My Blog and Podcast Site Are Now Merged into One -- Steps on How I Did It

I merged my blog (idratherbewriting.com) and podcast (techwritervoices.com) into one site. If you go to techwritervoices.com, it redirects to idratherbewriting.com. All the posts that were on techwritervoices.com are now on idratherbewriting.com. See the right column for podcast information. All podcasts are in a category called Tech Writer Voices, which has its own podcast feed, the same feed as before (http://feeds.feedburner.com/techwr...

Jeter Interviews Mike Hamilton at Former Blue Sky Software Office in La Jolla, Calif.

Charles Jeter recorded an excellent podcast with Mike Hamilton, V.P. of product management at Madcap Software, and posted it on his blog yesterday. Jeter is a technical writer in the California area who has been carefully analyzing the online help tool market. The following are some of my takeaways from the podcast: In an interesting real estate twist, Madcap moved back into 7777 Fay Avenue, which is where the former Blue Sky Software h...

"Could you please tell me what the job of a technical writer is like?"

I recently received an email from a reader who asked to know what the job of a technical writer is like. Anoop writes, I am a computer science Master's student at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. I am in my second year and I am on the lookout for jobs. Other than the system software engineer posts, I am considering applying for a job as a technical writer too. I do love witing as much or maybe more than I love coding and und...

Adventures with the New Technical Communication Suite from Adobe (mostly RoboHelp 7 and Captivate)

Rob Houser's recent article in Writers UA, "What's New in RoboHelp 7?", is a thorough, insightful article I highly recommend. After reading his review, I thought I'd post a few notes from my experiences with the same. (For more about Rob, see his site.) This past month I've been heavily using the RoboHelp 7 and Captivate 3 components of the Technical Communication Suite. RoboHelp 7 offers some impressive new features: snippets, breadcrumb...

The Hardest Part About Blogging: Coming Up With Something Interesting to Say

I'm going to be presenting on blogging within the next several months, and without a doubt, the hardest part about blogging is not the technical aspect. The hardest part is writing interesting posts. Here's a technique I find works well. Start with the premise that every day, some new thought will strike you as being intriguing. When that moment occurs, write a descriptive word on your hand. Later that evening, type a couple of paragraphs...

Why People Think Help Is Useless, and How To Change This Thought

I've been rethinking a previous post I wrote about the best response to the remark, "Nobody reads the help anyway. " A better response is to ask people (at just the right time) to raise their hands if they've ever searched a help file. Unless someone is totally unique, most likely everyone has tried using help. When everyone has his or her hand raised to indicate they've used help, it provides irrefutable evidence that help is used. The R...

Myths of Innovation: Brilliant Ideas Come From Constant Reflection, Not Random Chance

After reading Scott Berkun's essay on the how to be a genius, I listened to some of his podcasts too. One myth is that geniuses get their ideas almost out of the sky -- Newton is watching an apple fall from the tree when he suddenly discovers gravity. Archimedes is taking a bath when he realizes the physics of buoyancy. Here's an excerpt of this Archimedes myth from Wikipedia: According to Vitruvius, a new crown in the shape of a laurel ...

Interesting Technique for Discovering Software Changes and Building Rapport with developers

You know the typical scenario -- the technical writer is the last one to be notified of changes to the application (be it interface or functionality), and developers hate reviewing the manuals we write. Recently a business analyst explained an interesting technique to me for not only discovering software changes, but also building rapport with developers. He said that in a previous company, he bought all the technical writers video camera...

Reading this post made me want to be a workaholic

Reading this post by Scott Berkun made me want to be a workaholic. Here's an excerpt: Show me a genius and I'll show you a workaholic. Van Gogh produced 2000 works of art between 1880 and 1890 (1100 paintings and 900 sketches). That's 4 works of art a week for a decade, and he didn't start making art until his mid twenties. DaVinci's famous journals represent decades of note taking, doodling and observations, and it's a good guess that wo...

A Good Response to "No One Reads the Help Anyway"

In this three-minute STC Atlanta podcast, Judy Glick Smith says she's tired of trying to convince sales people of the value of documentation. She says she's "tired of fighting the good fight." No doubt as a technical writer you've heard the phrase, "No one reads the help anyway." They let out a small chuckle to indicate that they're only kidding, although deep down they're being totally serious. Many people believe help files are almost i...

Goodbye Podpress, it's time for a new mp3 player

I've been using PodPress, a WordPress plugin that adds an audio player to your posts, for about a year now. But today I'm saying goodbye to this plugin. Although Podpress includes size and duration, adds iTunes tags, and shows download counts, it is filled with compatibility problems with WordPress. It seems every time WordPress updates to a new version, PodPress breaks. Lately PodPress has failed to work entirely, despite supposed compat...

Technical Communication Suite from Adobe -- Interview with RJ Jacquez

Listen here: RJ Jacquez, senior product evangelist at Adobe.com, talks about the new Technical Communication Suite from Adobe, which includes RoboHelp 7, Captivate 3, Acrobat 3D version 8, and Framemaker 8. Topics we discuss include the following: What the Technical Communication Suite includes and how each product interacts Integration of Captivate with RoboHelp Integration of Framemaker with RoboHelp Support for 35...

Adding a Send Feedback link to Your Online Help / RoboHelp Project

I was reading an article in a previous STC Intercom magazine about how to add a Send Feedback link to your online help project, but the javascript didn't work. Here's an alternative method that does work.  This Send Feedback link grabs the page title and URL and includes it in the e-mail that the user sends. The method below describes the integration using RoboHelp, but the principles apply to almost any online help editor. To add a Send ...

99% of people who buy iPods don't realize several simple things ...

99% of people who buy iPods don't realize several simple things ... iPod doesn't mean MP3 player. Even though most people use the term iPod interchangeably to mean MP3 player, iPods are only a brand of MP3 players. Unfortunately, iPod is now a term like Band-Aid or Kleenex. (My wife is often asking me where my iPod is, even though I have an iRiver.) You can't get music anywhere with your iPod. With an iPod, you have to use iTunes for you...

Show Me Demos and Captivate -- Interview with Kevin Siegel

Listen here: Kevin Siegel, president of IconLogic, talks about show-me demos and Captivate. In this audio-visual age, technical writers need an easy way to deliver Flash-based, dynamic screen demos for their help content. Topics Kevin and I discuss in the podcast include: The effects of video games on learning styles The power of audio in show me demos The role of show me demos alongside written documentation New fea...