Prompt engineering: Creating high-fidelity, thematically organized notes from engineering meetings using AI

I added a new topic to my prompt engineering series on summarizing meeting notes. While using AI to summarize meeting notes might seem superficial, it’s not. When you tag people in meeting notes and broadcast the notes to larger lists of people, the notes can amplify your visibility and communication about the documentation projects you’re working on.

Visualizing APIs with tree diagrams, partly generated with AI
Visualizing APIs with tree diagrams, partly generated with AI

I recently visualized both a cloud and Java API through some complex tree diagrams that showed the objects returned, with all the detail inherent in the parent/child relationships and structures. One of the primary principles of prompt engineering is to break complex tasks up into smaller ones. This principle has at least two purposes: (1) most AI chatbots can't process large amounts of text, and (2) you can more precisely direct the output from smaller inputs.

Walking and chatting with ChatGPT
Walking and chatting with ChatGPT

I've begun a new favorite activity: walking and talking with ChatGPT. It might sound crazy, but it's really engaging. As I walk around for exercise, I usually listen to non-fiction audiobooks or podcasts. Particularly with non-fiction audiobooks, I listen to learn something. For example, today I was listening to The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard. After about 20 minutes of listening to the book, my mind tends to gravitate toward questions I have. When I find myself losing interest in listening instead want to pursue specific questions, I pull out the ChatGPT app on my phone, tap the headphone button to initiate the audio conversation, and start asking questions related to topics surfaced in the book.

Moved AI pages into their own collection and space
Moved AI pages into their own collection and space

I recently moved the AI section from my API course into their own dedicated collection and space at /ai. I moved these AI pages into their space for one main reason: I anticipate writing a lot more about AI, and this content was outgrowing its chapter in the API documentation course.

Coffee Chat recording: Ask Me Anything about Managing API documentation projects
Coffee Chat recording: Ask Me Anything about Managing API documentation projects

I recently participated in a Coffee and Content chat titled 'Ask Me Anything: Managing API Documenation Projects', with Patrick Bosek and Scott Abel, sponsored by Heretto. This was an 'Ask me anything' style chat, though the audience could only participate through chat on Brighttalk's platform. The coffee chat took place on Thursday, Jan 11, 2024.

Evaluating my 2023 site analytics -- why did my traffic drop?
Evaluating my 2023 site analytics -- why did my traffic drop?

Once a year, usually at the beginning of January, I look at my site analytics with the latest numbers from Google Analytics and also reflect on trends, changing directions, and other metrics for the year. This weekend I updated my site's analytics for 2023. The metrics were kind of harsh for my site this year. Page views were down 35%, users down 37%. Page views per session were down 12%. My top 30 pages were almost all to pages in my API documentation course — almost none of which were new in 2023. Accounting for the shift could be the many changes to Google's search algorithms, the changes in Google Analytics itself, the layoffs and industry slowdowns in tech comm, the expanding influence of AI, stale content, and other reasons.

[Podcast] Breaking ground: New API documentation course at UW, with Bob Watson
[Podcast] Breaking ground: New API documentation course at UW, with Bob Watson

In this podcast, I chat with Bob Watson about an upcoming API documentation course he'll be teaching at the University of Washington. Bob has extensive experience working as an API technical writer at big tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. The UW reached out to Bob to develop this new course offering. The 14-week evening course will cover fundamentals like understanding developer behaviors, working with various types of APIs, publishing workflows, as well as hands-on practice. A key component is having students create API documentation portfolios they can use to demonstrate their skills.

My 2024 technical writing trends and predictions
My 2024 technical writing trends and predictions

I've been mulling over whether to write a trends post this year. There's so much uncertainty, it's hard to feel confident about how the tech writing profession will play out. But little trends-related ideas keep surfacing in the back of my mind, so I decided to write out some of my thoughts. Before I jump into this, I want to say that I’m much more agnostic and unsure about directions this year. 2024 could be amazing, it could also be terrible. Or everything could be overblown and remain more or less the same. One thing is for sure: in predictions, AI dominates the scene and discussion.

Book review: Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do
Book review: Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do

Although my blog usually focuses on tech comm, I've started reviewing books covering wider topics. I recently read Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do, by Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ellen B. Littman, and Patricia O. Quinn. Several of my family members have ADHD, and I wanted to understand ADHD more to better support them. This book is one of the best ADHD books I've read, probably because I have four daughters (ranging from 13 to 22) and the book focused entirely on ADHD in girls. The book describes challenges girls with ADHD face in elementary school, middle school, high school, and beyond.

Etto, a new AI co-pilot for Heretto — Q&A with Casey Jordan
Etto, a new AI co-pilot for Heretto — Q&A with Casey Jordan

Etto is a new AI copilot from Heretto designed to help content authors harness the power of structured content more easily. In this Q&A, Casey Jordan, co-founder of Heretto, explains how Etto can reduce the complexity of XML authoring through guidance, content analysis and updates, refactoring, and other automations. Etto is focused specifically on structured content tasks and works collaboratively within documents so changes show up as track changes, like a human co-author. This allows for a conversational workflow. Unlike some competitor tools that rely on OpenAI, Etto's models remain completely within Heretto's platform for security and privacy. (Note: This is a sponsored post.)

Podcast: Notes and themes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
Podcast: Notes and themes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

These are some notes and thoughts from reading Robert Pirsig's classic philosophical novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974. My reading here focuses more on the technical writing aspects and themes from the book. Some themes include Classic versus Romantic modes of thought, the concept of Quality, our relationship with technology, doing your own maintenance, caring about the work, peace of mind, systems thinking, multiple paths through a problem, troubleshooting, being in-the-scene versus removed, the road trip, effortless action, going with the flow, traveling along the backroads, and presence in the moment. I also include some questions about these themes to prompt discussion (these notes were initially prepared for a book club).

Webinar recording: Experiments and use cases for AI from a tech writer’s perspective
Webinar recording: Experiments and use cases for AI from a tech writer’s perspective

I recently gave a webinar titled 'Experiments and use cases for AI from a tech writer’s perspective' on December 8, 2023. The webinar was sponsored by the STC Washington, DC - Baltimore Chapter. In this presentation, I shared some personal experiences in using AI for different writing-related use cases, explaining what I’ve found helpful. These use cases and takeaways were all experiential, based on my experiments with using AI both in the workplace for documentation-related scenarios and writing on my blog.

30+ ways I’m using AI in everyday writing life as a technical writer, blogger, and curious human
30+ ways I’m using AI in everyday writing life as a technical writer, blogger, and curious human

In this post, I provide over 30 real-life examples of how I'm using AI on a daily basis, not just for technical writing tasks but more broadly in life, including summarizing content, explaining concepts, answering questions, troubleshooting problems, and having engaging conversations for a variety of tasks and scenarios. In my view, AI use cases are ubiquitous, equivalent to the use cases for computers or the Internet in general.

Podcast: The evolution of podcasting, with Ed Marsh
Podcast: The evolution of podcasting, with Ed Marsh

In this podcast, I talk with Ed Marsh about podcasting. You may have listened to Ed Marsh's Content Content podcast previously. As an experienced podcaster, Ed has a lot of insights and thoughts about podcasting. We discuss what initially drew him to start podcasting, the equipment and logistics involved in podcasting, different formats that engage listeners (from co-hosts to single person podcasts, and more), incorporating AI tools, why podcasters often go on hiatus, the ongoing appeal of podcasting, and more.

Webinar: Let's talk API docs: a discussion about issues impacting documentation for APIs
Webinar: Let's talk API docs: a discussion about issues impacting documentation for APIs

I recently participated in a webinar called Let's Talk API Docs with Scott Abel, Mark Wentowski, and Kartik Balasubramanian on December 13 at 8am PST. The panel discussion covered a wide array of topics, such as limitations of autogenerated API documentation, security in API docs, tailoring documentation to user needs. We also discussed challenges such as standardizing API documentation as well as opportunities for improving the developer experience.