Monday, August 20, 2012

iPad for the On-the-Go Writer

I just returned from a conference about a hot enterprise technology where I used my iPad to soak up notes, images, video interviews and BROLL, and organize them for future use. I will use the notes and interviews as fodder for stories for the next 6 months. No laptop on this trip.  I used an application called Noteshelf along with the iPad's native photo and video apps.

I took 39 pages of notes. Here’s a page of my Noteshelf notes:

I wrote notes with a rocking Bamboo stylus, snapped pictures of speaker's slides, cropped them, and pulled them into my notes. This all happened so quickly I never lost track of the presentation. 

The notes are easily searchable in the Noteshelf app (see below) and I can export them to Evernote, so when I'm writing a story three months down the road I won't be wondering where I stashed my notes.

The image above shows how Noteshelf allows you to flip through the pages of your notebook. I color code the names of speakers or interviewees so I can easily spot them as I flip through the notebook. The app also allows you to tag and search, but I like this more visual search function.

I tried several other note-taking apps before I found Noteshelf, including Notes Plus and Penultimate. Noteshelf seemed easiest to write on:  You can rest your hand on the screen, it's good a good pen selection, the interface for adding images and text from other sources is simple.  One thing is doesn't have is a way to convert your handwriting to text.

If you’re writing in a standard paper notebook, I would strongly suggest you upgrade to the iPad with Noteshelf.

Writers might also check out the new Galaxy Note 10.1-inch tablet because this kind of note taking and collaboration is built in to the device's native software.

In a future post I will discuss my experience creating and publishing on the iPad.  For now, this is being written on my laptop.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pointless, Incessant Barking

This cartoon speaks to why I’ve begun blogging again.  

It goes like this, when you blog about a completed project have to encapsulate it, describe it, explain it, and learn from it. Otherwise you just push projects out the door and move on. As my old ad agency boss used to say, “fire and forget.”

I don’t want to forget, I want to learn. Otherwise, as the cartoon suggests, I’m left with incessant barking.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What I've Learned from Scripting Corporate Vids

As the script writer for several 11gR2 vignettes, I have been thinking about what we have done right so far and what we can improve. Here are my top five thoughts:

1. Remember that people watch these all the way through because they care about the characters, not the information. Information delivery must be subservient to the story.

2. Don’t work too hard to build gags into the script. Concentrate on the motivations of the characters and let the gags come to us. For example, in the Active Data Guard video I worked to build the snow globe gag into the script, which in the end didn’t add that much to the story. By contrast, in the Advanced Compression video one character’s natural motivation to buy more hardware was shown brilliantly with the Disks-R-Us centerfold; we got humor and never left the main thrust of the story.

3. Don’t let marketing considerations kill the dramatic beats of the story. These beats take the viewer step by step in the direction we need them to go, both to satisfy the needs of the story and the needs of information delivery. In a beat, one character answers the thrust of another characters comment and moves the conversation in the direction he/she wants it to go. As the conversation moves along, the viewer is drawn naturally in the intended direction. But when we get bogged down with marketing requests too late in the scripting process this natural flow gets interrupted and the story suffers.

4. Get scripts to the producer with enough time for him to live with the script for a few days. This gives him time to design shots and suggest lines to fulfill his vision for the characters. If the script is built on solid character motivations and dramatic beats the producer, and later his actors, can let it all hang out and we end up with a better, funnier video.

5. On the day of the shoot have a product expert on hand to help with pronunciation and give the green light to ad libbed lines. If the product expert is laughing with the producer and actors, they know they can go for it.

I look forward to working with everyone on the next round of vids.

Come in, Relax, Enjoy a Little “Implicit Learning”

Pick up Winifred Gallagher’s new book “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life”, and you’ll find arguments to support the “tech vignettes” we’ve been filming for Release 2 of Oracle Database 11g.

She describes “implicit learning” as a process of leaning something without intending to. It is, say researchers, the most natural way of acquiring information and skills. It’s how you learned to speak and perhaps how you learned to cook. Implicit learning is effortless. Think of watching Flags of Our Fathers vs. reading a dry WWII textbook. How does this link to our vignettes?

If you want to learn something, anything, you must pay attention to it. You must be, as the title of Gallagher’s book suggests, rapt by it. Our vignettes attempt to hold our visitors rapt by telling them a story. They provide relief to the overburdened attention spans of our customers by not asking them to read marketing copy, but instead immersing them in the story and allowing them to receive a little implicit learning.

The stories last a little over a minute and are based on funny, sympathetic characters living out struggles Oracle customers will instantly recognize. In the process of watching, they learn something valuable about the technology at the heart of the character’s dilemma.

They will save us all from another video white board session. Look for these vignettes to hit in mid August.

Friday, July 17, 2009

An Interloper at ODTUG

If you see me at a user group conference pondering the conference guide, don’t think I’m looking for my session. What I’m looking for are the people who attend and teach sessions. Watch out, I might be looking for you. I’m at the conference to collect stories and information from experienced technologists and share them around. Here, for example, is what I picked up on two days at the recent ODTUG Kaleidoscope conference

Three professionally produced videos: Two for Oracle Magazine that will be available later according to the magazine’s editorial calendar, and one for the OpenWorld blog. Thanks to Scott Smith for his camera work and editing.

Two magazine columns for my Up Close series (print, video) on user groups. Those, too, will be available in future edition of the mag.

Three flip video interviews for the Oracle Database Insider blog, (and here)which will be featured in the Oracle Database Insider newsletter.

Just as important are the current output of stories, are the people I get to know at meals and periods of goofing off. As an example, my attendance at Kaleidoscope was a result of this earlier interview with ODTUG President, Mike Riley, whom I came to through an encounter at the BIWA Summit.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Experimental Skype Interview with the Linux SIG

Oracle has better things to do with its money than send me to Milwaukee for a single interview. And yet I still have to get the story, AND the video. So Todd Sheetz of IOUG’s Linux SIG, was kind enough to take part in an experimental Skype interview for my Up Close column, which Scott Smith filmed and choreographed. You can also read my Oracle Magazine Column about Todd’s experience with the SIG.

Note: One thing I would do differently next time is to plug a microphone into my laptop to improve the sound of Todd's voice. We made the mistake of recording it off the speakers in my laptop.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Gift of Slack

I wanted to expand on Tom Kyte’s short post about SLACK, which takes its cue from this post by Seth Godin.

My addition to Tom’s advice is this: If you find yourself suddenly with extra time on your hands (read laid off), offer your talents and your leadership to an Oracle user group. From what I’ve seen over the last year of writing the Up Close column for Oracle Magazine, the groups are almost always hungry for volunteers to help them with their mission. In return for your time you gain notoriety, make new contacts, and you LEARN.

Imagine the difference between going to an interview as an out of work DBA or developer vs. as an officer of an Oracle user group who is shopping his/her skills and contacts to a few lucky organizations.

Side note: Slack time is when ideas erupt to the surface that have been long bubbling in your subconscious. They’ve been held down by a thick layer of deadlines and near term problem solving that fill the days of fully employed technologist. Take. some. time. to calm the waters of your mind and see what brilliant stuff floats to the top.