Thursday, June 04, 2009

DimDim web meeting disappointing

Last night I was scheduled to give a talk about how to use ICT to reduce carbon emissions. One technique is to telecommunicate and so I tired using the DimDim web meeting tool to allow people to participate online. It did not work well.

I was disappointed with DimDim. While it worked in test, it failed on the night. The major problem was with the audio, which for most of the time just produced a hiss.

There are confusingly several sets of controls for the audio and video with DimDim: one in the DimDim software itself and one in the Flash plug-in used for the audio and video. I tried to set these to minimise bandwidth use, but suspect I ended up with a conflict between the settings. I may have been better off leaving the defaults set.

What made the problem worse was DimDim's limited support for accessibility. Because I have trouble reading the text on the screen with the default font, I increase the size. DimDim's text then starts to overlap, making it hard to read. Also the Web 2 interaction is a bit problematic. I found pop up windows for setting parameters which did not fit on the screen and some times I found myself chasing the popups around the screen with the cursor. There are a lot of windows on the DimDim screen and it is hard to follow what is going on and give a presentation at the same time, even without the overlapping test and runaway popups.

Also I was using a desktop relay facility which I am not entirely happy with. With this you install an application which copies everything from your screen to the remote users. Apart from the security implications, the copy process slows down the host computer and there is the problem of the quantity of data to send. DimDim has a more efficient facility to share a web page, but at the last minute I found it is not compatible with the HTML Slidy web based presentation tool I use.

You can nominate a web page in DimDim and that page will then be opened in a window on the remote viewers computer screens. When you scroll down the web page their copies also scroll. When you click on a link, the new web page is opened on their screens as well. However, I found that JavaScript based navigation is not relayed to the remote user. So while I was clicking down through my slides on my screen, the remote viewer was stuck on the first slide.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Slides in web pages

Peter Sefton has done a wonderful job getting his ICE education system to produce web based slides, as well as printed and web based learning materials, all from the one word processing document.

ICE uses the remarkable Slidy, which uses some CSS and a lot of Javascrpit, to turn a simple HTML document into a pretty slide show which can be driven from a web browser.

Previously I laboriously hand coded web pages to would work as slides, web documents and printed documents . But my hand coded system has some advantages over Slidy and ICE:
  1. One file: ICE generates a web version of your document, a PDF versions for printing and the slide version. This is three files to keep track of: I just want one. I don't want a PDF version, just a printable web page will do. I want the slide notes in the same file as the slides.
  2. Notes default: Slidy allows for notes to be included along with the presentation slides. You can press a button to see the hidden notes and can print them out. But you have to know to be able to do this. In most cases I want people to be able to see the notes: very rarely will they want to just see the slides. So I want the default changed so you see the notes and press a button to hid them.
  3. Simple web page: Slidy uses H1 as the heading for each slide. But I want my web page to have one H1 for the title and H2 for the slides.
I have tried changing Slidy's behavior, without changing the Slidy code. After some thought I reasoned that it is the Javascript which made Slidy show slides. So if I turn off the Javascript I will get the notes showing by default. To do this I added some commands to the web server. To get the slides you supply the parameter "Slides"; without this, you get the notes:
  1. Slides:
  2. Notes:
This technique has the bonus that, as most people will not be looking at the slides, they will not need to download the Javascript.

But so far I have not worked out an easy way to change the H1 headings to H2. I could modify the Slidy Javascript to use H2, but am reluctant to create my own version of Slidy. Another option would be some XSLT to turn the H1s to H2s for Slidy.

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