Month: June 2007

Site note

The domain no longer points at this site.

There is a holding page there for now, and it won’t ever be much more than that, a place to get information about me, a URL I can use to link to without direct fear of dumping people straight into this blog. It will be expanded soon but I’ve got a couple of other sites to take care of first…

And yes, I realise that the people who were still going to and letting the redirect bring them here won’t see this message until after the fact but… well, you were warned!

Finding a voice

Sitting on the balcony, watching the clouds scroll peacefully across the sky. A cold beer to one side gathering condensation from the warm air, droplets racing each other down the glass as he watches on, enjoying the sport whilst the fug of the previous night slowly ebbs away, evening slowly washes in.

Hopefully he bashes the keys, relaxing into the process with which he is well versed, the act of hoping, wishing, willing the words to take form, grabbing at threads from the jumble of his mind. He often starts this way, the writer thinks to himself, and something will usually manifest itself and slowly take form. Sometimes what is written is never seen but used as a starting point, a gentle prod to his addled cortex as he stumbles onwards through the prose.

He wonders if he will discover anything new this time.

Feeling one remove from his reality, close enough to feel the presence of the familiar but conscious of the altered state. He has been pondering this for a few days now, too long for any sane person, but he understands that sometimes his mind needs to relax, to unravel, to step back from the current and view things from a new angle, a new direction. The remove has been sought, and found, before but this is different, this is controlled and, reassured, he ponders on. Can the insane control their state of mind? He believes so.

His fingers pick up speed and the glimpse of a smile creeps across his face, tiny muscles twitching as the synapses fire, thoughts funnel onto the screen and the words flash into pixellated life, his brain sparks and dazzles, pulsing with fireworks, he starts to feel alive, refreshed.

He pauses to drain the cold beer, enjoying the chill as it works it’s way down, mouthful after mouthful until, the bottle empty, he releases the moment and sets the bottle down. Always such small moments, glimpses of beauty and life in the strangest places, the feeling of alive.

He knows where this has come from, Kerouac the prompt, providing the moment in which he needed to start, but our writer knows that the form and voice are not his, for they are never his.

So, a charlatan then, a thief of styles, a rogue. Or perhaps a wanderer picking his way cross-country, marvelling at everything new and bold, dazzled sometimes, lost in the main but relentless. Pushing onwards the only way he can, the only way he knows. Grabbing from here and there, recycling, adjusting, diluting.

But he is content, safe in the knowledge that only he knows this. With a smile he presses on as the gentle breeze tickles his bare back.

He realises what it is he must do, what it is he must say, and slowly starts to consider it. Slowly, with his consideration masking his direction, he makes notes, starts over, and makes some more. Then, decided, he pauses. Another beer arrives, colder than before and he feels it freeze down inside him.

Setting the glass down he watches the bubbles race to the surface. Ohh to be that bubble, deep down and clinging before bursting for the surface, helter skelter, hell bent, raging with determination then with the slightest ripple and hardly a sound, disappearing into the ether above. What brief but charged joy, what glorious focus. How alive.

With a sigh he realises that it is over, the momentary rush has gone and he starts the return to his normal state, freed from the surface like the bubble before him.

Unsure now, and pondering once again, he knows this was enough and that it is always this way. Another country, a different culture, and the return to the old and familiar takes it’s time. He is content though, regardless, and this will do for now. He will return and delete. He has before but something catches and decides. Let it live for there is nothing else.

That is all.

Home, home on the range..

“And coming home it feels like I, designed these buildings I walked by”

Having not been returned ‘home’ to Glasgow for a while I was quite surprised, as the train pulled into Glasgow Central this evening, to feel an overwhelming sense of comfortable familiarity.

It must be the same as all the Londoners gazing at that lovely new Olympic logo (which was recently sent to me with a subject line of “Lisa Simpson, giving head”)… ohh I’m only kidding. It could be worse, right? Hmmm maybe not.

Update: an animated version now exists. God bless the internets!

I only saw the full colour version today, and have to wonder if, somewhere out there a design team are still shaking their collective head (they only have one between them) and wondering what went wrong.

“But it was a mockup!!”

Either that or there is a design team shaking their collective wads of cash around in the air, wondering whether to pick the silver or white Mercedes.

Ach, what do I care? It’s not like the logo will make any difference, it’s not like the branding will have any impact on the way people thinking about the Olympics, right?

Sorry, I do hate to go on, and I’ve got so much else to do you know. I’m just about through all my emails, and I’ve almost finished that report from the conference, and… ohh you know how it is.

I’ll be round YOUR blogs over the coming days, I promise, and I’ll be revamping that list of links as well. Possibly even brutally. Those of you who have NOT left a comment yet… be afraid.

Or slightly worried.

OK OK, not even bothered at all as I’ll probably just add a few new links in, I wouldn’t really DELETE one, would I?

Would I?!!

(No, it’s no good, I’m just not scary…)

Right, Big Brother is just starting. I’m off.



Still in Reading, travelling home tomorrow and apologies to those who offered to meet up, I’ve barely left the hotel but have had two cracking nights with some very smart people, some of whom have told me some of the dirtiest jokes I’ve heard for a while.

And no, of course I can’t remember them… I’m not a tee-totaller you know…

Anyway, I’ll be writing my thoughts up on my other blog if you are interested.

Ohh and I’ll hopefully get my domain sorted out… and a myriad of other things that haven’t budged an inch… mind you I’ve got a few hours on the train tomorrow so I might at the very least get my notes typed up.

I can tell you are all just FASCINATED, let’s move on, shall we?

To everyone who responded to my request and left a comment, many thanks. It’s been food for thought, as well as offering up some new blogs, always a good thing. More on that later of course, you know how I love to over-analyse…

Ohhh, the late nights, booze and 5-star food is kicking in, time for bed methinks. Come back soon and I’ll regale you with tales of a hugely uneventful train journey, and the joys of conference freebies.

Or maybe not.

* Bit of a in-joke this one, a mix of DITA and the ‘chicken chicken’ presentation.

X-Pubs Conference

Just about finished at this years conference and, as ever, I feel fired up to get back to the office and get things moving. Overall the main theme of the conference was preparation, preparation, preparation, mainly focussed around gathering requirements before kicking off a project. Nothing special there but if you are considering moving towards a single source environment, there is a LOT of preparatory work you’ll need to consider.

I’ll amend this post tomorrow with some notes and thoughts from some of the sessions, but overall I’d highly recommend you visit X-Pubs next year. What follows is largely compiled from scribbled notes and random thoughts, but hopefully may be of interest. I’m not sure if copies of all the slides will be available on the X-Pubs website at any point, I certainly hope so.
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Handling Information Laziness

Like most people, I ‘fell’ into the world of Technical Communications. I didn’t choose this career, and like many I didn’t study anything that remotely involved writing. But then, who really knows what they want to be when they are choosing what to study at university.

So, after spending a few years learning about Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and largely finding the entire experience boring, I packed that in and somehow found myself working as a Technical Administrator for a small local software firm. My Mother had spotted the job advert in the local paper and the rest, as they say, has passed under the bridge…

Having spent some time helping out at a local community centre, creating flyers and brochures for local charities and organisations, starting work as a Technical Author was a departure into a new ‘technical’ world. I learned a lot of things in that first job but the most important things can be easily summarised and stated that as “how NOT to be a good Technical Author”. Still, no-one can say I don’t learn from my mistakes.

Fast forward many years and I find myself in the position of knowing enough about my profession to understand how it can best help the company for which I’m currently working, and being comfortable enough about the processes involved with being a Technical Author that I don’t need to worry about them on a daily basis. I can quite happily paddle along, with nary a ripple cast in my wake. Of course I strive keep up-to-date with the latest fads and fashions in the world of information access and creation, technologies and methods which are constantly on the move, but the changes to the prevalent methodologies within the Technical Communications industry (the draft and review process for example) evolve rather slowly, and I have to admit that the lack of speed of progress in these areas is a concern.

Anyone involved with the software industry will have felt the varying effects of the internet, good and bad, as it has ripped across many different areas of technology, massively changing how people think about information. We, as Technical Authors/Writers/Communicators now work with a commodity which continues to rise in value as more and more people create and manipulate, publish and expose it for everyone to use. It’s no revelation to state that the internet has brought about an ‘information boom’ and this boom means that, for those of us working in the software industry, we need to rise and meet one simple expectation.

I want it now. No, I don’t want to look it up. No, I don’t want to have to read anything. No, I’m not that interested in anything else other than solving my current problem. Now. Please. Thank You.

Not even 10 years ago the expectation was different. The expectation had some built-in tolerance, an acceptance that information may need to be found, or at least filtered, from at least one source. Maybe that expectation was taken advantage of, maybe that expectation gave us an excuse to produce a level of product documentation that was ‘good enough’, as opposed to ‘better than expected’. Maybe not.

The field of Technical Communications prides itself on making information usable. Yes, there is a focus on making sure that information is complete, and accurate, but after that there is little point in having information if what the reader wants to find is hidden away behind some weird structure or methodology with which they are unfamiliar. There are a number of ways to presenting information to the user, and some consistent methods such as a Table of Contents, or an Index being the most common. However these all require some effort and in the age of instant access I’d humbly suggest that there is one growing universal truth by which all information must abide: If I can’t Google for it, why would I bother?

Of course it’s not all bad, one technological advantage of the “Google-age” is the relative lack of work required to make your information available to the mighty search engine. Put your PDFs, web pages, or even Word documents on a website and Google will find it. Simple enough.

However, to fully leverage the advantage and properly embrace the webcentric view so many people now have of the information world, we, as a profession, need to add another string to our bow, we need to master the skill of search engine optimisation (SEO). This is no small task but, naturally, the internet is brimming with information that can help, with plenty of hints and tips to get you started.

The world of information, both creation and usage, continues to change, I wonder what other skills we will need to develop?

This weekend I am…

… mainly travelling down to Reading, by train, on Sunday. I’m there for three nights, so if you are in the area I’m free on Sunday and Tuesday nights. Or if you are attending the X-Pubs conference, I’ll see you there!

That leaves me Saturday free to launch my new ‘homepage’ on my ‘personal domain’. Nothing revolutionary, yet, but it’s the final piece of the domain name reshuffle…

So if you are still using to access this blog it will stop working at some point over the weekend. You’ll still be able to get here just not automagically. Sorry about that, but you were warned!

Other than that, I’ll be painting the hall, in “Classic Damson” and no, not “…in distress, and doing a little gardening whilst my wife cycles round Millport.

And, whilst I remember, I finally decided on the Pakuma Chokora K2 Messenger bag, which I’ll be road-testing (well, train-testing at least) over the next few days.

Thanks to everyone for their comments on the previous post, it has sparked some thoughts and an idea but.. as ever… more on that later!

So, anyone doing anything exciting over the weekend?

Quick update: More on that Arena Flowers thing.