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Little Outliner puts outlining power into anybody’s hands

Dave Winer and Kyle Shank are rolling out step two in their evolving online outliners today through their Small Picture business entity.

Little Outliner, still in beta, pleases evangelists like me because it’s an outliner right out there on the public web. Dave’s previous products, going waaaay back to More, Frontier, Radio and the OPML Editor all have required users to install an application. It’s hard to get people to take that step. If it’s something you can play with on a web page, though, there’s not much persuasion required on the outlining evangelist’s part, and not much effort on the recruit’s part. 

What might you do with an outliner?

First off, you might not want to do anything with it. If you don’t think in outline form, you just won’t get it. If you do—if your scribbles to yourself and your daily to-do lists tend to form themselves into a hierarchical shape—then you owe it to yourself to try using an outliner. It will help you think.

  • I use an outliner for my to-do lists. The ability to drag items around to reorder them for prioritization and to demote some tasks to sub-tasks makes me feel more organized. I’m even pretty sure it helps me be more organized!
  • Many elearning pros use mindmaps to plan their courses. An outliner is kind of a text-based twist on the same idea.
  • Screencasts (.mov file) of outlining sessions can break up talking head video for elearning courses without the bother of adding titles in post-production.
  • Outliners are a terrific tool for notetaking during brainstorming sessions—especially when you’re storming around abstract concepts because all of the session’s ideas will not be major themes of whatever it is you are group-cogitating about. Some ideas will turn out to be subsets of other ideas, and the outline form, especially when projected in a meeting room, will point up the relationship in a clear and obvious way. So much nicer than scribbling out lines on an easel pad or a white board, and far easier to save for your report.

Speaking of saving, whatever you type into Little Outliner can’t be saved to the web. (I don’t know, I think that might come later.) It is automatically saved to your computer via the HTML5 localStorage feature. Your browser puts it somewhere. You don’t even have to figure out where if you install a browser extension that lets you have a peek at the source. I use this one for Chrome.

There’s lots to come from this team. OPML is powerful. Dig into it. When you get to the point where you grok the potential of the World Outline concept, your head just may never be the same.

Professional voices have to be believable

I’m a great fan of audio in general, an early podcasting experimenter, and a habitual audiobook listener. Because I spend so much time with audio, I’ve developed some (possibly strident) opinions—especially on new media versus old media styles and fashions.

It strikes me that the old style radio broadcaster voice that shows off its booming pipes has become terribly old-fashioned sounding. Notice how the reading style of audiobooks has changed to a much more casual delivery in the past few years. Pick up one from 10 years ago and it just doesn’t sound right.

This applies to narration in elearning, too. I’ve been driven nuts by a particular talent that narrates chapter reviews for a textbook I’m reading. The guy is clearly an old radio hand. Ted Baxter type, in love with his own voice? I think the more you go that way in choosing a narrator the less believable the product becomes. Had it been a more casual read, you might imagine the narrator actually knows the subject matter and isn’t employed strictly for his voice.

These readers could use more direction in some cases, too. For example, if I’m publishing online materials on a computer topic, I’m going to want a narrator to stress the first syllable in the phrase “OPerating system,” and I’d send it back for a re-do if it comes back “Operating SYStem.” Wouldn’t you?

#SXSWedu tweets and video

You can watch the keynotes live here. Bill Gates is on Thursday, the last day, and the day when his LAUNCHedu competition winners will be announced.

Wish I was there. But Twitter helps.