Month: February 2011

Learning from others

Whilst compiling my column for the ISTC newsletter this month (I offer a round up of the ‘best’ blog posts from the past month, hugely subjective I know) I was worried I’d skewed the resulting list of blog posts somewhat.

You see the team I’m part of are about to embark on a couple of brainstorming workshops to try and better improve the quality of our work and, lo and behold, it seems that there have been a few blog posts last month that feature, or discuss, how to be better, how to improve quality.

I scanned back through my Instapaper account (an excellent bookmarking/article reading facility) but it was true, it seemed that other people were thinking similar things at a similar time.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but this kind of thing seems to happen too often to be just that. I wonder if there is some sort of cycle involved here, and that the people who share their ideas on blogs are falling into a similar pattern.

Or perhaps that pattern already existed but it’s only becoming evident now as more and more people discuss and share ideas online?

Regardless, that sharing of ideas is hugely beneficial and reminds me that I really should do more of that here. Whilst no two situations, companies, or teams are the same, there is always a common level of information and experience from which we can all learn.

Whether it’s back to basics reminders, or more in-depth analysis of a specific issue, being able to tap into the collective mind of so many talented, intelligent and helpful people is something that is worth remembering.

We are all awesome.

This Friday, for one night only

As I previously mentioned, I’ll be in London at the end of the week and, specifically, on Friday night I’ll be in the Ship & Shovell from around 6pm (probably earlier, I’m always early).

Several other people will turn up, some you may know online, some you may have met before, some you may have wanted to meet but haven’t managed to yet, and some you will want to meet even if you don’t have the foggiest idea who they are. You’ll also have to put up with me.

If you are thinking of going, but are a bit wary, please let me know. Most people will be bloggers/twitters, and none of them have two heads (ohh except him, but he always leaves early). It’s a ragged group of smart, funny, and down to earth people, the last twice I’ve managed to arrange something like this it’s been great fun.

Also, it’s in a pub. Pubs serve alcohol. What can be so bad?

Ohh and happy to exchange mobile numbers if you aren’t sure but want to check we haven’t moved on if you decide to come along (we won’t, although reception wasn’t great when I was last there), let me know.

Hope to see you all there, mine’s a Guinness!

Photo 101

I’ve packed in my photography course, largely because the ‘lecturer’ was about as far from a natural teacher as I could imagine and, whilst it’s interesting seeing someone talk about the photos they took, I couldn’t face sitting there for 3 hours a night, 10 weeks in a row, hearing story, after story, after story.

Still, I have a new camera and I’m determined to experiment. I’ve got precious little time in the coming weeks, but the lighter mornings and evenings have kicked in so that gives me a bit more scope as to when I can go for a wander with my camera.

I’m also going to take it to Brighton/London next week, so that’ll be fun. Never been to Brighton. I hope it doesn’t rain.

Regardless, it’ll be good to get some time with my new camera, re-teach myself the basics as, for the last year or so, all I’ve had is my iPhone. It was a deliberate decision, not to have any other camera, and I find myself far more prone to a quick snap with it, allowing me to leave the camera for when I want to be a bit more thoughtful/artistic/expressive.

Time will tell how my usage of both the iPhone as a camera will balance out now I have a dedicated camera again, but it’s gonna be fun whilst I find out.

ISTC West of Scotland meeting

The next ISTC technical communicators’ meeting in Glasgow will take place on Monday 21st February 2011, from 7.30 pm onwards. Come along to talk about latest news and trends in communication, or just to meet other communication professionals.

The event is free and open to anyone interested in technical communication, such as technical authors, information architects, internal communication professionals, report writers, marketing writers, web content writers and graphic designers.

Venue: Waxy O’Connors pub, 44 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 1DH. Please make your way to McTurk’s Room on the middle level.

Please forward this message on to your colleagues or anyone else who may be interested. For more information, contact westscotland_areagroup@istc.org.uk or visit http://istcwestofscotland.eventbrite.com/

On not writing

Typically, when I’ve a lot going on I’ll try and find some time to write things down. I find it hugely effective at understanding what I’m thinking, what emotions I’m going through and what I need to do next.

With everything that has happened to my Mum these past few weeks, I’ve been slowly jotting down notes and thoughts, with the aim of posting something here. But the longer it lies there, unposted, the less likely I think it is that I will post it.

When Mum had the first ‘attack’, I sat with her as she recovered. It was a horrible, horrible time, not knowing what was going on, being scared for her, of losing her, and a thousand other emotions that were flooding my every thought. It is a very personal thing and, I realise now, far more personal than I’d want to share on here (anymore).

I will say this though. Facebook rocks*.

I took the idea from a friend of ours who was rushed into hospital with a brain tumour. She’s recovered now but her husband kept us all up-to-date via Facebook. I’ve been doing the same with updates from my Mum.

You have no idea how much heart we have taken from your comments, and “Likes”. My Mum doesn’t know many of you, but your generosity and all round loveliness has really helped. Thank you.

* but it’s still mostly gash…

London Calling!

Right then you lot, let’s get this sorted out.

I will be in yonder London Town for a couple of days at the end of the month so this is your chance to meet a world renowned blogger, ply him with booze and hope that you can understand his Scottish brogue. Alternatively, it might just be me, but same rules apply. Apply booze. Repeat. Etc etc.

I’m flying down on the morning of the 24th (Thursday) for a couple of nights.

I’m already busy on the Thursday, drinks with my mate then on to The Rebels Elixir.

I’m staying in the city, so will spend the day with my new camera but as yet I have no plans for the evening of Friday the 25th. That’s where you come in!

I’ve managed to get a few people along for drinks in the past, and, let’s be honest, it’s an excuse for a few drinks, innit.

So, if you fancy a few drinks in the centre of London somewhere, leave a comment and suggest a venue. Somewhere central, easily accessible and cheap (I’m Scottish, remember) preferred. I don’t know London well enough to suggest anywhere so it’s IN YOUR HANDS!

What’s the worst that could happen?

Apart from bumping into me, that is…

Getting on track

Friday night, a delicious dinner at Stravaigin then on to drinks until the wee small hours.

Saturday a leisurely, lazy lie-in then it was off to Custom Inc to get booked in for some ink (roll on 8th March), and a trawl round DFS for a new sofa (delivered in 11 weeks, yes, cheap and cheerful, but it’ll do for now).

Visited my Mum on Saturday night, she’s much brighter every time I see her, and she’s starting to get some movement in her upper arm. Still slow progress, but it’s progress and that’s all that matters. Her sense of humour hasn’t ever really left her, and seeing her giggling away really helps us all.

Today, I’m going to finish off a couple of things that have been hanging over me for a few months now. Whilst they’ve not been the main cause of stress, they are still adding to a myriad of things that have made the last month pretty heavy going. I have been at my grumpiest, and certainly not firing on all cylinders but I’m determined to get past all that, get my head in a good place (as much as it ever is) and, in essence, get this year started properly.

Technology vs Emotion

Random thought: Has the rise of (talk of) emotional content (affective assistance) been driven by the concentration, over the last few years, on technological solutions?

Single sourcing, XML, DITA, DocBook, and all the rest have (rightly) taken our profession forward, so I guess it’s natural that the general trends, as well as refocussing on the content itself, are looking for how to better engage with a modern audience.

The evidence suggests that that modern audience is Facebooking, Twittering, and blogging, and wants content in easily digestable chunks.

That plays nicely into the hands of single sourcing (chunks) and the idea of emotional content through connecting to the user, using friendly language to make the content easily digestable.

So, if you’ve already got your technology sorted out, why aren’t you looking at how your content is presented?