Connecting the dots

I’ll come to listen to your parade of movers and shakers, spend the night comfortably cosseted in clean linen. Thanks for the food, flight and great speakers. You’re obviously serious and I must admit, I’m flattered that you want me to come to your do. Although it makes me sound a bit ungrateful (and I’m not), let me tell you how you could be getting better bang for your conference buck.

If you want to ensure that your messages are heard by people that matter – then look for people that use a range of processes for communicating online. They’re connecting (sometimes very loosley) to like minded people interested in formulating relationships with other likeminded people with the express purpose of communicating and developing knowledge. Try engaging these individuals with online identities. They’re mavens trying to join the dots together. Your conference is an opportunity to broaden the conversation and you’ll find that if you connect, they aren’t scared of sharing their thoughts.

So once the thank-you’s have been said, the business cards exchanged, Linkedin Profiles updated, and all other network schmuckwork dissipates at the end of the conference, remember oh conference organiser, that “knowledge – and therefore the learning of knowledge – is distributive, and not located in any given place.” As Downes explains, knowledge consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community. So if you are really looking to connect your impressive programme to key people …. then organising a get together of key people in a big city and spend thousands of rands flying in delegates to a hotel stay sandwiched with a seminar filling is only the start of the process. Sorry, you thought the conference was over.

Does it have to be so hard?

logonHostname, username, computername, network, password, submit – are words that I see everyday and respond to without thinking. This jargon however, is a foreign language to a person on the other side of the digital donga. Yet the terms are thrust as a greeting at the struggling “digital immigrant”, aware of an information avalanche, threatened by a disconnected future, worried about tripping over hurdles as they try to login to the LAN.

I’ve just tasted this cocktail of confusion. I spent an hour introducing the LAN to a student who’se managed to avoid browser wars, Hotmail, e-commerce, Google thedotcombomb, Youtube, Facebook etc. The jargon and the process was unfamiliar and obscure. The purpose of the login exercise did not communicate security. It spoke of trickery and confusion, things that you’d expect a usability expert to have simplified by now.

Firstly, you have to swipe your card at the help desk (located 10 minutes away from this lan). Secondly, you have to enter your user number and then your password. Thirdly, after entering your password, you are prompted to add a new one, and then to repeat this new one, and if you don’t think of a “secure” password, you’ll be asked to repeat step 3 again. With login done, the fourth step is to attempt to access your e-mail. And so you repeat the process of usernames and passwords. And then if you are to make use of any social media – the process has to be repeated again.

Why, when the LAN is used primarily by students that don’t have a computer at home, does it have to be so darn difficult to logon to a network? When swiping the card, the “help” desk could use a branching test to easily establish whether the user was a newbie and give the struggling student a small tutorial in login procedures. A single hand out with the space for a user to fill in their username and password might avoid countless confused students. Or how about an ambient gaming overlay that will nudge users forwards. At least create a screen saver that offers a login tutorial might assist the student scaffold their thoughts.

The banking industry have managed to simplify the login procedure to access money from an ATM. OpenID is making it safe, faster and easier to log in to web sites. Kodak (and other film companies) have managed to get photographers to use their terminals to print out photos, but network security technicians (or whoever is responsible for the LAN login process) have re-enforced a late adopters inferiority complex and excluded them from participating all because of network security.
There must be ways that can make connecting to the net work a little less work?