It’s all about timing

A friend of mine has a favorite (two-part) joke:

What’sthedifferencebetweenagoodjokeandabadjoke?Timing.

What’s the difference between a good joke and a bad joke?
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………………………………………. Timing.

Any good joke relies on a combination of set-up, punchline, and timing.  Some jokes need very little comedic timing, some need a lot.  Very few need none.  Slide-show based presentations are no different.

Most people think they have a clear sense of how long to talk about a particular issue before moving on.  They’re probably wrong.  In a ten-minute presentation, it’s better to have thirty slides set on a timer than eight slides without a timer (and it’s probably better to make a eight-minute slide show with 25 slides, than have your audience of clients looking at their watches).

Putting your slides on a timer tells your audience three things:

  1. You have planned this presentation to take a certain amount of time;
  2. You have practiced this presentation enough that you’re confident of your content; and
  3. You know that your speech is not about you, but about your content.

In a timed presentation, you can’t suddenly change your mind about the important content; you are showing your audience that you care about them, that you’ve thought about their issue carefully, and you’ve identified certain content as being of particular value.  You’ve practiced sharing your insights with them, too.  And you know that the information they need is not so much about you.

You have, in other words, put your audience first.  You’re prepared to show them that you know their issue clearly and cleanly.  You have information to share with them.  And thus they’re less likely to interrupt in the middle of your talk.

Coaching Services

Improved communication and public speaking skills are an important of any organization’s overall strategy.  Knowing what to say is your business as an expert — but knowing how to say it is someone else’s business.

Our primary business here at Watermountain Studio is making things. That’s where my real joy lies.  But for twenty years, I coached people in speaking and debating skills, to help them prepare for delivering school reports and participating in mock trials, debate teams, and public speaking appearances.  There’s a graduate-school-level training that I acquired in rhetoric and communications skills; then I joined Toastmasters and acquired an even more sophisticated training in communications techniques.

Now?  I help business people in western Massachusetts refine and develop their overall media strategy, by helping them develop strong communications skills and improve their confidence when speaking with clients, regulators, other industry professionals, and suppliers.  I’ve worked with a growing number of clients in numerous industries to help them develop their public speaking skills, their branding and messaging, and even their marketing materials.  I’ve served:

  • government-sponsored agencies
  • environmental engineering
  • local non-profits engaged in business development
  • sales forces
  • leadership development teams

I might be able to help you.

Sewing: Kinkachu

The kinkachu is a type of Japanese omiyage or gift bag.  We currently have five in stock. They’re $60 + shipping. Many would be suitable bags for DOGD-style Coelbren letters, or Viking runes, for sortilege. They’re all 100% cotton fabric, and the interior of each bag is about the size of a closed human fist.

You can also ask us to make you one in a desired color palette.

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Geometry: A good triangle

One of the curious details about life in the modern age is how much we get …. I was going to say wrong, but let’s say off, instead… about graphic design.

Consider the basic triangular shape.  Let’s say that you’re designing a logo for a business, and you want to use a triangle.  You go into your basic Vector Shapes tool, you click the triangle button, and Pop! Here’s a triangle.

It probably looks a great deal like the triangle at the left — steep sided, mountainous, a pretty vigorous triangle to all appearances.  Nothing wrong with it, right?

Except that, once you start working with that triangle, something seems not quite right about it, and so you have to fuss and fume about it to get it accurately to the shape you want it to be.  It just doesn’t want to be the shape you want it to be, though.

In frustration, you might wind up turning to a quite different set of tools, or scrap the idea of using a triangle completely.

First by Geometry…

The thing is, you’re not wrong. The triangle is not in fact the correct shape. Adjusting it to the correct shape isn’t going to help, either, because the triangle itself doesn’t have the correct proportions to be pleasing to the human eye. The triangle was coded into the software by a group of programmers who knew the mathematical rules governing triangles, but not what proportions of triangles are pleasing to the human eye.  They knew a triangle was a figure with three sides, and that you generated one by a formula, 1/3 base x height.  And that’s it.  Naturally, you’re going to get an isosceles triangle — with the two rising sides subtly longer than a narrow base.

But if you want an equal-sided triangle, which speaks to and appeals to the human eye in a unique way?

For that, you need a designer — a human designer, with a few years of experience in studying, and explaining, geometry and art history.  In the second diagram, here’s our computer-generated vector graphic of a triangle, with its subtle offness, compared with the same program’s standard vector-graphic circle…. and then two of those standard circles overlaid on one another, to show the relationship between the center and circumference of each circle… And the equilateral triangle that results as the proportion from those two standard circles.

And finally, this “golden triangle” (which isn’t really the Golden Triangle — that’s either a triangle formed from the Golden Mean, or a region in southeast Asia where opium is produced) is overlaid on the original triangle at the original size.

Then, side by side.

Finally, we can compare them side-by-side.   This time, the yellow triangle has been increased in size, but without changing the proportions, to match the initial vector-graphic triangle. The base of the blue triangle is subtly narrower than the yellow one  — the blue triangle has upward force, but no stability.  The yellow triangle, on the other hand, has both upward force and stability.  It has both strength and a desire to rise.  It has a proportion and a grace to it that other triangles can’t manage — and no matter how you turn it, it’s going to turn out stable and in command.

If you look at just the first triangle, the blue one, at the top of this post, there’s a pretty good chance that it looks all right.  Not Bad, as the saying goes.  But now that you’ve seen them together, and now that you know one of them is generated geometrically by someone who knows what they’re doing — you’re going to see evidence of isosceles triangles everywhere you go…. and virtually no equilateral triangles except in objects and diagrams that are more than a century old.

Perhaps an isosceles triangle is an example of lazy, computer-generated design — and an equilateral triangle shows a human touch.

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PD and apprenticeship

The typical model for teachers to get additional training is to send them to a workshop. The teachers sit in rows, and listen to a single person’s or sometimes a group, for few hours. Each teacher walks away with one or two small ideas that might change their teaching practice, or might not. These changes will usually be small, and may not survive the school year. It is expensive, terms of travel and teaching time: a substitute needs to be hired, travel expenses need to be paid, and your school may not get what they need from the training.

When the success or failure of a MakerSpace is on the line (often with tens of thousands of dollars invested in tools, equipment, and space) professional development is a real gamble. There’s a very good chance that you won’t get the skills you need to run your MakerSpace effectively; or that the skills your teachers learn won’t be flexible to the equipment and tools that you have; or that you will get a one-trick pony, that can only do one thing.

Here’s why: teachers are experts in their chosen field, whether that be history or early childhood education, math or library science. But there is a very good chance, study suggest better-than-average, that your teachers don’t Make anything. They do not know how, or they know but do not want to. The ones who do make things, treat the Making that they do, as a hobby or as something that belongs to “outside-school” time, and they don’t want to cross the streams of hobby and profession.

For teachers — and just about everyone else — Making requires apprenticeship. All of our first efforts are bad. Pick the wrong wood, or the wrong color paint, or the wrong kind of plastic for the 3-D printer. We make the rookie mistakes — we did for a few years, ourselves. A third grader does not care that their work is “bad “, but a teacher (almost any adult, really) does. And the teacher is often afraid that their work will look bad to a student.

Everyone has a first year of teaching; everyone knows that the first year is the worst of your career.  Consciously or unconsciously, most teachers know that learning to be a maker will be like their first year of teaching all over again. A one-day workshop will not help; a better solution is daily or weekly guided instruction from someone who has already made some of the mistakes.  A model of master-and-apprentices, and the gradual introduction of journeymen and journey-women into the system, stands a much better chance of success than a single person in the artisan’s shop.

We can provide a range of options from one-on-one consulting and coaching, to regularly-scheduled workshops for your faculty over the course of the year. Contact us: we can help you.

Building a MakerSpace

Let’s say you’re part of an institution — a church, a library, a school — that’s decided to start a MakerSpace. You’ve read all the books, skimmed numerous articles, watched all the videos, and gotten the go-ahead from your stakeholders. You hired a contracting company, and the workmen are going to be ripping out walls and installing new electrical wiring any week now. You are completely confident in your plan, and you are sure that you have thought of everything. 

But what if you haven’t?

There are at least seventeen major errors that we are aware of, that most schools and libraries have failed to think about. Many of them have to do with the curious blind spots these organizations have with regard to planning for maker spaces and maker programs.  And unfortunately, the more money the organization is throwing us for your Mischel launch of their maker space, the more likely it is that they will make a greater number of these serious mistakes. Shortsighted thinking in favor of “building is now “can lead to costly and painful decision making later on. It can hamper the growth of the maker space program, and it can block it from becoming fully integrated into the institution’s existing program.

email us, or give us a phone call. Guide you through our checklist of common problems, risks , and opportunities.  For our low introductory consulting fee, we’ll guide you through the shoals where you are navigating blind. 

New Article on MakerSpaces in Schools and Libraries

Andrew Watt, our Creative, just wrote this 4,000 word article on MakerSpaces in schools and libraries, following up on his appearance at EdCampSWCT yesterday.

It’s available here.

The big reminder is at the end:

F. Buckminster Fuller was assigned the task of writing the history of America’s technological innovation to reach the Moon. It was expected to be a celebration of American technological advances, and a series of biographies of great American inventors whose engineering accomplishments resulted in humanity’s march to the stars.  Yet in the first chapter of that book, Critical Path, Fuller admits that it was less a case of American ingenuity that sent the Apollo 11 astronauts to the Moon’s surface, but rather the ingenuity of humanity — ceramic parts for the Saturn 5 rocket had been made that used porcelain recipes that were six thousand years old; bronze-alloy couplings that relied on four thousand year old metallurgy helped the rocket’s various stages separate from one another when the bronze melted away under intense heat.

I invite you, readers, to think of yourselves like that — that your task as MakerSpace teachers and librarians and archivists, is to be oriented on what humanity has already done, technologically, and to help students understand the old technologies so that they can borrow from them to develop new solutions to problems.

And a Shout Out…

If you or your school would like assistance in putting these principles into action in your school, please be in touch.  I am available for consulting services; or to run workshops on sewing, bookbinding, or basic carpentry for teachers and MakerSpaces; or for ongoing coaching services for new MakerSpace atelierists.