Create RSS Feeds From Any Site With Ponyfish

Ponyfish allows you to create an RSS feed for sites that don't have them. If your favorite site is constantly maintained and updated, and there's no feed for it, just enter the URL into Ponyfish, configure it a little by clicking your mouse on the site's links, and Ponyfish will create a feed for you. It's a little hard to believe that it actually works, but apparently there is quite a buzz about it. The user interface is fairly simple. ...

Ten Tips for Problem Solving and Troubleshooting

At the end of the day, most of my life in IT is spent in problem solving. I've come to learn a few tips and tricks about solving problems. 1. Use View > Source and right click > properties to see the parts behind the visual display. When you can locate the parts, you can often identify the particular component that is running the show behind the scenes. I did this with RoboHelp today as I was trying to hack the "traditional - no skin" the...

WordPress = Bliss: The Joy of Customization

You can choose from a variety of blogging platforms out there (Movable Type, Blogger, Vox, Live Journal, and so on), but there's something intangibly blissful about the open architecture of WordPress. You can get inside the code and customize it just how you want it to look. Of course some customizations take longer than others. And customization can be a frustrating experience. But other times it is extremely rewarding, and even blissful...

RoboHelp 6 launched — List of New Features

RoboHelp 6 was launched today. Here is their list of new features. (This list is from their "Reasons to Upgrade to RoboHelp 6.") New user-defined variables Define global variables for certain text elements; change a variable once, and RoboHelp changes all other instances of this variable in your Help. New RoboScreen Capture Capture screens, edit screen captures, and export images to common file formats with the new built-in screen capture...

Web Developer Firefox Extension Makes CSS Editing Easy

If you've ever tried to edit the style sheet on your blog, you probably find that it's a process of trial and error, guessing which tags apply to which content, and how much your adjustment of each tag will affect the display. You modify it, then save it and view your site. Modify it some more, view it again, etc. The Firefox Web Developer extension can make editing CSS easier. This extension installs a Web Developer menu bar into your br...

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...