Meeting

Hitting the east coast and back to TO

We closed out last week with 2 great validation sessions for our DM Team competency chart.

In St. John’s we met with several DM industry experts, pulled together by Steering Committee member Deirdre Ayre of Other Ocean. It was a lively exchange from mostly “gamers”. They brought years of experience to the table, and a keen grasp of where the industry is going. Especially insightful were the comments about the ongoing nature of a DM “product” or “experience”. It is not necessarily a final piece of content that then needs to be “marketed”, but is often a work in progress that evolves with the users. So, “going to market” can have a different meaning in the DM industry. We also had strong and helpful comments from one who is a “programmer”. He felt he was not represented in the few high level technical “skills” currently identified in the chart – and we concurred. That is what we’re trying to get our heads around. How do we define and describe technology skills in balance with artistic skills? He has helped us grapple with this issue. His comments will find their way into the final chart.

(Note to File: Murray Premises is a great hotel and meeting place! And the Gypsy Tea Room around the corner is a very cool restaurant/bar. St. John’s is starting to dress up for Christmas – it was made for that :-))

Don Henderson and Interactive Ontario were our hosts in Toronto. As it turned out, building on our “take aways” from the St. John’s session, we got from this group our best understanding of how the chart must incorporate technology skills. While the participants were somewhat cool to the process as we began, they warmed up to it quickly and were fully engaged right up to 12 noon when everyone had to leave for other meetings!

Time now to identify the consensus and compile the learnings from across the country.  In early December we’ll hold one last session in Halifax to test drive the revised chart – then hand it over to our own technology wizards to turn it into an interactive tool.

A bold new step for CHRC.

Validation Session with New Media Manitoba in Winnipeg

Day 4 – Winnipeg, Manitoba

 

We were the guests of New Media Manitoba on Friday, in their bright and spacious Winnipeg Board Room at 1000 Waverley.

 

What felt good for us, at this the 4th time through the chart validation, was that the same changes keep coming up. It means we are on the road to consensus. It augurs well for the final chart.

 

We had a good discussion on the next steps of the project – turning the lists of competencies into courses certified by industry and delivered through education institutions. To be sure, there was skepticism: how realistic is partnership with academia which is so steeped in its own processes and hierarchies?

 

The concerns are fair, but our early conversations with a few innovative institutions of higher learning have identified potential partners with more flexibility than we usually encounter. They have led us to believe that our partnership model has a chance of success.

 

Another means of delivering and disseminating courses created from the competencies is through industry associations. For example, New Media Manitoba.

 

It’s a good model especially if we tie the certificate to a “practicum” in a DM company. New Media Manitoba already has training built into its mandate. It would be a natural to pilot course delivery and industry certification through its own members.

 

Concern was also expressed around keeping the courses up-to-date. That’s a challenge. An ongoing CHRC industry steering committee is certainly a way to identify necessary changes. A licencing revenue stream through training providers could help to finance the up-dates…

 

Finally, there was interest in the potential for an online interactive version of the chart which could, for example, allow students to identify their own skills gaps and tailor their own competency profiles and training plans. That is an idea that is gaining momentum.

 

It’s been a good week for the DM Team chart. It’s clearly on the right track, with well identified revisions. In the validation sessions to come (in Charlottetown November 1, Montreal November 2, St. John’s November 8, and TO November 9) we’ll continue to test drive it – and to explore its potential uses as we prepare to take it to the next level of “training tools”.

 

Validation Session with Software Developers, Gamers and Academics in Saskatoon

Day 3 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

 

Saskatoon was our biggest group so far (including 2 participants who drove in from Regina). A mix of software developers, gamers and academics – rigorous, with close attention to detail and process. They suggested good additions and changes to the chart, though grosso modo they agreed with its contents.

 

The computer science background of several of the participants slanted a lot of the discussion towards developers, a perspective that CHRC has been eager to capture. This was reflected in additional skills such as “conduct end user verifications or tests”; and “develop testing environment”.

 

One educator expressed frustration at the large gap between computer science programmes and creative arts programmes in universities. This is exactly what CHRC wants to address. How to ensure that students in the visual arts and writing, for example, have the technical skills they need to go into the DM industry? How to open the thinking of computer science coders and programmers so they can partake in a creative way on a DM team?

 

Some of the most dynamic discussion turned around the “Go to Market” series of competencies as participants underlined the importance of marketing skills – and how they are often lacking in a DM team.

 

There was also creative discussion on how the chart can be used and kept current. The point was well-taken that a competency chart for the DM industry shouldn’t be a print document  - witness the fact that several around the room were reading off their electronic versions of the chart – not the nicely coloured print versions we had carefully photocopied and stapled – old technology!

 

It got us thinking about how to disseminate the chart – and led us to imagine an interactive version to allow users to tailor it to their needs (whether you’re an employer, a worker, a trainer or a student). It’s a possibility we’re exploring along with a wiki-type gathering and exchanging of information and ideas on training needs and offerings.

 

Could be a very good way to keep the chart updated and useful, and let trainers know the immediate needs of industry.

 

This project keeps getting better…..
 

Validating the competency chart for a Digital Media Team

Day 1 – Vancouver, British Columbia

Our expert team that built the chart – Ron Lamoureux of Cafésonique,  web writer and editor Julia Kinsman , and executive producer Judith Beauregard from Toboggan Studio  – along with Pierre Morin, CHRC’s DACUM facilitator par excellence – flew across the continent to test their work out on their west coast colleagues.

Our first validation session was with members of the Vancouver Digital Media community in the board room of the new Centre for Digital Media. A lively group we had – supportive of our efforts, enthusiastic about the chart (“sorely needed in the industry”), engaged in the details (such as separate out “define user experience and user interface” into two competencies), and generous with their time and comments.

Under facilitator Pierre Morin’s steady hand we managed to get through the chart in the allotted time – but we could have gone on for much longer if that had been an option.

In truth, given how busy these people are, we were fortunate to get their full attention for close to three hours this morning.

We had a mix of game and web developers, people at different points in their careers, from a range of work experiences including very large companies like EA and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Finding consensus around the competencies meant that some had to let go of points they held dear, in order to fit into the mode of the competency chart which has its own rules. From time to time concurrent conversations around the table had to give way to Pierre’s résumé of the discussion, and we moved on together to the next competency. Reflective comments sometimes gave rise to heated discussion and then settled out at mutual understanding – or an “agree to disagree”.

In short, it was a rich and dynamic exchange. We were quite pumped about our first foray into the ‘real’ world with the chart – it seems to be holding water!

With changes, comments and criticisms duly noted, we fly back over the Rockies to Calgary for day two tomorrow.

Skills for a DM team

The cross-country trek has begun! Starting in the far west and heading east we are on a “whistle stop tour” of major DM hubs in each province to validate the competency chart for a DM Team.

And in case that is sounding awfully full of “governmentese”, let me explain…

CHRC enlisted the help of a DM creator/writer, a project manager, and a producer to come up with an exhaustive list of the skills needed to create a digital media product. 

Take a video game, for example. It would be conceived, produced and marketed by a team of 2 or 5 or 20 individuals – depending on the company.  Regardless of how many people are involved, the same skills would be needed: skills ranging from generating an idea or concept (e.g. researching, assessing and articulating ideas); to pre-production (e.g. preparing a project proposal and securing project financing); to actual production (e.g. developing and managing a project); to marketing the product.

CHRC’s trusty experts identified and organized the skills sequentially, in a readable logical format, and they are displayed in a “competency chart for a DM team”.

On our current trip to Vancouver (October 16), Calgary (October 17), Saskatoon (October 18) and Winnipeg (October 19), we will meet with professional practising DM creators, producers and managers to review the chart – have we misstated skills? Are we missing any?

We’re excited about the interest we’ve encountered in our efforts – starting with a full house in Vancouver’s shining new recently opened Centre for Digital Media.