A Paradox of Navigation Metaphors for the Web

In Ambient Findability, Peter Morville has an interesting observation about visual maps. He notes that we use a lot of physical wayfinding metaphors for the web -- we go to a page, we follow a path, we search for objects, we become lost, we use breadcrumbs to orient ourselves, we surf around, we use sitemaps, we design with blueprints, we practice information architecture, we navigate around, etc. These are all metaphors for using the web...

The Butterfly Paths

saratogaspringssecondtrip We went down to Saratoga Springs along the Jordan Parkway Trail. This time I brought Molly, Callie, and Lucy, and let them all ride in the Burley. Walking is much easier this way, even though three kids is a bit too much in that space. Cozy makes three in a burley Looking at Google Earth images the day before, we were intrigued by the butterfly pattern that you see below. The strange butterfly path pattern As we walke...

Saratoga Hot Springs

We walked down to the Saratoga Hot Springs tonight -- just Callie and Lucy, since Avery was sick at home. The trail to the hot spring is short, maybe half a mile. Beautiful walk, as you can see Utah lake and the mountains. We weren't sure if the hot spring was bathable water, but when we arrived, it was full of people, including a couple of hippies drinking beer. They called the tall grass elephant grass and joked about watching out for snakes...

Content Strategy for Content Agility

The following is a guest post by Noz Urbina, organizer of the upcoming Congility conference, held May 24-26 in Gatwick, UK. We live in a multi-in, multi-out world.  There are so many information pipelines running into, out and around the organisation these days that it's overwhelming companies the world over.  The famous information overload is in stark contrast to an endless pressure to deliver excellent content — quickly and cost effe...

Predicting Tech Comm's Future for Mobile

Robert Desprez has an interesting post on How Will Technical Writing Change in the Next Ten Years. Among a few predictions, he writes the following about tech comm's future for mobile: We'll all be preparing our online help for mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets are expected to start outselling computers in the near future. More and more people will be using these devices to work and will need technical assistance. I expect this is t...

Cedar Fort cemetery

Avery, Callie, Lucy and I drove into Cedar Fork, parked at the LDS Church, and walked over the cemetery. I'd heard that Cedar Fort has an old cemetery, and since I hadn't taken the kids to many cemeteries, I thought it would be a good idea. After walking about a mile, we reached the entrance of the cemetery. Cedar Fort seems to be an old town, one that never really saw a thriving day. No house is new, many are run-down, and the general absence...

Introducing Technical Writing World, a New Social Network for Technical Writers

Arnold Burian, founder of the new social network TechnicalWritingWorld.com The following is a guest post by Arnold Burian, founder of the new social network Technical Writing World. When it comes to knowledge sharing, we technical writers have it pretty darn good. There are active mailing lists (HATT, TECHRL-W), many informative blogs (I'd Rather Be Writing, The Content Wrangler), a vibrant notification system (#techcomm on Twitter), and...

Topic Chunking and The Broken Alarm Clock

It's been about 9 days since my last post, and yesterday my colleague leaned over and asked why I hadn't been posting -- was something wrong? He himself has been working on a novel, so he hasn't posted anything for a month. No, nothing is wrong. I always chuckle when I see blog posts in which people apologize for not posting on their blog, or when they provide reasons for their lack of blogging activity. I chuckle because it's like, hey, ...

The Importance of Chunking for Sorting

If you want to be able to sort information by various classification schemes, such as by most popular, or by role, or by problem, your content has to be chunked in a granular enough way to facilitate the various means of sorting. Consider a work that is one large book, with no chunks at all. In that case, it would be impossible to sort anything, because you have just one object. With one object, the only pattern you can configure is itsel...

Guest Post: To each their own

The following is a guest post by Marcia Johnston. Marcia lives in Portland, Oregon, at the intersection of Writing, User Experience, Information Architecture, and Content Strategy. She is the president of Marcia Riefer Johnston, Inc. Marcia Johnston They has gone singular. So have their, them, and themselves. We're assailed every day by sentences like these: “What's annoying to me isn't someone using their phone at the table, it's the ...

Book Review: Everything is Miscellaneous, by David Weinberger

Everything is Miscellaneous, by David Weinberger In Everything is Miscellaneous, Dave Weinberger argues that classifications that we have imposed on most everything from the alphabet to the encyclopedia, planets, books, and knowledge ultimately represent our own beliefs and priorities. As time changes, we see how our own thinking at that time inclined us to organize the information that way. In reality, things in the world don't have suc...

Book Review: Letting Go of the Words, by Ginny Redish

Letting Go of the Words (2007), by Ginny Redish, puts forward an idea that many readers will eagerly embrace: think of writing as you would a conversation. Anticipate the reader's questions as you craft your content. Redish explains, If you think of the web as conversation, you'll realize that much of your content is meant to answer the questions that people come with. you do not want an entire site to be in a section called frequently a...

Getting Others to Work for You -- The First Step Toward Scalability

During my annual performance review last week, my manager gave me a few tips to work on (as the format of the review requires). One of his suggestions was to get others to work for me. This advice (somewhat nontraditional), is something I've been mulling over for the entire week. I'm convinced that it is probably the best career advice I've ever been given. It's the first step towards scalability. First, a little background. I confess I h...

Messages from My Sponsors -- April 6, 2011

Every so often I let my blog sponsors post a message to my readers. Below are brief messages from ScreenSteps, Adobe, 3vdia, Congility, Madcap Software, and MindTouch. Read this as if you were browsing a hall of  interesting vendors during a tech comm conference. ScreenSteps Desktop - Clearer Documentation in Less Time ScreenSteps Desktop is the simplest and fastest way to create clearer software documentation in less time. By integrati...

Podcast: Content Strategy and Agility, with Noz Urbina

I recently spoke with Noz Urbina, consultant from Mekon Ltd, about his upcoming conference, Congility, and about content strategy. Based in Valencia, Spain, Noz is one of the industry's thought leaders on XML, DITA, component content management, and content strategy. This year he and Mekon are running a conference called Congility (formerly X-Pubs), held in Gatwick UK, May 25-26. Noz says that Congility is about making your content "agi...