Using Information: New Technologies, Ways & Means

A blog for people interested in contributing to the HICSS-40 minitrack on Using Information: New Technologies...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Screencasts -- educational video to the people?

I've been thinking about screencasts, a relatively new trend on the web to create short movies, usually screen captures delivered onto the web in some video format. When they're well-done, it's a marvelous technique for getting an idea across quickly and effectively.

The screencast that started me thinking was Jon Udell’s brilliant screencast on the evolution of the Wikipedia entry “heavy metal umlaut” (8.5 mins)

It's a great commentary on the social behavior of Wikipedia users, but also about how a short screencast in the hands of a talented observer can yield marvelous results.

Jon has also written a great article about screencasting

What’s appealing is the immediacy – you don’t have to wait around to get to the meat. Plus, there’s LOTS of context, the stuff that usually gets left out of normal written texts. (“Oh.. you forgot to mention that this only works in Firefox, but I can see that in your screencast!”) Often UI instructions become immediately clear through action. On the screencast I can see that it’s the third green tab from the left (not counting the grayed-out tab) that should be selected. It takes less time to watch it that it does to read it. There are different ways to create screencasts. I like embedded streaming Flash movies best, as they seem most seamless and well-integrated into the web page. On the other hand, Quicktime movies (.MOV) have the "scrubbing" feature in their controller. I don't know why other player controllers don't have this, it's amazingly useful to be able to slide back and forth, scanning for something you'd seen in the movie.

Do the obvious web search for [ screencast ] and follow this up yourself.

Question for the HICSS crew: Is this just an obvious evolution? Or are people using this new media in interesting ways? I've found myself making short screen captures and emailing them to people (as a way to show tricky techniques, such as "how to use the unsharp filter in Photoshop"). Do others?

Of course, screencasting has a great future for just this kind of thing. Increasingly we see sites putting out demos as screencasts. To choose one arbitrarily, see this one from Ning.

Hints to screencasters: Don’t have long blank spots of no action—keep things moving. Don’t be ponderous—your screencast isn’t being sent up for an Oscar. Keep it moving. And do NOT tell me obvious things. Tell me things that can’t be seen—the goals, the rationale, the possible uses…

And finally, even though it's not a screencast, I have to include Jeff Han's wonderfully inventive demo video of his multitouch interaction system. It's not a screencast, but is done in much the same spirit. (embedded MPG) – brilliant, fluid, organic. Nicely done with keyframes in a display. You know what you’re getting into, you know what's there, and there isn't any annoying narrator to get in the way. Genius!

- Dan -


Blogger Jonathan said...

Glad you like the Ning screencast Dan. Yoz did a great job with those (love the voice!).

12:15 AM  

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