Author in DITA, publish with WordPress


If you’ve been following my posts lately, you’ve seen me explore the tools question numerous times. In this post, I’ll explore combining structured authoring with web publishing on WordPress. In a nutshell, here’s the main idea: structured authoring tools are great for authoring content. Web platforms are great for publishing content. My plan is to Continue Reading »

Woes of conditional text and topichead elements (DITA best practices)


When authoring in DITA, there are a couple of best (or worst) practices that I wasn’t aware of. The first is with conditional text; the second is with topichead elements: Cautions with conditional text Noz Urbina has written two excellent articles about the dangers of going overboard with conditional text. When Conditional Content Goes Wild: Continue Reading »

Benefits of tool diversity, part II

In my previous post, Is tool fragmentation a good thing?, I lamented the trend toward tool fragmentation in the tech comm community, noting several disadvantages that fragmentation brings: fragmentation of community and knowledge sharing increased overhead of learning new tools frustration with HR departments who expect strong knowledge of their chosen tool (among hundreds) I Continue Reading »

Is tool fragmentation in tech comm a good thing?


One of the attendees from Alan Houser‘s recent presentation at InfodevDEC meetup in Virginia the other night noted the following: #techcomm trends/hypes, from @arh: There's no one technology that a majority of people are using. @infodevdc — John Collins (@jrc_collins) August 4, 2014 Juxtapose this tweet about Alan’s presentation with the recent WritersUA Tools Survey Continue Reading »

Reviewing draft DITA content with subject matter experts: 6 essential points


Lately I have been exploring different ways to let subject matter experts review DITA content. In a previous post, I explored using easyDITA to facilitate the review. In this post, I’ll explore OxygenXML’s Webhelp with Feedback output for conducting the reviews. What makes for a good review process? By far the best review method I’ve Continue Reading »

My DITA quick reference guide (QRG)


My DITA quick reference guide, or DITA QRG, is available on my menu bar and here: This DITA QRG consists of my own notes for working with DITA. Why create this quick reference guide? There’s a lot to know about DITA. If you look at the DITA 1.2 spec there are many, many elements Continue Reading »

Strategies for content re-use in Confluence


I’ve been knee-deep in Atlassian Confluence lately, analyzing the best way to re-use content. In this post, I’ll describe a fictitious scenario that resembles an advanced content re-use situation and then explore various strategies for re-use. The scenario Suppose you’re creating a bicycle manual for a Trek 7.3 FX (which happens to be the exact bike I recently bought). Continue Reading »

10 technical writing principles to live by

Image by James Butler (Flickr)

As I started my new job, I’ve been thinking about the most important technical writing principles I’ve learned in the past. The following are 10 principles to live by when doing technical writing. 1. Always test out the instructions yourself. Unless you can walk through the instructions and perform the tasks yourself, it will be Continue Reading »

Information Development World and the Customer Experience — A Podcast with Scott Abel and Val Swisher


Length: 26 min. Download MP3 (right-click and select Save As) In this podcast, I talk with Scott Abel and Val Swisher, organizers for the Information Development World conference, about the technical writer’s role in the customer experience. The customer experience is a major focus of the Information Development World conference. The Information Development World conference Continue Reading »

Introduction to API documentation: Interview with Scot Marvin


Length: 30 min. Download MP3 (right-click and select Save As) In this podcast, I talk with Scot Marvin, an API technical writer based in Oregon, about some introductory topics with API documentation. Topics covered in the podcast include the following: The prevalence of APIs 15 years ago compared to today The definition of an API Continue Reading »

Started a new job


I started a new job last Monday at a company called The 41st Parameter in San Jose. I’m pretty excited about it. 41st’s main product helps prevent online fraud with transactions; another product helps with identity resolution for advertising technologies. I’ll be creating developer documentation for products that include C++, Java, .NET, and REST. I’ll Continue Reading »