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Planning my API doc course

by Tom Johnson on Nov 29, 2015
categories: technical-writing

As I prepare to record my API doc course, I'm finalizing a few thoughts about the content, setup, and other details.

I’ve been planning to convert my API documentation course content into an online course for a while. I mostly have everything in place now; it’s just a matter of doing it. These past few weeks I’ve been trying to clean up a few things with my blog, and the holidays seem to bring their own slow-down, with parties to attend, get-togethers, family activities, and so on. In short, I’ve been procrastinating.

I want to outline a few thoughts and plans I have for recording the videos.

Finalized content

First, I need to make sure the content is more or less locked down before I start recording anything. It would be a waste to record a video, post-process it, and later decide that the content itself needs a lot of revision.

I’ve been fine-tuning the API documentation course content as I was teaching some API doc workshops recently. I think it’s mostly there; it just needs to be more conversational and script friendly.

However, I won’t really know what works and what doesn’t until I start recording it.

Story arc

In my API doc course, I decided to contextualize a lot of concepts around a simple weather API on Mashape. Recently the API had a few changes (suddenly requiring credit card to sign up for the free plan), but the developer reverted to the earlier model he had, so I think it’s fairly stable.

Still, it’s a risk to use a specific context of an API for a course. The API could change or be discontinued, and then I’d have to alter my course. On the other hand, not having a specific context makes the learning experience more challenging.

Video recording

I have a technical setup that should be interesting. I purchased a few studio items:

  • Green screen + lighting kit
  • Canon Vixia video camera
  • Teleprompter adapter for iPad
  • Teleprompter remote control

I’ve spent about $600 on this equipment. The green screen will allow me to superimpose myself in front of a slide presentation. After watching some how-to videos on Udemy, I’ve decided this is the way to go.

I currently have this set up in my garage, and I’ve recorded a couple of test videos. I was deliberating about whether to just use my iphone instead of buying a video camera, but in the end decided the video camera was worth it so that I could also better record STC SV and WTD meetings.

How to read into a teleprompter

Although a lot of my course involves hands-on activities, there are some conceptual parts. It seems like a lot of courses these days have talking heads, so this is something I’ve wanted to try. I plan to back up a bit to occupy a small third of the screen so that my eyes don’t look like they’re reading from a teleprompter.

As for the teleprompter, you can set your iPad on a contraption on a tripod and get the same benefits as a normal teleprompter. Since I already have an iPad, this seemed like the thing to try. For the hands-on activities, I won’t use the teleprompter or talking head but rather just record video tutorials the same way I’ve always done them.

Larger strategies for my blog

In thinking about my larger strategies for this blog, I want to work on projects similar to this REST API course. Standalone blog articles (like this one) are fine, but I get more satisfaction in working on something larger. Blog article have such short lives. They get shorter and shorter as we’re inundated with new information all the time.

I want to write lengthier content — the kind that can be converted into books or courses (or both). The blog posts I write will more likely be short updates about the progress of the projects I’m working on.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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