Monthly Archives: March 2011
Understanding the Process
As things are becoming more and more automated, I feel that the understanding of the process is being lost. I believe that tools should make my life easier and allow me to spend my time doing other things. However there is a downside, does one always understand the automation that is being accomplished? While these can be great timesavers, what happens when it doesn’t work or you don’t like the results? Understanding the process that the automation process is simplifying is key.
A common example is defining an IP network. Most people simply connect to a network and let a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server assign the address. This happens at the office, the home, the coffee shop, pretty much everywhere. When it doesn’t work for whatever reason understanding where to start troubleshooting is a mystery to some. I use DHCP quite a bit; I also do know how to do the entire process manually. I can manually – not that I want to – calculate the subnet network and assign the addresses. When there is no DHCP, I am still able to get connected. If I am still unable to get connected, I am able to call tech support and describe the problem effectively.
While IP networking is a common example it occurs with other technologies as well. I do have an interest in photography and have been doing more processing on images. For some of the process I do it manually, for others I do use automation tool. An example of this process is this picture of Martin Brodeur I took.
Straight out of camera, no processing
I took the shot in a manual mode, shutter priority, I also told the camera where to focus to get Brodeur in focus and the background blurry. I could have accomplished a very similar effect using the Portrait Mode preset in the camera, but I wanted to control the look of the picture. After I took the picture I did some work on it in Lightroom, and Nik Software. In the process I adjusted for the lens, applied a vignette, applied noise reduction, and converted it to black and white. This process was a mix of manual and automated. I could have just clicked a few buttons and called it done. Instead I made decisions along the way, and I understood the impact of those decisions. I was able to decide the final mood of the image as a result.
Processed picture, click to see entire gallery
This result is much better because I controlled the process and got the result I wanted. Did using the automation for part of it save time? Yes it did save time. Since I had taken the time to learn about the conversion process http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=114917 I was able to understand the questions and obtain the result I wanted. Now if you will excuse me, I need to troubleshoot my network as the Wii is not connecting to the Internet.
The medium is as important as the message
Last week I participated in a Twitter chat, an #AVChat hosted by @AVWriter (Linda Seid Frembes) and I was the guest “talker”. It was an interesting experience. I am by no means a digital media expert, but I think that the idea of a Twitter Chat or Tweet Chat or TwitChat is very interesting. The idea of allowing people to connect and share ideas experience and ideas in the virtual world is a good one. Very similar to guild meetings in previous times, it allowed for people in the same trade to share knowledge. It also allowed people to participate how and where they were available with the availability of a replay or transcript. It worked well, however it turned into more question and response then conversations.
I in no way blame the #AVTweeps or Linda. I think it is the medium, Twitter. The idea that one could connect and participate as they preferred to seemed interesting. I am not sure it is appropriate for a moderated talk. Even though we were trying to make the gathering as portable as possible, there were still some vestiges of old school technologies. I was online with five devices with various Twitter clients on them and the best communication tool of the bunch was what I had attached to my head, I was talking on the phone with Linda. Part of this connection approach is that it was a first for both of us to have a moderated chat using Twitter.
What started to happen though was that Linda would tell me the next question and I would prepare my answer so that she could send it out, I could answer it and then discussion would take place. What ended up happening was that she would tweet the question and multiple people would respond. It would be similar to someone asking a presenter for an image of a tree and members of the audience also presenting images of a tree. It was interesting to see everyone’s response, but I am not sure that it is possible to comprehend all that information and respond all at the same time. I found myself reading on one screen and responding on another. The way I was able to not miss questions that were coming back was that Linda would alert me via phone that something went by I should answer.
The medium of Twitter was such that there was too much information flowing. I am not saying that is a bad thing. As I look back and read the transcript I can comprehend more than I did in “real time”. I liken the TwitChat to trying to hold a class in a trade show booth. People are paying attention, there are lots of conversations going on, ancillary distractions occur, and ultimately some information is missed. The information is not ignored and people are not being disrespectful or malevolent it is just that there is so much going on that things are missed.
The same issue occurs in photography, viewing a timed image presentation is not the same as looking at a static image at your own pace. The root cause of the issue is the fact that intervals might not be one that matches the viewer’s speed. The timing could be too slow so that the observer gets bored, too fast so that the image is not truly viewed, or just the amount of images overwhelms the audience. Obviously each person is going to have their own opinion of what is the proper timing.
Given the option of watching a presentation that self advances versus me controlling it, I will pick the viewer controlled one. If I have the choice of going to a gallery and strolling through artwork at my own speed or watching a presentation of the images where I can’t chose the time I will pick the gallery.
Of course there are applications for all of these mediums. A digital picture frame that advances once a minute of snapshots in an office with a large print of a photograph hanging behind the desk to allow for longer viewing could be the perfect solution. (The differences between an image and a photograph.) Having timed previews on the front page of a website while still allowing visitors to browse content on following pages is the same idea. A TwitChat could be just as effective for some as having a formal online seminar with a moderator and a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
It is simple a matter of selecting the right medium for the message. There is no one right answer, you have to pick what works for you as a viewer. As a presenter, think about how you can allow your audience determine their preferred method without ruining your message. It is not an easy process and it is sometimes overlooked but it is important to consider.
If you are wondering why I did not say “slideshow” for presentation, is that to me a slide is an image on a transparent media that is placed in a projector or viewer for display. It is its own medium just like analog is different from digital in audio. I wanted to make sure that the idea was clear.
Just because it is on the Internet doesn’t mean it is free
Recently I ran across this story http://thestolenscream.com/ about a picture that was taken from a photographer’s Flickr site and was being used around the world. He was not being compensated. It is both an amazing story of how something can go around the world from just being good and how at times people’s work is stolen. The video is 10 minutes long and is well done. The back story and video link is available here at http://fstoppers.com/fstoppers-original-the-stolen-scream/
Notice what I have done above, I clearly indicated where the information is located. I could have just as easily gone into YouTube and gotten an embed link to put into my blog. I also could have just as easily downloaded the video and edited out the credits. But that is an insult to the people who created it. I am basically stealing their time and effort.
I know that some of my readers are more familiar with audio video system integration than with photography. The same thing occurs there and other places as well. It might not be a picture it could be a grounding scheme or a user interface panel just for a sample. Perhaps it is finding information on a manufacturer’s website and including it in your information package. Often manufacturers are okay with that, if you are using the information to sell and use their products. However that does not always happen.
Last year I was very surprised when someone called me to complain about a training video I did that was on YouTube. I was not surprised that I got a complaint, rather I was surprised that it was on YouTube. I did not upload the video there. I uploaded it to my work website. Not a huge deal as it was information about our products, however it then started to sink in. This website had taken someone else’s work, made some edits, and were then presenting it as their own work. They even placed their company logo over the video as well.
Someone else was supplicating all of the time and effort placed into the video. I understand how anything on the Internet is capable of being copied. Basically that was what annoyed me the most was that the effort put forth to collect and present the information was not being recognized someone else was just taking it.
That seems small, no one harmed, right? That is somewhat correct. My company paid for me to make the video and the product was still being promoted. However what happened if it was not a sales tool but rather a picture of a landmark, a presentation about a topic, a system design, or a configuration file for a piece of equipment.
The information is being provided without compensation to the creator or even acknowledgment. Basically that person’s time, effort, and knowledge is being stolen. If it is licensed under Creative Commons terms the creator expects certain respect in the process. If it is not expressly stated that it is okay to use, it should not be used.
The best example is someone who is creating a presentation or proposal and need a picture of a movie theater. I found a nice theater image on Wikipedia taken by Fernando de Sousa from Melbourne, Australia and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. That license requires attribution. Mr. de Sousa is a professional photographer. He takes pictures for compensation. He shared his work, the results of his skill, equipment, experience, and knowledge. All that he asks for is credit. Will you provide it?
Think about it another way. You went through the process of creating a proposal for a project. You outlined the equipment and process you are going to use. You provided information about why you chose that approach. The person you made the proposal to decides not to hire you. Instead they take your proposal package and use it to create the project themselves. Would that annoy you? Would you expect compensation? How about if all you asked for was attribution?
So I ask everyone to please respect the Intellectual Property, time, effort, and knowledge that is provided on the Internet and provide attribution at least. Don’t take credit for other people’s work.
I am off to go place watermarks on my stuff, if you would like to use an image without it, just ask.
The airplane challenge for help, software, and interfaces
Another blog post written at 32,000 feet as that is when the issue hit me. I have various electronic devices as my dedicated reader knows. I have previously talked about various data access connection challenges. This new challenge is not one of my own doing. It is a poor user experience or use case definition. This problem was illustrated by Amazon and their Kindle applications, but it does not apply to just them. This challenge happens to many applications beyond this example.
I have found a time where the electronic delivery of a book advantages outstrip the disadvantages I previously outlined. This happened with a “for Dummies” book. At work, I am on a software implementation team rolling out a new application package. I wanted the “for Dummies” book for the application. I looked at Amazon and the book was available both in paperback and in Kindle form. The Kindle form was substatianaly less expensive, but the key item was I could get literally instant delivery. While on a conference call I was able to purchase the book, take delivery of it, and reference it during the call. It was very powerful and better than using the Internet search tools as it has high signal to noise and no rabbit trails.
The next day I had a business trip, I had my analog reading material and my electronic versions. On the plane flight I started to truly ready my newly purchased book. It was also the first time I had started to explore some of the Kindle application features. I saw that there were sections of the book that were underlined. Not underlined texted, but a dashed underline. I was not sure what it was at first, but I found out that it meant that other readers had highlighted that passage. The idea of crowd sourced highlighting was intriguing for me; it helps to know what areas one should pay attention to.
I wanted to see what other features were available. My brain needed a little break from thinking about business practices. I was going to use that time to browse through the help file and see what other features were available that I might not be using in the Kindle application. I was airborne when I wanted to do that. I had no Internet access on that flight. As a result of not being connected to the Internet the help file was not available.
That seems very counterintuitive, why would an electronic reading application not include a help file with it? Think about that for a moment. Something that is designed to read document while disconnected from the Intenet is not able to read its own help file while not connected. It is not just Kindle that has this design flaw. Cloudreader, Nook, and iBooks for iPad do not have a help file that is readily available. I am sure that I can continue to list others as well. It also occurs with applications for workstations.
Not all applications are that short sighted. Two applications on my iPad have help that is available offline. iAnnotate and DocsToGo install their help file as a document you can read from within the applications.
Makes perfect sense to me. An application that is designed to be portable, should have supporting documentation that is portable. So for those of you involved in the design and creation of applications, think about the user that is not connected to the Internet. They might want to refer to the supporting documents; you should make it easy for them. The fact that I turned to the help file already means that the application is not intuitive enough. Do not compound the issue by making it difficult to find the help.
Also this concept applies to those of you who are creating custom control interfaces using software created by others. On more occasions than I would care to count I have ended up troubleshooting a control system and having to guess. These guesses could range from what are the IP addresses to connect to the system to what the control system is using for the backend to how to get help.
For the application users, I recommend that you try out your applications before you are traveling with them or disconnected from the Internet to make sure you understand how to use it. The help files might not always be available.
Well the fasten seatbelt sign just came on….
<note this post was recreated after a website crash, good thing I backed it up>