Verbosio from 30,000 feet: Prelude

A few days ago, I realized, “This Verbosio project is so big, so detailed, that a high-level overview would be really useful.” These high-level ideas haven’t changed in the six or seven years I’ve held them, but there’s been no complete overview of the ideas at once. I decided, therefore, it’s time to take a step up – not back – and try to paint a comprehensive picture of what I’m really trying to do here.

(UPDATE: For those of you who don’t know, Verbosio is an attempt to build a prototype XML editor driven by add-ons – languages and user interfaces coming from extensions to the core architecture.)

I’ve tried before to explain it – and it’s helped in job interviews (more on that later) – but even a five minute summary just doesn’t capture the whole vision I have. Lengthy specification documents and blog posts don’t do it either – ultimately they end up out-of date and forgotten. So I’m going to attempt a new approach. I’m going to create an audio slideshow “fly-by” of Verbosio, explaining the concepts behind the project.

(I credit the JSConf X presentations Brendan Eich and Douglas Crockford gave as the inspiration for this. Slides plus spoken words in an online video is pretty effective.)

On Wednesday night, I wrote out an outline, in preparation for writing a script and slides. When I counted it out, seventy-five different slide items came up (give or take a couple). That’s too many for a single presentation, so as I write the script, I’ll break it up into a few smaller segments. Overall, this could easily run 90 minutes as a whole.

How serious am I about this? I bought a Logitech headset specifically for this audio slideshow, and I’ll be using OpenOffice and some freeware audio editing software to put it all together. That said, for those of you who’ve done audio slideshows before, I’d welcome any advice – including freeware recommendations – on the technical and conversational aspects. I’m dusting off techniques from my Navy Journalism classes – which were way back in 1996 – and my book, in 2001-2002. I could use a refresher course, so please: chime in on the comments!

4 thoughts on “Verbosio from 30,000 feet: Prelude”

  1. It’s great that you’re trying this approach to sharing your ideas. However, if you’ve got 90 minutes worth of material, you may not be at a high enough level yet 🙂
    It depends, of course, on who your audience is and what their goal in viewing your overview is. Try to be specific as possible about who they are, not just “anybody who’s interested” but what kinds of people that would be and why. That should help you sharpen your focus.
    On the technical aspects, this list of screencasting resources might be helpful:

  2. If you want to hold the attention of your audience, especially during a long presentation on a new topic/product, I suggest a problem/solution format. Start by describing a problem and then show how you intend to provide a solution to the problem. People want to listen to stories not lectures and all good stories start with a problem (conflict) and end with a solution (resolution).
    People who try to describe new concepts and products by simply launching into descriptions of them (solutions) tend to loose their audience to either confusion or sleep. You probably had many school teachers like this. Tell us the story of your project, even if it is incomplete, by starting with the problems you are/were struggling to solve. Start by describing the annoyances that are driving you to create the solutions and people will eat it up, possibly even get excited about it.

  3. Also, the second sentence of every blog post you make about Verbosio has to explain what it is! You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and a 90 minute presentation ISN’T that first impression. Most people coming across your stuff via feeds and planets will never bother with your presentation, but it can only help for passers-by to know what you’re doing and what the heck Verbosio is.
    (From Alex: Ouch. That’s a pretty good point.)

  4. Some tips:
    1) Run through it a couple of times.
    2) Don’t use a script, don’t use notes. If you don’t know it well enough to do it extemporaneously, don’t record it. That doesn’t mean you won’t mess up; you will (see next note). This is only to make sure you have a nice conversational delivery.
    3) Since you’re recording, do your presentation, but don’t stop the recording if you mess up. Just pause for a few seconds, and then redo the slide again. When you’re editing, it’s trivial to find the pauses if you can look at the waveform of the audio from the presentation, and from there you can excise the bad slides. It also helps to just make a note of what slide you’re on when you mess up. That by itself will take a few seconds, giving the pause you need. This has worked effectively for many who have given presentations here at work.

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