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AirSketch with Zoom

AirSketch, the iPad drawing app that lets people open a page in their web browser to see what you’re drawing as you draw it, has added zoom to the app! This makes it easier to do fine lines and smaller writing. It’s still not perfect; the text is a little fuzzy, and it doesn’t seem to zoom as far in as I want it to, but it’s entering the realm of the contenders for visual notetaking. Yay! Here’s a sample, one corner of the screen with much cleaner text than previously possible:
sample text from AirSketch

I discovered this a couple of weeks ago when the update came out, but forgot to blog it at the time. Fingers crossed they keep up the good work!

Yay for Moo.com!

About a week ago, I stayed up way too late creating a new set of business cards. Actually, that’s not a good name for them, because they’re more about my interests than about business, even though my interests and business overlap. Always nice when that happens. So I think of them as contact cards.

Closeup of the iPad Notes card

I made 10 different designs using 10 photos of my work, or of me doing something. I also listed my interests down one side of the front, and highlighted in bold the one that relates to the picture on that particular card. So if I meet someone who is interested in visual practice, I can give them a card about visual practice. If I meet a quilter, I can give them my quilting card. Yay!

The back of the card has pertinent contact details, of course, but I also added a photo of myself. Maybe it’s just me, but I often get home from a conference with a stack of cards from wonderful people I met, but when I go through the cards (usually a few weeks later) I can’t remember who was who. The photo is to help other people not have that problem. And ooh! It’s the same photo I use for all my social networking sites, so folks know when they find me that it’s really me. The back is the same on every card.

I designed all the cards, front and back, in Illustrator, using the template that Moo so thoughtfully provides so as not to lose any text off the edge. Their guidelines were also extremely helpful when it came to choosing a file size and format. I wasn’t sure how the text would come out, so I only ordered a few, but I LOVE the cards and I’ll definitely re-order. They make that really easy too. Yay Moo!

New Moo Cards!
all the cards

vote for my SXSW panel!

The inimitable Fred Lakin has proposed a panel for SXSW 2011 on “live visual blogging,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: live blogging, but with pictures. I’m one of the panelists, along with really amazing folks like David Sibbet (@davidsibbet), Sunni Brown (@sunnibrown), Dave Gray (@davegray), and of course Fred (@fredlakin, who needs to tweet more). If the panel is accepted, each of us will not only describe but demonstrate our favorite method of live visual blogging. Yup, I’ll be up there with my iPad, doing my thing, right there at SXSW!

…IF the panel is selected. As you know if you are a SXSW veteran, the community has a 30% say in the selection of panels. All you have to do to vote is create an account on SXSW’s PanelPicker, which right there gets you some solid geek cred, and then you can vote for mine or any other panel that you like, whether or not you’re able to go to the conference. (If you can’t go, pick the ones you want to read about afterward, ’cause they will be all over the blogosphere.)

Oh oh oh AND there’s this neat little tool that links your Twitter account to your panel choices. Check it out! It’s called FriendsPanels, and it lets you tag panels you’re on as well as panels you like. It doesn’t automatically “like” panels you vote on (yay), so your votes are still cast in confidence, but you can specifically “like” a panel if you want to call attention to it. Nifty!

Um, what are you still doing here? Go vote for my panel! (Please.)

visual recording on the iPad, illustrated

This week I’ll be giving a talk at IFVP 2010 on visual recording with the iPad. While I was preparing my notes, I discovered how easy it is to make Quicktime movies of your notes with the Brushes app, so I made a little movie. Then I got carried away narrating it and adding in other images and … well, it’s almost 13 minutes long now, and if you watch it, you can skip my talk. Though I’m better in person, and there are a few things I didn’t put into the movie. Ah HAH.

(Note: In the movie, AirSketch is attributed to “Grayon,” but the company’s name is actually “Qrayon.” My bad.)

How’d I Do That?
I started with a sketch of the outline of my talk:

scribbles on paper

initial sketch for my talk

While making the outline, I tried four different apps (Adobe Ideas, Qrayon’s AirSketch, Brushes by Taptrix, and Autodesk SketchbookPro). I made a quick, entirely subjective list of pros and cons for each one, using each app to make its own list:
Adobe Ideas Test Sketch
AirSketch Test Sketch
Brushes Test Sketch
SketchbookPro Test Sketch

Next, I transcribed my notes using Brushes, which automatically records the strokes as you go. I then sent that file to myself via email, opened it in the Brushes desktop application, and saved it as a Quicktime movie. This became the base content for my how-to video.

While watching the animation play out in Brushes, I recorded the narration using Audacity. I broke it into pieces so that I could match it up more easily with the different sections of the movie. I also filmed myself making the test sketches, using my Flip Mino camera mounted on a mini Gorillapod. Finally, I put all of this into iMovie, which let me split up the video from Brushes, add freeze frames to allow the narration to catch up with the drawing, speed up the drawing as needed to keep pace with the narration, and so on. I threw in a couple of still images and some lovely, Creative Commons-licensed music (Somewhere by Robin Grey), and there you have it.

Here’s the final image from Brushes:

talk notes

Visual Recording on the iPad (in Brushes)

happy towel day

me and my towel

I know where my towel is

Today is Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams. Do you know where your towel is?

As a miserable high school student in the late 1980s, I memorized the HHGG series. I built an electronic thumb, with some help from my dad and a bunch of spare computer parts. I desperately hoped I could hitch a ride on an alien spacecraft and see the galaxy — though I suspect a lot of that was because high school was so appalling. Douglas Adams’ books helped make it bearable. At 10, my son loves the series. This photo of me with my towel is a little tiny tribute to an author who fired the imaginations of millions of devoted, if weird, fans.

auctioning my time

snapshot of a graphic chartAllthis.com has a neat idea: you pick something you like to do, or something you want to sell, and you auction it through their website. The proceeds go to the cause, organization, or charity of your choice. There’s a tiny little listing fee, like a couple of dollars. You get to contribute something other than cash, and someone gets to contribute to a charity while still getting something they need or want.

I set up a listing for 4 hours of visual facilitation (the paper kind, not the iPad kind) for any organization holding a meeting in the Bay Area or North Bay. No bids yet, but there’s still time to get in on the action! The auction, if it sells, will benefit the Mt. Diablo chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) — I spoke at their meeting in March, and they are doing a fundraiser for their annual conference.

Charities and other organizations can register with Allthis.com and then ask supporters to list auctions, as well as spreading the word that the auctions are there. It’s an interesting solution to the problem of how to organize a fundraiser, and it seems a lot more painless than some of the ones I ran when I was a teacher. I remember the year I boycotted candy sales and had my students sell photography portrait packages instead. Talk about a market mismatch.

Urgent EVOKE: Season one comes to a close

Some day I will again write a short blog post, but this is not that day. May 12 marked the official end of Urgent EVOKE Season One, and the last day to join EVOKE until Season Two opens next year. 10 weeks into the journey, I have a few reflections on the experience.

What’s Urgent EVOKE again?
Depending on how you look at it, EVOKE is either a game or a learning experience — or both. Designed and run by alternate reality game master Jane McGonigal, EVOKE is supported by the World Bank Institute. At the end of Season One, EVOKE has 19,329 member-players. It was conceived as a way to teach young people to become social innovators; each week, players explored a social issue by learning about it, taking action on it, and imagining a future where that issue has been addressed. Players posted evidence of their work on the EVOKE site and received credit in the forms of runes and points in different EVOKE Powers (creativity, collaboration, local insight, sustainability, courage, knowledge share, resourcefulness, spark, vision, and entrepreneurship — labeled as key skills for social innovators). This week, some players are preparing EVOKATIONS, or proposals for real-world projects they would like to work on. The World Bank Institute hopes to award up to 20 $1,000 grants to start the best EVOKATIONS. Originally, the rules specified that entrants had to be born in 1985 or later, but that was changed this week when the game runners realized that many of the players were actually older than the target demographic.

What I did
Players were assigned quests and missions. Quests were single-page questionnaires that prompted players to think about their own actions and motivations; taken together, the 10 quests make up each player’s personal story. I completed all 10 quests and you can read them on my profile page (the first one is displayed; use the “Select a Story” drop-down to see the other 9).

For the first five weeks, I dived into each mission, completing one per week, more or less. I temporarily cut way back on my World of Warcraft playing time so that I could focus on EVOKE, and I really enjoyed it. Right around the middle of the season, I had some travel and some other things come up and I fell a bit behind; at the time of this writing, I have completed at least one objective for each of the 10 missions, but only 7 missions are completely finished. I have until next Wednesday to submit the remaining objectives (I think; the rules are a little unclear). I’m hoping to do at least a couple more, but I’m not sure I will get through all of them. I’ve made my peace with this possibility :-)

What I learned
This was not only a 10-week course on social issues and how to make a difference, but also a journey into who I am personally. There are so many big, important problems in the world, and it makes me glad that people have different interests because there’s no way any one person can fully engage with all of them. I learned about local issues — for instance, I didn’t understand the connection between the salmon season and agriculture in the Sacramento River area, and now I have at least a tenuous grasp on how they are related. I learned about global issues and what daily life is like in a lot of other parts of the world. Not that I was clueless, but after reading the stories of people who live in those places I understand a little more than I did before. I also learned about organizations that actually help, and organizations that seem to help but don’t make efficient use of their resources, and organizations that try to help but don’t really look to see what kind of help is needed or wanted.

I learned lots of ways to make a small difference, things that I can do personally. I’m not really the evangelist type, and I know that my particular path is not to try to convince others to change their actions or save the world; EVOKE didn’t change that. But I did learn that I can be more aware and act more responsibly. I also chose to make a year-long commitment to give a small donation each month to an organization that improves the availability of water in places where it is scarce. At this point in my life, it’s not realistic to think that I’m going to go dig wells myself, but I can help in other ways. I also pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone a few times and then wrote about the experience in my EVOKE blog.

And, once again, I bit off more than I could chew. Early in the season I started a project to develop a curriculum guide for teachers who want to use EVOKE-style projects in their classes, either with or without a computer. I still want to develop this, but it was not the four-week project I imagined, or even a 10-week project. (If anyone’s interested in working on this, let me know! Love to have you.)

What I noticed about my own participation
The first five weeks were fantastic. When I was able to engage for a couple of hours a day (yup, I really did replace WoW time with EVOKE time, and it was usually one to two hours an evening, sometimes more), I was so energized and excited about what I was doing and learning. Later, when I had less time to devote and I fell behind a little, it was still important to me to put a real effort into each objective and not to phone it in — which is why some of them are still undone. If I do them at all, I want to do them well. I think if EVOKE had been a six-week course, I would have been able to maintain the momentum that I had in the early weeks. Ten weeks is a lot, and I travel a lot, so that made it tough.

I really enjoyed reading and commenting on other player’s work. There’s a lot of talent out there in the world, and quite a bit of it found its way into EVOKE. The system that supported the game (Ning) was set up in such a way that managing friends was difficult; I basically accepted friendship from anyone who offered, after I checked their blogs to make sure I could get along with them — not that they had to have the same opinions that I do, but that they weren’t spammers or narrow-minded nutcases — and I offered friendship to everyone whose work I liked. I ended up with 144 friends, and at some point, I read or viewed something created by each of them.

And it’s unfashionable to admit it, but I liked the points and the runes. I’m very goal-oriented and possibly slightly competitive. Depends who you ask. Anyway, I enjoyed playing a game while I was learning and I got a huge kick out of my personal epic wins.

Epic wins?
An epic win is something that is amazing and great and that makes the player happy and excited and triumphant. They can vary from player to player, especially in an open-ended game like this. My epic wins for Urgent EVOKE:

  1. I started a teacher discussion group, initially just to find people who had interests like mine, and I was awarded 100 power points (Spark) on the spot.
  2. My discussion was featured on the topic page for Agent Resources and Utilities, and for a while, on the main discussion page.
  3. I was picked as a hero of the week, twice.
  4. I was a featured agent — my profile was featured at the top of the agents page. These rotate, so it’s not there any more. But it was!
  5. Best epic win of all: Jane McGonigal commented on one of my pieces of evidence. Score! It sparked a fantastic discussion in the comments section. Plus I think I agreed to build a wind-powered sewing machine.

What I noticed about the game itself
The structure of the game was well-designed for self-directed learning. Each week started with a comic to get you interested in the topic. The comic included several references that were framed as questions in an “investigate this episode” blog post, with links to primary sources online where answers could be found. (I really liked that feature.) Each quest invited the player to explore him- or herself, and each mission built a foundation of understanding with the “learn” objective that led into planning and implementation with the “act” objective. The “imagine” objective then invited players to exercise their creativity, both in terms of thinking about the future and also expressing their ideas.

A couple of issues came up during the season that the game runners dealt with very quickly and gracefully. Originally, every piece of evidence submitted for the objectives was to be reviewed by a game runner and approved before the mission rune would light up on the profile page. I can tell you that excitedly completing the first mission and then waiting three days and still not seeing the rune light up was NOT an epic win. The game designers know this as well as I do, though, and by the second week had rolled out a system where players could log their own evidence and light up their own runes. Very cool.

The leaderboard was another unexpected issue that was handled well. Originally, it was a list of the top players according to point totals. This led to people gaming the system for more points, not unnaturally. Unfortunately, some of the methods were disruptive, involving spamming other players or creating fake profiles to use them for voting. The game runners could have tried to police the bad behavior, but instead they made the wise choice to remove the incentive and developed the leader cloud instead. This gave exposure to both the top and bottom tiers of point-earners, offered more lists for people to be at the top of, and included some elements of randomness and effort-based recognition so that everyone might have a chance to show up there.

Then there was the drama. Oh, the drama. The game runners didn’t let it get in the way, and I won’t dwell on it, except to note that in any group of 19,000 people, some of them are going to get offended or upset and storm out of the room in a fit of pique. EVOKE was no exception.

What I’m hoping for in Season Two
I wrote a wish list about what I’d like to see in Season Two. There are a few convenience features that I want, like making it easier to find interesting or relevant content and better group management. I’m curious to see what issues come up as missions. I’m thrilled that there’s going to be a Season Two, even if I choose not to play, because I think there’s tremendous potential here for teachers and students. I think EVOKE got noticed this time around and I hope lots more teachers will bring their classes in next time.

the iPad is also good for…

…games! Oh, yeah. Here are three that I like:

Creating Games: Labyrinth 2
Weeks ago, I wandered into an Apple store to pick up an iPad for the first time. Naturally, I dragged my son along, just to round out the playtesting. He had a great time playing Labyrinth 2, a beautifully-rendered marble-maze game by Illusion Labs. (Labyrinth is also available for the iPhone.) When I got my shiny new iPad, that was the first thing he wanted to play. I liked it too so I got the free one and then eventually bought the game. After we’d taken turns playing a few levels, David said, “I wish I could make a level. That would be COOL!”

Guess what? You can.

On the main screen, there’s a little button labeled “Create.” If you tap it, you get a URL, an ID code, and a password. Put ’em together and you get a drag-and-drop editor that lets you make all the levels you want — and then they magically appear on your iPad! I gather that the gaming community is disappointed that editing can’t be done right on the iPad, and I can see their point, but I was delighted to find out you can make levels at all. David was thrilled and immediately created a very challenging level. I playtested it and he made some adjustments, and now it’s tough but doable.

A Labyrinth level

Conanza, Level 1

He named it “Conanza” (because it’s a bonanza of cannons). I passed it around at Northern Voice last week and mocked my friends as they worked their way through it. I’m so nice. His second level is actually impossible; after painfully making it all the way across the screen, you can’t get the marble into the hole because there are two cannons in the corner that are too close together. This is not immediately obvious, though, because when you trip the laser switch in that corner, a siren blares and the screen starts flashing with red light that makes it hard to see. He claims he’s going to adjust them, but he giggled insanely every time I attempted this level, so I don’t think he’s in a hurry to fix it.

Maybe you can’t create all the same kinds of content on an iPad that you can create on a traditional computer, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe the kinds of content that you can create on (or for) an iPad or similar devices are sometimes things that you couldn’t create on any other kind of platform, like my visual notes or David’s latest Labyrinth 2 level, which was instantly delivered to my iPad all the way up in Vancouver, where I was stuck in the airport for a few hours last Sunday:

Labyrinth level for Mom

the Mom level

Best. Mother’s Day. Card. EVER. How cool is that?

3D Virtual Worlds: Avatar
I found Avatar (the game) while looking for Avatar (the movie) in the iTunes store. Created by Gameloft, it’s an actual 3D world, right there on the iPad. It’s pretty good, and I really admire what they’ve done with the controls given that you have to hold the iPad while you play it so you can really only use your thumbs. There are a few issues, but I expect those will be ironed out quickly. The premise is that you’re controlling an avatar and you have to go on missions. It’s a fancy levels game, kind of like Donkey Kong on steroids, where you run and jump and touch things and fight things.

Avatar game screenshot

Avatar, by Gameloft

The controls are very clever. There’s a thumb pad to move around with, and jump/shoot/other functions are handy buttons under the other thumb. The graphics are quite nice — not as stunning as the movie, but very pleasing — and the motion is smooth. And the fact that something like this can be played on a computer I can hold in my hands just blows my mind.

I do have a few issues with it. First, you can’t turn the camera around, at least not that I’ve seen, so if you have to retrace your steps you have to do it blind. Second, when you’re working on a quest (bring me 8 shrubberies*, for instance), the game doesn’t indicate how many shrubberies you’ve found. And dangit, I want to be able to pick a female avatar. Would that be so hard? And I want her to look like Neytiri, not like Barb Wire, please.

More 3D, plus Flying: Nanosaur II
I have Nanosaur II (by Pangea Software) on my iPhone, but it’s hard to play because the screen is so tiny and visual cues matter a great deal, and also because it chews through the phone battery. It’s much sweeter on the iPad. I can actually see where the little eggs are, and I can at last distinguish between mounted guns (that fire at me) and eye gate switches (that don’t) before getting close enough for an empirical test.

Nanosaur II screenshot

Nanosaur II

In Nanosaur II, you tilt the iPhone/iPad to direct a flying dinosaur equipped with missiles and a rocket pack. Your mission: to rescue stolen Nanosaur eggs. You can’t stop or land, and if you hit the ground, a tree, another dinosaur, the side of a cliff, or anything else, you blow up. It’s very exciting. The world that you fly through is simple but appealing, and it’s always clear how much you have to accomplish before you get to a new level.

There are hundreds of games for the iPad, of course. These are just three that I like. Gameloft makes a whole set of action/adventure games (and others), as do Illusion Labs and Pangea Software. The games that are being developed for in-between devices are going to have qualities not found on games designed for other platforms, either larger or smaller ones. At first, a lot of them will look like games we already play, but gamers and game developers are wonderfully ingenious. Even the three I mention here are beginning to push the boundaries; I can’t wait to see what’s coming in the next several months.

visual notes on the iPad

Author’s note: I can’t help but be aware that this post rambles a bit. I have inserted handy headers in bold so that you can skip right down to the bits that interest you.

Bryan Alexander's Keynote

Backstory
I’m hanging out in YVR, waiting for my very delayed flight back to SFO, and reflecting on the whirlwind that was Northern Voice 2010. It was such a wonderful, lively conference, and I got such a kick out of meeting people whose blogs and tweets I follow. The sessions were really quick and packed with information — which made it a challenge to take notes on my iPad, but that’s what I did.

A couple of weeks ago, Scott Leslie started to actually organize an AltMooseCamp, because MooseCamp wasn’t going to happen this year (after seeing the program for NV10, I understand why — so many great sessions — they needed both days!). I took one of the AltMooseCamp spots and said I’d talk about how to do graphic recording on an iPad. I had recently talked to Fred Lakin about visual recording on iPads, and he had tried it, so it was almost like I knew what I was talking about. At the time, I didn’t even HAVE an iPad, but I had one on order, and a lot of faith that it would all work out.

It did. My iPad arrived about a week before NV, giving me enough time to play with it a bit. I also ordered a stylus (this one) and I played with that too. I didn’t actually do any visual recording, but I bought a sketching app and played around with it to learn the controls. Then my iPad, my stylus, and I got on a plane for Vancouver.

I figured it would be best if I had something to show during my talk, so I recorded Bryan Alexander’s opening keynote on Friday morning. That’s it up at the top of the post. I was really pleased with how easy it was, once I had the hang of the controls. During my talk, I showed two apps and let a couple of people actually hold the iPad (it’s true, and I have witnesses). I was expecting about four people to turn up but there were at least 20 in the room. We talked about visual recording and what’s different, worse, and better when using the iPad. After my session, I went on to record almost every session I attended on Friday and Saturday.

Here’s What I Learned
Software. I tried Autodesk SketchBook Pro ($7.99) and Adobe Ideas (free). All the notes in my Flickr stream were done with SketchBook Pro. The controls in SBP are very easy to access while working: 3-finger swipes and taps get you to the brushes, the layers, undo, redo, and the menu; 2 fingers let you zoom and pan; and 1 finger is used for drawing. There’s also a handy “puck” that lets you change brush size and opacity quickly. To switch colors, you swipe down with 3 fingers (this brings up the brush palette) and tap the new color (30 swatches are displayed, or you can tap the color wheel to pick a custom color) — you can also change brush type, size, opacity, and other options here if you want — then tap once on your drawing and you’re back in business.

The controls in Ideas are a little harder to master and are a little too fiddly for me to use quickly while recording. They are housed in a panel on the side, and one button is used to change the context of the panel (color, opacity, or size). So to switch colors while drawing, you tap the brush button, tap the color button in the fly-out panel, and then either use one of the four default colors that appear in the context menu or tap the color wheel to access other colors. I’ve seen a screenshot of a larger palette of swatches, but I haven’t worked out how to make it show up yet. If you also want to change the size and/or opacity, it’s a few more taps to do that. I usually missed the button and had to tap more than once to get the fly-out panel, but that would probably get easier with practice.

Drawing Feel. Both programs have a good drawing feel. Ideas auto-smooths lines, which is nice (sometimes) and a PITA (sometimes) — if you’re a sloppy letterer, it’ll end up changing your a’s to circles — but the sensitivity is very good compared to other auto-correcting applications I’ve used. Mostly it just smooths out your writing, which is actually nice. SBP does no smoothing at all, so what you sketch is what you get. I didn’t have a problem with it.

Zoom. Both apps let you zoom in to do small writing and fine detail. Ideas has an infinite canvas, or something really near it, which is really nice. SBP does not; the canvas is the size of your iPad, and you can zoom in to make better use of the space, but it’s meant to be small. I found that one screen was perfect for an hour’s talk.

Stylus. I didn’t use mine to take notes. I found that when I held it, I wanted to rest my wrist on the surface of the iPad, as I would if I were writing on paper. Since the iPad is multi-touch, this resulted in really interesting but unwanted lines on my notes. Instead I used the tip of my finger, as if I were shading with chalk or pastel. Both programs gave me a satisfying variety of line widths. Neither is pressure-sensitive, so I had to adjust the width when I wanted it to change, but I found it worked fine. If you *do* rely on a stylus, I recommend Ideas over SBP, because it’s easier to switch tools with a stylus in Ideas and it’s easier to switch with your fingers in SBP. You have to put the stylus down or hold it awkwardly to do the 3-finger swipes in SBP.

Here’s a video of an actual artist (Dani Jones) using the same stylus and SBP to actually draw something really cool, just so you see it can be done if you have mad skillz. She also uses a lot more of the brushes and tools. It’s worth taking a couple of minutes to watch just to marvel. You can also get an idea of how SBP’s brush/color palette works. (Note: I initially, and mistakenly, attributed this drawing and video to Erik Mallinson, who had reposted the video on his blog. My apologies to both.)

Layers. SBP lets you add as many layers as you want, quickly and easily. Yay! Ideas has two layers — the one you draw on, and the one you can put a photo into to draw over. I couldn’t see a way to add additional layers.

Posture. Obviously this is something that will vary quite a lot from one person to another. I had the opportunity to try out a number of different kinds of seats during the conference. I found that the easiest way to take notes was to have the iPad resting on my knee, tilted slightly up from horizontal, when I sat with one leg crossed over the other. This worked best in chairs with no arms, and in right-handed student desks. When I used left-handed student desks or those long curving desk things in large lecture halls, the iPad was too high up for me to draw comfortably and it was difficult to keep it tilted at a slight angle (see “Glare” below). I also found that sitting cross-legged on the floor or on a bench with the iPad on my lap was a good way to draw, although it was harder on my back and rear. TMI? Sorry.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Notetaking Experience. Brilliant. I loved it. It’s still a little slower than using paper, for me, and still a little sloppier, but I really liked having different colors and shades and not having to cap and uncap pens, or keep them from rolling off the desk, or cart them around. I really liked having my notes digitized and ready to post on Flickr in a couple of taps, too. With SBP, by the way, all drawings are portrait by default, so if you turn the iPad horizontally (as I did), you have to rotate the image before you post it or it’ll be sideways. I’m hoping they’ll fix this somehow. I could not find a way to rotate it cleanly in the app, so I saved the layered version to iTunes and opened it in Photoshop. It was an extra step, but a quick one.

Glare. The Life Sciences building at UBC is gorgeous. Lovely wood, lots of light, the ceiling is entirely glass — just beautiful. It reflects perfectly in the shiny screen of an iPad. The glare in any kind of light is very pronounced — you can use the iPad to check your hairdo when it’s turned off — but in the atrium where the keynotes were held, it was astounding. If you’re recording in a dark lecture hall, you’ll have no problem at all, but if the room is lit or you’re in a lovely natural light setting, it can be challenging to find a way to tilt the iPad so that you can both see it and draw on it. Not impossible, just challenging.

Battery life. Awesome. I started with a full charge in the morning, recorded six talks (a one-hour keynote and five 45-minute sessions), checked email, showed the iPad off to anyone who looked even remotely interested or couldn’t outrun me, passed it around after dinner so people could play games, and ended the day with 20% charge. I didn’t have to plug it in at all during the day (which is good since the cord is really really short).

How Does It Relate to Visual Practice?
Well… I wouldn’t use it (yet) for visual facilitation, where I’m interacting with a group and helping them work through something. It’s not as natural as pens and paper yet so I would be too distracted, I think. What I was doing at Northern Voice was visual recording, where I’m just listening and making notes. Then there’s the issue of the size; when you’re doing visual practice with a group, either recording or facilitating, you want the group to be able to see what you’re doing. I have not tried projecting the iPad onto a screen while working, so I don’t know how that would work, but I’ve heard that not all apps can be projected yet (some can’t access the video out?). I also have some concerns about sensitive persons in the audience watching my mad panning and zooming as I work. I think this is a great process for personal recording, but not yet for group work.

I’m also very interested in the possibilities for remote visual practice through something like screen sharing, but I haven’t even begun to figure out how to set that up.

Would I Do It Again?
Oh yes, yes I will. All that stuff I said about Why I Need an iPad is actually true — the phone’s too small, the laptop’s too big, and it does what I need to do when I’m away from my desk during the day.

If you’ve used your iPad for something like this, please leave a comment about your own experiences, especially if you’ve tried other apps or if you have a different take on the experience.

Pix or It Didn’t Happen
You can see all the notes I took collected on Flickr. Also take a look at these visual notes from NV10 by Rob Cottingham — he did the same thing, only he’s a cartoonist so his sketches bear a strong resemblance to real-world objects and people. Here’s the one he did of my talk — I love it!

do what you love, support a good cause

excerpt from a visual recording

excerpt from a keynote by Gardner Campbell that I recorded in San Antonio, April 2010

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the Mt. Diablo Chapter Meeting for the ASTD (and I had a great time and a lovely dinner, I might add). Not long after that, I got a note saying that they are doing fundraising for their annual meeting. The thing that caught my eye is the system they’re using for the fundraising. It’s called Allthis.com and it launched today.

Allthis is an online auction where you can donate anything — things you’d sell on eBay, or your time doing something you’re good at — and the proceeds go to a charity or nonprofit. I was intrigued so I set up an auction for half a day of visual facilitation. If anyone bids on my auction and wins it, as long as they’re within driving distance and we can agree on a date, I’ll go facilitate a meeting of up to four hours for them. The money that they pay for the auction will go to the Mt. Diablo Chapter’s fundraising effort. My auction doesn’t open til May 10, which is the date that I guess the Mt. Diablo Chapter auctions start, but there are others that can be bid on now.

I really like the way Allthis makes it easy to give something that you really want to give, and still have the charity or nonprofit receive what they really need (money). From the Allthis press release:

Until now, if someone wanted to support a charity, there were only two options – write a check or volunteer. Beginning today allthis, the marketplace for things money can’t buy, offers a new way to support a cause: by turning an individual’s time and expertise into cash. Allthis is an all new way to give.

People have two options to support a charity – bid on an existing auction item or create a new one. Non-profits, clubs, companies, or any type of affinity group may also create teams to raise money together for a common cause, competing against each other to raise the most. The real winner is the non-profit, which receives the money from all the auctions in the end.

You can browse Allthis to find a cause to support, or if you ARE a cause (well, not you personally, but you know what I mean) you can set up a profile so that people can donate and bid on your behalf. It was very easy to set up the auction — only took a few minutes. It seems like a neat use of social media to facilitate what is essentially a barter system to support good causes.