Month: September 2007

Bad habits

I remember reading, somewhere, that picking your nails was, in psychotherapy terms, a “mild form of self-abuse”. In which case, hello, my name is Gordon and I abuse myself.

Hmm that last sentence doesn’t sound quite right.

Anyway, yes I pick my nails, rarely use clippers and yes I tend to do it when I’m bored. Disgusting habit isn’t it.

I also, when needs must, pick my nose, and have occasionally had a good scratch at my arse.

Still here? Excellent.

You see this post is a mild version of what I had planned to post, but the general theme is the same. Bad habits are generally those that are unsanitary or just ‘not very nice’ for other people to witness. However, for the person who has the bad habit, it’s generally not that big a deal.

Like smelling your own farts…

OK, I’ve gone to far, haven’t I. I know what you are thinking. You are wondering what else I’m going to admit to doing. Hell, why not, let’s get it out of the road. I’d like to stress that I’m not constantly walking around, doing these things, they are very much (apart from one I guess) fairly random occurances and not something you could define me by…

Ohhh and Mother, dearest, sorry.

The bad habits of me

  • I pick my nails – hands and feet
  • I occasionally pick my nose
  • I fart (I get this from my Dad)
  • I sneeze without covering my mouth
  • I talk with my mouth full

I’m sure there are others but I can’t think of any.

OK, your turn, what bad habits do you have?

is apple evil?

Is Apple Evil? ~ “Apple is evil. At least it is if you subscribe to the notion that some corporations are good and most are evil. In reality, all corporations are pretty much the same, and if they do things you like then they’re “good,” and if they do things you don’t like, well, they’re “evil.” And lately Apple’s been doing some things people don’t like.”

Spanning the divide

I’ve been chasing this train of thought for a while now and decided to start writing my thoughts down in the vague hope that they come together in a way that makes sense to others. It seems to make sense to me but, as yet, there are a few grey areas into which I may stumble. So, not so much a train of thought but a car crash of ideas, if you will.

Shoddy metaphors aside, the main crux of my thinking is based in my efforts to find a central point around which I can arrange my knowledge. Obviously my knowledge of some areas is greater than my knowledge of others, but part of this exercise is to start to identify the areas in which I’m lacking and so allow me to investigate them further, to feedback into my train.. no.. car… umm, driveshaft??

OK, let’s start over.

The role of a technical writer is fairly varied, and merrily traipses through several distinct fields. Most technical writers will know a little (or a lot) about many topics, how to structure information or how to create a usable index, they will be also have some knowledge or awareness of, for example, typography and readability issues, they will have some knowledge of working with graphics, and they will also gain knowledge of the various tools they use. Suffice to say that the skill set and ‘earned’ knowledge a technical writer posseses is almost endless.

And that’s all before you consider how much they know about the products that they are documenting

So from that starting point we can see that technical writers already dip their toes into various pools of expertise.

Now, let me just changes hats for a second… right. I am now a web designer.

Look at the knowledge I have attained as a technical writer, with a web designer hat on, there are a lot of parallels. Some are direct, some not so obvious but still discretely linked, after all, regardless of the medium the two disciplines share key facets of importance; content and audience. The delivery mechanism is secondary to those at all times.

Web designers also span several different fields, with some knowledge of HTML, CSS and other languages (usually text based), they too worry about layout and typography to ensure readability is maintained, they plan what type of content will be created, and understand the need to structure that information in such a way that it is explorable. The parallels are many.

So, somewhere in my head I’m wondering why the two disciplines don’t seem to be talking to one another. Is it lack of visibility? Is it just me that thinks it is this way? Are there secret meetings going on as I speak?

One of the reasons I ask is because there is a wealth of information out there that focusses on web design, even spilling over into the social/community aspects of information sharing, which the technical writing world could use and leverage. Have a look at some of the articles on A List Apart, for example. Those which aren’t specifically about code tend to talk in terms of analysis, planning and design. All things I do as part of my job as a technical writer. Boxes and Arrows takes you into Information Architecture territory, with user experience key and, for many of us who work in software development and who can influence both the UI and the Use Cases that help constitute a software application, there is a lot of useful information that we can adapt for our own use.

And more begat more

Join up! They say. It’s fun, it’s cool, you can add friends, link to hundreds of people you don’t really know. And on and on. Whether it’s from the service itself, or from people using the service, the friendly, fun, “2.0” emails continue to flood my inbox.

Ignoring most I eventually pick one to try, and then it’s private messages, friend requests and a myriad of other nudges, pokes, tweaks and annoyances that . This is not the age of social interaction, nor the time of ‘community on the web’, this is the sneaky school bully, tripping you up as you walk past, leaving notes stuck to your back. Of course he never gets caught, he’s far to sly for that, but he’s always there needling away.

And so it is with some of the current crop of social or “Web 2.0” services. They are deplorably sneaky, sucking you in, enticing you with the promise of… well, what exactly? Are they preying on our insecurities, and offering pseudo-popularity that is based on the quantity of people you have in your list of “friends”. Or are we to believe that use of such everyday terms is pure chance? In saying that, it’s probably pure laziness that led to that decision, after all, what IS the collective term for “a group of people I know online” Webuddies, perhaps?

Presuming you fall for their charms (don’t feel bad, I did too), you’ll soon be peppered with even MORE spam (bacn?) from all those other poor saps that are desperate to be popular, desperate to be cool and hip and ahead of the curve (don’t feel bad, I do too). Of course there is no chance of any web service making you cool, no, not even blogging. I can say this safe in the knowledge that, despite several rather desperate attempts at such, I have resolutely failed to be cool at any point in my existence and have since given up any aspirations in that direction (don’t feel bad, I really don’t give a stuff, honest).

And here’s the thing. Once you have signed up to one of these ‘social services’, the more people you add, the more stuff you have to cope with, the more stuff you have to accept, delete and ignore. And on and on it goes, like some weird but friendly marshmallow that slowly engulfs you, lulling you with soft, sweet, deliciousness until you realise, a moment too late, that you are about to suffocate.

Of course such websites.. sorry “services”, love it. The more users they can attract, the higher their profit, the more users, the more interactions, the more invites, the more users, the higher the profits. And on and on. Some people have said this is the viral nature of the web, to which I ponder, what’s the cure? Where is the antidote? At what point does it stop?

When I opt out of course.

I ditched Facebook a few weeks ago, I don’t pownce on anything, and have no desire to be in bebo. My space is mine alone, and I’ll stumble upon where I like.

I will continue to use LinkedIn for the purpose of having a professional directory (links), and Twitter remains an amusing diversion into which I dip when a micro-distraction is required, but I know that that too, over time, will fade.

For me, sites like LinkedIn serve a purpose. The deluge of other sites seem to be useful but ultimately, are they? What do they do for you? And by that I mean what service do they REALLY provide, what value do they hold in your online life?

Don’t feel bad if you’ve sent me an invite that has been ignored, if you’ve tried to interact with me on any of the sites mentioned above, and more. This isn’t a dig at anyone just a reaction on my part, or more a realisation that, from here on, I’ll go looking for solutions to my problems, rather than reacting to the buzz.

State of the Union

Some council workers got sacked because they spent too much time on the internet (eBay in particular). Apparently this isn’t really their fault, with Union officials blaming bosses for “putting temptation in their way” – by allowing access to the internet.

Now, I’ve never had access to, or worked within an organisation that has, a Union but I thought they were supposed to help protect the workers? If so, how does this help?

And, without wanting to come across all curmudgeony, what is it with people these days? Can’t they just fess up and admit they were in the wrong?

There seems to be a feeling that if you make a mistake you no longer have to say sorry, you can just feign embarassment, mumble something about understanding that you made a mistake and then point the finger at someone else.

To those council workers who got sacked. I’m sorry you don’t have a job anymore, but IT IS YOUR OWN FAULT.

I say this whilst sitting in work, typing up a blog post but then again I don’t work in a prescriptive environment, I don’t have “tea breaks” or “lunch hours” I just have a contract and it’s down to me to be professional and thorough and get my work done. I can stop and start when I like. I’ve always worked in this kind of environment, and find anything else utterly bewildering.

There is a further thread to this, about the fall in moral values, work ethic and so on, part of which is aimed at the education system (kiboshed as it is by the people who, ultimately, run it) and an understanding the Unions are there to protect those who can’t protect themselves. But I’m going to leave it alone as, from this ivory tower in which I’m installed, EVERYTHING looks worse than it probably is…