Richard Hamilton's XML Press Imprint

Listen here: In this podcast, I talk with Richard Hamilton about his new publishing imprint, XML Press. Richard started XML Press to serve the needs of technical communicators, publishing books on topics that may not get traction from large publishing houses due to the limited audience, but which perfectly fit a smaller, niche technical communication audience. Focusing on practical topics that technical communicators can...

Converting Readers from Casual Subscribers to Devoted Followers

Listen here: At the STC Summit, I ran into someone from Australia who follows my wife's blog fairly regularly and had even brought gifts for her and the kids. It made me reflect on blog subscribers, and how you convert readers from being occasional readers to devoted fans. In this podcast, Kirsty Taylor talks about what she finds appealing about Seagull Fountain (my wife's blog) and other blogs she follows. Kirsty explai...

Sailboats and Cruise Ships, or, How My Work Podcast Was Dwarfed by a Mega Work Podcast

A couple of months ago, I wanted to start a podcast at my work, and so I interviewed someone who has been in our IT department for 28 years about the evolution of the department over the years. The podcast took about a month to get approved, and the week before it was posted, as I was tracking down the person who controlled our iTunes feed and Feedburner, I found that another department, Digital Media, was in the process of launching a fu...

Madcap's Flare-DITA Solution (podcast)

Listen here: In this podcast, Mike Hamilton of Madcap Software talks about their phased approach to handling DITA with Flare. In Phase I, you'll have the ability to import DITA topics and export to webhelp and other targets. In this sense, Flare functions as a transform engine. In Phase 2, you can use Flare for native DITA authoring. Phase 1 is on the cusp of release, but Phase II won't be available until quarter one of ...

The State of Structured Authoring in Technical Communication (podcast)

Listen here: In this podcast, Sarah O'Keefe of Scriptorium Publishing explains the results of their recent survey about the state of structured authoring in technical communication. In the survey, they found that 84% of respondents are either thinking of moving to structured authoring, are in the process of moving to structured authoring, have already adopted structured authoring, or are undecided. Only 16% of respondent...

Drawing as a Tool for Thinking: The Back of the Napkin

Lately I've been reading Dan Roam's The Back of the Napkin: Selling Ideas and Solving Problems Through Pictures. In the book, Roam asserts that drawing pictures can help you solve problems. It's a simple but profound assertion. You're no doubt familiar with the same assertion with writing. Writing is a tool for thinking, a method for unlocking ideas. Writing about something helps you think about it, helps you see the problem more clearly,...

The Best Thing I Did This Week

This past week I started exercising at lunch—it was the best thing I did all week. Given how sedentary the job of technical writing is, you'd think this would be a no brainer. But in fact, it's not. My company's gym is rarely used. I see just two or three people (out of hundreds) in there during lunch. While working out, I also listen to podcasts. Lately I'd gotten a bit out of the podcast-listening habit, since I was carpooling with some...

John Hedtke on Disaster Preparedness and Book Publishing

Listen here: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Disaster Preparedness is John Hedtke's latest book—the 26th book he's written. In it, Hedtke explains that although most people think disasters are only major catastrophes, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods, actually a disaster occurs whenever your needs exceed your resources and your ability to respond, and the normal processes of your life are disrupted. In this interv...

Starting Points with Quick Reference Guides: Gathering Before Designing

Quick reference guides 1.0 Quick Reference Guides: The Poetry of Technical Writing 1.1 Quick Reference Guide Formats -- Tips for Finding Attractive Layouts 1.2 STC Presentation this Thursday: "Quick Reference Guides: Short and Sweet Technical Documentation" ...

GUI Magnets -- Prototyping User Interfaces with Simple Magnets

Listen here: GUI Mags GuiMags was a vendor booth at the STC Summit that caught my attention. I'm often running into people who want me to create WordPress templates to match their websites. Creating these templates is somewhat tedious for me, and it can take 1-2 days of work and haggling with CSS to get it to look right. These GuiMags guys gave me a glimpse at a simpler model. GuiMags (graphical user interface magnets) ...

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and the Real Reason You Are a Successful Writer

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success challenges assumptions about innate genius and natural-born talent. Through a series of detailed examples, Gladwell explains away these gifts by attributing them to practice, timing, circumstance, upbringing, culture, and opportunity. In other words, those really smart, successful people we admire—Mozart, Bill Gates, the Beatles—weren't born with natural talent. Instead, they had the right...

James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007 (Podcast with Alan Porter)

Listen here: James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007 James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007 is Alan Porter's latest book. Alan Porter is vice president of Operations at Webworks, and I've interviewed him before about their extensive use of wikis. Obviously James Bond isn't a person that comes to mind when we think of technical communicators, but Alan explains  the appeal of the Bond character from a techn...

Mother-in-Law Tip for Reading Manuals

While eating dinner at my mother-in-law's house today, I stumbled across the following curiosity in the bathroom: Manual in bathroom as reading material Kind of an ingenious strategy. A tribute to the cunning intelligence of mothers everywhere!

STC Summit Atlanta Adventures: The Agony and Ecstasy of Presenting

STC Summit in Atlanta This week I returned from the annual STC Summit in Atlanta. Every year is always a series of adventures at these conferences. I'd never been to Atlanta before. I arrived a day early, because I was originally scheduled to give a workshop on blogging, but it was canceled due to lack of participants. Attendance at the STC Summit overall was down by about 35%. I was relieved, however, at not having to put together a long...

Ginny Redish -- Letting Go of the Words (Podcast Interview at STC Summit)

Listen here: Ginny Redish -- Letting Go of the Words Ginny Redish has just written a new book, Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works. I had a chance to meet up with Ginny at the STC Summit and interviewed her briefly about her new book. Redish told me,  "Every use of your website is a conversation started by the site visitor." Here's an extended description: People come to web sites for the content -- f...