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Saturday Tech Follies: My Failed Experiment With Masher

October 5, 2013, 3:59 pm

Thumbs-downEvery once in a while it’s fun to hunt up a new piece of software down and play with it. Mostly, although not always, I do this for teaching purposes. Will the platform be useful for posting or organizing material for my students? Giving them an alternative way to do their own presentations? Help me flip the classroom a bit? You can’t figure out what a given piece of software is good for, or whether it works at all, until you wrestle it to the ground yourself. Prepare to waste some time if you really want to be a digital humanities cowboy.

Today I made a short film with Masher about the government shutdown. So far, however, there seem to be a lot of bugs and you won’t be seeing that film anytime soon — although I presume it is still somewhere on the Masher site.

Here were my issues:

  • I embedded the Mash in this post, but it never appeared: when I returned to figure out the problem, it appeared the site had crashed. This was the most serious problem, although I struggled through everything below prior to this event. (By the way — people sneering at the national health IT glitches? This is what happens to new sites. It’s SOP.) I actually think it’s ok for students to use glitchy software because it teaches them how to think through, and around, the problems that a given platform presents. But you can’t ask your class to use sites that are still so buggy that it is impossible to complete or show a piece of work.
  • Masher won’t let you drag and drop straight from your computer; you have to upload, and then drag and drop from the library you have created.
  • Making the text slides was tricky: every new slide goes to the end of the Mash, and then you have to drag it forward to the proper position.
  • I made slides that simply don’t show up when you play it, even though they do show up in the template. ????
  • Every time I edited the Mash it created an entirely new video, which was confusing as I tried to figure out why some changes were saving and some were not.
  • Worse, I tried to delete all those earlier versions, but no dice. Hit delete and nothing happens.
  • You can’t adjust the timing of the music and the images. Irritating.

Is this a wasted afternoon, given that I came out of it with absolutely nothing? I vote no. One of the things that you have to take into account in the tech world is that about a third of what you try to do will fail, for reasons that are someone else’s responsibility. And failure promotes greater sophistication on the part of the user. Product is not everything, as it is in conventional creative endeavors.

And what if Masher had been the next best thing? You would have thought I was so awesome for discovering it.

 

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