Writing Style Guides and Your Parenting Style

A lot of departments think that a team needs a style guide and a unified approach, if you want the audience to experience a consistent, professional branded experience. I used to think the same. In fact, just last week, we started discussing whether to use greater than symbols (>) or pipes (|) or nothing at all to indicate menu hierarchy and subtabs. I admit that a team needs to be on the same general page. And in a lot of situations, ...

Exporting Documentation to Wikis

Mary Connor talks about the latest tools for exporting documentation to wikis. She seems to prefer Webworks ePublisher for its ability to export to Confluence, a wiki that supports authoring for future releases.

Write When Inspired, Rest When Tired

I loved this essay on writing. I always hear advice from writers that you must write daily no matter what. Zeldman takes another perspective on this idea, and encourages you to "write when inspired; rest when tired." Very eloquent prose throughout.

Finding Business Models in the Economics of Free

On the web, the standard economic model is to give products away for free -- from storage to email, music, news, access, and other information. For companies to survive in an economy of free, they have to spin their business models in creative ways, finding profits indirectly, such as through lite/pro versions, cross-subsidies, advertising, or appeals to the attention economy. In the economics of free, writers face particular challenges b...

Why Free Is the Future of Business

Chris Anderson's analysis about the economy of free (or "freeconomics") is about the most fascinating thing I've read in a long time. Everything on the web is trending toward free -- how are companies turning free into a business model? Anderson explores various reasons for the zero cost trends and lists several strategies companies are using to turn free into a profit.

Stephen Fry iTunes Festival Keynote on Copyright and Music Piracy

It's fascinating to listen to Stephen Fry. He's an extremely eloquent British scholar, filmographer, literary critic, and who knows what else. Listening to Fry feels liberating and exhilarating at the same time. In this iTunes festival speech, he talks about the love of the art and music, and how, even if these lovers of art and music occasionally pirate content, the piracy should not earn them classification as thieves and criminals. ...

Exactly How Much Does a Wordcamp Cost?

I had no idea it cost so much to run a Wordcamp conference. Apparently Wordcamp Dallas cost about $20k. Wow, I thought it would have been a tenth of that. As much as I enjoy them, I don't think I'll ever get involved in planning and running a conference.

Tech Comm Lobotomies

Yesterday while driving I listened to a "Stuff You Should Know" podcast on transorbital lobotomies. Popular in the 1950s, the transorbital lobotomy was a procedure Walter Freeman performed by inserting an ice pick on the inside of your eyelid up into your frontal cortex to destroy the white matter tissue that was believed to cause extreme mood swings, schizophrenia, anxiety, maniacal behavior, or some other socio-emotional problem, such a...

Discovering Relationship Tables

Lately I've been creating context-sensitive help for an online application. As part of my strategy, I've been trying to follow Theresa Putkey's advice in "Usability in Context-Sensitive Help." In her article, Theresa recommends providing more than just the steps for a specific task in the context-sensitive help window. Instead, she says to show more contextual links, including answers to why, when, and who questions, because too frequentl...

Blogging as an Outlet for Technical Writers

Ben Minson reflects on the value of having a blog when your day job is technical writing. Blogging can be an outlet to practice your own literary voice, rather than always be trapped in a style guide.

Perks About Working in an Office Instead of Working from Home

An engaging article about the benefits of working in the office. Makes working from home seem lonely and dull. (Found on tc.eserver.org.)

Lying in a Hammock, or, Having a Single Goal without a Purpose

Every week our team has a team meeting. In our manager's office, we sit around a table and talk about our projects, our concerns, and whatever else we want to talk about. Recently, during one of my colleague's turns, he talked about his goals. Apparently he'd made some goals about video tutorials, and I can't remember exactly what they were, just that he was reporting on them, his progress, what he needed to do to achieve some of the subs...

Are You Irrelevant? Engaging, Provocative Video

I saw this video on the Content Wrangler Community. The original source is on youtube. Talk about engaging. I completely agree with the person here. In a day when I'm arguing for the merits of moving the Intercom online, this video couldn't be any more apropo.

Screen Captures May Not Make Sense

Paul Masalsky argues that screen captures in documentation introduce more trouble than they're worth. Localization is the main difficulty. Another is size and the fact that many times the screenshots duplicate what the user already sees in the interface. This post raises a lot of issues that are worth exploring. While I agree that screenshots are problematic, I also think that without them, your documentation's usability goes down. When I...

Tip for Usability in Context-Sensitive Help

Theresa Putkey explains how to make context-sensitive help more usable. Don't just present a single task to the user that relates to the page the user is on, but rather present a variety of topics spanning the how, when, why, and other related issues for the page.