Tag: OK

Dumping the manual

I honestly can’t remember the last time I picked up a user manual, an honest-to-god paper book of technical documentation. Actually that’s a lie, it was just last week when i was tidying up. I picked up several user manuals and moved them to a lower shelf on my bookcase.

It’s also been a long time since I last worked for a company that produce and printed user manuals but that’s more to do with my career path than any decisions I made within those companies.

Even now whilst we have a “documentation set” comprising several different user manuals, it’s published to PDF and made available as part of the product distribution (and also online).

So why do we still maintain this view of how information should be provided?

There is a level of comfort in having a table of contents and a structure to the information available when writing technical information. It allows you to make sure all the required information is in place, but most of the research I’ve read, and most of the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard, suggests that those lovingly created table of contents are not heavily used.

The index is another area, hell it’s another profession altogether, that we spend a lot of time crafting and rightly so as it is used by many people to navigate their way through a document.

But one thing that trumps both of these methods isn’t available in printed documents but is widely available for online information. Search.

OK, so none of what I’m saying is new, or revolutionary, far from it. Those of us who have been creating online help, regardless of the format (a lot of which was before the internet was popularised), know that if there is a search option available, it will be used.

With that in mind, and this is most definitely something we will be consulting with our users about, we are toying with the idea of dumping the index and the table of contents, making sure the content has a good set of internal reference links so users (power and novice alike) can find “paths” through the information, and switching the front page to be a Google-esque search.

Luckily we can pilot this approach whilst still producing the Javahelp, PDFs and HTML (Webhelp in Author-it terms) output so we don’t completely alienate our users. It’ll be interesting to see outcome.

Musings on Manchester

So, that was Manchester eh? I’m just processing some of the photos I took and thinking back over the past couple of days. What sort of impression did Manchester make on me?

Hmmmm.

Let’s start with the good stuff. The main reason I was there to see Elbow in their last gig for a wee while. Apparently since releasing The Seldom Seen Kid, they’ve played 144 shows so I guess they are due a wee bit of time off.

The gig was ace, the M.E.N. Arena was a pretty good venue (unlike the Glasgow equivalent which I despise, the S.E.C.C.) and the band were on top form. As ever Guy Garvey had a good line in banter, and they played a couple of tracks that I’ve not heard them play live, with Bitten by the Tailfly being a bemusing but welcomed choice. They are such a good live band and the songs play a large part in that, as they have a good mix of uptempo tracks to get people out of their seats, quieter numbers that are delivered with passion, and what might just be the best closing number of any band (On A Day Like This). I was also pretty impressed that the crowd managed to sing All You Need Is Love by The Beatles whilst waiting for an encore (all part of the Elbow gigging ritual).

So the gig was excellent.

The people of Manchester are a friendly bunch, possibly because I was a “tourist” in their city, particularly those working in the shops and cafes and bars. I wasn’t sure what the ‘tone’ of the city would be like but it’s quite a friendly feeling place.

That said the city of Manchester could well be any big European city. It’s probably because I didn’t have the time to head anywhere else out of the confines of the centre of the city but by and large it was the usual mix of ancient buildings sitting alongside large slab sided office blocks.

I had hoped to jump on one of those tour buses but they finished their season last week (a bit premature, surely?) and I’m guessing I missed a lot. But then, even now I’m struggling to think of what else I’d have wanted to see.

Ohh yes, and the Arndale shopping centre is huge.

So, that was Manchester. An OK city.

And, alas, it’s the last we’ll hear from Elbow for a while as I’d imagine they will be off for a holiday and to start on the next album.

I have a revelation!

Apparently, and this MAY come as a shock to some of you… in fact, before I continue perhaps some of you should make sure you are sitting down, even if you already are. So, please could you (yes, you) double check that you can feel your body weight being supported by your arse on something (hopefully) cushioned.

I mean that the seat is cushioned, of course, not that I think you have a fat arse..

In fact perhaps some of you should prepare yourselves by making sure you have a stiff drink ready, purely for medicinal purposes of course.

OK.

All set?

Right.

The revelation is….

Actually perhaps I should mention that this is not a Revelation with a capital R, this is no biblical tale of the coming of the New Earth and whatnot (and apologies to those of faith, my knowledge of the Book is lacking). It is, however, a revelation of the more everyday sort, so perhaps all this hyperbole is overplaying things a little.

But then, I tend to do that, don’t I. Waffle, some would say.

Yes please, with maple syrup…

Ahhh, but I jest, and even I have to admit that it now feels like I’m just stringing you along further in the vain hope that someone, ANYONE, is still reading (hellooooooo ?), rather than reveal what is likely to be recognised as less a revelation and more a rather obvious fact that everyone already knows.

Guess I should get on with it then.

So.

Did you know that you can turn computers off?

*click*

Fixing Me

I’m sitting at the dining table, the laptop in front of me with a view out of the back garden. I’m being dazzled as the in the sharp light of a crisp winter day bounces off the last of the snow.

Ollie has been in a couple of times to check I’m ok, and to warm up the keyboard of the laptop for me and I’ve just opened a letter from the bank that says they miscalculated a recently settled loan so please would I take this cheque for £400.

My heart is full and light, I’ve lost weight, I’m enjoying work despite the ongoing manic nature of things, and I seem to have hit a productive streak.

Yup, if it wasn’t for the dull ache in my knee I’d have nothing to complain about! Well that and the fact my webhost seems to have been a bit flaky recently, anyone having issues getting to the site? Ohh and not forgetting our flaky Sky+ box (engineer out this afternoon).

Anyway, I was back at the physio this morning where I discovered that, as well as the aforementioned Osgood Schlatters (now benign), I also have a condition known as Sinding–Larsen–Johansson Syndrome. Add that to my slightly knocked knees, my flat arches and my entire lower body is out of alignment and, frankly, it’s a wonder I can stand up right.

OK, it’s not that bad or pronounced and the basic reason I need to go back to physio is that I rushed back to running too soon, and need to stay away from impact based exercise. Which means elliptical trainers, bikes, swimming, stepping machines and the like. Which means going to the gym. Which means paying out money for something I’ve never really enjoyed all that much.

This is purely down to my boredom threshold being very low, something I don’t have a problem with on the Wii Fit as it is entertaining (if only mildly) and uses games/competitions to keep you motivated. However the Wii Fit isn’t going to solve this, although it will help.

Low impact cardiovascular exercise is what is needed both to help heal my knee and help me drop some more weight (it’s been very slow since the start of the year). I’m hoping the Wii Fit will help with flexibility and core stability, and I have my dumbbells for toning up.

All of which sounds very do-able. So, I guess, the only thing stopping me, is me. Which has been the case all along of course.

Here endeth todays startling revelation.

Facebooked

I’ve still to find any good reason to visit Facebook more than once a month. It’s just never really grabbed me, largely because I have plenty of other places online where I can interact and all of them are far more subtle than the constant barrage of utter nonsense that the bulk of Facebook seems to thrive on. I mean what is that virtual poking thing all about? Seriously, answers on a postcard to WHYTHEHELLSHOULDIBOTHERWITHFACEBOOK, c/o IFEARIAMMISSINGTHEPOINT. Thanks.

That said, the upside of Facebook is that it has allowed me to ‘connect’ to some old school acquaintances. I’ve emailed a couple of them but considering that I struggle to keep up with my friends I’d be very surprised if I manage to keep in correspondence with any of them on anything more than a bi-annual basis.

My Facebook contacts are a mix of real and virtual contacts, friends and family. It’s an odd hybrid but not hugely a problem. Until some chuffnut decides to ‘tag’ me with some Facebook meme thing. Thankfully this isn’t as bad as, say, someone throwing a virtual polar bear at me (seriously, wtf?) so I guess I might possibly consider following up on this one. Here are the rules then:

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose up to 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

OK, so writing a note with 25 random things isn’t a big challenge. I mean it’s not like I struggle to waffle on about random nonsense, is it?

But the bit that gets me is the “choose 25 people to be tagged”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve participated and nominated people in a fair number of blog memes in the past, but to me this is different. A meme is a soft suggestion, something that you know may be ignored, particularly as the ‘invitation’ to participate is held on MY blog, not rammed into the blog of the invitee.

I think this is what still irks me with Facebook, it’s far more aggressive. Multiply the number of contacts/friends that you have by the number of applications/games/useless and pointless ‘poking’ variants and before you know it your inbox is deluged. This then puts the onus on you, to do something about whatever it is you’ve received. Delete or participate? Doesn’t matter which, I now have to spend MY time dealing with something that YOU think is interesting, cool or funny. It’s quite a subtle and bizarre intrusion, loaded with expectation and the premise seems to be that once you are in, you are in. You can’t join Facebook and block everything, so, regardless of what filters you have in place you still need to maintain your account.

That is why I don’t visit Facebook all that much. It’s too time consuming. Yes it is genuinely handy and I do keep in touch with people using it but even then a simple check becomes a 20 minute wade through the quagmire of application approval requests, new friend notifications and other levels in the myriad of random crap.

I remember once, whilst still at school, receiving an anonymous letter which suggested I had to add my name and forward it on to 5 different people. I can still remember mulling it over before throwing it in the bin. If you are the person that sent it, I apologise but frankly what did you expect?

Chain letters weren’t fun or cool in the 1980s and the current fad for intrusive social applications isn’t any more fun or cool today.

Feeling Good

Birds flying high you know how I feel,
Sun in the sky you know how I feel,
Reeds driftin’ on by you know how I feel

OK, so it’s maybe not a new day, a new life, or at least not in the grander scheme of things. I’m not reborn or anything, but there is a noted shift in my mindset and thinking these past few weeks.

Perhaps it is down to the fact I’m writing everyday. Yes, some of the blog posts have been less than inspirational but I’m enjoying the habit of making myself write.

Perhaps it is the realisation that my work persona is shifting slightly. That is more subtle, and has come about through several little comments from several different people, all of which have helped me realise a few things that I need to correct, and a few qualities I have that are beneficial to everyone else.

Perhaps it is because I am, slowly, beginning to lose weight again. A blip this week has already been tackled, and as soon as I’m done with this blog post I’ll be doing some exercises (in preparation for my return to physio for my dodgy knee). My blood pressure is down and under control.

Perhaps it is the fact that I have more of a routine of an evening. I’ve cut out a lot of things that used to distract me that weren’t really bringing me any real benefit and have even found the time to read a little more (just started American Gods by Neil Gaiman).

Perhaps it is because I think, for once, I’m organised and on top of things and I’m starting to get a handle on a lot of things that kind of flummoxed me before.

Perhaps it is just because I’m that little bit older and a little more accepting of who I am.

Perhaps it is all that and more.

Perhaps I should go back through this post and remove the word “perhaps” as it doesn’t now fit with my current internal soundtrack. Sing it, Nina.

Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel

And I know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Small changes

Sometimes it’s the little things that add up to make something better.

The realisation that I probably post to Twitter more than I should hit home recently. I use Twitter to update my Facebook status and, as a few work colleagues can see my Facebook profile, one of the jovial nitwits has created a special Facebook group just for me, titled “Gordon Mclean cannot stop updating his status”.

However, despite jokingly suggesting I might stop using Twitter soon (it has jumped the shark, hasn’t it?) I don’t see that happening, in fact I’m still finding new ways to use it.

One of the first applications I put on my iPhone was Twitterific. It was good enough for me to buy the Pro version (not hugely expensive) and it’s been my Twitter client for a while now. However it does have some limitations and when I heard mention of Tweetie I thought I’d give it a try. One intriguing part was the Instapaper hook up it has built in, with one click I can add a link that someone posts to Twitter to my Instapaper account to read at a later date.

Now, a few months ago that wouldn’t have been much use but as more and more of my fellow peers (technical writers and their ilk) start using Twitter, and as I use Instapaper for marking articles and posts that might be useful to feature in the monthly column I write for the ISTC… well it’s a match made in … Tweaven? (sorry).

In other fascinating news, I’ve been tweaking this very blog a little, mainly adding in a better view of the comments. Those of you with a gravatar should see that now, those of you that don’t get a randomly generated pattern (or you can always sign up and get a gravatar, it’s free).

OK, I’m sure you are all in need of a lie down. What an exciting whirlwind of a life I lead, eh?

Why am I fat?

I am fat (no, it’s not a photo you sickos, just a link to a previous post on this very topic).

I am obese, overweight, chubby, big, heavy, and all the other words you associate with someone who is overweight (I’m discounting lardarse and fatso purely because no-one has ever had the gall to call me that to my face… er… yet).

This is, naturally, by choice. I love food too much and disregard the health risks readily and I’m happy I’m fat because I choose to be that way.

I do not have a medical condition that makes me fat, and I have a good enough education to know that being overweight is a bad thing. I know what foods to avoid. I know that having that second bar of chocolate is wrong. But I choose to ignore that part of my brain.

Willfully, and with determined effort, I am fat. By choice.

I’m delighted to confirm that Misssy agrees with me as well. In a recent discussion, about whether obese people should pay for an extra seat on an airplane or whether they should be allocated double seats as a matter of course, she:

… claimed that being obese was effectively a life choice. Not a choice to be fat, but a choice to overeat, a series of choices made every meal time, every snack time, to ignore your better judgement, to ignore the signals given to you by your body, and eat more than you need.

And she’s right.

So I hereby conclude that all fat people are idiots. We must be, look at the decisions we make! OK, so some fat people ARE idiots but there are plenty of thin idiots around too so don’t you thinnies (weirdos) get any ideas above your station. I am fat, I make stupidly bad decisions, how stupid am I?

Or, perhaps, there is something else driving us to ignore that voice in our heads.

My original response to the post was to posit the question: Is it a choice if you don’t understand why you do something? But on reflection I think Misssy is right.

I have some idea as to why I overeat, why the habit has developed, and it’s down to me to take responsibility for myself and make the necessary changes. That’s definitely not an easy thing to do, I’ve tried many times and yet still tip the scales at just over 17st.

Sometimes people just haven’t been educated to know how to eat a balanced diet, sometimes people have a medical condition, and sometimes people who are happy with every factor of their life (or at least claim they are) will be overweight.

Yet I’m willing to bet that the majority are overweight due to an underlying psychological reason, and it’s those who need compassion and understanding to help them confront and tackle what may be a very scary choice indeed.

So, may I humbly suggest that the next time you insult or laugh at someone who is overweight, stop and consider one thing. Whilst on the outside they are fat, it’s likely that on the inside they are very very scared.

Ye olde blog

OK, perhaps if I head back to some previous “unblocking” techniques I might be able to kick start my blogging mojo.

Remember when Referrer Searches were all the rage? Back when we all suddenly discovered that our blogs were being indexed by something called “Google” (weird name…) and that meant we could see how people came to find our blogs? Those were the days, eh!!

So, aprop… ohh I’ve done that…

So, without further ado here are the top 12 search referrals (slightly filtered):

  1. gordon mclean
  2. itunes stuttering
  3. my mother is an idiot
  4. how to make a cup of tea
  5. how to kung fu withdraw testicles
  6. jamie bulger email
  7. 37signals apps
  8. monitor rss start torrent
  9. recipes for chicken with red pesto
  10. one mans blog.com
  11. voyeuer nature
  12. mrmen

To be fair, there are multiple variations on “red pesto chicken“, as well as “iTunes stutter“, and “how to make tea” but they fail to knock a good old ego search off the top of the list. And no, it’s not me googling myself… honest.

I should also apologise, again, to my mother for calling her an idiot, and I should point out that I no longer use ANY of the 37signals apps that I seemed to be so bothered about last year.

And, finally, I have NO idea how to “kung fu withdraw testicles” but it sure sounds like something that would come in handy… at some point… if my testicles were under threat I mean…

I think I’ll stop there.

Now, what should I do for my next post?

Sneaky

The scene is a small darkly lit room. On the desk sits a lamp and a computer screen glows. A man sits in front of the screen, staring intently. Lost in his thoughts…

Bloody hell.

Can’t be right.

Can’t.

Shit.

It is.

Where’s that list?

No, the other one.

OK, here we go.

1 of those.

5 of those.

2 of those.

Hmmm need to get that thing elsewhere.

And that.

Crap, that too.

Plenty of time really.

Calendar isn’t that ful… ohh crap it is.

Maybe that will do.

Yeah that’ll do.

So will that.

Ohh and that’s perfect.

Wow, I think I’m done!

Woo hooo, time for a beer.

With that, the man pushes himself back from the desk. Stands, stretches and heads off to the fridge.

Christmas shopping online.