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programmer_mike a managers view from development hell

So, Microsoft has launched Silverlight. I'm a development manager and my team produces web sites, so it’s time to check it out. This isn't a particularly unusual activity for me. Microsoft brings out products left-right and centre, technology moves on every day, you have to run to stay still in this game etc etc etc.

But hang on, it seems to be getting harder to keep up. Is it the passage of time gently eroding my grey matter? Am I drowning in a sea of internet content? Are my bulging mail folder and my never ending list of priority 1's giving me an intellectual drag factor? Is my brain becoming less aerodynamic?

To put it simply no. It’s just that the MSDN crew at Microsoft seem incapable of putting pen to paper any more. All I seem to be able to access these days is video content. This is simply no good, and I do not have time for it. I can read and absorb information a hundred times faster than when I'm forced to sit through jerky, half-baked webcasts padded out with tedious introductions and marketing rubbish. Whoever though that moving to webcasts would help people learn quicker was simply deluded. Television has never been the best medium to learn from, and no amount of Web 2.0 spin or sheen will change that.

Here are the facts:

The Written Word (in particular the web)

Absolutely perfect for disseminating information. Crucially the reader can digest information at their own pace which makes it a very democratic means of communication. The author also has plenty of time (deadlines apart) for revising content, without a requirement for any kind of performance. Placing written content on the web, and allowing it to be indexed, searched and hyperlinked, has added value beyond calculation to the original material - but then we all knew that one, didn't we.

Images

"A picture paints a thousand words".... sometimes. A well chosen image can occasionally greatly enhance a piece of written text. But by the same token, too many images can distract the reader, or dilute the content. A simple rule is this - only use images when only images can be used. Use a diagram, when illustrating the point in plain text would be too complex. Use pictures of pretty, smiling girls playing on the beach if you are trying to sell something (and distract from the fact you have no information to share).

Audio

People seem perplexed that radio stations still exist in this day and age, but they have one massive plus point. You can listen to the radio while you simultaneously do something else. Listen to DotNetRocks while you do your ironing. Learn Spanish on the drive to work. It’s much less flexible than the written word, and subsequently far harder to add extra value (hyperlinks, indexing), but it will always have a place somewhere. Whenever people find themselves away from a computer screen.

Video

Great for fun. After all, no one wants to read about how lovely a Hollywood actress looks. They want pictures, they want films. TV dominates the world because you get so much out of it for so little return. Why pick up a book when you can lie in bed dribbling at flickering pictures of women and food? Why strike up a conversation when you can gaze mindlessly at the latest reality show and listen to someone elses? But for teaching, it’s a poor forth place here. It manages to combine the disadvantage of a tedious slow pace of learning (let’s just pause for 10 seconds while the director plays a clip of clouds rolling by), with an inflexible linear narrative (very difficult to link elsewhere or "skim" a chapter with video).

 

 

I’m going to tackle the pointless, cheap and aggravatingly meaningless experience that is Multi-media in another post. Even the least perceptive of readers will have deduced that my contempt for this form runs very deeply indeed., but its late, and I need all my energies to launch into that one...

 

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2007 11:12 AM | Back to top


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