Sunday, November 02, 2008

Harder than it looks

My final project for one of my classes this semester is to create a series of screen casts teaching users all about RSS feeds - what they are and how they work. When I designed this project I thought it would be a fairly straightforward task, just go step-by-step through the process of using RSS and describe what you need to do at each step.

Boy was I ever wrong! Perhaps I'm being overly ambitious in what I can reasonably achieve here, but this project is turning out to be much more complicated. First there's the fact that I don't actually have the screen casting software on my laptop, which means that I have to have every detail planned in advance before I go to the lab to do the recording.

Also, describing what RSS feeds are is not as simple as you might think. It seems pretty obvious to me since I've been using them for ages now, but when I actually try to translate it into language that's understandable to a newbie things get complicated. I can't assume that the user will understand all the terminology so I have to work backwards to explain things I hadn't planned on explaining.

Most frustratingly, in order to properly demonstrate how to set up a new account in Google Reader and in Bloglines, I have to do it from scratch as I record it, which means that I won't know until I'm sitting there how it will actually work. I could set up dummy accounts just to practice, but then I'd have to set up two new accounts for each service, none of which I'm likely to use after this project, and that seems a little excessive.

Ultimately I think this project will be more interesting than either of the other two options I could've picked, and certainly will result in my having learned more usable skills as far as creating screen casts goes, but the process is going to be more painful than anticipated.

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