How to make a GIF (and other essential skills)

Posted on 28/01/2017


As we get used to the new normal (i.e. computing and Internet services everywhere) we need to rethink the skills that are important. For educators there’s a renewed focus on teaching STEM subjects, and a new computing syllabus that starts at age 5 (aside: great idea, but only if primary school teachers are computer literate and trained to teach programming. From what I hear on the inside, they’re neither…)

Data literacy is another area – we’re generating more, and increasingly using these to uncover new ideas and make decisions. And for anyone working in the communications industry, there are new, essential channels, formats and behaviours emerging every month. On that last point:

Martin Balham, a UK journalist and designer, put together these five tips for the next generation of hacks.

It’s a great shortlist; in fact, I’d argue that GIF production (and the other skills) are more important than we’ve realised.

They’re not just important to journalists; each of these these are essential for anyone working in communications; at all levels and all ages. We can (and do) evangelise about “storytelling” but if you’re not able to tell a story using the tools and signifiers of the day, then you’re speaking to a smaller and smaller audience.

I’m not advocating that everyone needs to be on Snapchat, or Periscope their journey to work, but you should know about then. At the very least you should have trialled them. And ideally you should be comfortable using these, and other emerging tools.

Life long learning – of the self-directed, unstructured, informal kind – is the only way to keep up during this “age of accelerations”. Kara Swisher puts in succinctly in this chat with Tom Friedman: “when you’re a worker today, you have to be a learner”.

Unfortunately, it’s the kind of learning that doesn’t come with a certificate. It requires curiosity, a small amount of commitment and a few hours of your time each week.

It’s a different form of learning to the one we’re used to. It’s not about knowing – the information age has degraded the value of knowledge. It’s about being able to do new things with knowledge.

I’m being deliberately vague about ‘what’ this learning is. That’s because it’s changing. What’s useful now, may not be useful in 12 months time. Part of the challenge isn’t the learning; it’s choosing what to learn.

But perhaps this final point from the IAM conference will help:

“institutions, universities and agencies recognise a fundamental truth: everyone has something to learn to anticipate the needs of future societies”