The Great Questions We Carry

A defective four leaf clover.

Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.

The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.

We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.

At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.

While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.

Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.

The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.

What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.

Facebook vs. MySpace and Breaking the Sex Barrier

In full discloser, I’m a Facebook fan. For me there is something a bit dark about MySpace, yet I have an account with both. Where do others stand in this battle between these two social networking giants?

According to Google Trends Facebook passed MySpace in the number of Google searches in the first quarter of 2008 and has continued to rise surpassing YouTube searches in the final weeks of 2008.

facebook_vs_myspace

So what is “the sex barrier” and how does it relate? The Sex barrier is represented by the green line in the second graft. If you have more people googling for your product than are googling the word “sex”, you’ve broken passed the sex barrier. Searches for the word “YouTube” passed the word “sex” in the first quarter of 2007, searches for “Facebook” passed it in the second quarter of 2008. MySpace has yet to break the barrier.

sexbarrier

The word Obama did it briefly in November 2008. More people world wide, according to Google, were looking up stories about Obama winning the U.S. Presidential election than were searching for sex related stories, products, etc. However searches for sex did not decrease as a result of the Obama searches. I’m not sure what this data indicates other than marketers have done an excellent job of selling sexuality online. This shouldn’t be a surprise.


The next barrier to pass is the word “free”. In Google searches the word “sex” is no where close to the word “free”. People want free stuff. However, in 2008 both YouTube and Facebook surpassed the magical word “free”.


Compared to these four words; free, YouTube, sex, and Facebook, searches for words like god, war, church, health, cancer, bush, give, and beer hardly register (Sadly, more people and googling for “beer” online than “peace”, but not by much).


So what does all this mean? Several things. First, since I’ve included the words sex and free in this post several times, I will probably get a number of online visits from people who won’t find what they are looking for. Second, using Google Trends is great for getting a ball park idea of search terms people are using. And third, I still like Facebook better than MySpace and I recommend it to everyone, unless you’re a musician. If you are a musician or a singer/songwriter use both. Searches for “MySpace” passed searches for “Music” in mid 2006 and it doesn’t look like it will to change anytime soon. For music, MySpace is on top.

The CommonCraft Show: Attention grabbing low-tech educational videos

Below are two attention grabbing plain English educational videos from The CommonCraft Show. The first is about Google Docs and the second, CFL bulbs. If you think there is no profit in this kind of work, think again. Google is a CommonCraft Productions customer.

Sometimes a simple design is better. Watch and learn.

Don’t shoot: Stop Bullet Point Overkill

Bullet Point OverKill 

Bullets points are not the answer. What value do they add to a presentation when the text is already in a 28 point font and is the only text on the screen?

If you must use bullet points, use them sparingly and use them well.  Here is one slide example (Click once to advance the slide).* 

PowerPoint presentations can shine without bullet points.

Think before you shoot.

*The animation is better in PowerPoint, NOT PowerPoint Viewer.