Month: September 2011

Now I’m here

Ohh original… using a Queen song for the title…

But that’s the thing, I’m not here often, not writing, not capturing my thoughts for all to see. In fact I hardly write much of anything at all. No time at work (cos, you know, I’m Working) and no time at home (cos, you know, I’m working).

Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, I don’t MISS writing for this blog, I still write for my other “professional” blog but have had little to no inspiration for that other place where I tell tales, or to put it more accurately, I post all the waffly, badly written prose that I pretend is me being creative.

But then, sometimes, I think I’d quite like to take a couple of hours to just write. No interruptions, no deadlines, no expectations, because when I’ve tried to force myself to write something (aka Blogger’s guilt) it ends up being forced, rushed and looking back at some of those posts I wonder why I published them. But hey, published and be damned, and all that.

This blog has never had a real focus so it’s easy to let it drift, easy to find excuses as to why I don’t.

But then, why do I need an excuse?

Hmmm, this is turning into one of those “why do I blog? why should I blog? my blog is for me, screw you!” style musings. Which, for me, is interesting as I wasn’t sure what I was going to write but, for you, I’d imagine, dear reader, is more than a little tedious and… why are you still reading?

This blog is a diary. I have, and will continue to, use it to capture events in my life. Mostly because I have a shocking memory, but also because I like to write. I enjoy words, less so grammar (never been one for rules), and find the act of relaxing into a writing ‘zone’ very soothing. Almost regardless of what I’m writing about.

And now, I’m here.

At the end of this post.

TCUK11

I went to a conference and it was good!

As ever the Technical Communications Conference sparked thought, debate and no little amount of revelation. The sessions I managed to attend were all well presented, well considered and well received, and the chats over lunch, dinner and at the bar prove to me that I’m in a profession full of driven, smart and engaged people. My impression of the attendees this year suggests there is a definite change in the attitude of the audience as well, a little more upbeat and vocal, all of which bodes well for Technical Communications in 2012.

As ever, I took sporadic, and somewhat random notes, and I’m happy to share them with you all… YMMV as to whether you understand them or not.

Tuesday 20/09/11

Workshop: Using the Tech Author Slide Rule by Alice Jane Emanuel

Should we enter our documentation into industry competitions? Probably worth it purely from a feedback point of view.

Scoring spreadsheet used in the workshop will be useful in a number of ways as it will:
– show areas of specific improvement in the product documentation
– provide numerical data to show we are improving the quality of the information
– help everyone understand what is required to provide good quality information (particularly new starts in the team)
– reporting on the numbers will raise awareness of what we do (targetting an ‘area’ will alert people we consider this important)
– drive internal team discussions on how we improve quality (some of the scoring will be subjective, so will need discussion to get agreement), have whoever scored an area present back their thoughts

Wednesday 21/09/11

Opening Keynote: Patrick Hoffman (Google)

Icon Designer for Google Maps, Patrick discussed visual design, how the smallest details make a difference, the part context plays in cognitive understanding of graphics, as well as the impact of culture/location on that understanding.

Good icons present a single core message (remove the adjectives from the graphics?)

Content Strategy from the Trenches by CJ Walker & Karen Mardahl

Interesting presentation concept with CJ interviewing Karen, fireside chat style.

Content Filtering becomes a strategy, our ‘articles’ are just a filtered view on to the bulk of the content
Analytics data – what are we using it for?
Change team ethos to focus on value add, adding info to docs is how we add to the value of the product

Writing for reuse by David Farbey

Define your goals for re-use – what influences the process? Know where the goals may fail and plan around them.
Taxonomy – spreadsheet for areas of re-use (categories of information we expect to re-use)
Metadata needed – consistent naming a must
Information Types – we already have these, do they meet our needs? Do we need to review them?
The less you want to write, the more you have to plan

Forget about the book!

Concept topics – learning something (About the….)
Task topics – doing something (Configuring… )
Reference topics – knowing something (Lists/Facts/Tables)

Other topic types, what are they for?

Thursday 22/09/11

Pattern Recognition by Kai Weber and Chris Atherton

“To understand a pattern you need examples”

Code examples – must be consistent to let reader derive the pattern to understand the rules
Little used patterns degrade over time. People forget.

Difference between how learn

Experienced users: Top Down – Uses prior knowledge, concepts > elements, emphasises context, quick; sometimes wrong (knowing, generalising, contextualising, applying).
New Users: Bottom Up – No prior knowledge, elements > concepts, emphasises relations, slow; usually correct (experiencing, acquiring, matching, segmenting).

? What patterns should we have? What patterns do we have already?
TOC can be a pattern – consist info titles, build the pattern, e.g. “How to” always displays topics that look a certain way and contain certain information.

Opportunities for reuse between documentation and training by Linda Urban

Reuse definition – for docs – single sourcing, topic level, granular (para) re-use

Re-use is hard due to context:
Training is about learning, building skills
Documentation is about “I’m working”, help me, quick answers

Training is about approach and doesn’t (shouldn’t) cover everything

Documentation is an external repository of information
Training creates an internal repository of patterns/information

In practice, re-use sometimes means repurpose

Re-use sweetspots: integration points

Bigger picture: need to plan the information in tandem, docs should compliment the training and vice versa

And finally…

I have to mention the entertainment provide as part of the Gala Dinner. A genius of word play and smithery, Judge The Poet was brilliant and perfect for the conference audience! You can see some of his work here.

As well taking notes during the sessions I attended, I also took some time to showcase what will be come the new ISTC website (sneak peek here), and hosted the Rants session which a lot of, noisy, fun! Alice Jane Emanuel kindly took notes and I’ll be getting them published in next months InfoPlus newsletter.

Meander

 

What a funny word… meander.

Anyway, Saturday saw us doing just that, walking from my flat, down Byres Rd, stopping off for a coffee, a peek round some antiques shops, and on to the Riverside Museum where some mental people on bikes were flying through the air.

After that, we wandered… sorry meandered… back up the road, stopping at a couple of pubs on the way for a beer or two  (tip for Bloody Mary lovers, try the one at Brel on Ashton Lane, spicy!) before giving up and jumping in a taxi for the last stretch back to my flat.

I quite like days like that, no real plan, only a rough sense of some things that we could do. No rushing, just taking our time. Of course it did help that Saturday was a gloriously sunny day.

How to embed linked images in Word 2010

One of the most popular posts on my blog was written a few years ago but still gets a lot of visits and comments; How to embed linked images in Word 2007.

Some of the comments have offered better solutions and one in particular I found myself searching for today. Having upgrade to Office 2010 I’ve realised that Microsoft has, again, “improved” the user interface by moving things around!



So, courtesy of Sarah, here are the updated instructions for how to embed linked images in Microsoft Word 2010:

  1. With your Word document open, click the File tab, top-left of the window.
  2. On the left-hand side, select Info.
  3. On the right-hand side, near the bottom, click Edit Links to Files.
  4. In the dialog that is displayed, select and highlight the images you want to convert from the list.
  5. Check the Save picture in document checkbox.
  6. Click the Break Link button.
  7. Click OK to confirm.

The links are removed and the images are now embedded in your Word document.

A quick check of the filesize of the Word document should show a marked increase and you can now distribute the Word document, and the Word document only, safe in the knowledge that the images are embedded.

Finished!



Murrayfield Stadium, originally uploaded by Gordon.

In total I’ve raised over £850, so thank you to everyone who donated.

I quite enjoyed myself, thankfully the weather held and I almost managed it in my target of 4 hours (4hrs 7mins in total).

Add in cycling to and from Glasgow Green and I covered 69 miles on Sunday, no wonder my legs are a bit sore!

Will I do it next year… yeah.. maybe.

When life is good

I tend to forget about this little blog, more and more frequently I’m too caught up in the ‘now’ of things happening. Twitter is useful in that respect as it’s less daunting to use to capture a passing thought, no pressure to flesh it out into a longer blog post.

Cycling is going well, the ‘big’ cycle is on Sunday and I’m all prepared I think (bike is getting serviced tomorrow to make sure).

Love life is going well. Saying no more on that, but my face hurts from ALL THE GRINNING LIKE A LOON!

Work is going.. well it’s ok. Which is as good as being good!

So, I’m happy.

And if you are very lucky, you might get another scintillating blog post next week!

Next West of Scotland Area Group meeting

The next ISTC technical communicators’ meeting in Glasgow will take place on Thursday 13th October 2011, from 7.30 pm onwards.

As it’s happening just after the conference, I will be presenting a (short) report from the Technical Communication UK 2011 conference. 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.