Entries by Ryan

Shared Office Space

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone. We recently moved into a new office space in Toronto. The space is quiet and private, almost the opposite of the cubicle worlds we complained about a few weeks ago. Uncanny Owl is in a shared office space that has dozens of private offices on the floor representing many different companies. It’s funny how “shared” in this context is anything but, and that approach surprises me. There’s rarely any interaction between the tenants and nothing is facilitated by the property management company. At the same time, they want us to keep our office as long as possible; turnover is expensive for everyone involved. So why not pursue every possible opportunity to build roots and reasons to stay? People won’t want to leave if there are friendly relationships or opportunities to collaborate. Yet for some unknown reason, it almost seems like socializing is discouraged – there was a lot of text in our lease agreement about not hiring anyone from other companies here and vice versa. There are no common areas to unwind, no directory of other companies, no facilitated introductions, nothing. It’s very strange. So here we are, lonely and highly […]

Offline Learning and the LMS

Uncanny Owl recently completed a project that required redesigning the interface for an offline iPad application that captures test data. It used Filemaker desktop and mobile applications to track test scores without any kind of network access for eventual consolidation and reporting. It did the job, but it wasn’t intuitive, it didn’t integrate with other learning data, and ongoing maintenance could be difficult. While outside of our scope, we did a little digging into possible alternatives for this type of scenario. It turns out that there really aren’t a lot of tools that support offline data capture for eventual upload into an LMS! The Tin Can API looks promising, but there are very few LMS options and authoring tools that support it, and those that do are very expensive (particularly for the capture of modular test data). There are HTML5 possibilities too, but they would require some customization to get data into an LMS. With all the interest in mobile learning, where are the tools that support offline learning? Yes, maybe something like Storyline could work, but 1 assessment question per screen is a big limitation for our scenario. What tools are you using to support offline learning on iPads?

Hypothesis Testing – Finding Participants

Further to the last Uncanny Owl post, we’re finding it more difficult than expected to get certain groups to complete our surveys. We’re trying to collect data for our Canada Translates project, and to do that we need feedback from 2 groups – translators and businesses that need translation. Finding translators was easy. We just found a board that’s used by translators, posted a compelling offer, and waited for the responses to trickle in. That part was pretty easy. But where do you find random people who need translation? We’ve tried Google ads, our networks, targeted landing pages and more, but we’re still not getting submissions. Here’s one of the pages that’s not attracting interest or converting: www.canadatranslates.ca/canadian-translation/. How can we improve our participation rate? On a related note, here’s an important lesson that we learned: Be very careful with Google’s “Broad Match” option in adwords. The scope was far too broad to be of any use and we spent more on advertising than we should have. Multiple, targeted ads were much more effective.

Hypothesis Testing – A Lesson in Hacking

Last week we recovered from a catastrophic data loss with one of our hosting providers. This week some of our hypothesis testing attracted the interest of a rather clever script kiddy looking to mine Amazon gift cards. We’re having lots of fun online. 🙂 We’re currently trying to get feedback from translation customers and providers over at www.canadatranslates.ca. To do that, we’ve got some links and ads directing potential clients to surveys to collect some of the data we need to validate our business model. As an incentive to participate, we offered professional translators $5 gift cards to complete a 5-minute survey. A few people participated the first day the site went live but it wasn’t popular. Overnight on the second day, 40 surveys trickled in. This was pretty shocking – how did we go from 1 every 8 hours to 6 per hour? I looked closer and the submissions didn’t make sense. Values weren’t aligned with what we expected, email addresses didn’t match names, submission times weren’t too far apart… the data was just too suspicious. I took everything down while I investigated. Whoever tried to mine the gift cards did a pretty good job of trying to make […]

Hello World

Welcome to Uncanny Owl’s official blog! This is where we’ll informally talk about some of the things we’re working on and some of the things we’re learning. It’s also where we’ll ask for help from you.