“Hella Drop Shadow”: Presenting and Teaching in the Era of the Backchannel #HighEdWebNotes

Posted by on Nov 20, 2010 in conference, higher ed, opinion, pseweb, socialmedia


As Twitter’s growth and hype continue, it seems like everyone is getting in on the act — athletes, actors, politicians, and even educators are joining the virtual conversation. But what happens when that virtual conversation becomes the main event? How should presenters and educators prepare themselves for this reality? And what responsibilities do audience members have when thoughts shared amongst friends can suddenly become “trending topics?’ Join us for a conversation focused on the need to understand how the crowd in the cloud and the sage on the stage can coexist to create an environment of engagement, respect, and conversation, including first-hand observations of some recent “tweckling” incidents (some closer to home than others).


  • Robin Smail, Disruptive Technologist, Penn State University
  • Patti Fantaske, IT Specialist, Information Technology Services, Penn State University

  • Lori Packer, Web Editor, University of Rochester


How powerful is it? Of all the ppl who weren’t here last year, only one person hadn’t heard about “hella drop shadow” (aka the Great Keynote Meltdown of 2009).

Backchannel has always been around:

  • now we have a megaphone
  • no longer contained to geo-physical space
  • not just public, it is pseudo permanent. It is findable.

Social media is forcing us to change how we do things.

Monitor the online and in room backchannel – speakers are partnering to watch each other’s back(channel)s.

The days of fifteen bullet points per slide are over: unless of course you are using an accepted new technology such as Google Wave, or Prezi.

Challenge for speakers is to be compelling enough for the audience to pay attention.

Are presentations many to many now?

There needs to be a referee – an ombudsperson – who stops and says there is a question on Twitter, please answer it.

Backchannel in the Classroom:

  • Hotseat – participate via Twitter or Facebook, via laptop or mobile. Purdue University
  • Harvard Question Answer
  • Goal with software is to not require users to change their behaviour.

Backchannel can go bad on good speakers:  “spectacle at web 2.0 expo … from my perspective” (dannah boyd)

  • dannah is a brilliant academic and sought after speaker who had a negative backchannel experience when presenting at web2.0 expo (she was the only academic speaker at the event and her format was much different than that of the non-academic speakers)

The same way we can tweak online ads from day to day, minute to minute to get the best performance possible … Conferences/events can use the backchannel to provide the best experience possible.  They can protect the speaker, act as a moderator, and can act on issues impacting the experience of the attendees. i.e. Mark is able to hear the wifi isn’t working and get it fixed.

With danah boyd, did the organizers fail? Putting the backchannel onscreen with the speaker – taking away the audiences choice whether to pay attention to the speaker or go into the backchannel. dannah also didn’t know the set up of the stage/backchannel screen until she got onto stage.  Is enough thought going into the physical and tech set up at events? Over and over speakers can’t see their slides, the screen is too dark, or in this case, the panelists are behind a podium and can’t be seen by the audience.  At eduweb09, the podium where my laptop was setup was about 20 metres from the screen where the slides were shown – to point to the slides, I had to jog across the stage and talk and point, and then jog back across to click forward to the next slide.  Could have been improved if screen and podium were closer to each other, or if a laser pointer had been provided, or if the speaker had a remote control clicker.

As a speaker, I have a choice to be scared or to take control and own (the backchannel).

The audience is the paying customer.

Rule with radio, television is that when it goes south – you end it. No matter how long the session is supposed to be. Used to be at you walked out, now people enjoy watching the crash too much to look away.

My take from hella drop shadow at #heweb09 was that the speaker and his content did not match the audience.  Maybe he was a poor selection, or maybe (definitely) he was poorly prepared (for us).  It is critical to know who you are talking to – what they know, what are they interested in, what’s their background. That said, was there any value in leaving the speaker on stage? He couldn’t be heard, his slides were sloppy and unprofessional, and his content was out of date and self-driven.  I’ve never taken a speaker off stage, but I’ve definitely considered it and watched the backchannel and audience for cues that things were headed South.  Would I have the guts to stand up and end a presentation if it were of no value to the audience and damaging to the speaker? I hope so – but I haven’t yet.

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iPad/iPhone App Round Up

Posted by on Jul 15, 2010 in mobile, opinion

I love going through people’s app lists, so here is mine!  I had intended to do a “Both” list, then iPad only and iPhone only – but it’s taking me too long to bother doing the iPhone apps (my iPhone lifechangers are: mapquest, newsrack, itweetreply, css cheatsheet, THI trainer, habit factor, stick it, shazam, code reader, , sleep cycle and fourquare – there I did it!).


Notes on “both” – some of these are iPhone only but I run them on my iPad anyways.

  1. AudioNote ($4.99): Records audio while you take notes.  Type or draw.
  2. WordPress: Hook up to multiple hosted WP blogs. Create/Edit posts, pages. Manage comments. ESSENTIAL APP if you WP.
  3. Google Analytics ($6.99, iPhone only): Annoying that there are different versions for ipad and iphone (aka two purchases), but who can live without analytics? I’m running the iphone version on my ipad, in protest.
  4. Facebook: Beware, it’s not iPad-sized yet. #FAIL
  5. Google: Didn’t come installed by default on iPad, but Google is life so I installed it on both.
  6. Evernote: Essential. Especially with our photocopiers at work, I scan all notes and email them to evernote. Zero paper files = heaven.
  7. Dropbox: Essential. Because you have files in more than one place.
  8. Twitter (formerly Tweetie): I find it the most satisfying twitter client on either device so far.
  9. IM+ Pro ($9.99): Hook into Twitter, Facebook, MSN Messenger, and Skype all in one place.  I run with 2 MSN accounts.  I’ve opted out of Twitter because it isn’t reverse chronological and there are better Twitter apps out there. I upgraded to Pro so that I could add my  Skype account.
  10. Words with Friends Free (iPhone only): Social scrabble /w chat. Fun!
  11. RDP Lite: Remote Desktop Client that has been a staple since week #1 with the iPhone. Free.
  12. Personal Assistant: The only financial app that has been able to link to both my credit cards as well as my CDN bank account. Very very handy.  Alerts me to large transactions, payment due dates.  Can do much more, but that’s all I’ve set up.  Free.
  13. YellowPages: A key resource.
  14. Amazon Kindle: Picked it over Kobo, not for any particular reason.  Just seemed like it was the stronger player, would go further.
  15. Note on iBooks: So far, it has not had any of the books that I have wanted to purchase. Kindle FTW!
  16. DocsToGo ($9.99): Open and EDIT Microsoft Office files.
  17. Kijiji: Can’t stop, won’t stop.  Love this app/website.
  18. iWatchr ($0.99): Keeps track of my weight watchers points 🙂
  19. Skype: Redundant thanks to IM+ – Zing!
  20. Newsrack ($4.99): Testing as replacement to Google Reader – not sure yet.  It’s got the same #FAIL as Pulse, but doesn’t have an open in Safari option, so the Note in Reader work around doesn’t save it.
  21. TweetDeck (iPhone version, iPad version): One of the strongest multi platform, multi account aggregators.  It’s my fall back twitter app … I tend to stick with Twitter/Tweetie or Hootsuite. Very pretty on iPad.
  22. PayPal (iPhone version only): Essential for managing money in this account.  Also, can Bump to give money to another user.
  23. Eventbrite: Awesome check in application – can have multiple gates each with an iphone or ipad all scanning in attendees and checking them into the database.
  24. LinkedIn: Because sometimes I use it.  I wish it supported groups …
  25. iTweetReply ($1.99): Twitter  push notifications, opens tweets in program of choice.  Tweetdeck and hootsuite aren’t choices, so I go with Twitter/Tweetie.
  26. Bump: Novelty. Amazing.  Exchange contact details with a bonk, exchange twitter contacts, exchange money via PayPal!
  27. Flixter: Reviews, trailers on every movie ever – in theatres and on dvd.
  28. Zinio: Magazine app.  This one is gaining steam.  My pile of magazines is a) not on the floor anymore, b) with me everywhere I go, and c) favourite pages/recipes are now screenshots/pictures instead of piles of ripped out pages
  29. Mapquest (iPhone version only): Spoken directions/navigation. Basically a GPS for free. (More so than Google Maps)
  30. Hoosuite ($2.99 iPhone version, Free HTML5 website for iPad): Great multi-account/tracking/team twitter tool.

iPad Only:

  1. iMockups ($9.99): kind of awkward, but i eventually got the ivey web template drawn in and duplicated for fancy ipad wireframing
  2. Memeo Connect: Gorgeous interface for google docs.  they promise to make editing possible soon.
  3. Quick Voice: Because the ipad doesn’t come with a voice recorder.
  4. Pulse ($3.99): Sucks in  your Google Reader feeds and lays them out like a pretty digital magazine/dashboard.  Fail: no way to mark “shared” back to Google Reader, which is how I archive useful articles.  Fix: Added a Note to Reader bookmark to Safari.
  5. Jumbo Calculator: Because the iPad doesn’t have a calculator
  6. iBooks: Comes with the ipad.  Will be more useful when it handles PDFs as promised today by Steve Jobs.
  7. Popplet Lite: Great mindmapping tool – very pretty.
  8. Dictionary: Seems good to have.
  9. Files HD ($2.99): Crazy fast file upload from dekstop/laptop browser to iPad app.  Redundant to GoodReader and Dropbox.  Not sure which one I will stick with.
  10. textPlus+: Free text messaging via wifi – works fine.  Will have to wait for the bill to see if the reply number is international (costing people money to reply to me)
  11. Noterize ($2.99): Another note taking app – haven’t put it through its paces yet, but very interested after seeing it on @pscheyen’s ipad

iPad Fails:

  1. ClipTwin: Thought it would be a good way to ship pictures from iPhone to iPad.  It’s not.  Took 5 minutes to send a single photo.
  2. Bluetooth Phone: hasn’t yet successfully found my iphone …
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A Different Conference Experience

Posted by on Mar 1, 2010 in conference, opinion

Today I attended an “emarketng” conference hosted by the city’s major college – by their business school actually – which I suppose would be the nearest local competitor to where I work. 

I’ve never felt so alone! So helpless! The opening keynote by Mitch Joel was fantastic, bang-on and inspiring.  It home when he described his job as the type where his wife had to ask him every few months what he did again and how they paid for their house when he spent some much time on Facebook? I’m not sure anyone in my family or social networks knows quite what I do for a living, or how I keep dog food in the bowl. 

One or two times a year, I pop on a plane to somewhere random in the United States and within a few hours I’m sharing apps and drinks with a group of people who know what I do.  For a collective 6 to 8 days a year, I’m surrounded by the warm hug of people who know what Twitter is and are passionate about the size & content of the display picture used on a Facebook Page. 

These semi-annual occasions are conferences for web professionals and marketers in higher education.  Today, I attended a conference for professionals on the topic of e-Marketing in my hometown.  That warm sense of co-nerdiness was missing.  Although the keynote was fantastic, it was in a room without wifi or cell service – in fact, there was no wifi all day! When I was able to get reception, I tweeted to the world – hello, is anyone here? – and got no response.  This was a far cry from last October’s HighEdWeb conference, where the session rooms were bursting with silent online conversation. 

It was a very different experience.  I’m glad I went – it is important to support the web and social media community of business people here so that hopefully it will take off running.  I have no idea why the community of local social media professionals and gurus were not in attendance.  Last year at Podcamp London, we actually were able to trend the conference on Twitter! But today, in the same city, the feeds were quiet.

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Get out of debt by shopping at Chapters! 0

Get out of debt by shopping at Chapters!

Posted by on Jan 5, 2010 in marketing, mobile, opinion

I’ve written about emails received as a Chapters Indigo customer before, but this one just struck me as funny: advice on how to get out of debt – starting with a book purchase (and several other books that would be relevant as well).

On the email-marketing side of things, they’ve done great with the nice little “Viewing this on a mobile phone?” that loads a plain text version in your browser – I might have not gone quite so plain and kept some links (aka calls to action/next steps) in there – or a phone number to shop by phone would have been a nice touch (blackberries and iphones highlight phone numbers for one-click calling/contact adding).

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I am an awful customer

Posted by on Nov 4, 2009 in opinion

I am an awful customer. I want and want and want and I have NO sympathy for your issues. You are getting paid to serve me.

I am very open about service (or lack thereof) that I receive. Rogers has done more than well by me, Netfirms has been surprisingly available (although, they never did fix the issue), and then there are the ones I talk about with less satisfaction.

This week, I signed a new one year contract with a company that has ridiculous red tape to service, high prices – and has in the past randomly withdrawn extra money from my account that I still have not received back.

Why? My health. Their product is the solution, and as much as it bugs me to give them business, I’m not going to ‘kill’ myself over it.

(Think about how often I am going to recount my woes to other potential customers – hopefully they will lose more than what I’m paying them, in the form of lost business).

None of this is really my point (thank you for reading though!). When I signed my deal with the devil, the front staff asked me about my history with products of this type, what I was looking for, etc. They asked why I wanted to try the service before signing on and why I was reluctant to do business with them despite the strength of their product.

And they sympathized! They are so friendly and nice, and getting paid next to nothing. We’ve all been there. Most of us have worked places that we would have changed if we could have at the time – from fast food to marketing. As much as I want to grouch through the sign on process, I can’t take it out on this innocent, sympathetic, my new best friend, front desk person. It simply would not be fair.

As the ‘face’ of a recent redesign – I need to become the front desk person. Separating myself from the changes coming down from on high is how a webmaster or mistress can best survive the roll out of a new look and feel. Not many redesigns are done solo, and the person with decision making power is rarely the messenger when it comes to unveiling and softly enforcing a new web onto a community.

How do you manage change across the organization? How did your web team go about introducing and implementing change?

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