Tag: UK

Partridges and Pear trees

Here in the UK, there is no escaping the fact that Christmas is approaching. On TV the adverts have started, the store shelves are being stocked, and in the office talk is turning to who might make a fool of themselves at the Christmas party.

It’s also about this time of year I start dropping hints in the hope that I don’t end up with yet another reindeer sweater…

So, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of giving, and to save you all some time and effort, here’s a few suggestions that you could, perhaps, print out and leave sitting around for a loved one to happen upon, or email to a sibling with a subject line of “Buy me something from this list and nothing else!!”

Hopefully some of the above suggestions will save you from yet another pair of slippers…

Note: Most of the above links go through an affiliate account, so I get a few pence if you actually purchase the item.

So that was TCUK12

It’s been a few days since I got home after the Technical Communications Conference this year, and I’ve been digesting and mulling over some of the ideas and thoughts gathered from the speakers and conversations.

The conference was in a new location, Newcastle, and that brought a different feel to the event. Hard to put my finger on it but it felt a little more business like, or maybe just a little less social? Not sure, and as ever my experience will be different from others.

Something that hasn’t changed was the value. It remains an excellent opportunity to learn from your peers, industry experts, and if nothing else it’s great to hear that we are doing the right things or just have the same problems as everyone else.

A few standout presentations from me, Leah Guren (whose workshop I attended on the Tuesday) kicked off the conference in great style. Passionate, funny, upbeat, everything that we can occasionally seem to lack in our profession here in the UK. Ray Gallon and Scott Abel backed that up with some excellent presentations that expanded the scope of what we can, and should, be doing.

It took me a while to realise it but the one thing I didn’t get this year was an overall theme. Not an official one, but typically there is one stream of thought that seems to be prevalent. I think the closest to that would be ‘Structure’ (as a strategy) and I wonder if, perhaps, that that particular stream of thought hasn’t yet hit a tipping point?

Still pondering that, and many other, things, one of which is that I really need to be blogging here more! Time will tell if I can stick to that.

TCUK – Call for Papers

Call for Papers for TCUK 12

Dear reader,

You are an intelligent person, have you ever considered sharing your knowledge with others? Perhaps doing a short presentation at an industry conference?

Regardless of your experience, or industry, the Technical Communications UK conference wants you!

New speakers and experienced speakers – all welcome

Regardless of whether you want to present for the first time or you are a seasoned conference speaker, we want to hear from you. We don’t mind if you are new to technical communication or if you have worked in this field for ever, if you have something to say to other technical communicators thenTCUK 2012 is your chance to say it.

Industry sectors

Technical communicators work across a wide range of industry sectors, including engineering, aerospace and defence, transportation, services, retail, charities, and government agencies as well as in hi-tech industries. TCUK 2012 is the conference for everyone who works in communicating technical information of any kind.

This year’s specialist stream

Two of the streams are open to topics of general interest to anyone in the technical communication industry. The specialist topic for this year’s third stream is Accessibility and Usability. Proposals for presentations within this area are particularly welcome.

There is one week left before the deadline, so get moving!

More information here: Call for Papers for TCUK 12

Conference chatter

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”

It’s that time of year again, with the UA Conference currently underway (see what people are saying about it on Twitter) and the Technical Communication UK conference just around the corner.

We are lucky enough to be able to get to such events, even though we still need to pick and choose due to budget constraints and, once again, the multi-stream approach of TCUK makes it easier to justify. Looking at the programme for this year, there are always two sessions of interest, sometimes three.

As ever, and this is something I’ve commented on before, the benefits of attending conferences go above and beyond attendance at the sessions. The conversations over lunch, or dinner, or over a quick coffee between sessions make all the difference. Being able to bounce ideas off fellow professionals from different companies (working in different industries) gives you some unique views and solutions which you would struggle to get otherwise.

Add in the additional interaction via Twitter and conferences can become a mind-bogglingly fast-paced solution centre!

Of course implementing those solutions is a different challenge but I’ve yet to come away from a conference NOT feeling energised and ready to tackle things and, again, social media then helps extend those conversations.

Creating the business case for attending a conference is usually centred around the sessions, and what the value and benefits of attending will be to the company, but I think it’s also worth factoring in the availability of your peers as part of that discussion.

5 years time

Where do you want to be in 5 years time? Hands up everyone who has been asked that in an interview at some point (now quick, put your hand back down or your colleagues will start to stare..).

Having been in my current job for just over 3.5 years, I thought it would be interesting to look back at where I started and ahead to where I want to be, and it was at that point I realised I have a problem (well, I have many, but I’m not discussing those here, thank you very much).

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure where I want to be in 5 years time, all I know is that I don’t want to be doing the same job I’m doing today. Which is lucky as, given the continuing impact the internet has on our profession and the software industry in general, and that my company is always willing to embrace new ideas, it’s entirely unlikely that I’ll be doing exactly what I’m doing today, even if I wanted to.

Which begs the question, what WILL I be doing?

I’m not entirely sure but looking at the way a number of discrete jobs are starting to come together, I’d imagine it would be some sort of merge of Technical Writer, Information Architecture, Content Curator, Community Manager and Social Media Advocate all bundled into one, an Information Advocate Content Curation and Interaction Specialist?? (Ugh, I hate job titles).

As we continue to explore and understand how people want to access information, as well as how we can streamline our own production processes, it’s looking more and more like the traditional technical writing role is on the way out. Admittedly that might be a long slow path of evolution, particularly for the heavily regulated industries, but more and more it seems that the expectation of customers is to have access to information online, rather than in printed form. This is not a new trend, and let’s be honest, we are not exactly quick at adopting new ways of working here in the UK, but it’s certainly where I’m looking when I consider my role in the future.

See you in September?

Are you in the UK? Are you attending the Technical Communication conference in September? If not, you really should, it’s looking like it will be an excellent conference.

The conference website is starting to gear up as well, and has posted some short interviews with some of the speakers, including yours truly. They should give you a flavour of what to expect at the sessions, many of which I’m hoping to be able to attend as well.

I’d imagine planning the sessions is one of the harder jobs when organising a conference, making sure there isn’t too much overlap and the programme this year seems to have a good balance. Certainly I think there is only one overlap with a session I would like to see that I can’t attend, but that’s because I’m presenting at the same time.

Hope to see many of you there, and remember, and this is the most important thing of all.

Mine’s a Guinness!

Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex

Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex by Alice Turing

Every now and then I end up reading a book that takes me by surprise. It’s not always a huge surprise, sometimes that surprise sneaks up on me part way through the book with the realisation that I’m really enjoying it, and sometimes that surprise waits until the end to reveal itself as I realise I’m disappointed that the book has ended.

Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex is one of those books.

I’m lucky enough to know the author who very kindly sent me a copy of this, her second book. She’s had no joy in finding a publisher for it in the UK (it’s been published in Germany already) and has taken on the not inconsiderable task of self-publishing it. But enough of that, the question is, is it worth buying?

Well, that depends.

If you want a book that delights in simple narrative, which has a well paced story to keep you intrigued and turning the pages, a book that dabbles in drugs and sex and sexuality, and above all if you want a book that presumes you are able to follow along without signposts at every turn, then you should buy this book.

If you want a book that doles our the same descriptive prose and spells out each and every plot twist to make sure you are following along (you know, because you are an idiot), then you probably shouldn’t.

It is a book about magic and trickery, emotions and desires, and the kind of everyday people we all know. A single mother and her son, a failing magician and his frustrated wife, all of whom end up tangled together in a day to day existence which hints at whimsy from the off. The story taps into our basic human needs of connection and hope, and that an underlying need to have something to believe in, no matter what it, or how ridiculous, it is.

It’s loaded with sharp dialogue, some gorgeous imagery, and is punctuated with a down to earth wit which has you laughing and smiling, before yanking you back to the story which invariably manages to keep you guessing as the quirks of main characters are explored. It would be wrong to say that this is a lightweight book, as the plot cleverly weaves events together, each mirroring the last as you tumble to the conclusion.

I think it’s telling the story closes with two of the characters having books published, a bittersweet reminder that so many talented writers, such as Alice, remain unpublished, which is a shame because this is easily one of the more original stories I’ve read all year.

Enough from me though, go get your own copy: http://www.danceyourway.co.uk/

ISTC Community website

As has been mentioned elsewhere, I’m currently planning to build a community website for the ISTC and thought it time to get you all a heads up and ask for some help.

The idea for the website was borne from the members panel that Rachel Potts ran last year, which cited “reducing the feeling of isolation” as an important benefit of being a member of the ISTC. It will also help to promote and publicise the ISTC and hopefully become a valued resource for technical communicators in the UK.

As such the new website will compliment the current ISTC website, and has two main aims:
– to encourage a sense of community amongst members, enabling all members to contribute and discuss related topics
– become the ‘online home’ for technical communicators in the UK

Initial thoughts and ideas include:
– sections for the local area groups
– a directory of ISTC member blogs (and other blogs of note)
– online forums
– regular updates (ISTC news or articles of interest)

The sky is the limit to be honest, but to better refine the list of requirements, and come up with a set of features I’m looking for some volunteers. I’m looking for your ideas and suggestions.

This website is for everyone to use, and it’s up to us to decide what features it will and won’t have, so please get in touch if you are interested.

ISTC & Community

Over the coming month or so, I’ll be casting around for opinion and insight from you, my lovely readers, particularly if you are based in the UK and especially if you are a member of the ISTC member.

Why? I hear you ask.

It’s because I’m planning, designing, and building, a community focussed extension to the website (or sub-website, or side-website or.. well that bit has still to be agreed). I’m still figuring out how best to collate the information and requirements for such a website, and where would be best to hold those collaborative conversations that will be required throughout the build and test phase of the website. I’ll announce things here as well as the ISTC mailing list (unless it’s something of particular sensitivity, but as I can’t even dream one up at the moment I doubt that’ll be an issue).

Exciting times ahead then, challenging some would say, and I have to admit I’m really looking forward to getting some momentum going. I’ve plenty of ideas but it’s not about what I want, it’s making sure the new website meets the needs of people who will be using it. With that in mind I’m currently planning on how, and who, is best to get involved.

But before I can ask anyone to get involved, I think it’s a good idea to have a clear vision for what it is we are trying to achieve and that’s what I’ve been working on this week and you can expect an update at the weekend.

Thoughts on TCUK09*

Having had a few days to process my thoughts about the Technical Communications Conference I can confidently say that it is the best professional conference I have ever attended.

I’ll post up specific notes tomorrow, but I wanted to touch on some of the themes that seemed to be driven out of most of the presentations I attended. Now at this point I should make a confession, it’s about the presentation I gave on the Thursday morning (the second day) of the conference.

My presentation had a theme, a single word that I was focussing on, so throughout the first day, in all the sessions I attended, I was listening out for that word. That word didn’t appear in one session, and I had to push to get the word out of another of the speakers (the last of the first day).

I claimed that word appeared in all of the sessions I attended, it didn’t. Now, as far as confessions go, it’s not exactly earth shattering news but it’s important to me that I let you all know because, as I said in my presentation, if you are blogging you need to be honest.

The word I was looking for throughout the first day was “conversation”, and I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it crop up in the later sessions of the second day and I admit I was quite pleased when the closing speaker, RJ Jacquez from Adobe both mentioned my presentation and had a similar view to mine.

As for the sessions I attended, I don’t think there was one where I didn’t learn anything, even though there were a couple where I was asked to facilitate when I probably would’ve ducked out to chat to some vendors. It’s good that the speakers, whether well versed in public speaking or complete amateurs (like me), seemed comfortable and relaxed and really engaged with their audience.

And that for me is a good way to sum up the entire conference. I shudder to think just how much hard work went into organising the conference but from the smaller touches (the goodies in the hotel room), to the softer, informal approach that Paul and Rachel embody so well, really made a difference.

Given that our profession is both broad and deep, it was great to have other aspects around the fringes covered as well (cognitive psychology anyone?). All in all I think there was something for everyone, and the benefits of being exposed to other niche areas really made the conference worthwhile.

If you are in the UK next year, if you work in a profession either directly related to, or relatively related to, technical communications then I’d urge you to consider coming along next year. For me the best thing I’ll take away from the conference is the continuing conversation that is happening about our profession.

* #tcuk09 was the hashtag for the conference