Category Archives: presentations

Vonnegut’s Story Graphs

I love the way Kurt Vonnegut explained stories through graphs, described here by Derek Sivers.



Back in 1994, I saw Vonnegut do a version of this exercise in person, on a blackboard at Duke. In the lecture I saw, Vonnegut explained that Hamlet was the epitome of real drama, since unlike Cinderella, the story graph is pretty much a straight line. Essentially, Hamlet never learns whether anything that happens is good or bad and nothing is resolved, just like in life. Here’s the published version of the lecture, from A Man Without a Country (scroll down to the *):



Incidentally, Vonnegut made the best exit of any public speaker I’ve ever seen. At the end of his speech, he begrudgingly offered to take questions from the audience, as requested by the Duke speaker organizers. He answered a few fairly lame ones, including a teacher asking what one book should he get his students to read, assuming they would only read one (Vonnegut: “I suppose Genesis is a good place to start.”) Finally, he muttered, “I don’t think much of your questions. Goodnight,” and strolled off stage.

[via @gregg]

Connect the Dots, La La La

MondayDots is a new blog with a promising focus: explanatory videos built around simple dots. Creator Jeff Monday’s inaugural video explains why General Petraeus was uniquely suited to effect change in the Iraq War.



Monday credits cartoonist explainer extraordinaire Scott McCloud with inspiring the people-as-dots approach. One of McCloud’s key notions in Understanding Comics is that making a character more “cartoony” can make the character more accessible. Essentially, the less specific a character image is, the easier it is to project yourself into that character.



Monday is sprinting with this idea, making his character images as open ended as possible. He explains the approach in this video:



I like this hook, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the series. Also, bravo to Monday for explaining how he produces his videos using only Apple’s Keynote and iMovie:



[via Presentation Zen]

Prezi’s Explanations with a View

Prezi, “the zooming editor for stunning presentations,” came out of private beta this week. The tool lets you lay out an entire presentation as one giant graphic and zoom into the details as you go. The general idea is to illustrate the relationships among different points based on their positions relative to each other. This video paints the picture pretty clearly:



The editor tools are a little hard to handle at first, but the site includes decent tutorials. With the free version of the editor, you get access to the Web application version of the editor, you can save 100MB worth of presentations on Prezi’s servers, and you can download anything you make. All presentations are branded with the Prezi logo. For €39 a year, you can scrap the Prezi logo and stretch out with 500 MB of space. The €119-a-year Pro license gives you an editor you can use offline and 2GB of space.

This presentation approach could spark some excellent explanations. It would be ideal for walking through a complex process that includes repeated steps, for example. Meanwhile, Scott McCloud and others are eyeing it for its Web comics potential.

[via Scott McCloud]

New Explaining Tool… Not Explained So Well

I saw on Workplace Learning Today that Microsoft has launched Semblio, a new tool for creating snazzy video/animation/text-loaded interactive educational content. The Semblio landing page has an intriguing animated spiel that invited me to give Semblio spin to make a bouncy “truly individual learning experience.”


Semblio example

It sounded like a grand old time to me, so I clicked the link to the Semblio blog, hoping to learn how one would actually do this, but got a Page Not Found page. Then I clicked on “How Does Semblio Work,” which led to a more enlightening demo video, as well as this mystifying word blob:

Using Microsoft Semblio, you can create rich, immersive multimedia learning material that’s highly interactive and fosters exploratory learning that teachers can customize, and that promotes collaboration. Because Semblio takes a platform approach to content creation —- leveraging the flexibility of the Microsoft .NET Framework —- it works across software, services, and learning management systems. This allows you to meet the demand for more customized solutions, while still providing you with control over how your material is adapted.

Run-ons and non-sequitors and business-speak, oh my!

Anyway, I eventually figured out that Semblio in its current incarnation is a software development kit (SDK) only, meaning .Net developers can work with it at the moment, but not me. By early next year, the Microsoft Office application suite should include content creation tools for the rest of us. This Read Write Web post explains that this may be a big step for electronic textbooks:

In their current state, electronic textbooks are often relatively static versions of their physical counterpart, with maybe a few videos thrown in for good measure. As these electronic textbooks are slowly making a push into the textbook market, tools like Semblio should allow publishers and teachers to create interactive textbooks that actually fulfill the promise of the medium instead of just recreating the traditional textbook experience in the digital world.

Could be pretty neat, as long as Microsoft can explain it to users by then.

[via Workplace Learning Today]

Scott McCloud TED Talk

Wow, turns out Scott McCloud is an explainist renaissance man. I’m a huge fan of his three explanatory comic books about comics, and now I see he delivers a heck of a presentation too.



This 17-minute talk is mostly a summary of key thoughts on comics, especially their future on the Web. I was already familiar with these ideas from McCloud’s books, but his presentation delivery style got me excited about them all over again. I really like the way he synchs his words with changes in his slides. The effect is similar to the continual seamless hand-off between words and pictures in comics. Very engaging.