Tag: Scott Abel

Are online communities worth it?

The boom of the internet is better documented elsewhere but the one key and founding principles is the ability to converse with anyone, anywhere in the globe. From the early days of IRC and email, onto graphical websites and instant messaging through to the current swathe of, for want of a better phrase, Web 2.0 services.

Twitter, blogs, social bookmarking, and online communities are the current rage but, do they work?

I’m a member of several email lists, swapping emails with a large number of people on a range of topics. I spend a fair amount of time filtering out topics which don’t interest me, and over time I’ve come to recognise various people by name. However email, whilst great for sharing information, is a limited when it comes to building communities.

Understanding who you are conversing with and the additional interests they have helps build trust, helps build better conversations and helps build communities. Transferring that kind of interaction online means we can better leverage shared experiences and hopefully make it easier to find other people with the same, unique, slice of knowledge and interests.

It’s only now, pulling together all the available technologies that such online communities are possible.

And the good news is that we, as technical communicators (content professionals) now have such a community.

Scott Abel, aka the Content Wrangler, has launched the Content Wrangler Community website and, having signed up and started using it a little I have to say that it is well worth a look. There are already several hundred members (825 at present), and these early adopters have started forming focussed groups, all of which relate back to our profession. In the words of the website:

Network with peers. Find jobs. Share information. Start a blog. Upload and watch videos. Join a group. Begin a discussion. Learn about software. Find events. Ask for help. It’s all here. Become a member. It’s free!

It’s safe to say that “social networks” aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d strongly urge you to check it out. Despite only having been launched a couple of weeks ago, it’s already proving popular and, as the conversations start and people start to find clever ways of using the various features available then it’s only going to get better and better.

Visit the Content Wrangler Community website today, sign up and join in!

Recently Read

As a wise man once said, time flies like a banana. I may be paraphrasing (badly at that, sorry Groucho) so let’s skip on quickly. Brevity is the name of the game today for whilst I’m delighted that the company is allowing the development team to swan off for an afternoon of beer and ten-pin bowling, I am still losing several hours from my working week. With that in mind..

ISTC Conference 2007 writeup
File this one under “Ask and ye shall receive”. I’m a member of the ISTC but couldn’t make it to the conference, so I pinged their mailing list to ask if anyone who had attended would possibly write up their thoughts.

Many thanks to Mike Unwalla for taking the time to write up summaries and thoughts on the presentations he attended:

  • Keynote address by Scott Abel
  • Certification for Technical Authors
  • Translation-oriented authoring—a prerequisite for efficient authoring
  • Managing the lifecycle of your technical communication
  • Leveraging DITA in a multilingual environment
  • Writing justifications and comparative analyses
  • Developing a communication-across-the-curriculum culture
  • Staying agile
  • Reasons to be cheerful—part 1
  • CMS: how to avoid a content mess system
  • Around the World in 80ms

Of key interest to me was the thoughts on working in an Agile development environment, with the suggestion of “Decoupling the publication of documentation from the delivery of the software” being something we are discussing at present. More on that later.

Scott Abel on Web 2.0
A shared set of slides from a presentation that aims to help us better understand how the semantic web (that’s the Web 2.0 bit) is impacting on technical communications, and how we can leverage some of the tools and ideas to our benefit.

I’ve touched on this myself a little, although I’m pretty sure the biggest impact is, and will remain, Google. This area is still (constantly) evolving so it’s worth keeping an eye on things.

Dependency Calculator

“In determining the risks involved in completing a publications project on time and on budget, some years ago my organization developed a simple assessment tool that we call a Dependencies Calculator.”

And oldie but a goodie. I developed something very similar at a previous company and after a few iterations it proved very valuable.

Requires Java.

Information R/evolution
Interesting little video that explores the continuing evolution of how we treat information. Simple and yet powerful and thought-provoking.

Sun Labs lightswitch

“I gave a talk at Sun Labs where I encountered a special light switch in one of their conference rooms. At first I thought it was some kind of silly “engineer” joke. But the light switch functions as stated for real.”

An excellent example of over documenting something rather than changing the design

Who am I?

“The biography is probably one of the most basic elements in a portfolio (what kind of website or blog doesn’t have an “about” page?) but can be one of the difficult. To this day, I still haven’t written one I’m 100% happy with. But hopefully with some different perspectives, it can be easier.”

I struggle with this kind of thing too, some good hints which should help improve things a little.

Writing for the Web
The website of the book that I’m now waiting on being delivered (gosh, what an ugly sentence).

PDF exploit in the wild
Sorry to end on a bum note, but something to note for those of you who, like me, distribute docs in PDF format. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as things are made out (but what ever is?).