wrongguyYes, that’s what Bloomfire wants me to do. Apparently I’ve got two weeks make up my mind. If I don’t it looks like my rate may triple. Yup. Triple. I do not feel like a customer right now even though the company I work for pays them several thousand dollars each year.

Let me back up…

Bloomfire is a knowledge sharing platform but how I use it has been a bit unusual – I’m not the typical use case. To support the activities that happen between live vILT sessions, I set up a new Bloomfire sub-community for each session. In that sub-community, students have discussions, share work, comment, ask questions, submit assignments, and download course materials. As a result, I can end up with 100 sub-communities per year but only six or so active at any one time. Each only stays open a few weeks after a course ends then it’s deactivated. So I’ve got a bunch of deactivated communities.

locked outOne of the features I liked about Bloomfire when I started using it was unlimited sub-communities. Imagine my surprise when I noticed little locks on top of several features when I went to set a new one up. Clicking on it brought up a message that this was a premium feature and I should contact sales. WTF? I had no notice of this change. I submitted a support ticket. It was fixed. Then next time…you guessed it, locked again. And fixed. And so on. Then I heard from sales. Adversarial would be the best adjective to describe this call.

upgradeI expect to pay more for new features. I don’t expect to have features shut off and then have to pay to turn them back on. I expect to see a solution provider raise their rates – it’s the nature of business. But I expect to have adequate time to make a decision and adjust.

Thank goodness I’ve got a second platform I’ve been using more and more of. Otherwise I’d be left high and dry. “You’re messin’ with the wrong guy!” (because I blog).

Just moments ago..
Here’s the response I received within their public community when I mentioned this. I hope to hear from other users as well.


I know that online learning is not the same as reading a newspaper article or watching news online (or at least I hope not) but I have always been interested in the similarities of two of their associated professions  – instructional designer and journalist – especially how they are evolving; presenting meaningful content that elicits less passive and less controlled behaviors.

When it comes right down to it, both instructional designers and journalists are responsible for putting content on screens – just with different objectives (or at least I hope so).

Three similarities (or challenges if you like) caught my eye this week while consuming “news.” They strike me as key to the evolution of L&D.

1.) Recognition of society’s dwindling attention span.

The Daily Show’s “Less is More” content is video clips of “recent episodes tailored for the Internet’s attention span.” One Episode in One Minute they call it. One minute. It’s all we have time for. I’ll be trying to do the same with video content that is around one-hour – whittle it down to meaningful segments that are less than 3 minutes in length. Maybe that’s too long. Supplemental content and enrichment activities will be needed (obviously) to accomplish the learning objectives. The Daily Show gives you the option of taking a deeper dive by watching a particular segment in its entirely or the whole show. One 22 minute show broken down several ways.

What skills are needed? Likely a hybrid mix of instructional designer, content curator, project manager, and content developer. (Have I left some skills out?)

2.) Recognition of our society’s obsession with the now – this minute, this second.

Something I write here will automatically post to Twitter and someone will favorite it or share it immediately. My narcissistic self says thanks. But it will only be good for a minute, maybe a few hours at the most. It will be picked up and mixed up with other news of the day in people’s daily papers and aggregators. Then it’s gone. Old news. But since it was shared, it’s good right? Right?

What skills are needed? Some include understanding the technology that will get the content in front of people in as many ways as possible and good content curation skill – the ability to identify what’s relevant and good. What have I missed?

3.) Recognition of the growing passiveness associated with the quality of content.

Here’s an entertaining, but NSFW (lot of bleeps and mentions of things like side boob), segment from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that includes a bunch of journalism students and former editor Neetzan Zimmerman from that news aggregator/blog Gawker (“Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”).

I’m not proud of the fact that I click on Gawker headlines on my Facebook feed. Increasingly when I do so I feel like I’m wasting my life, wasting my time. Defeated. Nothing accomplished. The headline made me do it (click)!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Endorses the Whole “Notorious R.B.G.” Thing > I clicked on that. I think RBG is one cool lady.

In the segment, Zimmerman says,

“If a person is not sharing a news article then it is, at its core, it’s not news. Nowadays, it’s not important that the story’s real; the only thing that really matters is that people click on it.”

An education in journalism, he says is not worth anything unless you’re learning how to craft headlines for the viral web. Of course, that’s Gawker. There is quality reporting out there, you just have to find it. Of course someone has to create that quality content before the aggregators will then pick up – ultimately making more money than the creator. You can easily make an argument that this is stifling quality writing. That’s a different discussion.

Is content only as good as its shareability? Maybe for driving people to a website, yes. What about online learning? Platforms host content that can be ranked, rated, and shared. It doesn’t mean the highest quality content is being driven to the top. We need to recognize our challenges and develop the skills that will help recognize quality content because there’s just too much bad content out there. Thoughts?

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As every scuba diver knows, panic is your worst enemy: when it hits, your mind starts to thrash and you are likely to do something really stupid and self-destructive. – Daniel Dennett, Philosopher

To a lesser extent, it’s like that feeling I get walking through a store full of crystal and china. I think suddenly I’ll start flailing my arms around and break everything. Aaahhhh what have I done!

Story time.

Over 15 years ago (!!!) I developed a fear of running out of air after losing the ability to breath during a supposedly simple, yet botched, routine medical procedure. This fear essentially put the kabbash on scuba diving for me, something I enjoyed doing.

End of story time (it was a short story).

So, naturally we planned yet another vacation to Grand Cayman, a popular scuba destination. Hmmm. I wrote about failed scuba training  three years ago yet hear I was again.What to do?

In preparation I tried to put on scuba gear again – in the safety of a 12-foot pool at the YMCA. But I couldn’t do it. I was irrational and freaked out just by the very act of putting a breathing regulator in my mouth and sticking my head under water. I felt like a failure. I could swim, why not scuba dive? What the hell?

DSC01270 - CopyWell, I realized the only way I was going to get over this was to actually expose myself to real-life diving again. I had to build resilience. Luckily my husband was thinking this too and eased me into it. He’s a gem and apparently has little regard for his own underwater safety. Either that or he has tremendous confidence in his ability to save me from self-destructing in 20 feet of water near the shore.

We went for dinner at a popular shore dive spot and saw people that looked just like me diving all smiles and thumbs up. The next night we went for drinks at the same spot and watched the sunset and people night diving. After we got home that night I mentioned that it might be fun to go to that spot early in the morning and I could try to dive while it was really quiet. We wouldn’t tell the kids…just go. It felt safe to fail.

That’s me in the picture up above. Thumbs up. Smiling-ish. I was so nervous I forgot to take my shirt off. Luckily it was not dry clean only.

Lacking resiliency can be a problem at work too. Especially when learning something new. Today, resilience seems to be a necessity for us to do our jobs well. It seems people question their methods and approaches continually. Things are changing too fast. Failure lurks around every corner.

The ability to see failure as a form of feedback is one factor that makes someone resilient. I think we should make a point to expose ourselves – and others – to potential failure. It’s OK to fail. We’ll learn something in the process.


There is no one ‘right’ online platform to support learning

July 3, 2014

If you’re in the profession of learning & development you would no doubt select “TRUE” to the following statement if it was presented as a test question: We know that instruction, when spaced over time, produces substantial learning benefits (i.e., better retention) than instruction delivered at one-time. (follow that link to a great paper by Will Thalheimer – worth your time) That said, it seems […]

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Community Manager Appreciation Day

January 27, 2014

Started by Jeremiah Owyang in 2010, today is Community Manager Appreciation Day – a day to say thanks! I’ve been a “part-time” community manager for the past six months supporting the Bloomfire communities that supplement Guild Academy live online courses. I was reflecting on the role of community manager and ran across this slide presentation from The […]

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What do we actually do in isolation anymore?

December 30, 2013

A guest post on VB Business titled Coming 2014: a smarter, interconnected you identified four changes to keep an eye on next year. The last paragraph under the first  prediction says: …a new era of social experiences around activities that were previously done individually; those experiences will no longer be consumed in isolation, but in a […]

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Don’t be afraid to breach the evidence-free zone

October 30, 2013

I had the pleasure of attending a speech by Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago. One phrase she used was “evidence-free zone” and I couldn’t help but think about it in the context of the L&D industry. Here’s what Clinton said: “Increasingly, we have emphasized scorched earth over common ground. Many of our public debates […]

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Don’t look back (or down)

September 24, 2013

What’s your earliest memory of school? Mine is the school bus. Of course this “memory” might not be a true memory but me internalizing my mother’s story of her four-year old girl who was so small she had to board the bus knees first. She told it many times – mostly for encouragement or as […]

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Thoughts about the first eLearning Guild Academy offering and my sad life ; )

August 2, 2013

If I had known that Magic Mike was on HBO at 11 PM, I would have made plans to be there. But I actually had stumbled upon it quite by accident. “Cool. Magic Mike is just starting.” I actually said that. I was alone. The only thing more sad than saying that would be saying […]

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So how do you show that you can learn and adapt – and master – constant change?

May 15, 2013

My colleague, Bill Brandon, brought Brian Hall’s post 10 Technology Skills That Will No Longer Help You Get A Job to my attention when I was looking for feedback on what the most relevant and valuable professional development needs are of today’s training and learning technologies practitioners. Hall’s post ends with this: “To justify any salary, it’s […]

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