Tag: DON

Private Private

Continuing the terrible titles, this is a take on Catch-22, for no particular reason other than being able to play on the word “private”. Think yourselfs lucky I didn’t choose the schoolboy route and go with “Show us yer privates”.

Oddly the only reason I’m writing about this is because Twitter is currently dead, if it wasn’t then my comment on the issue would’ve been something along the lines of “@plasticbag – nice pic on BBC website! And don’t some people get in a tizzy sometimes..”.

At this point I should probably explain that I’m talking about the recently opened Fire Eagle service which

“… stores information about your location. With your permission, other services and devices can either update that information or access it. By helping applications respond to your location, Fire Eagle is designed to make the world around you more interesting! Use your location to power friend-finders, games, local information services, blog badges and stuff like that…”
[from Fire Eagle help page]

It’s a smart idea, and one which plays nicely into the fact my iPhone has GPS built-in so I can ping exact location information back to the Fire Eagle website at any time I choose. Clever.

But, of course, the privacy nutters (I use the term advisedly) have leapt all over this, stating that locational information could be stored by any of the 3rd party websites or applications that use Fire Eagle and then they’ll know where you have been!

Don’t get me wrong, I realise such things could be abused but from what I can make out Fire Eagle has considered such things. For starters they let you control the level of granularity of the geographic information that you share with other services, from pinpoint co-ordinates to a “I’m near this city” level location. Whilst you can purge your current location from the service at anytime, the privacy busters are more concerned about the historical information that could be stored.

Now I can see that will be an issue for some people, and that having a system know where you’ve been is worrying as it will, no doubt be used to guess where you will be at a given time and then… umm… yeah. Not sure what happens then.

Worse is the possibility of a hi-tec burglar watching out for your location changing before breaking and entering your house. These days I’d guess it’s not that hard to find an address for someone who looks rich, use Google maps to get the geographic co-ordinates of their home and then just wait until they update Fire Eagle with a new location (hey hang on, that DOES sound simple, eep!!).

Or, you know, if you are worried about it DON’T USE IT!!

And no, I’m sorry but the argument of “some people won’t know any better” doesn’t cut it. If they don’t know any better why are they signing up for a service they don’t understand? The Fire Eagle website does a pretty good job of telling people what it is all about so perhaps we need to shift a little responsibility on to the individual?

I’m sure some of you have stronger opinions on this topic than I do, I’d love to hear them. But be prepared to be mocked for, if I’m honest, I really don’t believe the end of the world is nigh because someone knows where I am.

Conversation V.I.P.s

Revisiting an old post over on the Cherryleaf blog, where Ellis was prompted to ask “Can technical authors be part of ‘the conversation’ in the connected Web 2.0 world that’s emerging?” (excuse the paraphrasing).

As a long-term blogger, and someone who believes that there are many tools in the Web 2.0 world that can and should be embraced by technical communicators, I immediately started thinking about this. It’s taken until now for me to distill my rambling thoughts into something coherent. Mainly because it’s a fairly open-ended topic, and because his post includes several questions:

  1. If we are going to be part of the conversation, will we be let in?
  2. What would make people do that?
  3. Once we are in the conversation how can we best add value to that conversation?
  4. Will engaging with a community in a social networking environment create a new and better way of providing user assistance?
  5. Will social networks create an opportunity for technical communicators to eavesdrop a conversation as well as take part of it?
  6. Will the rise of streaming websites both for audio and video such as YouTube enable technical communicators to be more viral in their efforts to provide effective user assistance?
  7. Will technical communicators see snippets of their technical information embedded in other people’s Web pages?
  8. Might the lines between technical support and technical authors start to cross over?

I left a comment on the Cherryleaf blog, which I’ll expand on here, but the jist was that I think Technical Communicators are (can be, should be) the social web of the workplace.

However, I guess we first need to understand what we mean when we refer to the “the conversation in the connected Web 2.0 world”. The fact that you are reading this blog suggests that you are already au fait with the Web 2.0 world, and are probably familiar with the popular commenting system most blogs have. That is one part of the conversation, a direct dialogue with the author and with others who have an opinion on the current topic. Now, take that conversation, expand it on your own blog, mention it in your Facebook, add a publically shared link to your del.icio.us account, or even link to it using Twitter… all of those expand the conversation by increasing the audience. There are other examples but you get the gist, the Web 2.0 world allows multiple discussions, centred around one conversation, to take place in different places, with different people and provides them ALL with a way to find out what everyone else is saying.

Needless to say, information is the key component of these discussions, and it is at this point that you realise just how valuable that information has become. Because information is now passed around, diluted, distilled and deconstructed, then rebuilt, reposted and reworked, in multiple places by multiple people with multiple aims, then the person who is central to that information becomes a V.I.P. indeed.

Whether we like it or not, our primary role SHOULD become information guardians. That will mean less writing, and more knowledge/information management and architecture. It will mean a shifting of skill sets towards new areas, where there is no best practise only gut feel, and the embracing of openness. Information will still need to be filtered, focussed and published, but once you’ve set it free, you’ll also need to nurture it as it develops. The delivery of information, naturally, becomes paramount.

We are the ONLY people (in the IT space) that can fill this role properly, and so getting a foot on the rung now will stand us in good stead. Embracing Web 2.0, and thinking about content rather than documents is a small step but a vital one.

So, let’s revisit those questions:

  1. If we are going to be part of the conversation, will we be let in?
    Why are we waiting for an invite? Perhaps the future of technical communications models itself on sales and marketing rather than the technical departments. If WE want this, WE need to grab it.
  2. What would make people do that?
    Convincing others of the growing value of information is paramount. Those that get it will embrace the change and happily let us push the conversation forward, those that don’t will flounder.
  3. Once we are in the conversation how can we best add value to that conversation?
    By monitoring it, gently tweaking it, and making sure it has a useful life, wherever it is. This may mean collaborating with your competitors, it may mean sourcing information externally, but as long as you remember that the conversation is a big value-add to the information, then you won’t go far wrong.
  4. Will engaging with a community in a social networking environment create a new and better way of providing user assistance?
    Yes. How can it not? Is it better to lock away your information, leave the users to stumble around for their own solutions and create a distrust of the information you provide, or be open, honest and provide assistance as and where needed, realising the value, power and benefits of having a thriving user community?
  5. Will social networks create an opportunity for technical communicators to eavesdrop a conversation as well as take part of it?
    Yes and no. Yes, you will be able to eavesdrop but I’d encourage that to only be used in the “monitoring” sense. Get involved, ask your own questions, post your own thoughts.
  6. Will the rise of streaming websites both for audio and video such as YouTube enable technical communicators to be more viral in their efforts to provide effective user assistance?
    Possibly. I would argue that information shouldn’t be viral but expected. However, it may be a useful way of raising awareness and kick starting the conversation in the first place.
  7. Will technical communicators see snippets of their technical information embedded in other people’s Web pages?
    Yes. Why not? It’s not “your” technical information really, it’s information for the uses of your product. In fact, if you DON’T see this happening then the conversation is failing.
  8. Might the lines between technical support and technical authors start to cross over?
    Yes. There are already signs that this is happening. Ultimately, a conversation friendly company won’t care WHO is doing the talking, as long as the conversation is taking place.

There does seem to be a trend in our profession to expect things to happen a certain way, only for them to pass us by in favour of others. Ellis makes the point that Technical Communicators should’ve been more involved during the rise of Intranets, yet that never happened. The same may be happening already, with the Web 2.0 conversation already taking place. Yes, that’s right. Somewhere, people are already talking about you and your product. It may be on their blog, in a Wiki or forum, or maybe it’s all hidden away in emails and instant messages. Regardless, the conversation has already started.

So go and find these people, get to know them, make friends, chat a little. Understand what they want, find out what they are discussing and contribute.

Join the conversation.

Google Gadgets

Those nice people at Google have opened up their ‘homepage gadgets‘ and you can now use them anywhere. Excellent, I could have the latest Scottish news headlines zipping across the page, or maybe a game of hangman for when I post something you find boring, or perhaps the phases of the moon just be all spiritual like…

Or not.

Whilst it’s very generous of Google, I would hope that people show a little restraint. The multitude of eyesore-tastic widgets and scripts that abound in blogs is already something that constantly irks me.

Ohh the moon is in the third cresecent, ohhh my horoscope says I’m about to die, ohhh the weather where you are is awful…. I DON’T CARE!! Don’t get me wrong, some are handy, and lord knows I’ve fallen prey to ‘widget-itis’ in the past, it’s very much a case of “ohh shiny” for me sometimes, but this all seems, I dunno, so 2001… Haven’t we moved on?

Do you think I read the random quotes that zip buy in that tiny box? Do you think that Flickr box with it’s ever changing photos DOESN’T keep dragging my eye away from your content? I do not care to read your joke of the day!

So, Google Gadgets, clever? Yes. Likely to be overused in every way imaginable? Yes.

Or is it just me?

Flock this

The name of this site —Informationally Overloaded— isn’t just a witty title. Firstly, it’s not that witty, and secondly it’s becoming increasingly true for many people. There are two things you can do to counteract the growing feeling of “I must be missing something” that I’m sure some of you can identify with:

  1. Turn off the computer (obviously not right NOW)
  2. Streamline your online habits

The first cure is the most obvious, and something I’m trying to do as much as possible these days. If the computer doesn’t NEED to be on, it’s not. Not only am I saving electricity/energy, I’m also reducing the temptation to “just check my email” which inevitably leads to “just checking some sites” and from there it’s a short click to “yes I KNOW it’s 3am, I’ll come to bed in a minute!!”.

The second cure is, arguably, the harder of the two. Why? Well I’d say guilt has a part to play, especially if you’ve been blogging for any length of time and have built up a long list of sites/blogs run by people you “know” and which you valiantly try and visit every day or two, primarily to save face. Terrible habit and one I’ve been slowly curing myself of for a while now. It’s similar to the “must post everyday” nonsense of which many of us bloggers fall foul. Life is too short people, so don’t waste it doing things that are of no consequence (and yes, I do believe that blogging CAN be of consequence, as can commenting on blogs… maybe not the highest value item in the chain of life but it’s still of some value).

I’ve posted before about getting organised, and I consider this post a successor, a natural step beyond previous efforts.
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Just one more

Hands up everyone who’s played Tetris.

Hours I spent, flipping blocks round, shuffling them left and right, until my hand would cramp and the buttons of my GameBoy start to wear down. One memorable train journey down to London gave me the opportunity to play for some 6 straight hours and I could hardly move my thumb for days. You should’ve seen the high score though!

Anyway, I’m a bit too busy to play many games these days, and I certainly don’t have the time nor the patience required for something like Tomb Raider. In fact, my game playing has evolved to the point where I much prefer a good “pick up and play” to anything that requires time or devotion (I can place Pro Evolution Soccer in the “pick up and play” category because I’ve been playing it’s first inception —ISSDeluxe on the Megadrive— and know the controls off by heart).

To that end puzzle games are something I try to avoid, knowing full well that a “quick game” soon turns into “IT’S 3AM! TURN THAT BLOODY COMPUTER OFF!!”.

I’ll pause at this point to say that I hate Ben. I hate his games even more. Specifically I hate Bubble Blitz.

Like all the best puzzle games it’s simple to learn, easy to play, and has the ability to bend time to it’s will. It’s pure evil, there’s no other excuse for it.

I downloaded a copy of the game a couple of weeks back but it wasn’t until the weekend that I finally installed it, fired it up and… whoooosh. It’s 3AM. Just like that.

Thankfully I was TRYING to stay up to pick Louise up after a night out but, that aside, it’s a testament to this game, and more specifically it’s addictiveness, that I hardly noticed the time until my mobile buzzed with someone demanding a lift (thankfully it was Louise).

Dammmit. It did it again!!!

I was just firing it up to check something and next thing it’s an hour later!

Where was I?

Ohh yes. The interface is nice and bright and friendly, the sounds can be turned off (but aren’t as bad as some, and yes that includes the original Tetris tune!), and there is just a nice chunky feel to this game. Only annoyance is the continual interruption of the in-game messages —GOOD MOVE, BONUS and so on— but that’s a minor irritation and it didn’t stop me from playing it for about four hours straight.

So, if you DON’T want to lose valuable time playing a game, if you DON’T want to wonder where the past couple of hours went then avoid this game altogether.

On the other hand, it’s wonderfully addictive and hey, we all like a little diversion now and again, right?

Bubble Blitz by Binary Sun ~ an excellent waste of time!

The Gentleman Stalker

Ladies, a question.

You are walking alone at night, you are on a fairly quiet street, it’s well lit, and cars go by every minute. A man is walking about 20 feet behind you, and has been since you turned down the corner into this street.

Now, if I’m that man (I’m not saying I’m a stalker, although I could be, in fact I could be stalking you RIGHT NOW. DON’T LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW!!) Ahem… where was I? Oh yess.. so I’m that man, walking to meet my wife, and I realise that you may think I’m following you. There is something about the way you keep looking over your shoulder whilst pretending to be glancing at the house and shops we are walking past (which isn’t fooling anyone, by the way) which gives me that impression.

What should I do, make sure I stay in sight, drop back a little more (even though I’m running late and the wife will kill me) or move out of sight behind you, making it so you have to stop and turn around to see if I’m still there?

Or should I just start running towards you then sprint past whilst you have a minor heart attack…??

To the lady I ran past this evening, I’m truly sorry. I wasn’t really paying that much attention, and it was only afterwards that it struck me how my actions could’ve been taken. Please be assured that the reason I started running was because I glanced at my watch, realised I was going to be late, and next thing I know I’m whirling past you.

And yes, that little scream you let it WAS audible even though I had my headphones on.

Sorry.

Virus Alert

MyDoom Virus starts to hit.

“Post this on every message board you can find. Get the word out. If you have a friend or family member who does not understand how to operate an anti-virus, please check that they are updated and protected. If you know someone running anti-virus on an e-mail server, please tell them to turn off the bounce feature.

I received this virus 8 times yesterday, 10 times last night, and … (just checking…) 5 times since 3 a.m. this morning.

The best piece of advice is (and this is not new!): DO NOT OPEN ATTACHMENTS FROM PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!

Sounding better

Cast your mind back to the mid-80s and early mobile phones. You remember them, big clunky, and not exactly ‘mobile’ really. As time moves on, they get smaller, and the technology in the phones improves. Nowadays the size of a mobile phone isn’t really the issue, more the features and gadgets you get with it.. does it have a camera? does it have a built-in radio?

The unsung advance is, naturally, in the area of most importance – the microphone. This has undergone radical improvements since those early days, with background noise hardly noticeable, and the pickup area (where you talk) refined to capture every nuance and subtle intonation of the speaker. Marvellous things.

What this means is YOU DON’T HAVE TO SHOUT TO BE HEARD ANYMORE!!!

Yes, tall bloke in the dark jacket (with the iRiver MP3 player hang round your neck), I’m talking to you!!!! Ohh and if you insist on shouting, please DON’T wander to and fro across the platform while I’m waiting for a train, and particularly DON’T come and stand next to me.

Yes I’m grumpy, and yes this post is not based in fact. Bite me.

Soon to be announced

Details are coming to light about more government schemes to follow on from the recently announced course to help people learn how to send text messages. The courses are aimed at the same sector of people and cover a range of diverse topics. Exact details have yet to be confirmed but the following a rumoured to be include:

Remembering which side of the car the petrol cap is on.
Programming your video – You DON’T need to call your 5 year old niece to help!
Appreciating noise – Joining the MTV Generation.
Shortening your attention span – addon to previous course.

More details are expected soon.

News just in…

I DON’T CARE ABOUT PAUL BURRELL!!!!!

And now back to your regularly scheduled programmes.