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TechNet Webcasts, Podcasts & Hands-on Virtual Labs! By Scott Lum

A New Sherriff for TechNet Webcasts...Dean moves on

A New Sherriff for TechNet Webcasts...Dean moves on

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After nearly four years driving the bus of the TechNet webcast program, I'm moving to a new role within our team to drive the bus on emerging media strategy and plans.  So I'd like to wax poetic a bit here on TechNet webcasts, and online media in general, as I pass the baton off to Katheryn Baker, who is now the new lead on TechNet webcasts. 
First, a bit on Katheryn.  

Katheryn has lived the life of an ITPro in the past, and has experience working on the TechNet team.  She's been working on TechNet virtual labs for over a year, so she knows the world of TechNet, and has a great network of presenters and content owners within Microsoft.  She's going to do a great job with the webcast program, and has already hit the ground jogging.  So you'll be hearing more from Katheryn via this blog, as she takes it over.  

What am I going to do now?  I'm going to work on bringing you (and other audiences we serve, like developers, corporate business folk, small business, etc.) new media form factors to help you get up to speed on Microsoft products and technologies.  So in addition to webcasts and virtual labs, what other new media offerings will we have?  I'll be investigating the world of podcasts (we're already in this game), mobile (getting our audio and video content out to you on any device), screencasts, syndication, RSS, blogging, videocasting, virtual events, virtual worlds (like Second Life).   It's pretty sexy stuff.   Great for a guy like me that has a college degree in "visual communication" (more on that later).   I'm pleased that our team is dedicating a resource to focusing on the new emerging media space.   My manager uses a good analogy for our team.   Likens us to Union Pacific.  If Union Pacific would have realized they weren't in the locomotive business, they were in the transportation business, then maybe we'd all be flying Union Pacific airways today.   Well, webcasts are an awesome tool to use to connect with customers via an online presentation.  But technology is evolving with web 2.0.   Online media is evolving at a rapid pace.  We're consuming media anytime, anywhere, and expect it on any device.  Media content, in it’s basic form, has not changed.  Audio and visuals are combined to engage, teach, and motivate people around products, technology and ideas.  What is changing is how media is presented, interacted with, and consumed.  How interactive it is.  How we discover it.  Where we can consume it.  When we can consume it.   So my job will be to research the new world, try out some new methods and vehicles, and create sustainable, scalable engines out of the vehicles that are successful, like we've done for webcasts and virtual labs.   And webcasts and virtual labs will continue to evolve.  

This new role continues my passion around media and visual communications.   I've been at Microsoft for 15 years now.  That's a heck of a long time.  The amount of email that translates to staggers the imagination.  I don't have the hair I had when I started in 1991.   But looking back, it's fun to see the evolution of media within our industry.   When I first came to Microsoft, I was producing audio tapes and VHS videos for Microsoft internal sales training.  Now that's sexy content.   I still have some of those videos and cassettes on my shelf here in the office.  
Around 1993 I started up "distance learning" in our group by having trainers go to a very large conference room in the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center, and we connected them up via video teleconferencing to multiple sales offices around the U.S., where we could see the rooms on the other end, each office rotating on a monitor, 10 seconds at a time.    Whoever talked or made noise had the visual floor, so you had to be careful of the sneezes. 

Then in 1995, I went to a distance learning conference, and learned of a company called "One Touch" who had these keypads, where you could do some true virtual classroom work. 

 I got approval for the U.S. to buy this equipment in about 37 district offices and founded MIDL (the Microsoft Interactive Distance Learning network).   We bought satellite dishes for each of the offices, and this was broadcast quality TV baby.   No more of the 10 frames per second on video conferencing.   We did talk show formats, complete with live audiences. 

  And through their keypads, the remote audiences could participate in polls (sound familiar?), and ask questions of the studio, by pushing a Talk button on their keypad.   Here's a photo of the Bellevue, WA office viewing a MIDL show and interacting.  

  Then in 2000, upper management decided that $35,000 per show was too much money, and shut down the program.   By the late 90's, we were simulcasting the satellite shows with this new technology called "webcasting".   It was clunky (still is in some respects), but I knew that the MIDL format would be resurrected online someday.  

And here we are... it's 2007, and we're viewing online presentations with audio, slides, demos, and ability to ask questions.   There's certainly more to do with the experience.   You can't yet click on hyperlinks in the slides, that's absurd.   We don't yet have an internal registration system that allows you to register for more than one webcast at a time.  That's absurd.   I could go on.   But the technology is still pretty cool.   You can share your passion for a given topic with folks around the world, realtime, and interact with them. 

Thanks for participating in TechNet webcasts.  Our team will continue to work to make the customer experience better for you (and hopefully the next version of Live Meeting will bring added benefits and features!).   And we'll continue to bring you great content with great presenters.   Content's still king.  

I hope to be interacting with you next in some cool new media-fancy way.    Stay tuned...  
Katheryn, you have the floor. 

Dean Andrews
New emerging media guy

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