"I never really understood that feature, so I left it alone..."

The other day I rose early to conduct some user acceptance testing with a new version of our software. As I was going through the new version of the application with a user, he got excited about a new feature we were implementing, which allowed users to collaborate on items. Noting his excitement, and realizing that the new version of the software wouldn't be released for several more months, I explained that the current version had a sim...

The Common Language Everyone Speaks

Several weeks ago, I was reading something that caused me to worry. A line in a scriptural narrative biography tells how his father taught him in all the ways of right. As a father, I thought about what I had taught my children, and it wasn't much. They weren't going to become Enochs from anything I showed them. Football on Sundays, basketball during the week, too much TV, long absences at a remote job, lots of time sitting at a computer ...

Cures for the Information Exclusion Complex

Some years ago, I used to suffer from developer neglect, or to use a more scientific term, from a kind of information exclusion complex. You know what I'm talking about. Developers make updates to the interface, often at the last minute, and don't let the tech writer know what changed. As a result, the help is wrong and out of date. It's a frustrating experience from the writer's perspective. Information exclusion is fairly common. Just l...

WordPress Tip: Add More Widget Areas to Your WordPress Theme

You can add more than one sidebar section to your WordPress site. For example, with the stc-intermountain.org site, I added a whole bunch of additional sidebar sections in the Appearance > Widgets section. Adding more sidebar sections Adding more sidebars is useful if you're using WordPress more as a content management system than a blog. Someone asked me how I did this. The process isn't hard. I've broken it down into three steps. (...

What Would a WordPress Template for Chapter Sites Look Like?

Last week Will Sansbury mentioned to me that one of his ideas with the Atlanta chapter site was to provide an example or template of how WordPress could be used for chapter sites. I got to thinking, why isn't there a standard WordPress template for chapters and SIGs to use? Further, in WordPress 3.0, WordPress MU and regular WordPress will be merged. This is huge, because it means you'll be able to create child blogs with a regular WordPr...

Fragmented Communities and the Chapter/SIG Web Site Problem

Recently Will Sansbury and I gave a webinar to STC community leaders on chapter and SIG websites. Rather than giving a static, one-way presentation about theoretical concepts with web design, or boring people with technical details they probably didn't care about, we held the webinar more like a design review workshop, not too different from a writing group workshop. Although I spent three years in a creative writing program holding exact...

Madcap Flare's Extensibility: Adding jQuery to Flare

Alistair Christie recently published a podcast about Unscripted Screencasts and Flare Extensibility. In the podcast, he considers whether scripts are necessary for corporate screencasts --  a good topic for exploration and testing. But he also gets into something a little more interesting: extending Flare with jQuery. jQuery is the new Javascript. It provides smooth functionality that shows and hides components, slides objects around, and...

Web Site Critique and WordPress Q&A Webinar This Thursday

Date: Jan 28, 2010 Time: 1 pm EST Platform: Genysys (on the web) Cost: Free for STC members Registration required Will Sansbury and I are giving a webinar on web design and WordPress this Thursday as part of the STC Community Leaders series. In the webinar, we plan to look at about five chapter/SIG sites in depth, examining what they're doing well and how they could be improved. The sites will merely provide examples to spark discussion a...

Podcast: Riding the Tide of Technical Communications Consulting

Listen here: Lyn Worthen presented to the STC Intermountain chapter tonight on running your own business as a technical communications consultant. She covers almost everything you need to know as a consultant, including rates, billing, contracts, marketing, taxes, business structures, hours, salary, tools, locations, niche services, portfolios, client communications, and more. Here's her presentation description: Unlike ...

Intermountain STC Chapter Meeting This Wednesday at 7 pm

This Wednesday, Jan 20, there's an Intermountain STC Chapter meeting at 7 pm. in the Sandy library. Lyn Worthen will be speaking on running your own technical communications consulting business. Here's an excerpt from her description: Unlike the consistent schedule, workload, and wages of a 9-5 technical writing job, going it on your own as a consultant or contractor is a lot like riding the tide. Sometimes the tide is “in” and you have p...

The Turnaround Screencast

In Screencasts: So what?, Kristi Leach tells an engaging story about a turnaround screencast. She explains how one good screencast can change users' attitudes about software. Here's an excerpt: I rarely watch video online. Unless it's a funny meme I have deliberately searched for, or a show that I missed, or Netflix, I won't press play. If a blog post is all video, I skip it. I rarely appreciate video instructions, either–they take too lo...

DITA Features in Madcap Flare Webcast Tuesday at 11 a.m. EST from Scriptorium

Scriptorium is presenting a free webinar on the DITA features in Madcap Flare this Tuesday at 11 a.m. EST. Here are the details: Presented by Sarah O'Keefe, this webcast demonstrates using MadCap Flare to create WebHelp from DITA-based content. Topics covered include: Importing DITA content into Flare Map file handling Cross-references and links Relationship tables Conrefs Conditional processing By the way, you can keep up with o...

How to Embed Video on a Web Page

To embed video on a web page, you don't need to upload your video to youtube, vimeo, or some other video sharing service. A lot of times in a corporate setting, uploading your videos to a third-party site isn't appropriate or allowed. Does this mean you have to resign yourself to a basic WMV output that opens up in the Windows Media Player? No. You can grab the embed code from Camtasia Studio's html output and copy it to a custom page to ...

Trying to Find a Theater Stage/Voice for an Impossible Situation

In a recent design review meeting, I showed some of my screencasts to our team for feedback. We also reviewed some screencasts created by voiceover talents in our audiovisual department and screencasts created by trainers. In listening to my voice in the screencasts, it's clear that I still have a lot to learn. I'm not even close to the personal, conversational-sounding audio voice that I want to achieve. It sounds like I'm reading a scri...

Notes on My Latest Screencasts

A couple of months ago I created some documentation on Joomla for some web admins using Joomla to build country sites. After delivering the documentation, the users needed something more visual, so I set about creating screencasts. I created 30 screencasts to match the tasks in the documentation (which I transferred from InDesign to Mediawiki). I then integrated the screencasts with the various pages of the wiki. You can see a list of the...