: 8 random things about me

St. Nicholas Port on ZakynthosHuh, what a busy August! After a lovely Greek vacation (I highly recommed Greece for vacation - great food, great people, crystal clear sea!) I had one of the busiest week (and weekend) ever: all the catching up with RSS feeds, mails + intensive work on two different projects... and the result of that is that I still haven't managed to reply to all mails (bad Alja, bad!), and I'm also late for my blogger homework, which was assigned to me by The Four Eyed Technologist 12 days ago (so says Technorati :) ). So, it's now time to stop making excuses and join the "8 Random Things" game that has been spreading around the blogosphere for quite some time now. I admit that I've been reading many random things about many of you in the past weeks with quite some interest, so it's only fair to do my share now :)

First, The rules:
  1. Post these rules before you give your facts.
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
  3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them.
  4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

My 8 Random Things:
  1. I trained track and field athletics for about 10 years in different disciplines; I started in first grade in long distances, and ended up doing long jump and 60m/100m hurdles. I wasn't too bad at it (even got into the national team once), but I quit because I lost my interest in competitions.
  2. At the end of elementary school I wanted to study chemistry, but then lost all interest for it in high school and turned towards computer and social sciences.
  3. I love animation movies and cartoons in general. On my top list are Pixar movies (this short one is imho enough to explain the brilliance of Pixar) and Japanese sci-fi animes, but I like to watch just any animated thing that pops on screen.
  4. I don't like travelling much, especially by car. I keep hoping teleport systems will be invented in my lifetime :)
  5. My interested for education highly derives from the fact that I was bored at school 90 % of the time, and I spent most of that time drawing various sketches in my notebooks.
  6. I am shortsighted - couldn't get far through the day without glasses or contact lenses! Part of it is inherited, and part of it is the price of being a computer geek and living behind computer screens.
  7. I love the sea; now that I don't live by the sea anymore, I really miss the sea air, and the wind you only get on the coast... And thinking of that always reminds me of the song "Gente di mare".
  8. I had compulsory Italian classes for 12 years in school as I lived in a bilingual zone (near the Slovenian-Italian border). And now I haven't really spoken it for 5 years! I still understand it very well, but I don't dare to speak or write it anymore - and that's something I'd like to change.
So, I hope you found my 8 random things interesting :) Now, I should tag 8 more people, but I feel like so many of you already played this game or been tagged, and I also don't want to make anyone play this game, sooo I will follow Angela's example (and KJ's ;) ) and invite you readers of this blog, who want to be tagged and share with us 8 random things (I assure you: it is quite fun and painless! :) ) to leave a comment on this post and I'll add you to the list, ok? :)

List of great bloggers that will be happy to share 8 random things:
  1. Daniel (not a blogger (yet! ;) ), but he shared some interesting things in his comment)
  2. Christopher
  3. position open
  4. position open
  5. position open
  6. position open
  7. position open
  8. position open

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Taking another week off

As some of you already know, I'm taking another week off next week. This time I'm going to sunny Greece, and I won't be taking my laptop or have internet access, so it'll be a real offline holiday. I'll be back on Monday, the 13th, and until then I won't be answering my mails or other messages (Facebook, Second Life etc). But I'm planning on having a little experiment with Twitter on my cell phone. I'll post some updates from my phone during the next week (I'm just telling my mom how she can receive notifications :) ), and I've also turned on mobile notifications for some of my favorite contacts. I'm really curious about how this will work out :)

So, I'll be posting again after I return, and hopefully I'll have some nice photos to upload to Flickr :) (I'm such a Web 2.0 addict!)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What makes Twitters Tweet?

Ok, yes, I admit: I finally joined the Twitter fever, and I am in fact enjoying it. All for higher research purposes only, of course. Ahem. Anyway, in this post I'd like to share with you some of my first findings/impressions about being a (still newbie! :) ) Twit.

So, as you probably know by now, Twitter is a simple web sites that keeps asking you and everyone else one simple question: What are you doing? And yes, people from all over the world answer this same question (in 140 characters or less) several times a day, and read answers their friends, acquaintances, or strangers (it's the Internet after all!) provide. Many are wondering at what makes people Tweet, but as with most Web 2.0 phenomena you can't really know/understand what it is all about until you give it a try (and I mean really give it a try by actively participating!).

Here are some of my ideas of why Twitter works. Actually, answering the question "What are you doing?" on the web is not a new idea. It's been around for years in different communities; I think that most (if not all) of the forums I used to participate in had an always popular topic "What are we doing right now", in which members would post short (one sentence) answers. These topics were always a great way to kill time, but also to build a special connection between forum members and strengthen the forum community. In these topics you were could read small little details about members' lives - their passions, dreams, joys, frustrations and what not - and you got the feeling that you knew them a little better.

But of course, these "Tweet topics" were constrained to a certain web place - the forum - and people get restless if they are limited to one, same old, same old place. Especially because you can't ever find all of your friends and other interesting people in just one place! And I think that's where the folks at Twitter got a brilliant idea and offered the users the power to connect socially across different places. Sure, you still have to get a Twitter account, but once you get that, you can Tweet from anywhere you like - the Twitter web site, other websites, your IM client, your browser, your dashboard, your Second Life, your mobile phone,... and you can also read Tweets from your friends from any place you like! You are no longer limited to one application, one website - and I think we'll be seeing more of that in the future of the Internet. For this reason Twitter is the ultimate social network - anywhere, anytime. Saying "I have to go out" is usually the end of an IM conversation, but can be a start to a Twitter one! Once you set it Twitter up and find your friends, you just enjoy the ride and get connected with your social network - and along the way you can of course discover interesting Tweets from your friends' friends and expand your social network.

Speaking of differences between Twitter and IM: people often ask why is Twitter different/better than IM? I think Twitter has some advantages over using IM. Firstly, it is not as time demanding, because you usually aren't expected to reply immediately (although you easily can if you want to), and it takes away less time than having 10 separate IM conversations. But still - you are up-to-date with what your friends are doing, and can provide feedback if needed. And although Twitter can also be disruptive, I think it is very easy to turn off notifications when you need to concentrate on doing something - and nobody actually knows you aren't receiving notifications (unlike with IM when your contacts know when you're offline). One of my Twitter friends anyaixchel found a perfect word to describe the communication process on Twitter: ambi-synchronous. I find Twitter communication really fascinating. It is very simple, but yet it connects people in an almost magic way. And again - I think its main advantage is that it is not limited to one single place, but is in a way universally accessible no matter where you are.

And because of that characteristic I believe that Twitter can be used in many different ways: as a travel journal (the expenses of sending an SMS on the road are often much lower than trying to find a computer with internet access in some places), as a flash news feed (see example), as an event reminder, as a tool for class notifications (I wish we had Twitter when I was in school!), and many more. The Twitter mania is just starting, so I'm sure we'll all be able to find many other innovative usages of this new tool.
My Twitter starting (but not the only!) point
Until then you are of course all invited to follow me (or anybody else ;) ) on Twitter, and maybe we can come up with some new ideas together while Tweeting about less or more important events and thoughts of our lives :)

By the way: Twitter is not the only bird on the block. One interesting (and great looking!) variation of Twitter is for instance Jaiku, which is also great for aggregating different feeds you might have (blog, Flickr, del.icio.us etc). Have a look at my Jaikus for an example. Unfortunately Jaiku doesn't (yet) support IM notifications, and so it is not as place independent as Twitter.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Presentation: Second Life and Beyond

In the past few weeks I've been curiously exploring Jaiku, Twitter, and even Facebook (more about those in future posts); and that is mostly why I haven't been posting to my blog as much as I would like to. Another thing I've been doing is trying out different virtual worlds (There, Kaneva, Multiverse, ...). I was curious to see if Second Life is really the best in social virtual worlds we currently got. And I must say I now appreciate my Second Life more :)

The reason behind my "virtual worlds exploration" is that I will probably have to do some introductory presentations about virtual worlds (and in particular Second Life) in the next few months, and that is also why I spent the past week making a "master presentation" on the subject. My goal was to create a presentation with a brief explanation of what virtual worlds are, of what is Second Life, and of different things we can do with Second Life. And here is the result:
I think this presentation can be used for different audiences by taking out some slides, so I hope you will also find it useful for some of your presentations. As it is meant as an introductory presentation, I didn't focus on details, but rather on presenting the key facts and some of the most attractive aspects of virtual worlds and Second Life. I posted the presentation on SlideShare along with comments for each slides with links to sources I used, so I suggest you take a look at those comments as well. And of course: your comments/suggestions regarding this presentation are welcome either on SlideShare or on this post :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Taking the week off

Just a short notice: I'm taking this week off for a short vacation at the sea. I'll have internet access, but I'll try to avoid it if possible (my wrists really need some rest), thought I'll probably post little updates on Jaiku. I already have some great books packed, and I really can't wait to relax on the beach and enjoy the sea air. I'll be back in the digital world next week, so stay tuned! :)
Sunset in Koper

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Join us at Bloggers Cafe!

In case you haven't heard yet: edubloggers now have a new place to get together in Second Life at the brand new Bloggers Cafe.The Bloggers Cafe is an attempt to keep the conversation that started at this year's NECC going (and it is of course a great opportunity for all of us that missed NECC to join in the conversation). You can visit the Bloggers Cafe on Eduisland II, on land that was kindly offered by Ryan Bretag (aka Existential Pain). Also, don't forget to join both the SL and the RL group (set up by Jennifer Wagner) and have your blog added to the virtual blogroll at the Cafe.
Bloggers Cafe - virtual blogroll
The virtual blogroll wall at the Cafe
For more info about how the Bloggers Cafe started and where it is going see Ryan's blog. See you all the Bloggers Cafe! :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What a wonderful Second Life!

Yesterday I had one of the most magical days in my Second Life thanks to some really great people and a bit of magic coincidence. I haven't had much of Second Life lately due to different first life obligations, so yesterday I had a great chance to do some catching up, and I was really reminded of why I still believe in the potentials of Second Life. Mostly, I was once again reminded of the unique way in which Second Life is able to bring people from all over together.

First, I meet up again with Eyebeams Electricteeth (of Learn 4 Life), who has great ambitions and plans to make SL more popular among UK educators (and also abroad) and is working on some interesting projects in SL (you'll probably hear more about that in the next months).

Unfortunately, he had some other things to do, so I moved on and asked to meet Desi somewhere, as we haven't seen each other in ages (my fault). After mentioning that I still don't have any place in SL, Desi kindly offered to let me use some space in their new Literature Alive! HQ on Eduisland II. So, we went to check out the place (2nd floor), Desi brought in a couch (with one really funny sitting pose ;) ), and we started talking. She also invited KJ Hax over, who invited Any Ixchel, and what happened was real serendipity. Later on we were also joined by Corwin Carillon, Eloise Pasteur, and Butch Dee, and we had a really inspiring discussion. We talked about Second Life in general, avatars, identity, and we also shared some useful SL tools (thanks for the tip about the MystiTool HUD! It's just amazing!). It was a real pleasure meeting you all!
After the discussion Anya, Desi, and I went to do a bit of gadget shopping. Soon Anya's friend Aiji Ducatillon joined us, and we went to Anya's place to do some hang gliding, and playing with toys (Aiji thanks for the ride and the massage; Anya thanks for the giraffes and the cats! :) ). It was a lot of fun, and I surely hope we can do this again sometime (I'm glad I now have some friends from down under I can hang out with in EU friendly times :) ).

I spent rest of the day in my new "office" space Desi has kindly offered to me. I brought in a big and comfy couch, a cookie and coffee giving table (just touch it :) ), and an info point that can tell you whether I'm online or offline and will open my blog when touched. I hope you'll all come to visit me sometime (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Eduisland%20II/196/219/47), and that we'll be able to have more serendipitous moments in that space. Feel free to use the couch any time, and don't forget to invite your friends over! :)

Come over any time

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Report: InSITE Conference 2007

Yesterday was the last day of the Informing Science + Information Technology Education (InSITE) conference, organized by the Informing Science Institute and hosted by the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana, Slovenia (yep, the city I live in - there's nothing better than having a good international conference at your doorstep ;) ). In the last 3 days I listen to around 25 presentations at the conference, and also presented my paper (yes, that is why I wasn't online as much as usually). How was it? Well, read below :)

I'd like to start by mentioning some of the presentations that I found most interesting and/or valuable (listed in order of appearance at the conference):
  • The Search for the Adaptable ICT Student (Glen Van Der Vyver): This was a presentation of the results of a study among a group of undergraduate ICT students about their adaptability (which is one of the characteristics ICT students should have). The results showed that the students have a high degree of adaptability when personal choices are involved, but not much adaptability related to job change - students like change, but expect their jobs to adapt to their lifestyles, not the other way round. I find these findings really interesting, and I would certainly like to see how adaptable our students are.
  • Advancing Sustainability of Open Educational Resources (Alex Koohang): I found this presentation interesting because it opened some interesting questions and issues related to Open Educational Resources and the sustainability of OER. These are all important topics in education, and I especially liked the fact that Alex stressed the importance of including users' perspectives in further research and development of OER.
  • Of Disobedience, Divinations, Monsters and Fumbling: Adopting a Self-Service System (Bob Travica): During this presentation we learned about some of the issues that emerged during the adoption of a self-service management system in a Canadian company. The presentation got me thinking that we don't really pay enough attention to how our students adopt different e-learning systems, and that perhaps more detailed studies than just the usual multiple choice question "How would you grade the usability of the LMS?" should be performed. Mostly, we just have the quantitative data on how much our students like our e-learning systems, but I don't think we know enough about how they really interact with them, and about what could be done to improve their interactions with the system. Certainly a topic to keep in mind for further research.
  • What Exactly Do You Want Me To Do? Analysis of a Criterion Referenced Assessment Project (Tony Jewels and Marilyn Ford): This presentation provided a critical view on criterion referenced assessment. They pointed out that the practice of using CRA shows different results than the theory of CRA predicts. In their paper, the authors presented some interesting negative feedback they got from their students when using CRA, which in neither surprising nor new. The authors concluded their study with a valuable suggestion: educational institutions should focus more on educating students at an early stage on skills that apply to all subjects and assignments.
  • A ‘Hands on’ Strategy for Teaching Genetic Algorithms to Undergraduates (Anne Venables): I found this presentation inspiring because Anne presented an interesting approach to teaching what at first sight appears to be a complex and unattractive topic of genetic algorithms to undergraduate students in an engaging and easy to understand way using poppet beads. Sounds interesting? It sure is, so I really suggest reading Anne's paper that explains the approach in more detail. We definitely need more teachers like this in all our schools!
  • To TxT or Not to TxT: That's the Puzzle (Val Hooper): During this presentation we heard about an interesting use of SMSes to engage large groups of first year students during lectures. I like the general idea of the presented SMS X-word puzzle activity (see the paper for a detailed description), and although it is at this moment still costly and technical demanding, I liked the fact that they've tried to engage their students in a new way that is closer to what the students use in their everyday life.
  • The Educational Potential of Modified Video Games (Andrew Moshirnia): This presentation was a virtual one (meaning: we watched a PowerPoint presentation with a voice-over explanation of the author), so we weren't able to have a discussion with the author (which would certainly make the presentation even more interesting). Nevertheless, the presentation showed us an interesting example of using a Civilization IV mod to teach American Revolution. I still believe that we're at the very early stages of developing serious educational games, but I think it was good to have this topic presented at the conference.
  • Using Video to Record Summary Lectures to Aid Students’ Revision (Janice Whatley): In this presentation we got an interesting example of using video lectures summaries with text notes to help students with course revisions. Although I like the general idea of these video summaries, I think it'd be better to give the students the ability to create their own video summaries and share them with their colleagues, or at least give the students the chance of posting and sharing their own notes for the video summaries. Still, the presentation did open some interesting questions about the usefulness and the right format of summary lectures, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this project will develop in the future.

I also co-presented the paper Can Online Tutors Improve the Quality of E-learning?. You can check out the slides for the presentation on SlideShare, but I know there aren't of much use without the narration, so if you've missed the presentation and are interested about hearing more about the topic of the paper and the e-learning at my faculty, I can provide an on demand voice-over through Skype (my Skype ID: alja-skype) :)

Speaking of presentations: why is it so popular to share presenter notes with the audience through PowerPoint slides? I had the pleasure to listen to many great speakers at the conference, but unfortunately many of the interesting speeches were disturbed by great chunks of text behind their backs. I personally can't resist the temptation to read all the text on the slides. Unfortunately that turns my attention away from the speaker and the presentation becomes difficult to follow and to remember. A few minutes after such presentations I always wonder what the main point the presenter was trying to get across? And there is no way I can remember any of the slides. I really think these presentations would be better if the presenters turned off the projector and kept the slides full of text for themselves. If you don't have time to practice your presentation and prepare an interesting slideshow don't bother with using your notes on the overhead projector. And also getting all your notes on paper in advance really spoils a lot of the fun; I don't want to know how the story will end! Please, dear presenters: surprise me, engage me!

Apart from some bad uses of PowerPoint slides, the conference was full of interesting topics and presentations. I only wish I could have attended more, and talked to more people. Thanks to everyone that I met at the conference for all the interesting conversations we had, and I hope we can keep in touch. The next InSITE conference will take place at the nearly same date next year in Varna, Bulgaria, so we might meet again there.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at blog.ialja.com, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.