What Does It Mean to Know How to Write?

A lot of people feel confident in their writing abilities in an organization. And many times one's writing skills are perfectly suitable for the task. Other times they are hopelessly below readability. Why do so many people think they can write when they really can't? One reason may be context. A person may be skilled at writing e-mail, but writing an 800 word article is another matter. A person may be skilled at noting steps to reproduce...

My Review of the New Testament

Last year I wrote a review of the Old Testament. It was an off-topic post that I almost regretted posting, except that I did get a few comments from readers who appreciated my side jog because it showed I think about more than technical writing. This year I've been reading the New Testament, which is much shorter but also more challenging in some ways. I have a lot of thoughts on what I read, and a post like this is going to be hard howev...

Three Solutions to the Corporate Blogging Paradox

The corporate blogging paradox Corporate blogs suffer from an almost insurmountable paradox: you can write something interesting to readers, but it will make your company uncomfortable. You can write something that will make your company comfortable, but it won't be interesting to readers. The corporate blogger has a difficult decision to face. Do you want to gain an audience, build relationships with readers, and strike a cord of authent...

Book Review: The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall (published in 2010), is a masterpiece of a novel, pulling us not only inside a less than familiar family situation -- one of polygamy -- but also managing to connect the reader with universal family themes. Even if you've never met a polygamist (I haven't), there's plenty in here that any parent can relate to -- feeling overwhelmed by children, being pushed and pulled about by your spouse, sensing tha...

Interview with Kevin Cuddihy, Editor of the STC Notebook Blog

A couple of years ago, the STC started a Notebook blog. Recently I followed up with Kevin Cuddihy, editor of the STC Notebook blog, to see the impact has been for the STC. How long has it been since STC started their STC Notebook blog? It's been just over two years—our second "birthday" was on 3 August. The assistant editor for STC at the time, Tara Ebrahimi, started it. I came on board 31 August when Tara went back to school and picked u...

Stewart Falls: One Last Outing Before Summer Ends

On the last Saturday of summer, in a moment's decision, we decided to go hiking to Stewart Falls. Stewart Falls is right next to Sundance. The previous year we took another hiking trail that we thought would lead to Stewart Falls, but we were uncertain as to whether it was the real trail or not, and so we ended up turning back before reaching the falls. This year we took the right trail, and it was packed with people. We probably passed 100 ...

How Swimming Has Changed

Shannon is still out at Education Week at nights, so I took the kids swimming last night. The kids absolutely love swimming, but I must admit that swimming has lost some of its appeal for me. As a kid I could jump and dive and swim all over as I wanted. But now as an adult, I mostly hold Molly, and I keep an eye on Lucy. I'm more of a buoy than a fish. It's probably good exercise for the kids, but for me it's an exercise in patience. I prefer ...

Blown Away by Author-it Aspect

Author-it Aspect My colleagues and I were talking the other day about where we're going to publish some help content. The scenario we're addressing is a project that will be translated into 38 separate languages. Additionally, there are 28 roles for the system. This means there would potentially be 1,064 outputs (38 x 28), assuming help is to be specific to each user's language and role. This is a tremendous amount of material to generate...

Storm Returns Home

Yesterday our little gray cat escaped, because someone left the gate open. Shannon said Callie had spent a lot of time playing with the cat in the backyard. Anyway, "Nimbus" (the new name Avery gave the cat) was gone by the time I returned home after work. The kids felt the cat would return, just like Amelia does, but she didn't. We'd had the cat for about 3 days now, without any call from the owners. I figured it must have been a stray. Sha...

The Big Hill

Tonight I spent most of the evening finishing up some video tutorials for work. Didn't finish until 7 pm. Shannon was out at Education Week with Marcy all evening, so I had all four kids. I pretty much neglected them until about 7pm, when I fed them dinner and made them clean up a bit. Then at 8 pm, I wanted to do something, so I insisted we go for a jog. I put the baby and Lucy in the bike carrier (it doubles as a stroller) and let Callie rid...

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Designing with Data, by Brian Suda

A Practical Guide to Designing with Data, by Brian Suda A Practical Guide to Designing with Data (Five Simple Steps, 2010), by Brian Suda, is a thorough exploration of best practices for graphs and charts. It's somewhat similar to Edward Tufte's Visualizing Information in focus, and both have a shared antipathy toward "chart junk" in the effort to tell the story of data. Suda explains, The main purpose of this book is to encourage you to ...

Windy Night and a Stray Cat

This weekend was a lazy weekend, a kind of "stillness before the storm" time before the school and swimming year starts. I spent Saturday at home, reading and playing with the kids. While Shannon took Avery shopping for school clothes (and her first bra), I helped build a fort for Callie and Lucy. This fort has an ingenious construction. I asked Callie what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to build a house. Both of them wanted to make...

Messages from Sponsors -- August 2011

The following are brief messages from my sponsors for August. Two New Announcements from MadCap Software Sylvan Learning Uses MadCap Flare to Provide Web-based Help for Employees at 900-Plus Tutoring Centers "We really liked the efficiency of an authoring tool that would let us publish to both print and the Web. And after getting so many great references for Flare from the tech writer community, we decided it was the right software for o...

My Problem with Fiction, and How I Tried to Resolve It

I've been somewhat bothered by the fact that I don't read much fiction. For someone who has a degree in creative writing, this is a bit troubling. My degree is in nonfiction creative writing, but still, you would think that I read a novel a week or more. Not really. Not too long after my MFA, I went through a burnout phase. During my 3 years at Columbia, I wrote a lot of stories and essays. They were all a type of literary writing. I spen...

Sidewalk Chalk at Thanksgiving Point Gardens

For family home evening we went to the Thanksgiving Point Gardens and drew pictures with sidewalk chalk.