Tag: ISTC

ISTC Area Group meeting – West of Scotland

Thursday 13th October, from 7.30pm, in Waxy O’Connors pub.

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

Signposts

I recently attended the Glastonbury Festival and, despite the mud and mayhem around me, found myself pondering an issue that we have in our documentation set.

Throughout the week I was at the festival I spent a lot of time consulting a map of the festival site, trying to figure out both where I was and where I should go next. It wasn’t always easy and I got it wrong several times causing us to have to stop at the nearest beer tent, you know, just to make sure we weren’t completely lost.

The signposts around the festival site weren’t always clear, nor particularly abundant) and whilst we coped, it is definitely something they could improve. Being lost is never fun, and at some point over that week I realised this was similar to an issue we have with our documentation.

It was very much one of those thoughts that had probably been percolating at the back of my brain (a dark and dusty place, if truth be told) for a few days. Somewhere in those dark recesses, prompted by frequently being lost at the festival, my brain dragged up a quote from a blogpost I’ve mentioned in this months ISTC newsletter (you don’t have to be a member to receive the newsletter, anyone can sign up and anyone can view the archives).

The quote that had, seemingly, lodged in my head was “every page is page one”; the blog post it’s taken from is well worth a read (it’s linked in the newsletter).

Like many of you, we have a LOT of content, particularly when it’s broken down into topics. Whilst we take care to plan out what content we will be adding to make sure the structure makes sense, we realise it’s not always easily findable. One of the main reasons is that, by and large, most people will find their way into the content via the search results.

Taking the maxim that “every page is page one” makes sense for our situation, but how do we best signpost where the user has landed?

Have you tackled this issue? Do you have a solution? I’d love to hear your suggestions on this.

Where is everyone?

The attendance at last nights ISTC Area Group meeting in the West of Scotland was poor, and as it seems to fluctuate quite dramatically at times (we went from four people to ten and back again in the space of three meetings) I’m trying to figure out why.

Is it apathy? Laziness? Lack of awareness? Or perhaps people are unclear of the benefits of turning up?

If you are a member of the ISTC, and on the mailing list (or perhaps you are following the ISTC on Twitter?), then you will receive notifications of the area group meetings.

But what if you aren’t a member? How do we attract… scratch that, how do we FIND people who may want to attend? Where are all the technical communicators?

I wonder if more people get quicker benefit being part of online communities? If social media is part of the reason for the low attendance?

Last night was, despite the small number, useful. It always is in one way or another – I got some ideas to help me with my current recruitment drive – but perhaps, like all of these things, you have to turn up to get the benefit.

In the past some of us have contacted other “user groups” who may be interested from the likes of eLearning professionals and on the Adobe user forums. That accounts for the spike in attendance but I’m starting to wonder if there is just a general apathy about our profession (or about the professional world) at the moment.

I’m also very aware that the catchment area isn’t that large, but I know there are other technical authors, technical writers, technical communicators, and lots of other people in the local area who could benefit from attending. These people do exist, we just need to find a way to reach out to them and make sure they understand the benefits.

We have, in the past, considered running a specific session, with a guest speaker, so there is a definite agenda and perhaps that is more of what we need. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a Catch-22 scenario, we can’t (won’t) book speakers if hardly anyone is going to turn up!

It is a quandary for sure.

Why wouldn’t people want to go to the pub and have a chat with fellow professionals?

Time flies…

Hard to believe that’s six months of the year gone already.

But it has and that means that Glastonbury is only three weeks away! I really need to buy me some wellies.

Other than that, life is good. I’m on the verge of, finally, buying a bike through the Cycle to Work scheme, which I’m just waiting on being launched at my workplace, and I’m managing to get to the gym a couple of times a week with the odd game of badminton thrown in for fun.

Still not really reading all that much, and my new camera has been severely underused, but that’s mostly because my new role as webmaster for the ISTC is taking up a fair bit of my downtime. Still to find the balance with that but it’s fun, particularly as I’m going to be rebuilding the entire website very soon.

Starting to think about the next holiday too, money will constrain me a bit, so likely to be a long weekend city break type thing, but where? Those things can be costly, so another option is a cheap and cheerful package somewhere hot and sunny. A week in the sun, reading, drinking and generally lounging around… yeah I could cope with that.

What else do you do?

If ever I needed proof that I am not a bastard I need only look at what I tend to do in my spare time. For not only do I look and crack the same crap jokes as my Dad, I also seem to have the same need to be busy that he has.

Admittedly, looking through the archives of this blog, that’s something that is fairly well documented here but a recent development has finally cemented this quiet thought in my mind.

After agreeing to take over the running of the ISTC website (including a rebuild and redesign which are underway), I’ve recently agreed to serve on the Council of said organisation. That means reports, budgets, minutes, meetings and the like. Thankfully it’s not a huge commitment of time and it doesn’t really change my main focus but, knowing me, I’ll need to be on the lookout to make sure I don’t take on any further tasks.

I still have a couple of other things to finish off too, and hoping to get a clear run at them this week to get them out of the way.

There is one other thing I must do though.

Remove Football Manager 2011 from my iPad. I’ve already lost about two entire days to it.

Focus man, focus!

ISTC West of Scotland Area Group meeting

The next ISTC West of Scotland area group meeting in Glasgow will take place on Thursday 9th June 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.

ISTC website

It’s official. I’m now the webmaster for the ISTC.

Before I start talking about my plans and ideas for the ISTC website, I thought I’d give you all a bit of background as to why I’m reasonably well qualified to be taking this on.

It all starts about 16 years ago…

I joined a small software company in the West of Scotland as a “Technical Administrator” and, as well as writing some user documentation, I was sent on a course to learn HTML and then charged with creating the company website, the first version of which is still available via the Internet Archive (search for ‘crossaig.co.uk’) and was launched in September 1996. Since then, I’ve created websites for charity organisations, personal projects, and several small businesses and individuals under the moniker of One Man Designs.

Throughout my profession the internet has been there, and it’s been a large part of my personal life as well. I ran a successful blog directory for a while (Scottish Blogs) and took great pleasure in organising several “meetups” of some of the members. I’ve meet some amazing people, who I now call my friends, via the internet and it continues to delight and amaze me at how well it functions to connect people, from all over the world, who have similar needs and interests.

So what does that mean for the ISTC?

Without going into great detail here (just yet), the main focus for me over the next couple of months will be to restructure the content based on feedback from last year’s Marketing Frenzy, move the current website over to a content management system, and tweak the design to allow a bit more flexibility to handle some of the new features.

I’m keen to bring some more activity to the website, and introduce some “social features” on the way. It will mean changing some things but just as the technical communications industry is learning how to deal with social media, so does the ISTC website.

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.

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/

Looking forward

2011 looms larger and larger in my view and as we start to plan out our goals and aims for the coming year, so I find myself increasingly struggle to make time to write some blog posts, add to that a couple of weeks of food poisoning, and I’m a little behind with things.

That said, it is looking like we are well placed to enter the new year with all the foundations in place to make measureable improvements to the information we offer. We have routes into customer projects via support call outcome codes (if it was an information related issue, I’m contacting the project to see how it arose and what we can do to fix it), stats on what areas of our knowledge centre are being accessed down to the topic level, via our recent upgrade of Author-it, which will allow us to target the areas of the documentation that are being most heavily used, and we will soon be launching a Q&A style forum within our developer community website, allowing a level of user-generated content to be available to all of our customers.

Personally I’ve started to get to grips with the ISTC website and hope to use some of the time available over the holidays to crack on with moving it to a CMS. There is some restructuring required as well and I’m hoping to start adding some new sections in the early part of the year, more on that nearer the time!

To everyone who has visited this blog, I wish you all the very best for the coming festive period, and in to the coming year!