Month: January 2007

How to make a cup of tea

Further to my Too Simple post, and in response to the comment from Annie about the state of software manuals, I thought I’d try and give a bit of insight into the basic workings of my profession. Yes, that’s right I DO have a day job. I am a technical author and I write software documentation (actually I don’t like the “technical author” job title but that’s a different story).

Before I begin I’ll state that I’m not the most experienced technical author (there are people who have been doing this for 40 years), I’ve only ever worked in a software environment, and as in most professions there are a number of different methodologies and working practises which I can choose to follow. OK, caveat finished.

Ohhh and you may be wondering about the title of this post so let’s start there, how DO you make a cup of tea?

It’s a question I’ve used in a writing test (for graduate technical authors or those new to the profession) in the past, and it’s usually fairly effective at giving a rough first impression of how the candidate thinks in relation to product documentation.

Now, I’d warrant that most people reading this have some idea of how to make a cup of tea, but let’s presume that you didn’t, in fact, let’s presume that you haven’t even heard of tea. Starting to get a little tricky, isn’t it.
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arena flowers

Valentine’s Day looms, flowers to be purchased. We all know the prices go up, but only Arena Flowers actually state that (and explain why!) when you try and order ‘non-Valentines flowers’. So bonus points to them. You can get a 10% discount as well by entering VOUCHERCODES when purchasing flowers.

Too simple

So here’s the thing. We all use computers to do things. Whether it’s hardcore hacking, or browsing the internet for aubergine recipes, it’s just a tool that does ‘stuff’. Right?

As such, once you’ve mastered the basics and understand the main conceptual ideas, it’s a pretty easy tool to use. The mouse is relatively intuitive after a quick demonstration, the keyboard remains familiar to those who remember those clicky-clacky things that occasionally went shzipp-BING! You know, the ones you see in old movies. Typist writers I think they were called. On the whole, the mechanics of using a computer are pretty straightforward.

Conceptually you can explain a lot of the workings of a computer using simple, common, metaphors. You have a desktop to work on, you put your files into folders, you have a trash can for rubbish. The basic concepts are pretty straightforward. Moving on you start to understand that certain programs do certain things, and that you need to know which program will help you do something with a certain file.

Have I missed anything?

So, you can turn the computer on, use the mouse, start programs, work with files, operate the keyboard and you are learning more and more everyday. Doesn’t take too long and there are plenty of classes for those who are daunted by the whole idea. You don’t have to be technical to use a computer.

Yet some people seem to think it’s OK to dive straight in and start using a computer without any form of training or instruction. They don’t consult user manuals, or online help, they don’t take the time to understand the basics of what they are using.

Let’s look at something similar.

The first time I ever drove a car I was I started on a busy main road. I started the car, managed to get it into a gear and pulled straight out into oncoming traffic. Not knowing how to STOP the car I had no option but to chug forward and try and figure out what that big round thing in front of me would do. I grabbed it with both hands and twisted it and the car changed course, slamming into a car parked at the side of the road. All around me horns were blaring, angry gestures were being made and some people were suggesting that I should “learn how to drive”.

The next day I booked my first ever driving lesson.

So, to everyone who has bought a computer and has just swerved out onto the wrong side of the road, without their lights on, can you please just pause for a second. Learn what you are doing, take a lesson.

Once you’ve done that, THEN you can come and ask me for help!

Too.. many.. posts..

Anyone else get this?

Over the past couple of weeks I struggled to find inspiration for posts, I kinda clawed at a few things just to fill the space but I was aware it was an effort. Didn’t bother all that much, I’d just started a new job and my brain was busy processing a gazillion other things, but it still annoyed me.

This week though, bloody hell, I can’t STOP coming up with post ideas. So, and with the caveat that this may, or may not, be expanded at a later date (ohh who am I kidding, I’ll chuck them in this post and forget about them), here are some of those potential blog post topics in brief:

News item 1
Prisoners should have the right to vote.
My thought: They lost that right when they broke the law!

Driving thought 1
Just what IS the percentage of guys that pick their nose whilst sitting at traffic lights?

Bloggies 2007
Naked Blog for lifetime achievement, but.. dammit.. beautiful revolution or unreliable witness. I’m torn!

Good to see Pandemian in there too, well deserved. Blog of the year for me is Lifehacker (from the choices).

Although the entire thing is getting a little samey in some categories. Surely Heather and Zoe should retire from the competition to give the other poor buggers a chance!

And yes, once again I wasn’t shortlisted for “best kept secret”. Tell you what, next year I don’t WANT to be nominated. Reverse what? Sorry, no idea what you are talking about.

WordPress 2.1
Is worth an upgrade SOLELY for the auto-save feature. Never lose a blog post again! Start writing, accidentally close your browser after three paragraphs… and your post is still there! GENIUS!

This site
Or more accurately, a new site that I’m toying with starting. That’s what triggered the minipost query about shuffling the blog to a subdirectory. Or possibly a sub-domain of blog.gordonmclean.co.uk… still to be decided.

Driving thought 2
When you are on a dual-carriageway, and you want to overtake the car in front, pulling out into the outside lane is fine. But is there any chance that you could check the road behind you first? I don’t mean for the car that is already in the outside lane (that’s a given to be honest) but could you also check what’s BEHIND that car.

‘Cos if there is nothing behind him for, say, a mile or so, then pausing for a split second to let him past BEFORE swerving out into his path might just stop him almost ending up in your boot and calling you a “WANKFUCK” at the top of his voice.

And for the record I was doing about 74mph at the time, and he didn’t fucking indicate.

Education
Mine that is. I’m toying with doing an MA in Technical Communications. I don’t actually have any formal qualifications for my profession you see. This won’t be until September, as I’m hoping my company will pay for it (or part of it) and asking them to do that in February when I’ve only been there a month is a bit cheeky (mainly because I also want them to send me to a couple of conferences first). Still just an idea, and I’m holding off committing to it too much as I’m aware I’m still in the ‘enthused zone’ as I’ve just changed jobs.

News item 2
Well not one item as such but a variety. From the catholic adoption agencies, to the football (soccer) team in the USA, it’s so disheartening to see such horrible horrible prejudices still alive and well. Is this really the world we live in?

weird louis theroux

Weird, or just wanting?
Louis Theroux is an authority on weirdness. But he says his time off from TV has made him ask whether weird is just in the eye of the beholder – “the strangest behaviours are always answering some very normal human need – for love, for religious meaning, for a place in the world”

Friday Quiz

Not long before I left my last place of work we started a Friday Quiz email. The winner has to post the questions for the forthcoming week and as I won last week..

20 questions, a possible 28 points up for grabs and absolutely the best non-prize ever. Answers will be posted on Sunday.

The Questions

Question: Who coined the term ‘Oedipus Complex’?

Question: What is the one word title for when a person is turned on by a womans worn underwear?

Question: The Gimli Glider is what?

Question: How many major airports serve New York City?

Question: Name them. 1 point for each correct answer.

Question: What is a Tiki?

Question: Sn is the symbol for which chemical element? Bonus point for the correct atomic number

Question: The rock band Journey was started by former members of which band?

Question: Who said “I am not a Marxist.”

Question: When was the first version of Trivial Pursuit released?

Question: What is Columbo’s first name?

Question: Brazil won the world cup in 1962. Who did they beat in the final? Where was it hosted? (point for each

Question: Which football team plays at Boleyn Ground?

Question: “I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. I already knew something was going to happen; the Factory told me.” The opening lines of which novel? Bonus point for the author.

Question: Musically, Ritardando means what?

Question: What is a “Hayward”?

Question: The Nile is the longest, the Amazon comes second, but what’s the third longest river in the world?

Question: What is the collective noun for a group of Woodpeckers

Question: Allen Stewart Konigsberg is better known as who?

Question: Goddess of the moon – Greek or Roman accepted (bonus for both!)