In my first two posts about alternative KM tools I wrote about audio - digital voice recorders and voice-recognition software. One could consider this "old-school" technology, because the stuff has been around for a long time. Another technology that's been around for a long time is PC-based video - around, but possibly not as accessible as it is now. YouTube and the various Internet video sites are a relatively new phenomenon, mostly because breakthroughs and video technology that reduces file size while retaining image quality.
Sure, I like angry hamsters and vintage 80's videos just as much as the next guy, but a series of revelations in quick succession made me stop and take another look ...
Follow Him Around
All too often, the classic on-the-job training technique has been "just follow Jim around, and do what he does for the next three weeks ...". This kind of unstructured training doesn't lend itself to easily to written documentation - it's the nature of the process as well is the nature of the people. Video, however, allows us to simulate this "follow him around" approach; an excellent example is given in the Chris Gemignani video (courtesy of Jon Udell), showing how to re-create a complicated graphic from the New York Times in MS Excel. This is the type of "training video" that is perfect for someone who is relatively familiar with Excel, but just needs to understand some new and different ways to manipulate the graphic elements.
This kind of approach clicked with me, because this was my preferred method for learning a new programming environment. If I could just get an experienced programmer to take me through the edit / compile / debug / build cycle, I would be off and running. In a previous post I talked about a session with Jon Udell and Anders Hejlsberg, where the interaction between programmer and IDE was demonstrated while talking about concepts in SQL and XML - perfect stuff for the Experienced programmer looking to will learn or understand the interaction with the Visual Studio IDE.
I noticed something while listening to both of these videos; the narrators have a similar conversation style. I think it affected my screencast style; I've made a few instructional videos at work, and I find the rhythm and tone of my narration match what these guys are doing. It's definitely different than public speaking - you are trying to enunciate while trying not to sound like a robot. It can be very "conversational" - no concerns about a few ums, ers, oops, and hey, check that out. This is quite natural, because you are screen casting an actual session, and it's not really practical to script out the whole thing. The best script for these "watch-over-my-shoulder" videos is just an outline of the key items that you will walk the person through - you'll still narrate and react to things like system performance, and mistyped words, and interesting pop-ups.
There are plenty of places on the web where video-based instruction is taking hold ...
YouTube has become a significant force in business learning. People that would never read a 200 page book will happily watch a three minute video.
... and points to a Squidoo page with a number of typical training videos
So don't wait - go find yourself a nice flash screen test tool, a reasonably decent microphone, and start creating videos - you'll probably find it a lot easier than writing!
See the whole Alternative KM Tools series: