Sierra Says Help Needs to Be Human, Conversational, and Geared Towards Panicky Users

Kathy Sierra is on the leading-edge for user help. In her posts and speeches for Creating Passionate Users, she often talks about the qualities of help that works, especially in this excellent South by Southwest presentation. In this presentation, she asks why so many participants actually attended South by Southwest, because the conference was in fact being recorded, blogged, and even twittered. Ironically, the same people developing in...

Special STC Election podcast: Call for Participants

We're doing a special STC election podcast next Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST, talking with the different candidates running for STC offices. If you're running for election, and you want to talk about yourself and your vision/plans for the STC, contact me at [email protected]. All you need is a landline phone. I mentioned this elections topic at the close of my last podcast.  Nicky Bleiel has already contacted me. I'm curious to see how many ca...

Dan Rather Podcast from South by Southwest: "Journalism needs a spine transplant; it has lost its guts"

In this podcast by Dan Rather at this year's South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Rather says today's journalism "needs a spine transplant. It has lost its guts" (see minute 42:30). I didn't realize how authentic Rather was as a journalist. He really is a dyed-in-the-wool, tried-and-true, 100%-committed journalist. He says information is central to making correct choices in a democracy. Journalists bring us information that all...

Is Technical Writing Boring? Tech Writers as Information Architects

Listen here: In this week's podcast, Heidi and I consider a probing question: Is technical writing boring? We discuss a post that spawned a lot of comments and exchanges. We also talk about an article on information architecture in the Tech Comm journal. We talk about the following topics in this podcast: "Is technical writing boring?"post Information Architecture article in Tech Comm Journal Grammar Girl podcast Web 2...

TECHWR-L and Technical Editing SIG Implement Drupal and WordPress

TECHWR-L, one of the most popular listservs for technical writers, recently switched their site to Drupal. I was excited to see it. I haven't worked with Drupal before, but I've heard good things about it. Drupal offers more content management features than WordPress. I was also delighted to see that my blog feed had been aggregated to their Community "News Feeds from the Web" section. I explored the TECHWR-L Drupal site for a while. It'...

The Evolutionary Strategy of Web 2.0 — It's Like Having 100 Personal Researchers Working For You

I finally found a perfect answer to the question "what's in it for me" when it comes to blogging, podcasting, and the other social media. In this IT Conversations panelist podcast from SofTECH, Robert Rebholz explains he engages in Web 2.0 media (blogs, social tagging, and other social collaborative sites) because the ROI for information is the equivalent of having 100 personal researchers and analysts working for you. I liked his explan...

Embedding an Audio Player into Your Site Without WordPress

Several people have asked me about how to embed an audio player into their websites. I use the PodPress plugin for WordPress, but this plugin itself is based on an audio player by 1 Pixel Out. If you have a regular HTML website and want to start embedding an audio player (for example, to play recordings of your chapter presentations or other audio broadcasts), check out this player from 1 Pixel Out. Well-written instructions for non-WordP...

Nine Lessons for Would-be Bloggers -- Great Advice from Josh Porter on Overcoming Blogging Hangups

Joshua Porter's 9 Lessons for Would-be Bloggers gives some of the best advice about blogging I've ever read. Porter says people hesitate to blog because they're afraid of putting themselves on public display, or of not having anything interesting to say. He encourages you to lose your fear of criticism, and to recognize you do have valuable ideas to contribute. He also says your blog should have a "schtick." It helps you focus on finding ...

Microformats and the Semantic Web

I keep waiting for the semantic web to materialize, but it seems like microformats aren't being adopted as quickly as I hoped. I listened to a podcast on microformats that got me thinking about this topic again. I first heard about the semantic web at the 2006 Tri-XML conference in a keynote address by Salim Ismail, who asserted that the semantic web could free the data trapped in sites like ebay, personals sites, classifieds, amazon, and...

Second Life: A 3-D Space for Virtual Meetups and Instruction?

Second Life provides a virtual world you can explore as a video game character walking around and interacting with other game characters. You use your keyboard's arrow keys to move, and you can even fly. You feel as if you're in a video game, because you select an avatar (3-d character), and everyone else is represented by avatars as well, mostly provocatively dressed. Thousands of others are also participating, and it's an experience lik...

Wikinomics: Combining Wikis with Economics; the More You Share, the More You Win

Wikinomics explores the economic side of wikis. In this Harvard Business Review (HBR) ideacast, Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, tells a story about a CEO of a gold mining company who embraced wiki principles to boost his company's revenue from 90 million to 10 billion. Frustrated by his geologists' inability to locate the gold in his land, the CEO nearly closed the company, but in a final eff...

Librivox: Open Source Audio Books; You Contribute Your Own Readings

Librivox is an open source audio archive. Not only can you download audio books (of texts in the public domain), you can also contribute your own readings of texts. That's right, let's say you have a penchant for Canterbury Tales. Well, record yourself reading it and add it to the site. The cool thing about Librivox is that you don't have to read the entire book. Let's say you're just fond of the Miller's Tale in the Canterbury Tales. Fin...

Online Communities, Member Maps, Virtual Chats, Sparkpeople, Intercom, and More

Listen here: In this podcast, Heidi and I talk about online communities, member maps, virtual chats, Sparkpeople, Intercom, and more. Here are links to the topics discussed in this podcast: Suncoast Member map Virtual Chat Ze Frank Show Google Maps API Making a map Batchgeocoder Searchmash Ask a Ninja Sparkpeople DMN C0mmunications Software Saturdays Web 2.0 Fitting podcasts into your day STC Conference Sunc...

Plagiarism and Cannibalism Both Natural and Necessary, say Writers and Musicians

In a podcast on plagiarism by Public Radio International, Jonathan Lethem interviews Jim Fleming, a writer, and Paul Miller, a musician, about their thoughts on the controversial practice of reusing others' content without the owners' consent. They refer to plagiarism as recycling what's been done before, "cannibalizing" it and creating something new that is composed of the old. Fleming quotes Mary Shelley: Invention, it must be humbly ad...

Creating Passionate Users Explains How to Make the Best User Manual Ever

Kathy Sierra from Creating Passionate Users made an A+ post titled The Best User Manuals EVER today. The most interesting tip was to structure your user manuals by layers of difficulty, and motivate users to progress to the next layer. The manuals Kathy mentioned give instructions about horse riding rather than software, but similar principles apply. The article covered many points, but layers is what caught my attention. Sierra explains ...