Access is good

Yesterday we launched a new version of our developer community website. It doesn’t have many ‘community’ features as yet but that’s all to come. One thing it does now have is an HTML version of all of our product documentation, in an easily searchable format. It’s no coincidence that it looks very much like the Author-it Knowledge Center as it too was built using Author-it (alas I can’t show you our website as it requires a login). This new format of the product documentation is largely to move us away from PDF only documentation. At present we still have a set of PDFs but they aren’t particularly usable. We ran a few quiet trials of the knowledge centre format and …

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Skunk Anansie

A long time ago, in a blue football stadium, I saw Skunk Anansie support a certain 80s rock band (ohh ok, it was Bon Jovi, now shush). The day wasn’t a great one, the weather was crap, the PA system poor and the entire day was largely forgetable. At the time Skunk Anansie were about as popular as they got, and I can remember how disappointed I was coming away from that gig. Last night, reformed and with a Greatest Hits package to push, they appeared in Glasgow and OH MY GOD they really delivered. It took a couple of songs to get going but it’s easily the most energetic performance I’ve seen for a while, and the crowd reacted …

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Olivia Newton John

They make me laugh, if I’m honest. Not out loud, and not heartily, and there is a level of wonder and envy but, ultimately, I laugh at their preening and posing. But never to their face. As I puff and wheeze, legs failing on the bike as I crank out another kilometre, I can see them out of the corner of my eye. The clank of the dumbbells, those big weighty lumps explode into movement and then fall still. There is a fluidity, a raw power behind what they do, but the effects can be grotesque. So I happily ignore them, leave them to their posturing. Such big proud men, so silly in their masculinity. There was a time I …

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Information Strategy Pyramid

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. As such, it stands to reason that two monkeys would be able to produce the same volume of output, but are unlikely to write exactly the same thing. Add in a few more monkeys to the equation and suddenly you have lots of content, none of which really relates to anything else. I’ll stop with the monkey metaphor before I insult anyone. Consistency is an important part of communication, even at the simplest level of having a common terminology, using the same words …

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Change of scenery

Having a few days off, I had it in the back of my mind to do some writing. Nothing particularly serious but just to write and see what happened. The problem I had was getting rid of distractions. If I sit at my desk, then there is always a wee pile of things to get done, various notes and other detritus to distract my attention … ohh that reminds, I need to order a replacement bank card, ack! see how easy it is. I use programs like Q10 (for the PC) and WriteRoom (for the Mac) to help remove onscreen distractions, but I realised I need a cleaner physical space as well. Until such times as I can completely clear …

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Chapter 5

As he walks towards the entrance the nerves swell in his stomach. He remembers a phrase his Dad used for such occasions, “healthy fear” he used to called it, uttering it before every football game, exam and even on the night of his first date. He reaches for the doorknob just as the door swings open, and a tall dark haired girl totters past him, heels clicking on concrete. He turns his head to catch a final glimpse of her as he steps forward through the open door. The dull light of the corridor mirrors the smell of age and he wonders again why he is here, why he said yes after all those strange questions, why he found himself …

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Time off

Being off work for the next few days, giving me a nice long weekend, means I have time to get some stuff done around the house, and more importantly some time to myself to chill out. The last few weeks have been pretty stressful at work and at home, and part of me would quite like to just lock the door, pulled the blinds and hide away. That’s the selfish part of me, and I try not to succumb to it too much, not that I get much of a chance to anyway, there’s always something else that needs attended to, something else that must get done, and someone else we need to visit. Anyhoo, I have no real plans, …

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How soon is now?

How early do you get involved in a project? At the start? Part way through once the scope has been set? Or once the design has been agreed? Or do you swoop in at the end and document whatever you find? One common complaint a lot of technical writers have is that they aren’t included early enough in lifecycle of a project. The downsides are that by the time work hits your desk you don’t have a full picture of who the customer is, why they want whatever it is you are building, and how they want it provided to them. All of which directly impacts the information being created. So how do you, the lowly technical writer, make sure …

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I am not style

On Saturday I found myself in a large department store in Glasgow. I was there to purchase a shirt, possibly two, to get me through the endless round of Christmas nights out, lunches and whatnot that will inevitably start to pile up towards the end of the year. So I was looking for the smart/casual combination and as I wandered round I started to realise that I’m not style and, frankly dear reader, I never have been. Don’t get me wrong, growing up I succumbed to the fashion senses of the day, I had a plastic, neon orange belt, neon pink and yellow socks (always worn with one colour on one foot, the other on the other), and the tartan …

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All fizzle, no bang

and when they light up our town I just think, what a waste of gunpowder and sky I’m sat inside, gazing out the window as the some of the surrounding neighbours set off fireworks. The night is peppered with dull thumps and brittle crackles, garish green flares against black, and in my head the quiet melancholy descends. It’s been a long, tiring day, facilitating meetings, full of good and bad. I know not to take some of the criticsms personally but they resonate and my natural empathy kicks in. I feel the annoyance and pain, I share the frustration that some things aren’t better, yet I get no gain from the good, from the laughs of the team, their in-jokes …

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