A cool new Argumented Reality Application

It’s just been reported that VW is working on an Augmented Reality (AR) application that will assist in the repair of their new vehicle. Although AR is not a new technology its still “cool” and an interesting technology with a lot of potential.

The only concern that I have about the VW application is localization of the device to determine precisely what the application needs to highlight. If the localization is not extremely accurate and up to date, it may highlight piping for air/liquid as an electrical line. That could cause major problems, if the user repairing the vehicle isn’t able to distinguish between the two.

A Skill that All Technical People Can Use (System administrators, Database Administrators, Developers, etc)

Top-notch communication skills are vital when communicating detailed technical topics. Poor communication skills are seen as a lack of interest, understanding, or motivation. I realize that perception isn’t always true, but making the correct impression on others is extremely important.

I’ve seen many of these “sins” from technical presentations in graduate school and within local technical group meetings. I’ve even run into some of these issues personally. A very good video about what I’m talking about his “Package Management and Creation in Gentoo Linux.” I realize that it’s easier to criticize than to present, however after you are aware of some of the issues below the presentation is becoming aggravating.  Donnie Berkholz, if you are reading this, I am not criticizing you personally.

  1. Rambling
  2. Use of “umm” and other fillers
  3. Poor posture
  4. Bad lighting
  5. Having a monotone voice (This isn’t a huge issue in the video)
  6. Mumbling
  7. Failure to list assumptions (What skills should your audience have)
  8. Failure to explain why the content you’re presenting is valuable to the audience
  9. Unorganized slides
  10. Lack of overall summary of the presentation at the beginning
  11. Lack of prior practice
  12. Lack of mentioning of where to find the slides online
  13. Going off topic within the presentation
  14. Lack of confidence in material
  15. Overloading the slide with lots of unneeded details
  16. Fanboyism (I’ve seen it in a few of my fellow students’ presentations in graduate school)
  17. Not tabling questions that go off topic (Not shown in the video)
  18. Low quality graphics (Not an issue in the video)
  19. Speaking too quickly (Not an issue in the video)

How would someone Improve Their Presentation Skills?

It’s not possible for a presenter to be able to find their own issues. Presenting is one of those things that requires feedback from others.

  1. Take a class on public speaking at their local university, technical school, or even library. Local toastmaster organizations can help with this, too.
  2. Test your audience before and after the material. The higher post-presentation score the more they learned. For this to be a good measure, it requires 2 tests with similar material. For example, if Mr. Berkholz was to apply this: he would ask about keywords, behavior etc in a multiple choice form. This will not address issues with social cues, but it will give an overall indication on how effective the presentation was.
  3. Give out a general survey that must be filled out at the end. This works well for a large conference with lots of speakers. Ask questions such as “The speaker appears to be an authority on the subject [Strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, to strongly agree]” or “The subject material is interesting …”
  4. Ask for someone’s opinion that is outside the industry the content fits into. For example in Donnie’s case, ask a psychologist to be your practice audience member.
  5. Involve audience participation throughout the entire presentation. I love this piece of advice. It turns a simple, and short, presentation into a full-length lecture. Also, it helps to understand the audience’s interest.
  6. Practice your presentation beforehand – a lot.
  7. Review your slides before hand and prepare secondary screens. Fumbling around with unnecessary external programs during the presentation irritates your audience.

Interactive Customer Service: How to fix Airlines’ Broken Phone Service

Ever had to change a complex literary or rebook a flight via the phone? If you have, then you can relate to how painful that is. If you don’t already have status with the airline, then the process is even more painful with a longer wait prior to interacting with the reservation agent.

When you tell a reservations agent where and when you’d like to visit a location, and how you’d like to end the trip, they have a very complex task to perform. They must put together an itinerary that fits your requests – and is available. After finding that information, they then must read it back to you over the phone. Each literary includes a lot of details – times and information about the flights [connection time, class, connection location, etc.]. Most of the time, you are only told the first flight that fits the parameters, which is rarely ever the best flight available. You’re rarely ever told your other options [unless you request the specific flight numbers and know the availability], because the agent is not motivated to give you all of the available options at once.

I believe the way that one could solve this problem is to convert this conversation from just auditory into a visual and audio experience. I believe that the creation of a small website that represents the session between the customer and the reservations agent, similar to a WebEx meeting, would solve the issue. The page would display all of the options available. It would make users a lot happier about their experience with airlines, and give the flyer more information on how tight or open the availability may be [alleviating much of the pain of irregular operations].

How would this work? The user could open up a web page, and use a short code that is shared between the agent and themselves to access the information being described, the page would be updated based on the agent’s action. This may even work at customer service desks where their reservation desks have to read itineraries to passengers.

How does this differ from the current procedure of online flight changes? The functionality of the flight changes aren’t always allowed or functional on the site. Try changing a round trip ticket to a different date and different location. When the, allowed, functionality of the reservation change site is exceeded, the user is prompted to make the changes over the phone.

Suggestions for Authors of Technical Books

If you are writing about something that has to be installed on the reader’s machine there has been something that has become annoying. Please do not provide distribution based instructions for installing the software/component/framework. I would prefer it if this was listed on the book’s website, or linked to the platform/distribution’s website. In place of the section, I would prefer a brief history of the component that the book requires. For example, if the framework’s API was forked from another project, if the API would have been motivated by particular problems, and/or who uses it.

Having a website for the installation and configuration would allow it to be updated when the software gets changed. For example, if there was a major break in the API usage, the website could be updated and the user could be warned against using future versions.

Selling Technology Solutions to the Classroom

Technology, since the introduction of a computer that doesn’t take an entire room, has always been suggested for educational purposes. Technology is sold as an existing off the shelf solution for teaching the youth of the country that it happens to be in. Policymakers and lobbyists tend to sell the idea of technology as an easy solution that just takes money to solve a massive problem.

When an education organization purchases a technology solution many things happens. Typically, given a healthy market, products are evaluated, money is appropriated, and the solution providers bid [through their price, and service offerings]. The goal in this market is to provide business for the producer through a bulk sale, and reduces the price for the consumer [the people who run the educational organization]. This is the only place where the ultimate beneficiary, the students, is represented is by the purchaser of the products. However, since price is a consideration in the sale, the people who ultimately use and learn from the product have to compete with price.

Approximately fifteen years ago, the utopian goal of “high class education” was to have popular educational software or to have internet access in the classroom. By putting this in the classroom it was assumed that students would immediately consume it and use it to fulfill academic interests. Well intentioned as this might be, it wasn’t the case. Few students used the internet for research, and for those who did typically did, performed poor research. The research came from poor resources, and nothing was taught about how to identify a creditable source. However, can you blame the ten year old, teaching him about creditable sources isn’t extremely easy to explain when they’re struggling on algebra. Most students in schools used the internet to fulfill their immediate, typically non-education related, interests.

I would argue that most students below the age of mandatory education are unable to determine what subjects are the best investments of their time. Mandatory education provides a basic understanding of our world and the options available. It provides an understanding for the person that options exist outside of their small town or city, and that society is no longer a basic rudimentary system of barters and trades or tradition based.

Recently there has been a lot of hype over the use of embedded systems. This started with the introduction of “learning toys.” Some of these include {{LeapFrog}}, and {{VTech}} related products. Typically the premise of a learning toy is taking simple concepts, dressing them up in cute and popular characters and making an electronic version, which can be easily purchased at the local toy store. These are an easy way for a child to reinforce what is taught from another source, however, they are not a great teacher.

One of the more recent fads in technology purchases in education is the use of iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Ironically, these are all produced by the same company, which reduces competition in the market. These purchases are typically favorited by those who have a financial interest or for those who deem it hip. These devices are not built for educational use. These devices are all built to be generic multi-use devices for communication, or entertainment. Many argue that these devices can be used educational purposes; however they were not designed to entertain the needs that an educational experience requires.

For example, if an {{iPad}} is used for an educational purpose, what stops the user from switching to OMGmyFavoriateCeleb.com or texting their bff Jill when the material becomes dry and uninteresting? If anything, an iPad, in this manner, cuts down on educational value. The cost of the switch in context [going from information to a pleasure seeking mode] eliminates analysis on the material that was uninteresting. Without the device, the user may wonder why he or she did not like the subject or why it may be dull.

Additionally, the issue with selling devices that were mentioned is ignoring the actual value they may have. The value of an iInsertNameHere is completely reliant on the applications that are installed and the use of them. The users of the technology will ultimate install what they want on it. Why install the “utimate visual guide on history” when you can install the latest fart application for only $0.99 (now reduced from $50). The only few applications where I can see a tablet that would be useful for education is for reading material (books) or music (a Finale like application). However, typically the cost of the books, in the format for the tablet, and the device itself would never be less than the cost of the books themselves. Given that the only situation where the statement would be false is for rare books. Given a situation where everyone purposed books as ebooks, that possibility may not be far off.

Now for the content that is less doom and gloom. Technology can enable people to learn. There have been success stories. Two of the best success stories are electronic publishing of scholarly journals, and the second one being the OLPC project. Electronic publishing of scholarly journals, attempts to help the academics field to reduce the publishing of multiple research attempts of the same findings, create new fields of study, and providing access to academic materials to more people than ever before. Electronic journals are typically subscribed to by universities and access is provided to students. Without electronic access, this would become quite expensive at universities with large amounts of students (with a high demand for articles).

The second success story is an odd one. The project is the One Laptop Per Child project. This project’s goal is to put MORE computers in the hands of more children. However the difference in the people who are getting the machines and the ones I was ranting about before, is that these consumers are children in developing nations. The project is not putting laptops are specifically designed for situations where the internet may not be widely available, or electricity may be a concern.  Additionally these are designed for locations where educational materials may be rare or outdated. The main characteristic that makes this project successful is that these laptops are not built to be general purpose entertainment devices. These devices are created to limit the applications that the people can use.

When I was the target for these educational devices, also the time of the dinosaurs, there were a few educational games that came to mind. These games were “Mathblasters”, “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiago,” and “Oregon Trail.” These were fun games that weren’t designed to replace the educational experience.


Privacy Activists, Rejoice! ZeoDecoderViewer is in alpha!

Privacy Activists, Rejoice! ZeoDecoderViewer is in alpha!.

As many of my acquaintances know, I am typically very skeptical of corporations. However, there occasionally comes a company or so that stands out. I believe that this is one of them.  Recently, I have purchased a Zeo. I’m quite pleased with it, and I am even more pleased to see the additional “value” added to the product. This software could have easily been dismissed at a company meeting for being something that doesn’t directly bring value to the device, or serve the immediate customers, or future customers. Additionally the software could have easily been released as a downloadable application that one could not change the source. To me this gives Zeo more credibility as a business.

For those who are interested in purchasing a Zeo or reading more click here. Yes this is a commision based link, but it does give you a $15 discount and free shipping.