When Change Doesn’t Make Sense and Why it Should

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Nearly everyone experiences the frustration of unexpected change. Patterns of life and work flow are often interrupted by innovations that don’t make sense. Everything from software and TV remotes to roadways and voting locations. Change typically comes without much explanation and while the reasons are evident to engineers and developers, others are often outside that bubble.

Users are typically told what is new, but seldom are they told the why behind it. In some cases the explanation given is so broad it’s almost worthless. “To improve traffic safety” or ” to enhance the customer experience.”

Leaving out the why happens in part because it isn’t needed to sell products. Sales is driven by short term what and who. Why is only needed if it helps complete the transaction. Technical support, customer service, trainers, and elected officials are left to sort through questions of why things changed, often without solid answers.

The result of the non-answers they provide is often frustration. Yet with a little explaining on the front end, those who are interested in the why can become strong advocates for “What’s New.” They’ll be less resistant when they get a glimpse of the reasoning behind the changes. Assuming those reasons make sense.

Converting what into why can give advocates more reason to support the change. If it can be explained well, others will share the story. If not, people will make efforts to point out a speculative why, and chances are that speculation with be negative. “They changed it because they’re idiots.” Don’t give them the opportunity.

Take what the engineers, planners, and developers know and put it in terms those impacted by the change can easily understand. Building the right story around the boring details can go along towards increasing confidence in your organization.

Presentation Review Form

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In 1996 I attended a training course presented by Franklin Quest (Now FranklinCovey) called “Presentation Advantage.” In addition to the course workbook, the handouts included a Presentation Review form that is no longer available. The form was designed to guide the reviewer in rating the presenter’s over all design and delivery in 20 categories.

With FranklinCovey’s permission I have recreated a modified version of the form, attributed the copyright to Franklin Quest, and made it available for download in two formats. While this version of the form is free, if the current course is anything like the one I attended in 96′, I highly recommend attending.

PDF

Word

 

When using this form both the presenter and reviewer must be committed to accepting the brutal facts. A large portion of the form could be used by music reviewers when rating concerts or by musicians unfamiliar with the importance of on stage delivery. Everyone can improve when they are open to outside feedback.

 

However you choose to use this form, I wish you the best in improving your act.  

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.

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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.

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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.

Why we know less than ever about the world

I watched a brief yet revealing TED talk this morning by Public Radio International CEO, Alisa Miller, titled “Why we know less than ever about the world.” Sadly, American news media spends most of their resources focusing on myopic issues, like personal tragedies in the lives of pop stars, while ignoring the rest of the world. Watch this four minute and twenty nine second clip to see the statistics and hear Alisa Miller in her own words.


Note to news media: Next time you’re tempted to report on something relatively trivial, like an athlete turned actor running from police in his white Ford Bronco, chances are high that something of true importance, like the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, is happening at the same time. If you don’t tell us, how will we know?

Good Stuff from the Ad Council

Chin     Portions     Food Pyramid

The images above are from campaigns led by the Ad Council (Click on each image for a larger view). The Ad Council has also created some excellent videos. Here are links to some of my favorites. 

Hamster                    Bullseye

Light Saber               Movie

Acronyms                  Monitor

Bandage Puller         SUV 

Truth Serum              Sarah Watkins

Almost Fed

Support the Ad Council.

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.

Your Feelings are Being Recorded

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If you’ve typed the words “I feel” or “I am feeling” on a blog in the past three years, chances are your feelings have been tracked. Not by a government but by wefeelfine.org, the work of computer scientist Jonathan Harris and Google engineer Sep Kamvar. Their system captures sentences containing the words “I feel” or “I am feeling” and scans them to see if the sentences fit into one of 5,000 pre-identified categories. Where possible, the age, gender, and location of the blogger are also recorded. If a location is available, the local weather at the time of the post is recorded.  

According to the We Feel Fine mission page, their database of several million feelings increases by 15,000 to 20,000 new feelings each day.  

The data is displayed in six unique formats; madness, murmurs, montage, mobs, metrics, and mounds. Mounds reveal how many people are feeling good, bad, ugly, or any of over 3,400 common feelings. Did you post about feeling “comfortable” in the past few days? So did 16,552 other people. If you wrote that you felt “flaky” you’re one of only twenty. 70% of these flaky feelings were written in sunny weather and 20% under cloudy skies (A location was not available for the remaining 10%).  

The thought of separate but collective feelings inspires me to say, wefeelfine.org is pretty cool.

However you choose to describe your feelings, you’re not alone.  

The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen — New Eyes for Old Data

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The Universe is filled with infinite data and our access to that data is begining to blossom. In the past decade an incredible amount of information has been placed within public reach. Once the wow factor of endless access has worn off, making the old numbers relevant and bringing the digital archive to life is challenging. Can new tools bring life to old data?

A hand full of designers are successfully pulling back the curtain to reveal hidden beauty in the numbers. Here is a synopsis of what a few of them are doing.

Hans Rosling has created something brilliant with Gapminder World. Visit his site and watch each nation progress as statistical data changes (Additional data can be displayed by clicking on the words “Life Expectancy in Years” on the far right of the Gapminder screen). To hear Dr. Rosling explain Gapminder, watch these entertaining presentations recorded at TED (June 2006, June 2007).

Amnesty International gives us an interactive bird’s eye view of the destruction in Dafur with Eyes on Dafur: Satellite Evidence.

For violence in the United States see what the LA Times has done with public data and Google maps to track every Homicide in Los Angeles County during 2007 (708 victims as of 10/30/07).

For a less detailed look into history view the interactive maps American Leadership and War and History of Religion by Maps of War.