Common Craft: The Art of Explanation

April 11th, 2014

Professionals explain ideas every day, but rarely consider what it takes to become a better explainer. Lee LeFever, the Founder of Common Craft, helps you take a fresh look at what makes explanations work (or not), and how to solve explanation problems. Learn the battle-tested strategies for packaging ideas into explanations that help people understand and care about your ideas.

Topics covered in this briefing include:

  • What does it mean to explain an idea?
  • What is the Curse of Knowledge and what is the remedy?
  • Why is explanation so difficult?
  • What are explanation problems and how do you solve them?
  • The Explanation Scale
  • The Stepping Stones of effective explanations
  • Finding the right language for your audience
  • How to integrate better explanation into your professional and personal life

Presenter Information:

Lee LeFever is the Founder of Common Craft and author of The Art of Explanation. Common Craft has won numerous awards, created explanations for the world’s most respected brands and earned over 50 million online video views.

For more information, visit

Upgrading to iOS7

March 7th, 2014

On February 21st, Apple released a security patch for iOS that addressed a major flaw in both iOS 6 and iOS 7. Only users of the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 4th generation were granted access to a version that kept their devices on iOS 6, thus forcing thousands of users at Stanford to upgrade from iOS 6 to iOS 7.

During this Tech Briefing, Ammy Woodbury discussed why this patch was so critical. She also covered:

  • new features of iOS7
  • navigational tips and tricks
  • how to change settings to make iOS 7 look and feel a little more like iOS 6
  • tricks to optimize your iPhone and iPad experience

Note: The Information Security Office recommends upgrading to iOS 7.0.6 immediately. Be sure to back up your iOS device prior to upgrading, either via iTunes or iCloud. Then, go to Settings>General>Software Update to upgrade your operating system.

Ammy has made the presentation slides available.

Command-Line NetDB

February 28th, 2014

This session was designed for LNAs who wish to make use of the Command-Line version of NetDB, which is available to anyone with NetDB access.

The primary use of NetDB CLI is to make bulk changes to multiple records. Some of recent significant changes in the options available with NetDB CLI include:

  • a “batch” option that significantly speeds up large-scale changes
  • a method of finding previously saved versions of a record that might make it easier to correct errors
  • the option to build your own software tools to work with the NetDB back-end

Registrar Technologies

February 21st, 2014

The Registrar’s Office is one of the major technology offices on campus, with responsibilities ranging from PeopleSoft Student Records to publication and web feeds of courses and classes to managing third party vendors and software as a service for numerous applications.

This session was lead by staff members from the Registrar’s Office and provided a broad overview of the numerous technologies that they manage.

What’s New in FileMaker Pro 13

January 24th, 2014

During this session, Rosemary demonstrated some of the latest FileMaker offerings for desktop, iOS, and web deployments.

Topics covered include:

- Web Direct
- layout themes and styles
- and the many other new features of FileMaker Pro 13

Foresight for Technologists: Inflection-spotting in the Face of Rapid Change

December 13th, 2013

At the request of the presenter, this video is only available to Stanford affiliates.
Therefore, you must have a valid SUNet ID to view the video.

Instinct tells us to pull in and focus on the present when crises hit and uncertainty overwhelms us. But this instinct is just as wrong as the instinct that tells us to turn against a skid on an icy road as drivers.

Like driving, forecasting is a skill that can be learned. In fact, a few simple rules can go a long way to finding comfort with — and effectively navigating through — uncertainty in the service of effective strategy formulation.

Paul Saffo is a forecaster with over two decades of experience in helping corporate and governmental clients understand and respond to the dynamics of large-scale, long-term change. He is the Managing Director of Foresight at Discern Analytics and teaches a class on forecasting at Stanford in the Engineering School. Paul is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. His essays have appeared in a wide range of publications, including The Harvard Business Review, Foreign Policy, Fortune, Wired, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, and the Washington Post. Paul holds degrees from Harvard College, Cambridge University, and Stanford University.

Stanford Mobile Device Management

November 8th, 2013

On January 31, 2014, all benefits-eligible faculty and staff will be required to enroll any iOS or Android device accessing Stanford email or calendar in Stanford’s MDM program. This includes Stanford-provided devices, devices which receive a stipend, and personally owned devices. Are you ready? This session talked about Stanford’s MDM program.

While most personal computers on campus are password-protected, only a few of us configure our mobile phones with a password or PIN to protect it against unauthorized use. And, since mobile devices are easily (and frequently) misplaced, the potential for unauthorized access increases.

For more information, please visit

The Future of Personal Mobility: Center for Automotive Research at Stanford

October 25th, 2013

The Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) is an interdisciplinary group that advances research and education in the automotive realm. It is organized as an industry affiliates program, bringing together students and researchers from many different departments. There are currently 20 industry affiliates.

The main interest is how the automobile is undergoing dramatic change, while it has been around for well over 100 years. Due to recent technologies, the powertrain is becoming more electrified, the driving tasks are becoming more automated, the vehicle itself is becoming more connected to other vehicles and common infrastructures, and carsharing programs are being promoted as the new way to drive.

This talk visited the different fields of innovation for automobiles, discussed what will become reality soon and what is a far-out vision, and gave an overview of how Stanford brings together industry and academia to radically re-envision the way we drive.

For more information, please visit:

Computer Animation: Algorithms for Artistic Rendering

October 18th, 2013

During this session, Aaron Hertzmann discussed computer graphics algorithms for creating images and animations in the style of natural media, such as paintings and drawings.

He also discussed how this research could lead to a new science that allows us to better understand art and aesthetics.

Using Mailman for Stanford Email Lists

October 4th, 2013

This session focused on how to use Mailman to create and manage a mailing list at Stanford. A feature-packed mailing list service, Mailman includes moderated lists, list archiving, and an integrated web interface.

The Tech Briefing covered:

  • the basics of setting up and using a distribution list through Mailman
  • how to configure a distribution list using the basic options
  • all of the advanced “full administrative interface” choices