Microsoft Community Clips: Record your own video help

July 30, 2008

I’m struggling to revise a huge Word document that was not only written by a committee, but by a committee under the tutelage of a consultant. Documentation by bureaucracy, essentially. So I made a trip to Microsoft’s Web site to get some assistance on the trickier aspects of my revisions.

That’s where I stumbled upon Community Clips where you can create your own videos demonstrating tips and tricks in Microsoft applications. According to Microsoft:

Community Clips is a portal for viewing, sharing, and discussing informal “how-to” videos (screencasts) on Microsoft Office products. It also includes a client application for easy recording of screen views and voice.

Haven’t tried it myself, but the first step is to download and install the Community Clips application. Apparently, you can use it to record any software application.  You have to register to upload your video and then you are officially part of the “community.” (Anyone else getting tired of that word?)

The Community Clips site has the potential to become a computer nerd’s YouTube. As of today there are only 326 videos uploaded, but as word gets out, this will increase exponentially. Here’s a funny one on entering accents and other diacritical marks in Word.  (Can’t embed it here because it’s not in a format WordPress supports. Arrggh!)

Benefits of Community Clips

Show what you can do. So often people who are trying to break into tech comm ask “how do I get experience?” Community Clips is a great way to showcase your technical communication talents even if you’ve never worked for the man as a technical writer.

Reusable learning objects. As more and videos are uploaded, help desk technicians and technical communicators can search for instructions they might need and send the customer the link.

Free tool. Microsoft doesn’t have many free downloads, so it’s cool to have a free tool that performs this type of task. It’s part of Microsoft Office Labs, which is an interesting development in and of itself.

”  . . . a proving ground for ideas that come from regular employees and interns who work anywhere in Microsoft.  Most of the code prototypes are developed by the Office Labs team in partnership with the teams that make the products.

. . . we thought it would be interesting to present some ideas we are exploring.

It’s fun to try new stuff, but we also have a reason for putting these ideas out here in public.  We want to find out which of these ideas are valuable, how people use them, and generally what you all think.  To measure how effective the various ideas are we collect a variety of data about how you use these prototypes.

. . . these are free and there’s no official support. . . .

Every couple of months or so another prototype may show up.  Sometimes more than one.  Sometimes it’ll be longer.  We hope you become a regular visitor and participant in the discussions.  Let us know what you think!

So c’mon tech comm people! Record something on Community Clips and add a comment here with a link to your work.

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Videocasting as technical communication

June 16, 2007

Common Craft has two videocasts explaining wikis and RSS respectively.

The audio could be better and the video is a bit jerky, but the striking thing about these is their simplicity as well as their effective use of imagery and storytelling to instruct their audience. No fancy production equipment needed, just a piece of paper and a magic marker. They call this format “Paperworks.”

In their own words:

We produce short videos that make complex subjects and messages easy to understand. . . . We use simple concepts and plain language to create an engaging experience for viewers.

Isn’t that what all technical communicators should strive to do? It’s this kind of innovation that makes me excited to be in this field.

Wikis in Plain English

[blip.tv ?posts_id=251312&dest=-1]

RSS in Plain English

[blip.tv ?posts_id=209879&dest=-1]

Thanks to the Chicago STC’s blog for turning me on to Common Craft.

The people behind Common Craft are Lee and Sachi LeFever. They seem to have a lot of fun with whatever they do. Last year the team traveled around the world and blogged about their experience in The World is Not Flat. Some good advice here for anyone else who is thinking of chucking the rat race and traveling for two years.  (I wish)

And, of course, Common Craft has a blog.