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Almost halfway through the year and I’m still finding new technical communications blogs. If you have recently started blogging about this wonderous profession of ours do let me know. On with the last findings. Web 2.0 and Truth Sarah O’Keefe presented at the recent X-Pubs conference on Web 2.0 and Truth. It’s an interesting read, including three quick points which speak volumes as to where the future of our profession may lie. 1. Document publishing needs to accelerate. 2. Online documents should allow for comments and discussion. 3. The documentation needs to be explicit about product limitations and workarounds. 14 Widespread Myths about Technical Writing An intriguing look at our profession, Tom challenges some of the myths about technical writing …

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I’m utterly failing in my attempt to make this a weekly feature on this site. Maybe I should cut it down a little, thoughts and comments are appreciated. Writing an Interface Style Guide Some handy tips for what to include in any user interface guidelines document: Interface style guides are extremely useful to define best practices for design and development. However, keeping that information updated and functional is imperative. A glossary, an index, references, acknowledgments, etc., are among some of the supplementary details you can add to make the style guide as helpful as possible. A Climate of Fear among Technical Communicators? Prompted by a panel in the recent STC Summit, Ben Minson outlines some basic tenets of employment which, …

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A quick note this week: If you know of any blogs out there that focus on hardware documentation writing I’d love to hear about them. I’m keen to see if there are other topics being covered out there as I’m aware that my scope is defined by my current interests. Right, let’s press on. Can online help show “read wear?” Anne Gentle ponders on how best to show the online help topics which have the most traffic, and comes up with some interesting ideas: “You could … show the most searched-for terms when the user searches. Concepts may be more easily connected when you understand what others were searching for.” To my mind anything that helps people find what they …

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Another grab bag of, hopefully, interesting posts, it’s a varied bunch this week which fits with my current mindset which is grabbing at a large variety of different topics and trying to make sense of them all (and I think it’s finally beginning to come together). Enough of that, on with the links! Do you write FAQs? How about NAQs? As Kevin Kelly points out, we’ve all read FAQs which aren’t, instead they are NAQs – Never Asked Questions, “Easily answered questions that no one has ever asked.” He then goes on to make an excellent point, namely that: …if you don’t answer the FAQs, the internet tubes will. That’s what forums are. Customers, both potential and present, bring their …

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Conference season is underway, with DocTrain and AODC recently finishing. As such there is a lot of great and interesting blog posts out there, some are catchup style so if, like me, you didn’t attend you can still get some nuggets of information from them. But the type I prefer are the ones which collate the various ideas and pull them together. So, with that in mind, if you only read one of the posts linked below, make it the first one. DocTrain Conference thoughts Tom chats to Noz Urbina from Mekon and starts to pull together some of the varied threads I’ve covered here into a vision of the future which, in my opinion, makes sense. It’s great to …

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I took a few days holiday last week (if you get the chance, go visit Budapest, it’s lovely) so here’s a little bit of catchup from the RSS feeds I monitor. You can download the list over on the right there. How Corporate RSS Supports Collaboration and Innovation Dennis McDonald pulls together some good arguments around introducing Web 2.0 ideas to your company, noting that a lot of business cases rely on raw numbers and that, in the case of social networking tools, there is: … a disadvantage of taking a “beancounter” approach to implementing social media within an organization. While you might be able to quantify the time, effort, and technology associated with impacted processes, you can’t necessarily predict …

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Blimey, another week has flown past and, as ever a few things have caught my eye. 9 ways to gather user feedback It’s often a struggle to get true user feedback on your documentation, Craig Haiss offers some suggestions to improve things in this area. Whilst I’ve tried some of these, and had heard of them all, it’s worth a look to jog the memory: You can write the most detailed instructions in the world, but if they aren’t the instructions users actually want, you’re wasting your time. That said, how do you go about gathering feedback to flesh out your documentation? Tech Comm Job to Job Title: Something Lost in Transit? Ben Minson is musing on job titles and, …

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Text Preferences Survey What is the ideal text size to use on the web? What about line height and column (line) length? Most of the information in this area is based on print (at best) or anecdotal (at worst). A design agency in Brighton, Message, has decided to try and find out by carrying out a survey: “Our goal is to publish a report that provides hard facts about what constitutes ‘readable’ text on the web … We see this report being of value not just to our clients and their customers but to web users at large.” It only takes a few minutes to complete so go and take the survey. Why software applications need product blogs and why …

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Another week has zoomed past, and I’m only now catching up! I’ve been helping out with our development group retrospectives… but more on that later. For now, here are a few things that caught my eye this past week. Gatekeeper vs. team member Whilst not directly talking about technical writing, there are some good points in this post, with several mirrors between some of our [sic] processes and that of the self-publishing author: …some authors, trusting no one but themselves, will put out what they have to say, untouched by any other person. Sometimes this works. Usually it doesn’t. Others will reject the criticism of experts but accept the flattery of a subsidy publisher. Others will embrace the traditional publishing …

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Ahhh, the end of another week (well it will be in a few hours, just a few last diagrams to be rebranded…), which means it’s time for a quick roundup. Pilcrow & Capitulum A nice little post for the font freaks (guilty!) discussing the evolution of the that little symbol that is often used to mark the end of a paragraph. It’s tempting to recognize the symbol as a “P for paragraph,” though the resemblance is incidental: in its original form, the mark was an open C crossed by a vertical line or two, a scribal abbreviation for capitulum, the Latin word for “chapter.” Open Applications – A Model for Technical Documentation? Ferdinand Soethe takes a look at the Open …

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