Month: April 2010

Knowing Better

I am annoyed.

I am annoyed mostly at myself, largely because I knew this was something that needed done but didn’t do it for the usual reasons that everyone uses to put off doing anything. Too busy, too tired, not enough time, etc etc.

It’s one of those things that won’t take half as long as I think, and I’ll feel good for having done it.

I have everything I need to do the job, I just haven’t gotten round to it yet, and someone has pointed out that it needs done and that has made me annoyed at myself for not doing it.

But then, does anyone enjoy varnishing their porch?

And no, unfortunately, that is not a euphemism.

Twitter is useful

At the Technical Communications conference last year, I had a couple of discussions with people about Twitter. I was mostly trying to convince them of why I found it valuable, they were mostly of the opinion it was noise about what people had for lunch.

I’ve recently been reminded of the value Twitter can have, and again it’s thanks to a conference, specifically a conference I DIDN’T attend.

Like most people, budgets are limited when it comes to training and conferences, so there are limits to those I and the rest of my team can attend. The value gained from attending conferences is something we’ve proven in the past, but it doesn’t quite stretch to flying across the pond to conferences like WritersUA (yet).

Previously that would mean relying on, perhaps, someone writing up their thoughts and posting them to a mailing list, maybe the conference website would have some useful information, or maybe you’d happen to know someone who had attended and they’d share their findings with you.

Blogs came along and changed that, making it much easier for anyone to post their thoughts and for anyone to read them.

But the real value is starting to be realised through Twitter. The “back-channel” chatter is becoming a key part of technical conferences, allowing attendees to share their views in real-time (or very shortly after the fact) and those instant discussions and sharing of ideas gives a good indication of the mood of the attendees of the conference at the time. These can then be complimented by extended ‘thought-pieces’ on blogs and suchlike, whilst retaining a bit of the buzz of the conference in real-time.

There are downsides to this (a recent conference displayed the Twitter hashtag feed behind the presenter which was a bad idea) but they aren’t the fault of Twitter.

Beyond conferences, Twitter continues to be useful to me, largely through people sharing links to useful websites, resources and articles*, as well as the more direct interactions, Q&A style.

It’s a brave new world, this social media lark but it really is making a difference. Why not join in?

* I use a service called ReadTwit which monitors my Twitter account for any posted links, I can monitor this service via RSS so I never miss a link (warning, if you follow hundreds of people, you will be overwhelmed by the number of links!)

Still here

Am packing, send boxes! and Jaffa Cakes!!

We are packing, splitting up fragments of our life into cardboard boxes. We are trying to do this whilst keeping the house looking tidy and clean for any potential viewers, so the boxes are stacked in the garage. Not ideal but it’ll do for now.

We’ve had one viewer, who will be back for another viewing soon hopefully, and two other hopefuls. So, once again, we’ll make the bed, tidy up as we go, and generally live in a house that is already starting to feel less and less like ours.

Which, given the circumstances, isn’t a bad thing. Easing our way into the future.

In other news, went to see Kick Ass at the cinema yesterday (it was something to do as we had to be out of the house anyway). What a brilliant movie! Well written, didn’t take itself too seriously and hey, what other movie has a small girl with kung fu moves, a predilection for knives and guns and who utters the line … ok, no spoilers, just drag over this gap if you wanna know what she says (contains swearies!) “Okay you cunts… Let’s see what you can do now! “.

As I said on Twitter “Just watched Kick Ass. Was it good? The clue is in the title of the movie. Irreverent fun at its best!“.

Slides and notes

Yesterday I gave a presentation on blogging as part of a series of eSeminars arranged by Adobe. The slides (shown above) can be downloaded from my slideshare account.

Also of note was the live Twitter stream that Dawn Gartin posted throughout my talk, it almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about, thanks Dawn!

Recording of my session is now available (featuring myself & RJ Jacquez)
Part one (with David Farbey & Noz Urbina) is also available.

I’ve also written up my presenter notes and made them available, just in case you can’t quite make out what I’m saying.

On Shopping

I’m a terrible shopper.

If I’m shopping for something I need I’m just the worst person, unable to make a decision because, well, what if there is a cheaper option in the next shop, or a better model for the same price, or maybe I won’t suit that colour?

Terrible.

If I’m shopping for something specific I tend to weigh up my options a million times, then a few times more just to make sure.

But when I’m shopping for anything, when I have no real need and I’m just enjoying browsing random shops, then I’m a wonderful shopper, I’m a positive spendaholic. I see all sorts of things that I like and would happily purchase them all if I had the money, and somewhere to put them.

I have no real fixed style so that could be very dangerous. I’m easily influenced by kitsch, and impractical items seem to draw me in and shout “YOU MUST HAVE ME”.

So how I managed to spend a wonderful few hours in Glasgow yesterday and only buy two things, both of which I needed (after a fashion) is beyond me.

And no, this isn’t another post analysing what goes in my head because I’m starting to let go of all that stuff. I think this will stand me in good stead when I get my own place. The art on the walls will be entirely down to me, so I will allow myself a moment or two to ponder such purchases and if I like it, even if I’m not sure where it would go, I’ll probably buy it.

This is the thing about having a quiet weekend. Shopping on Saturday morning was fab, and I got to spend all day today thinking about it all over again.

I do wish I’d bought that little pewter bird though..

A Super-Role for Technical Communicators?

Are you bored of all this talk of social media? Still not quite sure what it’s all about or why you should bother with it? What IS an Information Platform anyway?

Maybe an eSeminar or two would help?

As I mentioned last month, Adobe sponsored a supplement for the ISTC Communicator magazine, in which four very handsome* and wonderfully talented** gentlemen put forth their ideas and thoughts on social media in various guises.

Caveat: I may be one of said gentlemen.

Since then, Adobe has setup two eSeminars to allow each of us to expand on our articles and hopefully get some more excitement and buzz about social media into the Technical Communications industry.

The first eSeminar took place on Tuesday this past week, and there will be a recording available soon (I’ll post the link here). David Farbey and Noz Urbina talk up a storm and offer some good advice on how and why social media offers a great opportunity for technical communicators, it’s well worth a listen.

The second eSeminar, featuring yours truly and the velvet tones of RJ Jacquez, is happening on Tuesday next week. I’ll be covering why you should consider blogging as a route to starting a conversation with your customers, and RJ will outline some thoughts on the possibilities that social media brings to our profession.

Exciting times, and I’ll add one more link to keep you all going. Yes I’ve mentioned it before but if you have queries on whether this social media thing is worth all this noise then this book will answer your questions, and stimulate your mind (and the author, Anne Gentle, is keynote speaker at this years UA Conference.

* may not be true

** is mostly true

Are you interruptable?

Over the past couple of years my job has changed. I have the same title and job description as I did before but the structure of my day is dramatically different.

I certainly don’t do much writing any more, other than the odd page or two here and there. Instead I find myself discussing strategies, planning phases of work, and generally communicating with other parts of the company as best I can.

I’m also permanently interruptable.

Part of my responsibilities is as line manager to a small group of people within the R&D team. Obviously the team of technical writers forms part of that, and there are also some developers in there as well. I’m not involved as a day to day manager, instead I’m there for what I guess most people would call the ‘HR’ side of things, including organising appraisals and, where needed, some coaching.

So between those responsibilities, and my own work I tend to spend most of my week talking to people. Either in meetings, or for a quick update on things and despite having my own set of priorities I am more than happy to be interrupted.

A long time ago, when I took my first role as a team leader, I was given some advice that has stuck with me, namely that my main role was to help everyone else in the team do their job to the best of their abilities. That means removing obstacles, dealing with problems and generally making sure that all they need to worry about is their work.

I’m permanently interruptable because that’s my job.

It took me quite a while to realise this, and getting yourself into a position to be interruptable isn’t all that easy. You need a good team around you (which I have) and you need to trust them and delegate to them as much as you can (I trust them, and I’m working on that delegation thing!).

There is always the thought, when you are new to being a manager, of ‘dumping’ on people when you delegate work or ownership of something but I’ve seen that the opposite is true. Most professionals enjoy being challenged, and giving them responsibility is a direct indication of how much you trust them. Yes they might have to step their game up, but that’s all part and parcel of that thing they call a career.

Are you interruptable? Should you be?

Rock and Roll

A quick update on my rock and roll lifestyle.

On Monday night I spent most of the evening surfing the internet, online window shopping for new furniture and other bits and bobs.

Last night I spent some of the evening flicking through catalogues, browsing for new furniture and other bits and bobs.

Jealous, aren’t ya.

To be honest it’s fun and a little bit exciting, a new start, a clean slate and I’m only slightly bamboozling myself with all the choice out there, what is my style, when DO I buy an iPad? So many questions!

In other news, I’ve decided to vote Lib Dem, but that’s not really that important. Right?

Anyway, how the hell are you?

Virtual Shopping

I’m the worst person in the world when it comes to buying big ticket items as I find myself lost in endless loops of reviews, recommendations, better options, different options, cheaper deals, discounts and before long I start to lose interest and end up just not buying something or, more often than not, I end up just buying ‘something’ which may or may not actually be the best option.

A friend of mine once commented on this when she asked for some advice on which mobile phone she should buy next, stating “I know you like to research these things a lot”.

Which at face value is true but, as it turns out, isn’t really true at all.

Funny how that happens. A lot.

See it’s not that I enjoy the researching process, it’s more than I’m scared to make a decision. Scared to decide that, yes, I WILL buy a Mac Mini, a big hard drive and use that as my main computer because there might actually be a better, and most certainly cheaper, option out there, it’s just that I’m not aware of it.

The new car was blighted with similar rounds of research, ponderingments and other such procrastinations. Admittedly most of the big manufacturers have ‘build your own car’ style configurators on their websites, which is always fun, but ultimately pointless as you never pay full price for a car, ever.

So whilst I sit here and think about buying sofas, beds, and other living room furniture (I won’t want for bookcases but few of them match..), I veer from my desire for minimalism and style, to what I can sensibly afford, to what I can afford at a stretch and then back to wonderous items that are just beyond my price range no matter which way I cut it. So I start over, with a budget in mind and still end up with too many options.

This affliction used to blight me when shopping for smaller items, clothes and whatnot, but I conquered that part of it by only ever visiting shops that I know are within my price range and trusting my first instinct.

Things is, when it comes to the big ticket items, my first instinct is usually the most expensive. It’s not that I choose things based on price, it’s usually the last thing I look at, but I seem to have expensive tastes.

Anyway, I need to stop THIS procrastination and make a decision.

This one, or this one?

Desire to create

I have a Tumblr account and spend far too long on the main website, randomly surfing and finding all manner of wonderous things to “reblog”. It’s an interesting place, filled with angst-ridden teens, provoking artists of many forms and twats like me who don’t actually create anything.

I use Tumblr mostly for capturing things in a very random scrapbook kinda way, song lyrics, quotes, photos, images, videos, the digital detritus that lodges in my filters is spewed onto Tumblr for the delight of, well, me.

There is a part of me that still hankers to be creative, be it writing, or photography (although the latter can be simple bastardry itself). And I guess that in itself reveals a further reason as to why I find Tumblr so alluring as it offers inspiration and ideas.

Ohhh and a word to the wise, Tumblr also contains its fair share nakedness, you have been warned (or advised, whatever you prefer!).