Ten Lessons Learned as a Technical Communicator — Interview with Rahul Prabhakar

Listen here: Rahul Prabhakar talks with us today about ten lessons he has learned as a technical communicator. Rahul is an Indian technical writer living in South Korea working for Samsung. You can read more about the lessons he talks about from his ten lessons learned post. Here's a snapshot of the 10 lessons: Lesson 1: Choose the Right Words Lesson 2: Strike a Rapport with Your Audience Lesson 3: Pay Attention to Deta...

Patience Thresholds for Technology

In this video, an employee becomes frustrated with the inability to do a print-screen and finds a convenient workaround. This was one of the top videos on Digg today. Although some users like to troubleshoot and solve problems, there is another class of users that have an exceptionally low tolerance for technical problems. We all have our different thresholds. Last year my wife broke our laptop by banging on it out of technical frustrati...

Listening to Podcasts Without Dedicating Any Time for Them

You may think that there's no possible way you could sit and your computer and listen to a podcast that is 1 hour and 18 minutes long, like the Platt podcast I just recommended. However, I did that today without dedicating any special time to listen to it. Here was my podcast schedule for today: Drive to work in morning, 20 minutes, listen to podcast in the car Drive to gym at lunch, 7 minutes, listen to podcast in the car Run on treadmi...

Why Software Sucks, by David Platt

I listened to a great podcast today called Why Software Sucks, by David Platt. I highly recommend it. Platt says no one goes to Home Depot to buy a drill. No, people go to Home Depot because they want to make holes. This is what many software developers miss -- they design features, not solutions. Users don't use software because they like the tool. They use software to get something done. When we write documentation, we should almost al...

Read a Book by E-mail, a Little Each Day with Daily Lit

Daily Lit is designed for those people who spend so much time reading e-mail, blogs, and other things online that they never have enough time to read. It's really simple: You just choose a title, the frequency with which you want to read it, and your e-mail. I can see how this might become a really popular service. By the way, I heard about Daily Lit on the Diggnation podcast. Digg is one of the best tech news sites out there — I have it...

Recording your chapter presentations

A common question I'm often asked is how to record chapter presentations. Here's what we're doing in our chapter: 1. Using an Olympus digital recorder (from Radio Shack), we plug a lavalier microphone into it and attach it to the presenter's shirt collar. This works decently enough to record audio. I am looking into other devices that may do a better job, but for now we're just using the Olympus because it has a convenient microphone port...

Dynamic Help in Visual Studio .NET

Dynamic help is help that automatically shows help for the page the user is on. The user does not need to click anything (if the help pane is showing) for the help associated with that page to appear. If you have Flare and turn on its dynamic help, you can see an example. The following image automatically shows the help pane that corresponds to the Style editor. When you move to the Topic tab, where the XML editor is available, the dynam...

Podcasting article in STC Intercom magazine

My article on podcasting appeared in the Intercom today. I encourage you to check it out. Follow this link to the article. Unfortunately, the site is password-protected. However, the Podcasting 101 podcast on Tech Writer Voices is essentially the same thing, but in podcast form. A year ago, no one at my work had an iPod. Today, of the 11 department members, about 7 have iPods. The term "iPod" in place of mp3 player is perva...

Inexpensive Screencast Software: Blueberry Flashback Express Recorder

I've been looking for some screencast software that is either open source or inexpensive. I've arrived at the following two applications: Wink and BB Flashback Express. Wink is open source and in version 2 they finally support audio (previous versions did not); however, the audio recording is full of static and cuts out. Additionally, the file size seemed to be a little bulky. BB Flashback Express has clear voice and seems to compress mor...

Talkr service converts text-only blogs into podcasts

Talkr is a service that converts your blog automatically into a podcast (a computer reads it). I haven't tried it yet, but it looks interesting. Unfortunately Yahoo had a podcast with something like this, but listening to a robot proved unbearable after a while. Perhaps as the computer's ability to read with a human-like voice improves, podcasts will become more ubiquitous. Still, it would enable me to read all the technical writing blogs...

Google Talk

Someone told me that Google Talk is clearer than Skype, but how do you record Google Talk conversations? Is there a device that records conversations? Another matter: See how Google Talk is incorporating screenshot tutorials. I think that's cool, but the screen quality looks like they've got a video camera looking at the screen. Surely that's not the case, but the resolution is so poor, it's hard to view it with pleasure. But it is deliv...

Mike Hamilton Gives Flare Demo to the Suncoast Chapter

Listen here: Mike Hamilton from Madcap Software visited the Suncoast chapter in Tampa, Florida, and presented on Flare. In this presentation, he talks about the real story behind RoboHelp and Macromedia/Adobe (this blew my mind). He also provides a lot of inside detail on Flare. Specific topics in the podcast include: Importing and exporting Flare projects (more impressive than you might think) One major limitation of R...

WIFM and Blogging

I was talking to a friend tonight about blogging. He doesn't have a blog, and I encouraged him to begin one. He hesitated and said he hadn't entered the blogosphere because he wasn't sure what was in it for him (the "What's In It For Me" principle). What exactly is the reason for blogging? What do I get out of it, and why might others start blogging? It's a good question. Here is a start at a few answers: Blogging allows me to put my tho...

The Concept of Trackbacks

Trackbacks are one of the most interesting features of blogs. Basically if I write a post that links to another person's post, my comment actually appears in the comments section of that other person's post -- even though I didn't actually make the comment on their site! Here's an example. I posted a note on my blog saying to check out my latest podcast, which is on idratherbewriting.com. My post actually then appears as an excerpted comm...

Year in Review -- "You" Chosen as Most Important Person

In one of the more interesting articles that Scott Abel has written this year, he gives his year in review. Here's an excerpt: Throughout 2006, nothing was more evident than the increasing acknowledgement of the user as the focal point of all we do. Even Time Magazine made the user - more specifically, YOU - its Person of the Year for 2006. Sure, we've always touted the user as key -- know thy audience is the first rule of any technical c...