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[tlug] Re: An instructional target of opportunity?

Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 07:18:36 +0900
From: "Jonathan Byrne" <>

On 4/25/2007, "Shannon Jacobs" <> wrote:

>modes. These results would probably be meaningful to an expert, though
>they mean very little to me. If the expert could explain how he
>interprets what he's seeing, it might give other people insight into
>his thinking and insight into how Linux works. Hopefully, an
>interesting and instructional video could result.

This idea may have merit, since advanced troubleshooting skills are
usually only gained through doing a lot of advanced troubleshooting.

At a minimum, you would need;

- A willing expert
- A quiet enough place at the meeting to shoot usable video
- The ability (or time to get the ability) to edit the raw footage and
make a finished video out of it
- Transcribing and summarizing where appropriate would be helpful

There is plenty of evidence of Linux expertise, so I guess your point in the first item is the "willing" part, which I would approach from the perspective of 'asking the right questions to access and expose the expertise'. However, in this situation, the disrupted machine is basically asking the questions.

Unfortunately, just filming an expert being an expert is rarely
revealing. An expert makes the complicated work look easy--and that's
one definition of an expert. There's a lot going on there, but it's
mostly inside the expert's head, and it's hard to make it 'visible' in
an instructive way.

In terms of trying to 'capture' expertise on video, guided think-aloud
protocols can be useful, but they are not easy. I have had some
experience on both sides of them, but asking the right questions that
will 'expose' the expert's mental models is quite a difficult thing.
The expert is naturally jumping over a whole lot of stuff that other
people can't follow. My primary work is essentially helping experts in
making their expertise visible, but they are working for
publication... Sometimes I'll ask the right question right away, but
often it takes several days of questioning to reach publishable

(By the way, I've been trying to treat the topic of expertise in a
gender-neutral way to this point. I'm going to lapse into the
grammatically convenient male pronouns, but I certainly don't mean to
imply that there are no female experts. Actually I would even lament
their scarcity, but that's getting too far off topic.)

Yes, I do have the ability to edit video, but I am basically not very
good at it and the results to date have been rather mediocre. However,
with a bit of practice, many experts can learn to display their
expertise for the camera in a way that requires little editing. This
can also partly address the sound problem you mentioned, if the expert
is using a microphone with limited sensitivity. You can even allow for
several non-expert questioners, but the expert will repeat the actual
question that he is about to answer. This step is quite important and
hard to do well, but it is much easier for a non-expert to confirm
that a question is 'correct' than for the non-expert to ask the
correct question--but the expert tends to skip over a lot of important
questions because he already knows the answers. Once you know the
correct question, generally you are on top of the answer...

Now to your last item of the transcript. I agree that this is very
nice, but I have done a lot of that sort of thing, and it is *VERY*
difficult and time consuming to do it properly. However, in terms of
supporting search for video content, a list of relevant keywords can
be compiled fairly easily. Writing good summaries is much harder, but
I actually do quite a lot of that at work, so I can probably be useful
there. No promises, but if this idea produces some interesting videos,
it is conceivable that some researchers I know might be willing to
work on automated transcripts as part of their research. (Minor
caveat: For short recordings, that usually requires the expert to also
read a training script so that the system has a sample of the expert's
voice speaking known words, and then the system can use that data to
recognize unknown words from the same person.)

>Unfortunately, my observations of this mailing list to date have
>caused me feel like this is not necessarily the best venue to offer
>suggestions, but...

Offering suggestions is fine. People will like some of them, people will
not like some of them. To recap a major point of recent discussion on
suggestions, making a suggestion == volunteering to do it. One of the
biggest issues with a lot of suggestions (here and elsewhere) is that so
many of them are really suggestions for "you" to do something that I
think will benefit "me" - hich is why in my description of the
requirements to do this, I say "you would need." I really mean you,
personally. If you want to see it done, do it. The t-shirts are an
excellent example of this.

If you think a video like that would be useful, get an expert to work
with you, whether at a meeting or not, make the video, and make it
available somewhere for people to check out. If they like it, it may
indeed wind up hosted on the TLUG website (bandwidth permitting, of

I think this part deserves some response, but I'm still mulling it over. Mostly it sounds like a leadership issue, and I do not lead or follow. Perhaps the 'real problem' is that sometimes I seem to be in other people's way--but I move at my own pace. Or maybe it's the different drummer issue? Also, I'm pretty jaded...

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