Month: March 2010

[insert title]

This is where a blog post would be if I had something I could or even wanted to post about.

There would no doubt be some sentences, maybe a little attempt at humour, a quip or a pun, there MAY EVEN BE TEXT IN CAPITALS to signify that I’m feeling slightly indignant about something, or just as a poor way to emphasis a word or point (poor because I lack the necessary vocabulary to express said point in a manner which you’d understand through lowercase text alone).

There may also be parenthesis to include additional clauses that I think help explain something I’ve just said.

There won’t be all that much text in italics.

And finally I’d try and wrap it all up, make sure I’ve not offended anyone and then go and get some dinner because I’m starving.

But, for now, I’ll just leave you with this.

I hope you have found the time and space useful.

Be happy.

Yours “doesn’t have much to say but can’t NOT say anything”

Gordon

Ada Lovelace

Thanks to my Mum for reminding me that today is Ada Lovelace Day.

Who is Ada Lovelace?

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852), born Augusta Ada Byron, was an English writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; as such she is often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.

What is the point of Ada Lovelace Day?

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

Who are your unsung heroines?

Not written, yet

Quite a lot going on at the moment, but don’t worry dear blog reader I’ve not forgotten about you, I’ve still got plenty of things to post here just not really finding the time (or requisite brain power) to focus on them and think them through properly.

Here are some of the things I’ve started to write about but not yet posted.

In other words, “here are the posts languishing in DRAFT”.

  • Content from the ISTC and STC publications, why isn’t it all free?
  • Social Media Models, where I try and outline what I think are the models that we, as technical communicators can get the most value from adopting
  • The evils of presumption
  • Embracing user-generated content
  • Small social media. If your ‘community’ is very small, what will work for you?
  • How to stop thinking about documents

I will hopefully revisit some (all?) of these in the future, but before all that I have an eSeminar to prepare for, more details on that soon.

Role of Social Media


A few months ago I was approached to write a piece that would be featured in a special supplement for the ISTC Communicator magazine. The supplement, sponsored by Adobe, was to be titled “The role of social media in technical communication” and after my presentation on blogging at the Technical Communications conference last year, I was asked to expand on my thoughts about blogging.

There are three other articles in the supplement, all of which look at different ways we can leverage the advantages of social media within the realm of technical communications.

Noz Urbina of Mekon opens with his vision of how we can use social media to help users get the most out of products and services, David Farbey suggests some of the ways social media can help solve some of the problems we all face as technical communicators, and RJ Jaquez of Adobe looks at how using social media can (and should) change the role of the technical communicator within a company by offering a direct way to connect to customers.

It’s a fascinating read and you can download the entire supplement here.

The long wait

Travelling back from London last week, I landed at Glasgow on time so knew I had 30 minutes to kill until I was getting picked up. Plenty of time for a coffee and to continue reading the book that had held me engrossed for the short flight.

Seating was at a premium, but I spotted a low, comfy looking seat over by the window, across from a man who was sitting quietly, staring out the window. I enquired if the seat was taken, he assured me it wasn’t.

I sat down and, as I tipped some sugar into my coffee he turned to me and asked where I was going.

“Ohh I’m actually just back from London, just waiting on getting picked up. You?”
“I’m waiting too, my wife lands in three hours and I know I’m a bit early but I’ve not seen her three months as she couldn’t get a work permit”, he said.

And so I found myself chatting to a complete stranger about how he had travelled to China to receive treatment for a rare disease, a disease that had brought about the end of his 15 year long marriage, and how he had met and fallen for one of the nurses who had cared for him whilst he was there.

He was very open, talking about how close to death he had been, about his divorce, and about how excited he was to be seeing his new wife again. He talked with passion about China, the people and the culture, he talked with fondness about his wife, and his ex-wife, he told me about how his sons had been accepting and understanding, and the whole time he smiled.

I don’t know his name. I don’t know if his wife’s plane landed on time, I don’t know if his disease will kill him in the next few years, or whether he will out live me.

But I like to think she turned up and they are as happy as he looked that day when he was talking to me.

Upcoming ISTC Events

Organised under the ISTC, we hope you can join us for these events which are complimentary and open to all.

London Group, Adobe Offices, Regent’s Park
Sponsored by Adobe
What: The Potential of using Video in Technical Communication

When: Friday April 30th, 13:30 – 16:30
Followed by Drinks Reception and Finger Buffet hosted by Adobe
Where: Adobe Systems, 12 Park Crescent, Westminster, London W1B 1PH
Who: Everyone’s welcome (there’s no need to be an ISTC member), but places are limited
Cost: FREE

About This Event
Video is beginning to be used more frequently in technical communication. This event offers you the chance to get to grips with the basics, offering a hands-on introductory training session with Adobe Captivate, one of the popular tools available for creating and editing this type of video. We’ll also explore some of the pros and cons of using video in technical communication in a short discussion, and there’ll plenty of opportunities for networking and talking over your ideas with other technical communicators in your area over refreshments.

Matt Wicks is a professional trainer and developer of applications and eLearning within the Flash platform. He is expert in Captivate, and will provide an in-depth training session on the uses of this application for Technical Communicators.

To reserve your place, contact Elaine Cole: istc@istc.org.uk

New! Southern Group, The Brittania pub, Guildford
What: Social/networking meeting

When: Monday March 22nd, 18:30 – 21:00
Where: The Brittania, 9 Millmead, Guildford, GU2 4BE
(5 minute walk from Guildford station public car park outside pub)
Who: Everyone’s welcome (there’s no need to be an ISTC member); if you’re interested in technical communications and you’re in the area, come and meet your peers
Cost: FREE to attend; you’ll need to buy your own refreshments at the bar

About This Event
This is the first meeting of this brand new group, and will offer an opportunity to meet other technical communicators in the area in an informal setting.

Coming up!
The Southern Group is already planning an April event which will include presentations by fellow professionals. Watch out for more details in the ISTC’s InfoPlus+ newsletter.

To attend the March event or to register your interest in the April event, contact Elaine Cole: istc@istc.org.uk

Cambridge Group, CB2 Bistro, Cambridge
What: Social/networking meeting

When: Thursday March 25th, 19:00 – 21:30
Where: CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge
Who: Everyone’s welcome (there’s no need to be an ISTC member); if you’re interested in technical communications and you’re in the area, come and meet your peers
Cost: FREE to attend; you’ll need to buy your own refreshments at the bar

About This Event
This is an opportunity for anyone interested in technical communication to get together with like-minded people in an informal setting, over drinks and/or dinner (some attendees will be ordering a meal, but it’s not obligatory).

To attend this event or register your interest in future Cambridge events, email Richard Truscott and Jeff Bronks: cambridge_areagroup@istc.org.uk

5 am

It’s still dark and somewhere two birds are singing, beautiful trills and chirrups fill the air.

My head is full of other things though, but then it usually is, and right now it seems to be full of random thoughts about work.

Which is why, I think, I’m awake.

I’m a bit pissed off with my brain to be honest, it knows fine well I’m not feeling well yet did everything it could to urge me from my slumber and, despite my best efforts to stay tucked up under the warm sanctuary of the duvet, an hour after wakening I decide to give up and get up.

I’m sure I’ll be fine. You only need 5 hours sleep, right?

Of course getting up at 5am signals to a certain small black cat that perhaps, maybe, there might be the possibility of, if it’s not too much trouble, and if I remind you by nibbling on your leg every 10 seconds, it might just be time to put some cat food into a bowl.

He’s two hours too early though so tough.

Instead I’ll sit here quietly, listening to the dawn symphony and ponder the beautiful things in life.

Because, frankly, TV at 5am is utterly shit.

Highs and Lows

Saturday morning, a list clutched in my hand as we ventured out early. A few things to buy, a couple of things to do, a productive day stretched ahead.

Saturday afternoon, things have been bought, and one item on the list has been started but not finished.

This is largely due to the rapid onset of a sore throat, possibly brought about whilst trying (and failing) to wash the car using a Karcher pressure washer that we inherited from the my in-laws.

I always know when I’m not well, I tend to be a ‘sleeper’ when I’m ill as I very quickly lose all sense of energy and waves of complete lethargy wash over me. My legs become wobbly and unstable, and so I sleep. And sleep.

Admittedly the Calcutta Cup game didn’t help with said lethargy…

At this point I should probably tell the story of the time I was very ill, knew I was very ill but my Mother sent me to school anyway.

Long story short, I had the chickenpox and a day or so later I was bed-ridden and delirious. It might well have been the most ill I’ve ever been. And my Mother sent me to school. Happy Mother’s Day? Sheesh!!

Looking back, whilst I didn’t realise how ill I was, it was the same type of symptoms that I get today. Doesn’t seem to matter HOW ill I am, it’s the same type of thing, and the same solutions apply. Sleep and cravings for comfort food.

So, after 11 hours sleep last night I managed to crawl out of my death bed and visit my Mum to make sure she knows just how fab she is, and that I really, truly, don’t hold any grudges about that day.

Now, have I ever mentioned how my Mum wouldn’t let me have a denim jacket when I was younger?

The Wrong Domain

For a few years now I’ve randomly been checking the WHOIS records for the mclean.co.uk domain, and throughout that time it’s sat there, holding nothing but adverts and any attempt by me to contact the owner with a view to purchasing said domain for a “reasonable” fee have fallen on increasingly deaf ears.

Yes, it’s pure vanity/ego at play but I did have plans to offer email addresses to my entire family (and a few cousins too) so it wasn’t entirely unselfish. My Mum and Dad have done a lot of genealogy research which was something else I had toyed with hosting under that domain name.

And now, it’s gone. Bought (for a stupid fee no doubt) by a record company.

I’m a bit pissed off about the whole thing to be honest.

Yes I know the person who originally bought the domain name was entirely within their rights. Yes when you visit this very site you will see that I have adverts here although I’d counter that with the small fact that I provide content as well (even if the quality is rarely all that high), and yes he didn’t have to sell it to me just because I wanted it.

I get all that.

It’s just… well, it’s fucking annoying. Alright?

Never fear though as I have a cunning plan. I’m going to find a domain name that no-one has yet bought, purchase it and change my name! Ha ha! That’ll teach those annoying domain squatters.

Yours,

Gordonisawesome (c/o www.gordonisawesome.co.uk)

Further Webhelp hacking

I mentioned in my previous post that we run a webhelp build of our content (a.k.a. our Knowledge Centre) on our developer community website, and that it was hosted in an iframe. I thought it worthwhile fleshing out the detail of that as it includes a bit of custom code some others might find useful.

As our content is locked behind a login, we need to be sure that only people who are logged in can access it. This is achieved by a couple of simple checks.

1. When the Knowledge Centre is loaded, a script runs that checks it has been loaded within the correct iFrame within our website. If it’s not, the user is redirected to the login page.

The javascript for this is added to the webhelp.js file (around line 106):

//———– init function ————
Kbase.init = function() {

//OUR redirect
if(window.top.location==window.location) {
window.top.location = ‘URLTOYOURIFRAME’;
}

2. If the Knowledge Centre has been loaded in the correct iFrame (in other words the above javascript is happy), the website checks for a cookie (checking for login) and then either loads the Knowledge Centre, or, again, redirects the user to the login page. The javascript for this is standard cookie checking stuff (google will find you a zillion solutions).

And that’s it. Nothing particularly clever, but a useful way to (lightly) protect the content of our Knowledge Centre.