Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I think about Avitars

I just got an e-mail from a long time customer asking me what I think about an article they read on Avitars. My response is:

Please forgive my cynicism ... but an article about how wonderful Avatars are that is written by the CEO of a company that makes Avatars seems somewhat self-serving. Also, note that "developers" like this. Where does it talk about whether the audience likes it? The stuff about the MTV-generation being different, in my opinion, is recycled. Yes, younger people are more familiar with texting, social networks, and faster multi-tasking, but this (my opinion) is because they are at a stage where they have more free time. (Remember when our parents complained about how much TV we watched instead of going outside and tending to the vegetable garden?) Once they get older, and get busier (like most employees at work are), they have less time for games, distractions, and other entertainment. Unfortunately, what matters is making the content interesting, and above all accessible. I don't expect people to learn (really understand and develop their own ramifications from) web-based content the first time they read it. What makes web-based content useful is that they can get to it on an as-needed basis. Avatars and recorded video, from our anectodal experience (hearing from our customers) do the following:
1. Slow down the learning - the user has to wait for the audio track to get to the content. Imagine if Google was audio based rather than text-based. How long would it take you to find what you're looking for?
2. Reduce the need for the person to process the information through the brain. If someone reads to me, I don't have to read. I find that the best way for me to learn something is to rewrite it. If I just am listening, I can drift away (check my inbox, play free-cell, etc.)
3. Distracts the co-workers in cubicles around them. When the course loads, suddenly the audio kicks off. Everyone hears it and is distracted.
4. Provide visual stimulation, but not critical thinking development or fact transfer.

My belief is that in the MTV generation, unless people are couch-potato-ing (watching music videos), what they want is faster, smaller chunks of info. When you start transmitting to PDAs, and it takes 5 minutes for the audio track that lasts one minute to download, you may find a loss of effectiveness.

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