Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is the Word 'Social' Doing a Disservice?

As I was reading a blog post titled 'The Latest Brew: Social Interaction!' , I decided to pretend that I am an enterprise IT manager reading the post, and at once realized the problem with the overtones of the word 'social'. Is this some kind of a club activity, where people get together and do things casually? Another post, titled 'The Much-Needed Factor for Websites: Social Interactions' accentuated the same issue. Is this Web 2.0 stuff of any use for enterprise IT, or is it more for sites like Facebook?

As interactivity professionals, we need to do one of two things urgently. Either we should downplay the word 'social' in our messaging, or educate our stakeholders in enterprise IT about the true meaning of 'social' in the context of social interactions. Andy McAfee, the enterprise 2.0 IT guru, prefers the former alternative. I prefer the latter. Here is why.

In our context, social interactions are interactions between people through computer systems. These cover a broad range of very useful and serious functions such as:

  • describing your work experiences (blogging)
  • collaborating on writing useful articles (wiki)
  • aggregating opinions data (polling)
  • helping each other through discussions (forums)
  • helping each other search and find things (bookmarking)
  • sharing digital assets and interacting with each other using those (video, presentations)
  • contributing to the content of web sites (user generated content)

and so forth. There is nothing casual about the word 'social' when used in this context. Therefore, we should make sure that IT decisionmakers understand this and weigh their decisions appropriately, without a negative bias towards the term 'social'.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Levels of Interactivity in Presentations

In this post, I list the various levels of interactivity seen in presentations. (Note: In this post, by presentation, I mean .PPT, .PPTX or similar computer-generated slide deck, and not the act of presenting.)

Level 0: Text Bullets and Pictures
This is where most presentations are today. Each slide displays a bunch of bullets with static text, and sometimes there are a few pictures, and you go from one slide to the next.

Level 1: Transitions, Build-ups, Effects
Here, presentation creators use slide transitions, slide build-ups and slide element animation effects. A variation often seen includes click-based slide buildup. Each time the presenter clicks the mouse, a new bullet point gets added. While all this jazzes up slides a bit, the interactivity is superficial at best.

Level 2: Enhanced Internal and External Navigation
Often confused with interactivity, this is simply the use of interface elements - such as buttons and hyperlinks - which allows the presenter to navigate quickly to another location within the presentation. It also allows the presenter to open a document or a web page, or play a sound, video or a movie, on click of the button or hyperlink.

Level 3: Basic Interactivity
Questions, polls, quizzes and such basic interactive elements are found at this level.

Level 4: Essential Interactivity
Presentations which provide essential interactivity allow for rich navigation metaphors such as flip-books, panning cards and 3D objects; story-building metaphors such as sprite animations, guided tours, flowcharts and diagram build-ups; and interactive visuals supporting features such as build-up, rollover and drilldown.

Level 5: Advanced Interactivity
Presentations with advanced interactivity allow the presenter to accept audience input and selectively present information by adapting to the input. Advanced interactvity also includes group activities such as games, shows and contests; participation enhancers such as brainstorming sessions and key takeaways; collaborative exercises and so forth.

As you go from level 0 to level 5, the impact of a presentation goes up several fold, because the audience gets involved progressively to a greater degree in the presentation. Of course the presenter achieves the ultimate impact, but a well-designed slide deck with sufficient interactivity will make the task a lot easier.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interactivity in Web Design: A Beginner's Guide

For those of you who enjoyed my earlier post on interactive web sites, I have some good news to share. A new article, titled Interactivity in Web Design: A Beginner's Guide has appeared on Desizn Tech. This article is a convenient starting point for those of you who need a quick primer on interactive web design.

The article first draws a distinction between Single User Interactions and Multi-User Interactions. It then gives numerous examples of each type of interaction on some very well-designed websites.

The article, written by Poonam and edited by Kawsar Ali, then goes on to answer the key question: How do I add interactivity to my website?

For single user interactions, their prescriptions include javascript, jquery sliders, photo gallery, CSS navigation and rapid interactivity. For multi-user interactions, the ideas they suggest include chat, polldaddy, slideshare, shoutmix and TeemingPod, among other tools.