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krisse's Avatar
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Quim Gil very kindly offered to host the Tablet School on as a separate section, I was very honoured by this but for various reasons didn't want to do it (they're detailed in other threads, no need to discuss it here).

Anyway, it just struck me how this could actually be an opportunity to do something similar but slightly different: a Maemo School where every aspect of the interface and third party applications could be covered, with contributions from anyone who wants to make them.

You might be saying "hey we've already got that, it's the Wiki!" but the Wiki has a rather anarchic non-standard nature which is difficult for newcomers to navigate. Also, some of the instructions assume both technical knowledge and a good knowledge of english too.

Here's what I'm proposing in detail:

A Maemo School to carry on what the Internet Tablet School did.

Everyone could contribute, as long as their content fits the criteria (see list below). All Maemo topics are welcome.

Here's the important part: It would be 100% video, with no text at all except perhaps a title. Videos could be hosted on any free Flash video service, Nokia have their own called Ovi Share, but YouTube would probably be the best in terms of getting the word out to new people.

It would be hosted on using a format similar to the Downloads section, with "freshest" and "most visited" charts etc. There would be categories for tutorials, and comments for each video on itself (so that the comments aren't lost if the video is updated or moved to another hosting service).

The reason I think this would work is that if you want to show someone how to do something, doing a video of you actually doing that task on your tablet is the clearest and most elegant form of tutorial. It also proves that your method of doing something works.

A 100% video-based tutorial site would at a stroke remove any need for prior knowledge, and you wouldn't need to understand english either as the same options would be in the same places in other languages.

A Maemo School admin or admins could be responsible for approving and categorising videos, contributors would upload videos to their own YouTube (or whatever) accounts and then submit the URLs of those videos through a form on the Maemo School site for consideration. If the video passes some basic standards (see below) a Maemo School admin would categorise the video and embed it into the Maemo School section. Below the embedded video would be its creator's name and a link to the creator's website, so that they get the credit for their labours.

If a video fails quality control, the Maemo School admin(s) should let the user know exactly what needs to be fixed, referring to which rules (see below) the video broke.

The reason I'd suggest a central quality control system and index page is to make it easy for newbies to find the good stuff. If a video is poorly done (see below), or incorrectly categorised, there's a danger of such a site turning into an inaccessible mess.

From my experience with the Internet Tablet School I have come up with a list of criteria that instructional videos should fulfil (these are basically what I thought about when doing my own videos, along with one or two new things):

1. Device should be shot with a steady camera from directly above, or as near as possible, with the camera zoomed in to give a full view of the screen. Zoom in as close as you can without losing focus. A tripod or equivalent should be used if possible, it makes life much easier. Note that some device screens look better than others when zoomed in, try several devices if you can.

2. Ideally, a device used in a tutorial video should have a fresh install of the latest firmware to remove any possibility of add-ons interfering with the device's default behaviour. A device in a tutorial has to be as close as possible to what someone would see when they switch their Maemo device on for the first time.

3. No text, just let the video do the talking. However, there can be a brief text title screen to say exactly what you're doing. The title should explain what you're going to show in it (e.g. "How to install an app from's downloads section"), and also say which device(s) the tutorial applies to (for example the Tablet School tutorials generally applied to the Nokia N800 and N810, but a few only applied to one of these).

4. Start on the home screen, with applets laid out as they would be on a brand new tablet.

5. Do not skip anything! Show the tutorial's topic in its entirity from start to finish. One exception might be a long download, but even then the beginning and end of the download should be shown, with only the progress bar's journey cut out.

6. If you mess something up, start all over again, don't show it in the video. I had to do this quite a few times on the ITS... ;-)

7. Sound is up to you, have sound if you want: talk politely, mute it, or dub it over with some music. is a very good source of high quality Creative Commons music, but remember to give the artist credit at the end of the video (name of artist and name of track). If you do use music try to use something calm and relaxing.

8. GO SLOWLY! Don't rush through steps, make sure you do them pretty slowly so that people can follow what you're doing without having to pause.

9. Make the video as high quality as possible, so that the texts on the screen can be read. If the device screen looks fuzzy on camera, try adjusting the device's brightness until it looks sharper.

10. Show GUI methods wherever possible, because these will be easier to follow on the video and easier for newcomers to remember. Command line stuff might be okay if there's no GUI alternative, but make sure people can see exactly what you're typing in the video, and go slowly so they get a chance to read it.

11. If you have a choice of devices, use the one that looks clearest on camera. I usually used the N800 for the Tablet School videos as its screen looked clearest on my camera, but different people may have different experiences on their cameras and devices.

12. If you have no choice but to break one of the above rules, explain why in your submission form on the Maemo School site.

That's all I can think of right now, but I'd like to hear some suggestions and feedback in this thread on how these criteria could be altered or added to.

Also, feedback about the idea in general would be welcome.

Last edited by krisse; 2009-04-28 at 15:14.

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krisse's Avatar
Posts: 1,540 | Thanked: 1,012 times | Joined on Feb 2007
And also, maybe there could be a "tutorial of the week/month" contest, possibly with a small prize (are you reading this Nokia, hint hint ;-) ), to encourage people to submit videos.

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Posts: 631 | Thanked: 834 times | Joined on May 2007 @ Milton, Ontario, Canada
Interesting idea, I like the concepts... one thing that stands out right off the bat though for me is if it's going to be all video, we should try and make some recommendations on the best way to do video walk-throughs. For example, you've got several points there describing how to get the best video quality, how to make sure things are always in focus, use a default firmware install whenever possible, etc. Personally if I was to do some demos for this type of thing I would use x11Vnc in combination with something like Adobe Captivate:
Now, not saying that everyone should go out and buy that software, but the whole point is that rather than "shooting a video", Captivate allows you to make a dynamic animation or video of your screen, along with comments and things describing what you're doing after the fact. Now if somebody could suggest an open source app that does relatively the same thing then I think that would be a much, much better way to go as it eliminates many of the "gotchas" you describe while at the same time. Again, viability here varies, as really it makes more sense to have somebody like a "debmaster" be "tutorial master" to help get people who want to contribute to figure out how the best ways to go about it are (but not have to be responsible for doing all the work themselves of course!), but that might not be entirely possible... even if we just had a group of people who had done a few and were willing to volunteer from time to time to make up these tuts to demonstrate things that others suggested I think that would help with the consistency factor...

Bringing up my second point there... to be successful I think there'd need to be a very easy and open way of users requesting walkthroughs for things not covered. I write for a web developer community website, and one of our biggest draws for users is that we actively spend time in the forums asking "what else do you guys want to learn?", in addition to showing off the cool things we do on our own. I think that would go a long way to helping make the Maemo experience far beyond any other mobile platform out there...

Just my thoughts anyways!
BrentDC's Avatar
Posts: 903 | Thanked: 629 times | Joined on Apr 2008
Picking up on joloius' idea, a quick Google of "Free Screencast Software" revealed:

Worth a try?
timsamoff's Avatar
Super Moderator | Posts: 1,605 | Thanked: 1,595 times | Joined on Mar 2007 @ Southern California
Jing is pretty great.

Posts: 1,208 | Thanked: 1,025 times | Joined on Oct 2007
Originally Posted by BrentDC View Post
Picking up on joloius' idea, a quick Google of "Free Screencast Software" revealed:

Worth a try?
One problem with screencast is that you can't see the cursor which happens to be your finger or stylus.

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krisse's Avatar
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Jolouis, interesting idea about video alternatives, but are you suggesting that people wouldn't actually film their devices being used?

What I worry about with non-video tutorials is that people won't be clear and/or accurate because they're not actually doing the task on camera directly. I often made mistakes in the text of my tutorials because the link between what I wrote and what I did wasn't a direct one.

I never made a mistake in the videos, because the videos were an exact recording of reality, and if I messed something up I had to shoot it again. Video is a great way of making you do something correctly.

Regarding annotations, the main things I'm trying to get away from are notes being added to tutorials because text will tend to assume prior knowledge, whereas the direct video of something actually being done is much more explicit about what you have to do. By forcing people to do videos instead of text, it would force people to be totally specific about how to do something, and remove the possibility of misunderstandings.

Regarding user suggestions for tutorial topics, there was some method of consumer feedback suggested ages ago, it was an open source equivalent to the site but I can't remember what it was called. Anyway, if you go to you'll see what I'm talking about. That system could perhaps do what jolouis is calling for, as it would let people suggest ideas for new tutorials and vote on other people's suggestions too.
Posts: 631 | Thanked: 834 times | Joined on May 2007 @ Milton, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted by krisse View Post
Jolouis, interesting idea about video alternatives, but are you suggesting that people wouldn't actually film their devices being used?
My point would be that if you're trying to film taking an action on the tablet, something like a screen-cast makes more sense in terms of clarity than doing an actual "camera pointed at me using the tablet" approach. Obviously there are some things where it won't work (demonstrating how to do a video chat for example makes much more sense by seeing what you're physically doing along with what's happening on the software side of things), but for a lot of topics (how to install different types of software, how to change options, etc) it's much better as you don't have to worry about compression in the video destroying the clarity of your shots (and nobody really needs to see you holding the tablet for those types of demos). A screencast is still the same as with video... if you screw it up or do something stupid, you'll have to redo it. And you don't have to put written comments or annotations in, but some software gives you the option to that's all. To the user it'll still look just like a video, but a lot easier to see ;o) It was just a thought anyways... mikkov brings up a good point about the lack of cursor, but I'm sure we could find some creative ways to work around that (not sure about camstudio or Jing, but in Captivate you can have the app add extra graphics to show your cursor or emphasize when you click on things, etc).

The uservoice thing looks pretty neat, though I mean it doesn't have to be technically complicated; it could be something as simple as an extra forum where users can post up requests for tuts or get directed to the ones they're after; whatever works best as long as the mechanism is in place and the users can easily be directed to it is what matters.
krisse's Avatar
Posts: 1,540 | Thanked: 1,012 times | Joined on Feb 2007
I haven't used screencast so maybe I was being a bit hasty. When it comes down to it, any technique which records your actions on the device accurately, and which can display these actions clearly to others, should be suitable for doing tutorials with.

I mentioned the uservoice thing because is supposed to be doing something like that anyway, but yeah a simple forum (maybe on ITT) could be enough.
qgil's Avatar
Posts: 3,105 | Thanked: 11,062 times | Joined on Jul 2007 @ Mountain View (CA, USA)
Originally Posted by krisse View Post
Quim Gil very kindly offered to host the Tablet School on as a separate section,
I still think it's a good idea and actually I like a lot your video/screencast only approach.

Note that between the day we talked and today one important change has happened: now the initiative on anything happening around relies on the community, specifically the council. If the development team and them like the idea it's all about organizing it in sprints, or something like that.

video howto, video tutorial

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