Category Archives: Aleatory

I’m Not Dead (Yet)!

It’s been brought to my attention that I am a horrible blogger; that if one wishes to attract a following then one should post regularly – at least once a month – so those following don’t become disinterested or think that one has fallen off the face of the earth.

I know of a blogger who makes it a point, whenever he’s away from his blog for a day or more, to at least alert his fans that he’s not dead. I’m not going so far as to say I’ve got fans, or even a following of any considerable size, but I do acknowledge that it’s a pretty good practice. I’ll endeavor to do something similar so those who ARE following me know that I’m serious about keeping this blog going.

So. Not dead. Just tied up with an LMS implementation and a simultaneous intranet overhaul.

Yeah, death might be preferable.

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Sharpening the Saw: OneNote

ImageAll the way back in February I made a commitment to explore new tools in support of my professional development. This was inspired by a post by Jane Hart, social learning and collaboration expert. In my post, I pledged that the first tool I would discuss would be OneNote, and then we’d see where I’d go from there.

On Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools, she briefly describes OneNote(along with EverNote) as a “note-taking tool.” I’d challenge that description as a bit confining – OneNote has a variety of uses that extend beyond note taking. Notepad is a note taking tool. OneNote easily serves more as a curation resource.

Let’s start with the basics:

Remember your TrapperKeeper back in high school? The one that you used to carry your class notebooks, and homework assignments, and notes, and pictures, and all that other stuff necessary to survival in high school? That’s OneNote.

Yes, you can take notes on it. But you can also store emails in that notebook. Or documents, Or images, including web screenshots and PowerPoint slides. Anything. In one place.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Different Nooks in the Iceberg:



The Move to OneNote button in Outlook 2010.

Our company is heavily invested in email as its primary source of communication. So much so that several of us frequently max out our email server quota. There are ways to manage this, of course, but those ways frequently cause me to spend more time searching for the emails that I need than I’d like.

“Is it in my archives? No? Did I put it in the wrong folder? Maybe I’m looking for the wrong subject.”

OneNote has a convenient button in the Outlook Ribbon. Press it, and your email goes to the Notebook/Section Group/Section of your choosing.  Attachments will go with the email, openable from OneNote. PLUS, you can then change the title of the page on which the email is located to better find your notes after the fact. PLUS, you can type any of your notes to the page holding the email to add context.



From the OneNote 2010 Home menu, you can opt to insert Meeting Details into your OneNote page.

Once upon a time, I had tried to use Outlook as a central location for many of my notes. It made sense: I’m in there a LOT.

I attempted to keep my meeting notes in Outlook: for a brief moment, attached to the details of the meeting; for another brief moment, within a Journal entry that corresponded to the meeting time. Both methods required that I search for these notes later, and remember how and when I had stored them. “When was that meeting again?” became a tough question to answer with my meeting-packed schedule, especially since Outlook pulls old meetings off my active calendar after they’re done.  Now, I keep my meeting notes in OneNote.

OneNote allows you to insert the meeting details from your Outlook Calendar to provide context to the notes. I merely create a page for the meeting, placed in the appropriate notebook section, and select “Insert Meeting Notes.”  The meeting subject, date and location, and invited attendees will be inserted on the OneNote page.  If your Outlook Calendar has the meeting agenda included in the details, or some talking points to address, those will be included as well.

Things To Do:


You can sort OneNote notes into to-do lists, question lists, even Outlook tasks by selecting a (fairly) descriptive statement, and then clicking a tag.

I do a lot of project-based work. I’ve tried to use Microsoft Project to keep organized and set schedules, but I’m rarely successful. Again, it’s a matter of where the information lies for me. I can make a list, I can check it twice, but all the other stuff I need to be successful lies scattered in Outlook.

I tend to use tasks in Outlook to keep on top of the things I need to do. However, those aren’t necessarily project-based. (Yes, I do use the Categories feature, and that mitigates some of my  issues, but not all.)

Since I’ve already got a OneNote Notebook section set up to hold my project emails and meeting notes, it becomes an easy task to create a front page that lists all the tasks I need to associate with that project. I can then:

  • Create a checklist  using the To Do tags.
  • Mark items as important using the Star tags.
  • Indicate a item I have a question about using the Question Mark tag.
  • Use the “Insert Outlook Tasks” feature, which will place that task in my Outlook with a link to the OneNote page.

A caveat to this feature: I still need to be rather thorough in describing what I’m tagging. Let’s use the Outlook Tasks feature as an example: because it will appear in my Outlook, I’ll want to be sure that when I look at the task, it doesn’t make me scratch my head and wonder what I’m supposed to do (The details don’t transfer from OneNote to Outlook.). An example of what I mean: one of the first tasks I created in OneNote was: “Step One.” It made sense in the context of the page, because the page contained SO many more details and links, but it made little sense within Outlook.

Other stuff:

OneNote provides other tools for you, and suggestions on how to use them.

  • You can store audio clips in your notebooks. You can even record a meeting in OneNote using your laptop microphone.
  • You can send PowerPoint slides to a notebook, and annotate them. Useful for presentation reviews.
  • I mentioned screenshot clipping – that’s a nice feature that many of the MS Office programs have. If you haven’t used that, try it out!  However, OneNote works with Internet Explorer to allow you to select content from a web page and send it to a notebook.
    There’s a lot going against IE, and I do tend to use Chrome, but this feature enhances IE’s usability.
  • I  mentioned that I create a front page to list the tasks for a project. I can also create links on that front page to other pages in my Notebook – sort of a cross-referencing tool.
  • I haven’t used the SideNote feature yet, which opens OneNote in a side window to capture notes while you’re reviewing content in another program. As an instructional designer, however, I can see how this could be useful in the Analysis or Evaluation phases.


Frankly, there appears to be a lot that you can do with OneNote, and with each new discovery I find I’ve only scratched the surface of how much more I can do. I’m currently in the process of adopting OneNote as my central source for the information I need to do my job. I’m able to store my notebook on the network, and sync it to my computer’s hard drive. I’m able to reduce my “Outlook footprint” and hopefully the amount of time I search for notes and information buried within the emails I receive. I’m able to keep task lists and meeting notes close to other information surrounding the topics.

Ultimately, it’s all about collating the information I need in one space. For that, OneNote seems to fit the bill.


Footnote: Yes, there’s a plethora of other cloud-based note-taking software available. I mentioned EverNote at the beginning of this post. I’ll post in a little bit about why I’ve decided to cancel my EverNote account and stick with OneNote, and why I’ve retained my SpringPad account.

On Learning New Things – A Reminder

cockpitLast week, I got to “fly” an F-16 jet. Simulation. Pretty darned cool. Since we were beginners, the staff only activated three buttons (talk, fire, and brakes), the throttle, and the steering joystick. It was still pretty hard to fly. I “died.” Many times. And I thought: how does anyone fly this thing once all these other buttons are activated?

Later, I explained to my stepfather how to download an image from his Facebook Newsfeed. As I was guiding him to click this button, then that, he wondered: “Geez! How can you remember all this stuff?” I imagine his face had an expression similar to the one I’d had when I’d sat in the F-16’s cockpit.

These two interactions brought to light how foreign and overwhelming ANYTHING can be when someone’s exposed to it for the first time: be it a computer system, a new process, or a fighter jet. Next time I take on the task of teaching someone a new system, I’ll have the image of that F-16 jet cockpit to remind me.

Still Waiting for my Jet Pack

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image (2)Each year I’m assailed by invitations to webinars, seminars, blog posts and articles about the future of training. They’re visionary, inspiring, and eager to grasp onto the new technologies of the day and find ways to engage the learner.  It’s hard not to leave them excited and eager to try new things.

These visionaries seem to exist in a different dimension; the innovations are too few and far between – fantastical exceptions to the training status quo. In a sense, I’m still waiting for my training “jet pack” or flying car.

Which inspired me to make this “magazine cover” from a site I stumbled across today.

Just having a little fun.

Carry on with that webinar slide deck you’re creating.

The 10 Minute Password

Here’s another password tip: don’t create accounts for too many things in the first place.  I speak, of course, of the free download that you want — it only costs your name and email account number.  On the same token, don’t forgo that compelling article about the oncoming alien invasion just because Weekly World News wants your email address.  Instead, give ’em an address that remains open for just about ten minutes.

I’ve used for many sites that I don’t intend to visit again, but still want me to give up an email address for the privilege of what’s behind that form.  10minutemail assigns you a random email address, keeps it available just long enough for you to click the email verification link, and then burns the account like a cheap cell phone.  It’s a brilliant, completely free tool, and I recommend it to anyone who spends a moderate amount of time surfing the web, or clicking through half the links in their Twitter feed.

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Passwords and Poetry

In a previous post, I shared that I’d created levels of passwords to help protect my information. While this method illustrates how I ensure hackers who get into one account can’t then hack into my email or other accounts, using the information they find in the hacked account, I didn’t delve into how I create strong passwords that a typical dictionary attack cannot bust.

What surprises me is how frequent hackers are succeeding with little more than a plain-text password.

We’re constantly reminded, whenever we sign into a new system, how to create effective passwords.  Six to seven characters, a mix of numbers, small case letters and capital letters.  And yet, we strive so hard to create memorable passwords that we still come up with passwords vulnerable to attack. “ShihTzu456.”

All those rules for creating strong password (add numbers, upper case, and symbols) kind of make things harder for us.

Microsoft offers some tips to creating strong passwords.  One of the key points that surprised me: use complete sentences.  I’m used to using the first letters of each word in a sentence, but the xkcd comic (right) explains why the sentence strategy makes sense.

I’ve used these tips to create my Level 1 and 2 passwords. But, we still have the challenge of creating a unique password for each system; these tips aren’t good if someone gains access to one of your accounts, and you’ve used that same password for a high-security account.

I’d shared that I’ve got four Level 2 and 3 passwords. Actually, after an inventory of all the sites I use that require passwords, it turns out I’ve got a few more than that.  Plus, I’ve got several unique Level 1 passwords.   In my opinion, uniqueness is key to remaining secure.  So, that’s a lot of passwords to remember. How do I keep track of all of them without writing them down or using a Password Manager?

I create a key — out of a poem.

So dust off your Robert Frost, folks, because that poem you had to memorize in high school is about ready to come in handy.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

There’s five separate passwords right there.  There’s four stanzas with five more lines each.  The first stanza could be used for your financial accounts, the second for your email, and so on.

Now, I confess: this is considerable work for a password or four — more work than the average person will do. But you’ve seen the consequences — it’s kind of worth it. And, heck. You’ve already got the passwords memorized. You just didn’t know it yet.

When you’re done creating your password, try it out on Microsoft’s Password checker. Bear in mind: they pooh-pooh any password less than 14 characters, so try not to use haikus as your cipher key.

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Gettin’ vervety in training.

Ronald Noe, a professor of primate ethology at the University of Strasbourg, found economic insight in his study of vervet monkeys.  However, amidst all his analysis of primates assigning value to a skill, the thing that both he and the vervet monkeys ignored as one of their own learned how to open a container of apples is that the original dominant monkey was still pretty darned good at finding food.  Further, when the new dominant monkey’s status was halved as a second monkey learned the skill, the fact of the matter is that there were at least three monkeys that had a food gathering skill, very likely more.  The apple-selecting vervet monkeys’ status was inflated.

Some trainers similarly tend to get as excited about the new technologies that they adopt as a vervet monkey with a container of apples.  Numerous training magazines and blogs advocate cutting edge tools as training resources without necessarily identifying a measurable use of the tool within their instructional design.


Case in point: Twitter.

I’m a Twitter advocate.  You can follow me @performbydesign. Those are my tweets in the upper right hand corner.  Twitter serves as a serendipity engine for information.  But: Twitter for training?

Consider the other information resources in an organization.  Policies and Procedures.  Wikis, should one set them up.  Training  manuals.  What does Twitter offer that they don’t?

Another tool being explored as a training resource: Second Life.  Yes, I’m on Second Life.  I’ve enjoyed bumming around the worlds, and there are some fantastically creative people out there creating fantastically creative lands.  But as a training application, it’s limited.  I’d consider Second Life as a place to practice coding. Java. Some AI bot language. It’s like a Ponzi scheme for programmers. Outside that, it’s a fanciful meeting tool.  How does Second Life replace WebEx? NetMeeting?  Google Talk?

I wonder what will happen to the vervet monkey troop when the researchers take their apples and containers back home.  Will the container-opening monkeys have acquired the ability to gather food as well as the previously dominant monkeys?  Or would they be scouring the vast savannahs, looking for containers to open?

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