All posts by director

The Evil Side of Social Media

The explosive growth of social media and its initial penetration into all aspects of our world has become indisputable. Social media provides the basis for connecting people with people in our physical communities as well as virtually all over the world. Technology mediated communication through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In has become an essential component of business, politics, education and just plain fun. The reach and capability of social media applications to support both personal and community based communication is unprecedented in human history. In terms of volume of communication, speed of connection, and the use of distributed expertise and collaboration to solve difficult problems, social media provides numerous platforms that for communication and collaboration. However, there is a dark side to social media. This evil aspect of social media manifests as impersonation, misrepresentation and just plain lying. Perhaps, you might think, evil is too strong a word, but the pernicious forms of viral deceit that have, and will continue to infect virtual meeting spaces in the social media ecosphere.
Here are a few examples:
1 . Phonied up “profiles” that misrepresent previous work experience, job role(s) and responsibilities.
2. Favorable product reviews that are posted by employees from the same company that manufactures or brings to market the product or service being reviewed..
3. Phony citations by made up authors.
4. Assuming the identity of an on line avatar and pretending to be someone or something you are not.
5. Plagiary…finding something interesting somebody else wrote and claiming it as your own.
These are just a few examples.
What do you think? Is the Evil side of social media something worth considering or not?
Is there anything we can do to combat the evil and emphasize the good?

The Angelic Influence Inherent Within Social Media

Previously, I posted a brief but provocative piece entitled “The Evil Side of Social Media”.  Through spamming, scamming and duplicity, it is true that Social Media applications can be used to confuse, exploit and mis-represent.  However, there is another side to Social Media that embraces the good and beautiful inherent in all people and helps to express the “one behind the many.”

Various religious sources vouch for the existence and importance of angels.  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other world religions accept the important role angels have in bringing forth the best in individuals and groups of people.  In fact, the Five Books of Moses, the New Testament, the Koran, the carved cave temples of Buddhism in India & China, the free standing temples of Hinduism and the friezes carved on their outer and inner walls ….  all bear witness to Angels and the role they have played in human history and the path of spirituality, metaphysical study and practice.

The most common definition of an Angel is that of a “messenger”.  The primary role of a messenger is to communicate.  The communicated message comes from the realms that exist beyond our normal sense perception of the physical world.   Generally, these messages are in reaction to difficult situation that a person finds themselves in or doesn’t even know is about to occur.  Angels can come with warnings or advice, but invariably it is there role to help people deal with life challenges, overcome an obstacle, or to warn them about an oncoming disaster or tragedy.

So, what does this have to do with Social Media?  One of the things that makes the social web so engaging and social media so exciting is the unpredictability of the responses and interaction we receive when we cast our bread upon the waters as ideas to be shared with the million upon millions of other people who gain access to our ideas when we publish them as blogs or comments.  The angelic influence inherent within the process and publication components of Social Media are the positive messages of encouragement, the unsolicited direction and interactivity that comes in so many ways from so many people who are “somewhere out there.”  Just as angelic influences come to us in ways that impact our lives for the better, so too our lives can be positively impacted by the interactions and feedback we receive from the unknown millions who are “out there.”   As people respond or reach out and help to make our thinking better, enhance our feelings of self worth, and inspire us to continue becoming the best we can be, they are just like angels to us.   It is clear that social media applications provide a new way for receiving messages that have an impact that is meaningful, and often, persistent.

Please let me know what you think about this post.  I’m looking for more angels to engage with and learn from.  I know you are out there…so please let me hear from you.

Ten Observations & Principles For The Design of Innovative Webcasts

Some assumptions:
• A virtual classroom becomes a webcasting event when the number of participants increases over 50 simultaneous attendees.
• At this stage in their development, most webcasting tools (EG: WebEx, Connect, Go-To Meeting, etc. all of pretty much the same tools to support interactivity during the session
• Sometimes a webcast is designed to be a one way flow of information only (like pushing out a corporate strategy or urgent compliance requirement). In cases such as this minimal interaction is generally the best option, as the goal is less about learning and more about reaching large numbers with critical information quickly.
• The tools to support a robust vision of crowd sourced problem solving that has on board data analysis and presentation tools currently does not exist on the market
• In the current paradigm, the primary purpose of most webcasts is marketing not learning. The goal is to gather attendees and their demographics, so they can be used as “leads” for marketing purposes

The Ten Principles & Observations

1Adult learners like to be tested so they learn more about what they know and need to learn. Webcasting provides an ideal venue for assessing the knowledge of participants. Using case studies and challenge events that ask participants to identify ways to solve problems by selecting appropriate solution or predicting what the players in the case story did to handle the situation are extremely compelling.

2The aggregate knowledge and experience of the people who attend a webcast is frequently greater than that of the expert(s) presenting.

3When survey results from polling are widely variant (EG: A=5%; B=22%; C=27%; D=21%; E=25%; when C is the correct answer the really valuable learning point isn’t why “C” is correct but why 73% of the those answering chose the response “not C”. Making thinking around why participant attendees chose the incorrect answer is a teachable moment and should not be ignored or glossed over.

4Because many people’s behavior while attending a webcast is to multi-task, instructional techniques that foster attention and create urgency and personal commitment to the event are an important consideration when producing a webcast design.

5As the number of attendees in a webcast rises, the increased use of on board interactive tools like chat and Q&A with presenters becomes less and less feasible and effective. This is so because of the flood of audience entries and the inability of the presenter/facilitator to respond to a significant number of individual questions or comments. Therefore, as the numbers go up, the need for a robust interaction strategy becomes more and more critical.

6Gamification, peer to peer interaction, and fun activities during a learning webcast increase attendee engagement, motivation and persistence.

7Adults like to know where they stand in comparison to a large group of people who are just like them. The power of this principle increases in proportion to which participants are able to “see themselves” reflected in the segments being presented in terms of similar roles, demographics and experience.

8In large scale webcasts (N= 100+ attendees), the use of most native tools (polling, chat, etc.) should focus on assessing baseline knowledge to help guide content delivery and assessment to determine how participant thinking has changed or what learning has been attained as a result of the session.

9Simulated interaction during a large, virtual event has been shown to be as engaging as “authentic,” random interaction, so long as the interactions appear to the audience to be spontaneous and random

10In any virtual event there are four levels of interaction that can be designed into the teaching and learning flow.
These include:

(a) interaction enacted via “acceptance” gestures like “yes – no”, “applause” and “hand raising”;
(b) interaction with individual audience members who ask or answer questions, present ideas/projects and act as a surrogate for the larger audience;
(c) game-based interaction that competes different segments of the audience against one another as they are asked to demonstrate their knowledge and skill in aggregates that compare one team’s knowledge & skill versus another; and
(d) within site interaction wherein small groups attend the webcast together in a single location (or via virtual “break out” rooms) and are given time to discuss, collaborate and problem solve, and then “come back on line to share their solutions.

The Webinar Crisis: Enormous Proliferation of Boring Lecture

When the Great Recession hit, most corporate travel ground to a standstill. Of course, people meetings had to go on, but not in a face to face modality. Business operators knew this, so tools like Centra and Interwise which had been niche players in the on line meeting/classroom market, were acquired by bigger players (Saba & AT&T), while other applications were developed and released into the market to take advantage of the challenging business environment which resulted in most travel being frozen.

The biggest three players in this space: Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx and Citrix Go To Meeting were heavily promoted, and many other smaller players in the virtual meeting/classroom business sprung up like mushrooms. As a case in point for growth of on line meetings Just this last week, Free Conference Call.Com added web meeting functionality to their product offering.

As a point of clarification, this post focuses on large scale webinars of 100 participants or more, not on virtual classroom training. Because of the weak economy, senior managers were looking for any way to save a buck, and marketeers were forced to find alternatives to their typical channels for attracting decision makers to their products and services. The typical big boom conferences with their vendor exhibition halls were no longer worth the cost of participation for vendors because the physical attendance of participants was reduced.

Corporate discretionary spending on training was diminished, but the need to train didn’t go away, it was just deferred or flowed into different delivery mechanisms that were less costly and required minimal time off the job…like webinars, where appropriate.

As a different approaches to internal company training leveraged the new webinar technology to deliver live, then recorded versions of critical content to their respective workforces, marketing companies saw the Webinar technology as a way to lure in potential customers and new clients. Once Web 2.0 protocols were standardized, Voice Over Internet Protocols became a reasonable alternative to traditional dial in telephony and that sealed the deal for webinar use. Why? Because normal telco dial in was a potentially enormous additional, hidden, cost for conducting large-scale webinars. In fact, per participant, per minute telecom expense posed an enormous budgetary constraint to the implementation of large scale virtual meetings. By cutting out the telecom costs, an on line meeting’s expense could be reduced to the licensing fee of the tool. When reduced telecom expense was coupled with time savings and decrease loss of productivity due to time off the job, budgetary implications were indisputable and the savings irresistible. Internal, corporate webinars flourished, usually in a standard lecture format with limited interactivity and audience participation.

These factors also set the stage for the enormous proliferation of the marketing webinar we’ve all seen in recent years. What was once the exclusive province of on line, virtual classroom training, became the preferred mechanism for marketing new goods and services and generating leads for follow up sales calls. Webinars were combined with web crawling tools that could build complex semantic webs from your behavior and social profiles on the web and deposit that data in a Sales.Com database of prospective leads. You all know the routine.

Your email in box is inundated with invitations to Webinars with this famous expert or that notable senior manager or executive who wants to share their success case story with you. Sometimes the topics are cool and interesting and sometimes they are the same old, same old….but by and large they all have certain characteristics in common as follows.

Because of large audience sizes [an average attendance of 500 participants has become typical (On 24 Webinar Benchmarks, 2013)] so called webinar interactivity is generally reduced to some pre-screened questions, a couple of polls and the tangential use of chat. Sometimes more use of the interactivity afforded by these virtual meeting tools is more robust, but according to the report cited from On 24, that is the exception to the rule and not typical.

As you’ve all noticed while attending webinars a large number of participants can easily “flood” a chat room creating, literally a “gusher” of chat which courses forth like a waterfall from the attendees. Because the chat is linear and not threaded, real discourse is most often stymied and replaced by what appears to be a series of disjointed conversations that rarely reach a level of discourse one would expect when discussing meaningful topics. Of course both polling and chat have value, but, for the most part, they are hardly being used to their best advantage as means to forward learning and increase engagement.

Moreover, you know the truth…most people attend these webinars with less than half their attention. People multi task, tune in and out to the content flow, and often don’t stay in the session until the sessions complete. Almost all of us do this. It’s like listening to the radio while cooking dinner or riding in our cars. As they are currently designed and delivered, most Webinars require very little from their audiences. Yes, they can provide some interesting insights and best practices, but the overall format plays out as a panel or individual lecture and is a one way content flow with very little sharing and collaboration.

Certainly, very little or no acknowledgement that the session attendees may have an enormous amount of experience and insight into the subject being discussed and the problems being framed that are in search of effective solution architecture.

So, we have webinars of dubious quality being offered to us everyday. Invitations flood our email in boxes from Talent Management Magazine, Bersin by Deloitte, ASTD, the eLearning Guild, and many other vendors who seek to highlight their successful client engagements, new product releases and product upgrades. In addition, there are also internal company webinars that attempt to use this delivery mechanism as a means to “get the word out” about something important as quickly as possible.

If you agree with many of the points I have made previously in this blog post, I think we can achieve consensus that this is the current state of affairs and it raises the following questions which I plan to respond to in my next post:
• Isn’t there a way to make webinars more engaging and interactive than they currently are?
• Is there a way to use webinars to investigate and leverage the collected knowledge, skill, wisdom and insight of the folks attending the webinar themselves?
• Are there ways to design webinars to increase the value derived from them, from both a participant and sponsoring entity perspective?
• Are there ways to make webinars more fun and creative?
• Can some of the solutions implied by the questions above be designed, developed and executed in a cost conscious, yet effective way?
• . What additional features and functions should a webinar virtual meeting environment have to support some of the objectives above that are not currently available?
If you’d like a copy of the On24 research study I cited above, please don’t hesitate to ask me, and I’ll send.