Monthly Archives: March 2010

Where to go to find people using iPads this weekend? In all sorts of interesting places!

We’re just a few days away from the iPad falling into users’ hands, in time for Spring Break, Easter, and Passover.

So where might you go and find iPads if you weren’t lucky enough to order one for yourself? Well, as the video below shows, a whole variety of places, perhaps even at the White House Passover seder hosted by Barak and Steve himself!


While the 3 year old will yelp with delight when they discover the iPad’s games, the 80 year old will quietly say, “I get it. This is what computing’s about.”

I had dinner last Friday with colleagues with whom I had studied and graduated in Knowledge Management from the University of Melbourne. That course, which was a grand experiment to combine the talents of academic staff from the University’s Education, ICT, and Business/Economics schools lasted but a few years.

Its driving force, recently retired Professor Gabriele Lakomski attended the dinner, and asked when I first started the course with her. In fact, I was in the first intake of 2003, and I remember it clearly, I told her. It’s because in 2003, Apple’s Keynote was introduced (along with Safari and 12″ and 17″ Powerbooks), and I used it very early in our course, some time in March or April. (You need to know that the Australian university year runs from March through November.)

Seated next to us was another student from the same intake, Victoria, and when I said to Professor Lakomski I still remember my first use of Keynote in class, Vicky exclaimed, “Yes, I remember. It was the study on British Aerospace Industries!”

Now this was seven years ago almost to the day, and she still remembered the presentation I did! This was because for all in the class, it would have been the first time they saw Keynote (and me) in action anywhere (unless they had seen the 2003 Macworld Jobs-delivered keynote). I still remember the “oos and ahs” this rather mature student group spontaneously let out when I first showed Keynote’s cube transition, and some red call out boxes to highlight data.

Seated at the same dinner table last Friday were students who entered the course after I had completed my studies, and whom I’ve met at other functions organised by this very social graduate group. One, Winston, works for a very large car manufacturing company whose world headquarters are in Detroit, and was in receipt of bailout money in recent months. The company has been part of the Australian manufacturing sector since the 1940s, and their vehicles remain very popular with Australians.

Somehow, the discussion moved to the iPad, perhaps after I had excused myself from the table to answer my iPhone, and Winston suggested on my return he was interested in getting an iPhone too. I suggested he wait a little while, perhaps June or July, when a new model might become available, and from there a discussion took place about the iPhone’s place in business now that Microsoft Exchange could work with it. It was a quick skip to speculation about the iPad.

Winston put me on the spot to pronounce why the iPad was a better choice than a netbook, which in Australia would be half the price and pack more features, such as a camera, “real” keyboard, iPhone tethering, and the full Microsoft Office suite.

My response was to suggest that the iPad should better be considered not as a computer in the common use of the term, i.e. a notebook or desktop device, but as a knowledge management tool in its own right, and rattled off the sort of apps it would inherit from the iPhone as well as those likely be designed to take advantage of its speed and screen size.

I suggested to Winston that the iPad would have limited initial appeal to computer wonks who wanted merely a smaller form factor for Windows-based computing. It would fail their needs. But I then suggested that there would be huge numbers of ordinary people with very limited knowledge of computer innards and workings – that is, the vast bulk of the Australian population – for whom the iPad would elicit the spontaneous remark:

So this is what computing should be!

No menu bars, no operating system to fiddle with, instant on and ready to use at the simple touch of one button, yet also have powerful business applications such as iWork and Bento and Evernote should this group of users work its way up the skill and learning curve.

When Winston said he had elderly parents who had never touched a computer but had expressed interest in what their use might bring to their lives, I asked him in all honesty which he would buy them: A $400 netbook running Windows Xp (then add the cost of Microsoft Office 2007) or a $650 iPad plus the $50 for iWork + Bento?

The picture of 75 year old mum and dad sitting on their couch wrestling with a netbook with its tiny keyboard and poor resolution screen was enough to observe Winston momentarily pause in his tracks to reconsider his options. Yes, for him, with his background in engineering, a netbook was a no-brainer. A good match for the problems he wished to solve.

But he acknowledged that perhaps he had been too quick to judge the iPad from his own perspective of what he thought computing was about, and not see it from another’s perspective. Of course, being the empathic psychologist I am, this is how I work! It wasn’t to him I was suggesting the iPad made sense, but to the many people for whom, like Winston had learnt for himself, the iPhone had delivered mobile telephony bliss – this is how a phone should work.

Now the same group would discover that the same training they had voluntarily undergone to understand the iPhone and make it a valuable and enjoyable part of their daily living was transferable to the iPad.

In Knowledge Management, one of the key elements, perhaps a Holy Grail, is knowledge transfer: how those with vast experience in complex systems which may take decades to accrue, can transfer this unspoken knowledge to those new to the organisation, lest it be lost when they leave or are fired.

(To illustrate this concept, I often invoke the sad story of Ansett Airlines, to whom I consulted, being sold to Air New Zealand in a fish-swallows-whale story. Management of its Boeing 767 fleet, one of the world’s oldest at the time, was handled by staff in New Zealand while the aircraft were serviced in Australia. Knowledgeable staff who knew these aircraft like they were their own children with their own personalities were let go, as if the aircraft were just hunks of metal. Ultimately, because of oversights, essential Boeing-driven examination for potential cracks in vital engine areas were not performed, and the fleet was grounded not once, but twice. It spelt the ultimate demise of the airline after seven decades of operation, not helped by the entry of brash new airlines like VirginBlue, and a federal government prepared for the airline to fail.)

Whenever you hear someone dissing the iPad as an overgrown iPod Touch, congratulate them, not mock them, for getting what Apple’s on about. They have given us a very practical example of knowledge transfer, something we take for granted whenever we walk to a door and see the “push” or “pull” label to know what to do, without needing further knowledge in physics or mechanical engineering.

With the iPad, school’s out when it comes to having to learn how to operate a computer. The funny thing is, watch what happens when you give a three year old, and his or her great grandfather an iPhone without instruction what to do to make things happen. That same intuitive but unspoken “I think I can understand this device just by toying with it using my fingers” will occur.

While the 3 year old will yelp with delight when they discover the iPad’s games, the 80 year old will quietly say, “I get it. This is what computing’s about.”

Why Apple included iWork on the iPad

Last month at Macworld 2010, I reminded attendees in my Presentation Magic workshop that I had written about Keynote, Apple’s presentation software part of its iWork productivity suite, and how it might function on a tablet device. Here’s the link I illustrated in my talk:

In his January 27 special event, Steve Jobs spoke of approaching the iWork team and asking if it was possible to bring iWork to the iPad.

Here are his exact words, after the demo on the iPad as an eBook reader:

January 27, 2010: Steve Jobs announces iWork on the iPad

Now, something very exciting: iWork. A little over a year ago, I asked the head of our iWork team to take a look at creating a version of iWork for the iPad. And the initial reaction was… “the iWork apps – Keynote, Pages and Numbers are really heavy duty apps… they require a lot of horsepower. Could the tablet power them?”

And the answer turned out to be a resounding “You betcha!”

And then, could we come up with an entirely new user interface for these apps? Very different from writing on a personal computer. And what they came up with is really magnificent.

Now you have to wonder if asking the iWork team leader “to take a look at” whether iWork can be situated on the iPad is Jobs’ code for: “the Apple executive team thought iWork as an extra item would be icing on a very sweet cake” or “take your team off desktop iWork for a few months and make iWork on the iPad happen. Here’s the date by which I want it finished” or Steve and iWork Team Leader meet at the Apple commissary and kick around a few ideas with SVP iPhone software, Scott Forstall, sharing the table, and all together say, “Hey, iWork on the iPad: killer apps from Apple”.

Who knows, yet I am going to assume that the iPad has been in the Apple skunkworks for several years. How far back it goes might one day be revealed in a future book, such as there have been books written about the gestation of the iPod. (Indeed, if you go to and search for <iPad> you’ll be surprised how many books are coming out about it in the next six weeks, as in the example, above.)

Most of these will be how-to books, in the iPads for Dummies style if you like, rather than telling what is for me the more interesting developmental story behind its concept and execution.

What for me is also interesting to speculate upon is the decision-making behind including a productivity suite – iWork – for the iPad.

Certainly and simplistically, it serves to derail those who naysay that the iPad  is a just a big iPod Touch. To which a sensible rebuttal might be, “And… the problem with that, is…?”

If anything, it’s an advantage in many respects given users will be drawn to the iPad based on their positive experience with other Apple multitouch appliances, such as the iPod Touch and iPhone, meaning simple learning curve.

So, as much as the eBook aspect of the iPad has garnered much attention given its similarity to what Apple did with iPod/iTunes Music Store/Music industry tectonic shift, the iWork-on-the-iPad  plan should not be overlooked in some casual fashion. Whether it was a last minute inclusion, a “hey, can we really do this” marketing effort, or a well-thought through design decision, what remains at the end of the day (or the beginning of the changes iPad will ring in), is that a tablet device is bringing enterprise-level apps to a platform where they have previously been unsuccessfully applied.

I have long said Keynote is a trojan horse to get Apple products increasingly into the enterprise setting, allowing Apple users to shape policy to, in the main, Microsoft-preferring IT departments. This occurs in fact at the C level, when execs see Keynote in action and then know they want to present differently. Of course, in reality, it’s been iPhone users who’ve forced IT departments to acknowledge Apple exists and has a place other than in schools, homes and the graphic arts industries.

But iWork on the iPad is another story; indeed, an extension of the iPhone story. It raises the iPad above the “just a big iPod Touch” argument, and places it before enterprise workers as another challenge to the domination of Microsoft’s Office suite. At this point, I have no idea of how well say my 1.2GB Keynote files will play on the iPad, which effects will be retained and which will cause Keynote on the iPad to crash – indeed, I don’t even know how those files will be transferred: via a new version of iTunes to be released next week, a beefed-up, or some other magical software exchange system?

Placing iWork on the iPad is a serious bit of gauntlet tossing to other tablet wannabees or netbooks, whose likely full implementation of Office on Windows 7 will lead to rather anaemic presentations given the horsepower needed to get the most out of Powerpoint. Moreover, you’re hardly going to use your tiny Acer netbook to show a group your Powerpoint, while I do imagine the iPad will work well as a standalone device in small office gatherings.

Time will tell whether bringing iWork to the iPad was merely a case of “Hey, look what we can do” (not in Apple’s DNA) or represents a determined effort to tantalise those who still think Apple makes toys  for computers, and provide the rest of us with great tools to better do our work in engaging and effective ways.

Thinking about the iPad in a professional psychology practice – in response to a fifteen year old’s dissing of it as useless

In my previous post, I wrote of a workshop participant whose 15 year old son, upon learning of her impending attendance, had warned her off getting an iPad when it’s released.

A day or two ago, having absorbed some of my workshop content, she went back to the son and asked him to be more specific about his opposition to its purchase. I’m guessing his reply utterly flummoxed her, given she passed it on to me in an email, below, in its entirety, and without comment herself. Here it is, with ID protected:

Hi Les,

Really enjoyed your session on Saturday. I picked up on your excitement about the pending iPad but had been previously deterred by my 15 year old so I asked him to put together a list of why he thought the iPad wasn’t going to be useful (we both have iPhones and I have a MacBook which you may recall I run as a PC as well as Mac to accommodate some untransferrable programs and files). So I thought you might be interested in his list:

  • Apple trimmed down the iPad to leave market for MacBooks
  • It’s basically a larger iPhone with less features
  • All text is aligned to the left. There is no justification or centering
  • The iPad is meant to the greatest web-surfing experience available but there is no Flash support
  • The iPad has no camera, the iPhone does, the MacBook does and even the iPod Nano does
  • Doesn’t run a proper operating system, high risk of being maliciously hacked
  • Can’t multitask, period
  • No replaceable battery
  • No HDMI support, no USB support
  • It’s incapable of tethering to your iPhone’s data plan meaning you have to pay twice as much for 2 separate plans

What’s interesting, apart from the false positives list, is the depth of understanding a 15 year old brings to the subject and his knowledge of terms; as well as his thinking about the iPad in the first place. I don’t know how much time he put into this, but I can guess the iPad and other Apple products are much in discussion amongst his friends and acquaintances. If you’re over 40, do you remember what tekky things you discussed when you were fifteen, in the mid-1980s? Perhaps the Mac Plus, or an Amiga or Commodore PET… Yikes!

Anyway, here’s my reply, where-in I take each exception individually. I didn’t put much thought into it, nor much research, so in the comments section please feel free to make corrections, additions etc., which I will selectively pass on, and use for a further blog post, where possible:

I’ll take them one at a time. I intend tomorrow to write a new blog entry as to how a psychologist might use an iPad.

·         Apple trimmed down the iPad to leave market for MacBooks
The iPad is not a netbook or notebook. It is its own entity and can be used by anyone who also owns a desktop or laptop for its specific purposes. I’d rather hand a patient an iPad to fill in a BDI or DASS (Ed: mood questionnaires) than hand them a Macbook, wouldn’t you?
·         It’s basically a larger iPhone with less features
No, in some respects it has more features such as iWork, plus a much bigger screen which will allow developers to construct new apps plus the already existing 170,000 apps. That it’s like a familiar device you really like means your learning curve will be simple.
·         All text is aligned to the left. There is no justification or centering
Plain wrong. You can download Pages for US9.99 and it operates just like Pages on the Macbook.
·         The iPad is meant to the greatest web-surfing experience available but there is no Flash support

Flash is over-rated and a memory hog responsible for lots of crashes. I have Click-to-Flash installed on my Macbook Pro to prevent Flash pages from opening. Flash on the web is 80% ads and porn. Occasionally, I can’t access certain pages, but as the iPhone and iPad gain popularity, more webpages will move from Flash to html5 and Quicktime.

·         The iPad has no camera, the iPhone does, the MacBook does and even the iPod Nano does

Oh, you already have these cameras, then you’re not missing out, A next generation may come with a camera, but it won’t be anything like what’s on the iPhone. It may well be a fullscreen version of a new type of camera.

·         The iPad has no camera, the iPhone does, the MacBook does and even the iPod Nano does

Oh, you already have these cameras, then you’re not missing out, A next generation may come with a camera, but it won’t be anything like what’s on the iPhone. It may well be a fullscreen version of a new type of camera.

·         Doesn’t run a proper operating system, high risk of being maliciously hacked

Exactly the reverse. Every app has to be uploaded via the iTunes store. If there’s no malware or virus for the Mac, there won’t be any for the iPad, as it operates a cut down version of OS X. Perfectly safe. The iPhone has been out 3 years already – have you heard of any malware for it? No.

·         Can’t multitask, period

On this sort of device compared to a desktop, multitasking is overrated. You can still surf the web while your email comes in. But anything heavy duty that requires background operations, is best left to a desktop or notebook device like a Macbook pro. A next gen iPad like the iPhone may see multitasking introduced

·         No replaceable battery

You’ll be charged $99 and get a new iPad after about 3 years. It keeps the unit light to have a non-user replaced battery, and third parties will bring out battery extenders as exist now for the iPhone.

·         No HDMI support, no USB support

It has the 30pin USB adaptor. There are better ways to watch TV than hook up an iPad via HDMI. Really, a non issue for most users of an iPad.

·         It’s incapable of tethering to your iPhone’s data plan meaning you have to pay twice as much for 2 separate plans

We don’t know yet pricing for the iPad. Premature to worry about data fees just yet. Might add $15/month extra to run it.

So there you have it, and I imagine many naysayers will have similar concerns as this young man pointed it to his mother, although the more I read of them the more I wonder if he’s simply gone to a PC magazine website and plagiarised the negatives, you know, “Ten worst things about the iPad (even though we haven’t toughed one yet, and we’re just going on specs and kinda what we said about the iPhone in 2007).

At this point, I am more than happy to have such challenges thrown at me to help sharpen up my own way of thinking how I’m going to use the iPad. In the next week or so, you can expect similar thinking about out of the box uses, plus those that will startle us, with the usual headslapping, “Of course!”, which is the reaction all good magic-like products compel in us.

So here are my thoughts, without yet getting my hands on it, as to how I might use the iPad in a professional psychology setting, as well as (as an addendum to be added to once I actually see how Keynote works) how to use it as a Presentation tool.

1. Intake: Patients waiting to meet me can fill in questionnaires or biographical information (much of it radio buttons or tick boxes) or using the built in or outrigger keyboard. In the future, a pend device for handwriting might become available.

2. Billing: As of now, many patients make direct payment using their internet banking or via PayPal if using credit cards. Just like, I imagine we’ll see similar instant credit card payment systems evolve for the iPad.

3. Patient database management, using an evolved form of Bento or a specific Numbers template which is easily transferred back to the Macbook Pro.

4. Showing educational movies, either on the iPad itself or via a USB or wireless connection to a TV or data projector.

5. Testing: I can see a number of specialist psychological testing outfits developing normed tests for use with children and adults on the iPad.

6. Distractor for children: Sometimes, a child in a session needs to be kept occupied when parents are the subject of interview, and the iPad with its games will be great for this. The last thing I want to give them is my Macbook Pro.

7. Information to read about their disorder or malady, which can then be printed out at will. Yes, it can be done on the Macbook Pro, but it’s always hooked up to monitors, backup drives and my iPhone and isn’t moveable during a session. Much easier simply to give a patient the iPad to read.

8. Make audio recording of the session. I record all sessions (patients remember about 10% of a sessions content) and from the iPad the AAC or mp3 file is emailed to them. Again, it can be done on the Macbook Pro using an external microphone like a Blue Snowball.

9. Specialised measuring tools, such as biofeedback devices like the emWave I now use to monitor heart rate variability, useful in stress management and arousal modulation. If patients get their own iPads with the software (possibly in development now), practise the techniques I’ve taught, and theit data can hopefully be transferred to my main database for comparisons and expose improvements over time.

10. A miniature whiteboard using Keynote to highlight ideas and demonstrate concepts.

These are just a few ideas thrown together without too much effort. Once the ball is rolling and the first of a new generation of apps of released, no doubt surprising us with their look, feel and innovation, the ball will start rolling and the penny dropping. For myself, I can see workshops ahead for using the iPad in professional health consulting, and hopefully hooking up with developers with a psychology interest to create new apps.

I think we are all, including Steve Jobs and the Apple staff, to discover how users will bring the iPad to bear on solving their problems better than current solutions.

As Bloomberg News’ Olga Kharif has reported today,

Professionals in health care and education as well as students will probably be among the biggest purchasers of the iPad, Mr. Wolf (an analyst at Needham & Co.) said. More than 30% of 178 health-care workers surveyed in January by Software Advice, an online software vendor, said they were “very likely” to buy a tablet. George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., said on its Web site that it will give each incoming freshman a choice of an iPad or a MacBook, also made by Apple, starting with the 2010-2011 academic year.”

How I know the iPad will be a success – unusual sources of evidence: potential users

I gave a workshop today to a small group of psychologists in the southern district of Melbourne called Mornington, about an hour’s drive from my home.

I’ve visited the group on several occasions these past few years, principally offering workshops on things technological. Today’s workshop was focussed on current trends in IT for psychological practice, including a number of demoes of equipment I use myself or propose to use shortly.

Things started with me reviewing how technology so often leads a double life, that for which it was intended by the developer, and then the uses made of it by others co-opting the technology to solve other problems. I emphasise that in selecting a technology, the psychologists present ought to give serious consideration to what problem they’re intending to solve: does it enable a solution that is superior to the present one, but perhaps it is cheaper, quicker, more durable, or easier to use?

I also suggested that humans have a history of resisting new technologies for fear of change or a shift of societal power, such as the threat books first posed, and that we often overinvest in believing how technologies will improve our quality of life, without realising that change for humans comes slowly and often not without a struggle.

I showed the group the picture (with theme song) below, and said I had grown up with this family in the 1960s:

Of course, this is the Jetsons, developed by Hanna-Barbera, whose signatures can be seen at the bottom.

When I asked the group to name the dog (whose name isn’t mentioned in the theme song) the group was stuck. But in the conference room corner were two young boys under 10, the sons of two of the attendees, who were watching a DVD on a portable player. They called out the answer :“Astro”. When I mentioned I was surprised  they knew (they were the same age give or take a few years as I was when first exposed to the Jetsons), their father told the group they watched the show on the cable cartoon network channel. The cartoon show had aged well, and indeed in another slide I showed the box cover of a DVD where the Jetsons meet the Flintstones (a similar family set in prehistoric times) to illustrate how such shows position domestic issues regardless of time, but using the technologies of the age to solve various family dilemmas.

The point I was making with the Jetsons was that the hope of the technological age it represented, the cartoon being developed when the transistor was beginning to make itself an important part of modern life, would give us much more leisure time. Robots, like the Jetsons’ Rosie, would do dull, tedious work, and we would spend more time in leisure pursuits. Most people in these IT workshops chuckle at the simplicity of this concept, knowing many are working harder than ever before, much of which can be blamed on the way we have employed technologies without thought of the societal consequences.

At this point the boys went back to their DVD, and I went on with my workshop.

This saw me demo a selection of hardware and software to illustrate my concerns about some technologies. I started with the decades-old effort to setup the Paperless Office. But because psychologists work so often with medical referrals, we are compelled at this point to keep original paper documents, so my focus became the Less Paper office which I showed in Keynote using the Magic Move transition, below. My assertion, which I included in the following slide, was that any effort to reduce paper must take into account a better way to archive and sensibly retrieve our documents.

For the record, the technologies I demoed, in order were:

1. Fujitsu SnapScan scanner 300M – in Australia: S300M

2. Evernote – software to extend your brain

3. Notetaker software (Mac only) – This for a section on note taking on your computer, and audio recording lectures too (OneNote in MS Office comes close on the Windows side of life.

4. Apple iPad

5. ICCpay credit card payment solution for the iPhone:

6. Winc – software based 3 x 5 cards I use this when retraining patients to shift their automatic catastrophic thinking to something more reasonable and actionable. When confronted with scary situations, my patients “freeze” so the cards act as their ourigger frontal lobes reminding them of appropriate self-talk in the situation. The software has a version for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

7. Livescribe Pulse Pen: For those not ready to give away the power of the pen but who want to archive and retrieve notes in digital form. Can also convert writing to text.
All during this time, even though some of the technologies are quite compelling – such as the ability of the Fujitsu scanner to scan directly into the Evernote application which then sends it up to the cloud as a great backup strategy – the boys continued with their DVD playing. When I mentioned the forthcoming Apple iPad as likely offering even better Scanner/Evernote integration, and that I was very bullish on its use in the consulting room, one of the attendees stated aloud that her teenage sons had scoffed at the device. When I remarked that they’d not even touched a unit to reach such a conclusion, I was told they saw it as just a big iPod Touch, just like so many other critics have stated since its first display in late January.

So while I asked the group to use their imagination to think of how they might use the iPad in their practices, I had another idea in mind when I showed them this French video from poissonrouge showing an app. for the iPad they are working on:

Two things: As I was watching the video with the group, from the corner of my eye, I saw the two boys both staring transfixed at the video. Their DVD was still playing, but the sound, movement and colour of the iPad’s Redfish game had momentarily mesmerised them. They didn’t see me motion to the adults to watch their reaction to the video.

The second thing: There is one game displayed where what looks like a jigsaw where pieces of yellow cheese are assembled into a one piece, about 21secs into the video. Here’s a stillshot:

When I first saw this clip, I was reminded of a widely-used IQ test, known as the WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), which contains a series of tests, some timed, which measures both verbal and non-verbal aspects of intelligence.

The equipment comes in a box and is several thousand dollars. Several of the tests use jigsaw-like elements asking the child to assemble the elements into a gestalt. At first, the child is told what the final assembly looks like. More challenging elements see the child merely told to assemble the pieces without knowledge what it is.

There are also small individual squares (3″ x 3″) containing elements of an illustrated story for which there is one best way to place them in order. The child starts with just two pictures and it’s very easy to place them in linear order of occurrence. The stories get more complicated and take longer as the child progresses.

As I was showing the Redfish video a second time, I asked the audience to consider how the WISC could be almost entirely performed on the iPad, together with a stopwatch function which could then automatically time and enter scores without the manual being needed for norming the results. There is one block test that requires small blocks to be laid out according to an illustration that may not be doable on the iPad, but if imagination is allowed to reign, the next generation of children could be tested with a WISC specifically designed to be performed on the iPad with a new block test normed for a new generation. Readers should bear in mind that psychologists don’t simply gathers scores, but also look keenly at how the child goes about the task, how he or she deals with frustration or failure or success, things that aren’t normed but important clinical indicators nonetheless.

But all this is a digression for certain interested readers, away from the point I wish to make in that this was a natural small experiment into the appeal of the iPad for certain groups: one with concerns about adapting new technologies who understood my enthusiasm for the iPad and where I think it fits in professionally; and the second of course were the young boys who ignored their DVD which had so occupied them to stare gobsmacked at the iPad Redfish video. You could almost see them aching to get their hands on one, and play the same game, one of many Redfish will be releasing for educational purposes.

I have every confidence their excitement is the tip of the iceberg, and naysayers will be looking very glum in a year’s time for their shallow prognostications.

Are video games good or evil – examining them through different presentation styles and audiences

Just to let you know, I’m a media spokesperson for my professional psychological society, having been trained and then offered training in media for almost 30 years now… I had my own radio show when I was in my late 20s in the early 1980s soon after graduation, and have appeared on radio, TV and in print media on many occasions. I’m sure it’s been a boon to my public speaking skills, both in terms of my delivery, anxiety management and the training of others. Since then, I’ve also turned my attention to slideware this past decade, and especially so after Apple released Keynote in 2003, when the scales fell from my eyes and I decided against socially conforming to the still present standard – Powerpoint (or the alleged Gold Standard – the Cognitive Style of Powerpoint, as Edward Tufte has referred to it).

I get media referrals for topics like anxiety disorders, as well as how technology is affecting society, especially things like “internet addiction”, the effects of violent video games on children, the pro-social effects of technologies, and “technofears”, where people are afraid to take up new technologies. Kind of runs the whole gamut of behaviours around technology.

So yesterday saw the intersection of three media related events.

The First Media connection to young people and video gaming – A GP newsletter media enquiry

First, the media section of my professional society asked if I would take a call for assistance from a medical journalist writing for a General Practitioners’ weekly publication on how GPs can best understand “internet addiction”, recognise its presence, and thus offer assistance to those “afflicted”. You’ll note by my uses of quotation marks that I am somewhat opposed to the terms used as the best ways to define a real concern members of the wider community possess. No doubt some of the conversation I will have with the journalist will be about the effects of prolonged gaming on children and adolescents.

Here are some of the questions I’m told will be asked of me:

Why are some people so susceptible to the online role playing environment and is it a substitute for real relationships for those who have difficulty in real situations?

Is it an illness and what sort of illness? If not what what is it?

Should it be classified as an addiction? Treating internet addiction has become a huge industry in China and the US some rehab centres charging 10s of thousands of dollars for programs. Do these work?

The Second Connection – TED talk by Jane McGonigal

Secondly, yesterday TED published a new talk by Jane McGonigal. Here’s what the TED write-up looks like at this link:

(Curiously, next to this writeup is a TED section, with links to “related speakers” where one finds a link to Steve Jobs. When I saw this yesterday, I could have sworn I would know if he had done a TED talk, but instead it’s TED linking to Steve’s famous Stanford Commencement speech from a few years back.)

McGonigal, who has a Ph.D in performance studies from USC Berkeley is pro-gaming and has constructed a number of games for institutes like the World Bank. You can read more about her in a recent Wired article, here, conducted in the week before her TED talk. (Beware of staring too long at her mesmerising blue eyes).

In a current world where so much of mainstream media is out hunting for negative gaming stories and how children’s and adolescents’ brains might be negatively affected by “too much” gaming (whatever that may be, but someone with a MD or PhD will come up with a definition that works for them), McGonigal throws a curve ball with her TED talk and will get you thinking afresh, like it did me, on the whole concept of gaming.

Naturally, not just am I watching and trying to comprehend her story, but I’m also watching her presentation technique and her commanding use of slideware.

In her case, I’m pretty sure she’s either using Powerpoint for the presentation or PDFs of her Powerpoint. There’s no computer in sight to assist, but when you watch the TED talk, you’ll notice a few things (now that I point them out to you).

Jane uses no transitions, builds or animations in her talk, which suggests to me she’s not using Keynote! Something about Keynote compels one to think creatively about their use, while as Tufte has written, Powerpoint is a useful picture container (or words to that effect). In fact, she doesn’t need to, as her use of full picture slides, colour, and matching of her story with the pictures together with her own animated expressiveness (she refers to it as her exuberance) is sufficiently compelling.

Shown below are screenshots from her TED talk.

Two slides in, she's captured the audience's attention with the epic moment gamer face

The sign at McGonigals workplace - very Apple-like.

What gamers get from immersion in their connected gaming experience

Are there really 14 million gamers in Australia, which has a total pop. of 20 million?

Good use of a simple, referenced and highlighted quote

The first game? 2500 years ago, using sheep knuckles for dice

By now, you’ve got the idea. Big, bold bright pictures and words which truly illustrate her storytelling.

But a couple of other things: Jane rarely ums and ahs. She pauses as she collects her thoughts, prompted by her good use of current and next slides as shown in this “over the shoulder” screenshot from her talk. You’ll notice too the countdown clock (total of 18 mins) yet she had about two more minutes to go at this point! By using this slide arangement, rarely do we see Jane casting her eyes away from the audience and turning to look back at the main screen.

What the speaker sees at TED - current slide, time remaining, next slide

So by now I hope I have sufficiently teased you about this talk about gaming, so below is the embedded TED talk of 20 mins, so come back and we’ll look at another set of slides presented to the British Parliament on gaming just a day or two back – for contrast.

The Third Connection – Mindhack’s Vaughan Bell presents to UK parliamentarians on the evidence about video games and young people

The third connection is a presentation given March 17 to the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Scientific Research in Learning and Education by MindHack’s blogger and neuroscientist, Vaughan Bell. From its website the purpose of the Group is:

Notice that one of the Chairs is Baroness Susan Greenfield, who in Britain is a very famous neuroscientist (Parkinson’s disease is her speciality) but not one without controversy. She has been very vocal about children’s development and gaming’s ill effects as she sees it, but she has also been criticised for going beyond the current empirical evidence in making her assertions.

As it turns out, Baroness Greenfield also gave a presentation, which was then followed by Bell’s. You can read his take on following her (to her own committee, moreover) at his current blog entry here.

Let’s look at some of slides, to contrast them with McGonigal’s and bearing in mind to whom he is presenting! (His blog states videos of his and Greenfield’s talk will also be posted sometime soon.)

You can download the full set of PPT slides here, by the way.

First, here’s the title slide, which didn’t inspire me to expect great slides from the get-go:

Vaughan Bell's opening slide - pure Powerpoint

Things improve however, when Vaughan illustrates how the media is reporting gaming and children in an alarmist fashion, using the exact online sources:

Vaughan begins to tell a story: that alarms over technological changes to society are nothing new, and he illustrates them thus:

and he continues the story by showing evidence for their debunking:

and it’s here that we really get bogged down in standard science presentation style:

I wonder if you can see the issues I have with these standard means by which to present complex data?

Basically, these slides are tired. They lack engaging properties, with too much (small text), small pictures, and a general sameness from slide to slide that needs a good shaking up.

Of course, we must bear in mind the audience to whom Vaughan is presenting, who as politicians may well live and breathe Powerpoint, but it seems to me his vital message could have been better illustrated by moving away from so much text by including more visually engaging material.

Baroness Greenfield’s slides are yet to be posted, but you can see her in presentation mode in a talk from October 2008 here, and judge for yourself.

But Bell does offer a description of her talk to the All-Parliamentary Group, thus:

Her talk was sincere, very well delivered but unfortunately her argument was poorly lacking in terms of its scientific content, and I’m afraid to say, wouldn’t pass muster as an undergraduate thesis. This was not least because she discussed not a single study on the effect of games or the internet.

And this has been the crux of much of the criticism levelled at her, that she is going way beyond the available data and extrapolating beyond her own knowledge base, not to mention that of researchers working in this domain.

Once more, this goes to my increasingly repetitive notion that in 2010 if you’re a presenter, you must bring to your audience reasons why they can consider you a presenter of authority and authenticity. Baroness Greenfield has been awarded for her contributions to the public’s understanding of complex scientific topics, but when I read her material related to young people and the internet I’m reminded of an old Yiddish joke:

Young eager son to old wise father: “Pop, look at the nice new yacht I bought with my latest sharemarket killing… and look at my shiny new Captain’s outfit I bought to sail in…”

Father to eager son: “That’s nice, sonny. By your mother, you’re a Captain, by your father, you’re a Captain, but by a Captain, you’re NO Captain!”

What Temple Grandin (and Steve Jobs) can teach us about presenting – more from Presentation Magic at Macworld 2010

Did you catch the TED talk given last month, and posted just recently, by Temple Grandin, left?

I first came across her life and work several years ago in a documentary, and since then have listened to her being interviewed several times whenever she has published a new book.

In her TED talk, Temple pleads for her audience present, and those of us watching via the TED site, to consider the many different learning styles students bring to the learning environment. She invokes her own Autism Spectrum Disorder, which was once referred to as “Infantile Schizophrenia” and hopeless to treat, requiring institutional care, as the exemplar.

If you haven’t see her TED talk, here it is, below. Either watch it first, and come back, or continue with this blog entry, and view the 20 min video in your own time.

There are two principle points I want to make about this video, and Temple’s work.

Firstly, Temple in eventually acknowledging her being “different”, found a place in the world by focussing on how to make those differences work for her, and make a difference in the world. To that extent, she reminds me of Apple’s Steve Jobs, whose self-professed desires for technologies his company brings to the marketplace is that they make a difference, rather than “we have to be in this market because our competitors are”, implying a company’s value is dependent on having high market share. Instead, he wants to leave a legacy of changing how people use technologies, from listening to music and watching video, to interacting with the printed word, to enriching our knowledge through interacting with the web and creating our own media.

For Temple, if you read her work, you will see her animal activism acknowledges that humans consume animal meat and make animals work for us, but her desire is that it be done respectfully and without pain and suffering, even when an animal is to be slaughtered for its meat. To do that, she has attempted over several decades to adopt an animal-centric view of the world when it comes to animal management and husbandry. For her this comes easy, as her TED talk tells us, because she thinks in pictures, not language, a function of her autism.

To that end, it’s her belief she is much more empathic towards animal’s views of the world than she is to human’s, as if her brain’s “empathy centre” was diminished, but her visual pattern detection systems grew as a compensation.

Her ability to see the world, in particular cattle yards and slaughterhouses, through cattle eyes has seen her take very important roles in US meat production through better design of these areas, reducing the stress the animals experience, and this improving the quality of the meat while reducing cattle loss through accidents and injury in crowded pens.

So something in the chutes the animals would move through to be vaccinated for instance might be overlooked by human eyes as a perfectly normal thing, such as a waving flag nearby, or a shadow cast across the floor, but to a cow it could cause fear to be experienced, thus releasing adrenaline and cortisol, affecting the meat.

Screenshot from TED talk, illustrating the animal's viewpoint

For presenters, it’s a way to remind us all that we need to take an audience-centric view when we construct our presentations. That when we sit down in front of our computers and construct our slides,  there is an audience to whom they will eventually be shown, and it is their engagement we seek, not our time at the microphone.

The second point Temple states directly, is that there are different learning styles and these need to be acknowledged. For some, the big picture is what they wish to hear described, for others, it’s the small details and the story we build up using these details before we get to the bigger picture. For Temple, these are natural differences, accentuated by clinical conditions such as autism. For a presenter, it’s important to acknowledge that disengagement comes not because our stories are uninteresting, but because we overuse one method of story telling, and leave out others.

An example would be a 30 minute scientific presentation featuring text-only slides, now commonly referred to as Death by Powerpoint. But just showing movie after movie in say Apple’s Keynote would also be disengaging in some contexts, unless the presenter pauses between, makes the point, and then uses the next video to further embellish the story or highlight some subtle but important elements.

The task of the presenter is to keep their audience engaged by means now well understood but too often ignored about the brain’s attentional systems. We need variety, we need to ascertain difference as much as sameness, we need surprise amidst predictability. This goes for our voice as much as it does our slide construction. With more and more books and websites devoting themselves to better slide construction to do away with Death by Powerpoint, the final frontier will in fact be the first frontier – the telling of stories using our voices to help audiences modulate their arousal and engagement.

My prediction is that 2010 will be the year we hear lots more about Attention and Engagement, and it’s been one of the themes in my Presentation Magic workshops and talks these past three years. If the previous Ages we lived in could be described by the tools we used – The Stone Age, the Brass Age, The Industrial Age, The Knowledge economy – the age in which we now find ourselves could be described as the Age of Attention and Connectivity. These are the tools of the internet, where websites compete for our attention, their underlying technologies helping connect us to like minded people and groups we ordinarily would not meet face to face.

And yet because of the advantages these technologies bring, we are left with a missing element, and that is who do we trust to give us the information we crave. Basic Trust is the first of the generational needs psychologists talk about, and it is a theme that stays with us throughout our lives. Clinical psychologists like me often meet patients whose lives have never possessed basic trust, or where trust has been shattered through life events, whether they be earthquakes or war or being fired after twenty years loyal employment.

I take my presentation giving, training and receiving very seriously because I take the issues of trust and authority seriously. I want those who come to a presentation to have faith that the trust they have given me by their attendance has been reciprocated by my efforts to keep them engaged by my storytelling, both narrative and visual. I take pride in my ability to take complex ideas and transform them into understandable and actionable slides and stories to help make a difference. This is the same reason we go to see movies with known film “stars” who we trust to align themselves with entertaining products, but on whom we can round if they turn in too many stinkers, so called box-office “poison” (Think Nicole Kidman and Kevin Costner).

When you go about thinking about your next presentation, think about the difference you wish to make for your audience. Think like Temple Grandin or Steve Jobs about each presentation being a time capsule, a legacy of your thinking, that makes a difference for someone. If you’re a scientist, engineer or medico, don’t just get up at a conference and put into bullet points a summary of your latest publication complete with mandatory graphs, as is if that’s all that’s expected of you. Take the opportunity offered by the conference organisers to reciprocate the faith placed in you to keep their audience engaged by doing just that: transform your printed article into something special, using slides and graphs if you want to, or simply using the oral tradition to create a “theatre of the mind” to help audiences understand the importance of your work for them, their patients or clients or subjects, or for the institutes for whom they work. Don’t just treat it as another entry on your CV – sooner or later, that kind of thinking in the years to come, will come back to bite you, hard.

Finally, if you get a chance to locate the biopic of Temple Grandin she refers to in her TED talk, shown in February on HBO, do so. You will be thinking about its effects on you for days afterwards, and will want to share its story with friends and family.

Screenshot from Temple's TED talk, for her HBO movie biopic

In my next post, I’ll focus on how the educational system is failing our students by relying on outdated and traditional teaching methods, far removed from how young people seek information for themselves. And how presentation skills can make a world of difference.

With the iPad release now dated April 3, will this also be the date a new iWork for the desktop is released?

We are approaching the end of March, three months into the new year, and a few weeks before the release of the first iPad variants in the US.

This is fifteen months out from the last iWork upgrade, taking one of its apps, Keynote, from version 4 to version 5. And we know that version 6 is waiting in the wings, if its showing at the iPad formal release this past January 27 in the hands of its most famous “beta tester” Steve Jobs can be relied upon, left.

Keynote has a special place I think in Jobs’ heart, given his use of Keynote and its ancestors in the NeXT days of exile, and since 2003 when he began to use it publicly in his keynotes. Each public display had Keynote aficionados like myself watching for new transitions and builds.

We saw a few this past January, confirming the likelihood of not just a minor upgrade but a major one. In the past, when Apple has updated Keynote in point form, e.g. 5.0 to 5.0.1, it referenced only minor bug fixes, but no new functionality such as MagicMove when transiting from Keynote 4 to Keynote 5. (Some of these new builds are below.)

A new build, dropping a value with dustcloud

A new text build out or transition - got a great laugh from the iPad announcement audience

$499 pounds the pundits $999 expected pricing into the ground, with fallout!

I am aware that the iWork team, particularly the Keynote team, are working to a deadline to have the iWork apps ready for sale on the iTunes App store in time for the official delivery of the launch iPad Wifi-only units April 3. The apps contain familiar elements from the desktop iWork applications, although with respect to Keynote, it only contains twelve familiar “themes”. While video of the iPad shows some variation from the desktop applications, keen users ought to have little difficulty adapting to the iPad’s ways.

One wonders if third party themes will be allowed to be included – here’s a way Apple can “contain” those themes it doesn’t like because they perhaps contain background animations which will, I predict, become very popular, but which Apple doesn’t like. If it did, Apple would have done them themselves by now, but clearly the current Apple hardware and software doesn’t play nice quite yet, not allowing smooth reliable transitions from one background animation to another. See the YouTube video I created below to see what happens even when you use no transition through a slow dissolve and one other transition.

In fact, I had to use a screen movie maker (Screenflow) to make this video, as Keynote fell over everytime I tried to export it to Quicktime, below.

The Keynote app. also contains some new elements not yet seen in desktop Keynote, and makes the iPad an ideal small group standalone demonstration tool, as well as a great presentation assistant when attached (by cable or wireless variant) to a data projector. Note the screen shots from this TidBits video showing new highlighting tools and “laser” call out tools, below, recorded at the iPad official announcement, January 27.

I’m going to predict that while we know a new version of Keynote exists and has been demonstrated to us, the likely time for its release is just before or at the time of iPads being delivered into users’ hands, April 3. It makes sense to have compatibility between Keynote App and Keynote Desktop. We have seen unique elements displayed for each, so a synchronisation with a Keynote desktop update to allow files created on either platform to be shared is a no-brainer.

There are two questions to be asked then: Will the release of the Keynote Desktop application be timed to coincide with the iPad’s delivery date (along with the other iWork apps.), and what other new elements, many of which have been asked by Keynote users for many years (myself included) might be included?

I think we’ll only have to wait a few weeks to find out. It’s especially important it happen soon, with the release of a much beefed up Powerpoint 10 only nine weeks away.

Presentation Magic at Macworld 2010 – using Penn and Teller to demonstrate some of Keynote’s magical effects

Because I’m not placing my Powertools file on the Macworld website for attendees to review (I used several Keynote files, the main one being more than 2GB in size), I thought I’d share some of the Presentation Magic workshop here on my blog.

One of the changes I made from last year’s workshop, was a more definitive “behind the scenes” look at how I created various effects and why I employed them.

In 2009, quite a few attendees wanted me to stop during the presentation and explain what I had done with Keynote to achieve the effects I displayed. It was a little offputting, with some people feeling it interrupted the narrative “flow”, while others felt they had missed out on something important for their professional development (the “how I did it” part.)

So this year, I made a more planned and strategic workflow which emphasised some of Keynote’s overlooked tools which don’t really get that much attention. Sure, the transitions, from the supersmooth “dissolve” which Powerpoint 2010 might get close to, to the “smart builds” like MagicMove get Keynote much of its attention from audiences who only know Powerpoint.

But early in my workshop I wanted to discuss basics like the layering in Keynote – the “bring forward, send to back” menu items. part of the Keynote “Arrange” menu, below:

This menu item is one of Keynote’s secret treasures, but so often gets overlooked in favour of more sexy, but too often employed effects for effects sake. Just think how tired you may have become of the “cube” transition which so excited us when Steve Jobs first showed it in 2003’s Macworld keynote, below:

During his introduction of Keynote, Jobs emphasised that each night, we sit in front of our television sets and watch production level transitions and effects, and it was these he wanted Keynote to emulate. You don’t want to know the transitions and effects Powerpoint 97 was using when Keynote was introduced! It was no surprise the Macworld keynote attendees applauded loudly when Jobs showed these transitions. It was a paradigm shift, because we didn’t know we could have production level graphics effects on a PC, much less using software costing $99.

I must say I now rarely use the cube transition, especially now that Powerpoint 2010 has included a version that seems to work reasonably well (prior attempts were lamentable). With Powerpoint upping its game, expect to see more people overusing these “new” inclusions in it, effects which Keynote users have taken for granted since 2003.

The way I introduced the Arrange menu was to briefly discuss very early in the day the basis for Presentation Magic’s name, something IDG Macworld Expo MD Paul Kent and I came up with in 2008. (He had wanted to call the User conference I delivered “The Zen of Presentations”, but out of respect for Garr Reynolds I rejected that and Presentation Magic was what we came up with). For 2009, my first two day Powertools workshop, Paul had asked me this in July 2008:

The path to success for the two day class is to clearly describe how you will BOTH take attendees inside the keynote features that will make their presentations stand out, AND, how you will provide valuable insights how to structure presentations to best use a software tool to communicate when public speaking. In other words – the class should be more than just whizzy transitions! I’d be happy to read any drafts you come up with and offer suggestions. You did such a great job last year – I’m sure you understand the essence of what I’m asking you: the attendees want to do magic with the software, but we also want to help them with the invaluable advice of crafting and delivering memorable presentations.

I took his use of the term “Magic” seriously, and began to research the psychology of magic, given it is one of the oldest performing arts. But also because in using Virtual Reality in my clinical psychology practice, I am attempting to use the age old principles of magic to misdirect and deceive to produce a clinical effect. In this case, to raise levels of anxiety so as to practice a variety of interventions. In professional magic, being deceived is perceived as delightful and engaging; in clinical psychology, it gives one an opportunity to help patients retrain their anxiety-generating mechanisms via exposure and arousal modulation practice.

There is also a code of practice for professional magic, much like there is for professional psychology. One of them is not to reveal your secrets to non-performers. So I was aware of “spoiling” the magic of presenting by showing how I conceive then construct my presentations. The task was to integrate the psychology of presenting (ie the stuff about being persuasive and memorable) with the little behind the scenes trickery Keynote can let us perform to get the Wow factor without it being “whizzy” to use Paul Kent’s term, above. And at the same time, I wanted to keep the workshop flow going so we didn’t get bogged down in the sort of “how to” detail better suited to a Macworld MacIT workshop.

The clue to do this came about when I stumbled across a Penn and Teller YouTube video. These are two of my favourite performers, not just for their magic acts, but also their television show, now in its seventh series on Showtime, called “Bullshit!”, below:

The video I discovered, and subsequently showed at Macworld, was a performance showing Teller, the silent one on the right, above, walking out on stage to a bass guitar accompaniment played by Penn Jillete (left) who narrates a story of magic’s sleight of hand’s seven basic elements which Teller demonstrates. But half way through the video, Penn has Teller turn 180 degrees, to show the audience the magical elements in action, revealing how Teller performed his sleight of hand. It was a perfect metaphor for what I wanted to do, giving me “permission” to reveal some of the secrets of Keynote presenting where effects are hidden from the audience, who don’t even know they’re being misdirected and persuaded at the same time.

Below, please watch the video in its entirety, then I’ll show you what I did with Keynote to demonstrate the magic of the “Arrange” menu. See if you can remember the seven elements of sleight of hand when the video finishes:

Did you remember the seven elements?

Here they are if you didn’t remember:

Here they are displayed on a Keynote slide using a font which conveys the art of performing (Academy Engraved LET)

I wanted to assert that very few of those attending would be able to remember all seven, even a few minutes after seeing them mentioned several times during the video. Seven is the upper limit for working memory (four elements or chunks more the norm), where we try and hold onto concepts or memory elements before they are encoded for later retrieval. They can easily be pushed out of memory when new concepts come along, unless we can find a “hook” to keep them in. Indeed, even with the offer a free Presentation Zen Design book as incentive, no one took up the opportunity to try and publicly recall all seven.

Simply relisting them, as I do above on a slide (naturally I left out bullet points or numbers as they would only distract not add to their recall), wouldn’t help much.

The task was to make this part memorable, entertaining, and a teachable moment with respect to Keynote’s abilities. So I decide to create some slides which listed each element, and show how Keynote could emulate each one using the “Arrange” menu elements. I’ve put the slides together using Keynote’s Quicktime export menu so you can watch them in YouTube. Note that I begin the video with a quotation you will be hearing a lot in the next month, given how Apple has described the imminent release of its iPad:

The author of the well known phrase is Arthur C. Clarke, shown in the video in his home in Sri Lanka sitting before his iMac. (I showed this slide to the Keynote group in Pittsburgh last year, with its smoky background theme from Jumsoft. The Keynote team aren’t happy with such animated backgrounds, despite their increasing frequency of use. They break quite easily and don’t allow for smooth transitions. Indeed, during my Powertools workshop, this slide froze my Macbook Pro for a minute, which perfectly illustrated my Keynote team story!)

Here’s my series of slides from YouTube (stop and replay the video as necessary to determine for yourself what I did):

After I showed each slide, I dragged the Keynote window to the main projector screen, and showed how I used the “bring forward, send back” menu items to create a series of layers so that the words could move between layers to emulate the effect it was describing. Not all could be illustrated this way, sometimes it being better merely to illustrate the concept using familiar, funny or exceptional items to enhance encoding and recall. There is empirical evidence that matching pictures with words enhances recall, so I asked the group to remember the seven elements by thinking of the pictures I used to illustrate the concepts.

So the question you might have is how did I perform some of these effects?

Here’s a clue:

Further hint: I use Global Delight’s Voila software to take, manipulate and export screenshots.

I’ll put more of my Powertool’s workshop slides up on the blog in the days to come.