Month: <span>May 2008</span>

Regular readers will be aware that we’ve recently had a new kitchen installed, and that we had some delays in that process. We sent off a letter of complaint asking for compensation for having spent over 4 weeks without a kitchen (the room was completely bare, back to floorboards and brick).

Last night we received a response.

…is good for you, but only if it’s Guinness.

As a seasoned Guinness drinker this news finally backs up my own, far less scientific, research. From now on, whilst knocking back my umpteenth pint of smooth, dark, velvety goodness, I’ll be ignore all counter-claims that fly in the face of this research.

Guinness is good for you, that’s all I wanna hear!

And for those of you that will, no doubt, suggest that all research is flawed I have only one thing to say to you.

*sticks fingers in ears*

I CAN’T HEAR YOU!

One of the reasons DITA has gained so much traction in such a short space of time is that the people behind it are taking advantage of the internet to publicise and drive it forward. With that in mind it’s great to see them open the new DITA Maturity Model out to the community:

This community is designed to bring the DITA Maturity Model to life, applying the “Wisdom of the Crowds” to the evolution and refinement of this approach to DITA adoption. The premise is that none of us is as good as all of us. The DITA MMC is an evolving resource that will grow and change over time with your active participation and contributions.

Definitely a good usage of the social media tools available at the moment.

One thing that struck me, taken from the Content Wrangler coverage, is a simple reason as to why more people are considering a move towards DITA-based content:

Enterprises looking to fast track their content strategy and minimize the risks of a big-bang initiative are choosing DITA–one of the most popular information models to suit today’s content–rich, multi-channel environment.

For some reason I hadn’t quite figured that out, but if you are putting together a business case built around DITA then it’s worth investigating this in more depth. That said, this is definitely one of those “so obvious I hadn’t considered it” moments!

The maturity model also highlights one of the reasons that DITA is proving popular even if it isn’t the best standard to be using for every circumstance. Quite simply, it’s because it’s young, new and (this is the important bit) is being developed in plain view of everyone on the internet. Admittedly I’ve not gone looking for DocBook or SD1000 resources but as they are already fairly mature they seem to be struggling to keep up with the pace of development around DITA. If DITA is the cool kid on the block, DocBook is definitely the wise old sage, stooped on the corner.

Social media on the internet thrives on participation and with DITA still growing up everyone has a chance to get involved and influence things, and that helps generate buy-in, which drives more improvements, which increases community buy-in… and so on.

So, even if you aren’t interested in DITA but are interested in how social media (online communities, web 2.0, whatever you want to call it) might help you and your company, it might be worth while checking out the maturity model and see if the same … erm… model.. can be applied to what you do.

Work

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Excuse this burst of nostalgia, but whilst tidying up this weekend I happened across some old school diaries and various notes and letters to my Mum, scrawled in my own fine hand aged between 7 and 10 or 11 (roughly). One thing that struck me was just how much I used to do when I was younger. Excluding the piano lessons and practice, the Boys Brigade and visits to see my Gran I used do a lot.

Memories came flooding back, times of mammoth Monopoly games that would span weeks at a time, bombing round the street on my bike, playing tag with a spud gun, and that one where you tied some poor sod to a lamppost and everyone ran off to hide. Tennis in the street when Wimbledon was on, cricket on the big patch of grass round the back when the Tests were on, and football at every other turn because, after Action Man, that’s what boys did back then.

I had a pretty damn good childhood, until my sister came along to spoilt it (KIDDING!! Or am I?), and I realise this may just be down to the fact that I’m getting older but kids don’t seem to do as much these days? Don’t get me wrong it’s not that I don’t see kids outside playing, it’s just that I don’t see as many as I (think I) could.

Of course I can’t really comment on this, not being a parent.

Still it was nice to flick through the old notes and diaries of my childhood. Remembering the red trainers, visiting my Mum in hospital, and even the time I had to put cream on my “wili” (see, even back then I was a blogger in the making, no holds barred!!), There were even some slightly more up-to-date photos, including one of my sister and Louise, hey it might even make for a good caption competition.

Right, enough of that, I’d better say goodbye because she’ll kill me when she sees I’ve posted that photo!! Was nice knowing you all!

Life

So I’ve updated my bookshelf with a couple of new books, and an old one.

I’ve started The World Is Flat which is utterly fascinating, even if it is slightly outside of the more traditional technical communications area. However anyone with any interest in social media (aka Web 2.0) should give it a look. My personal opinion is that our jobs are going to become increasingly influenced by such things so it’s good to get a bit of perspective on how they are already making an impact.

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I should’ve waited before replacing my old PC with another one. If I had I wouldn’t have my current dilemma as I’d be typing this post on an iMac, with a nice wireless keyboard, thin of form, full of factor.

But I’m not so here are my requirements and, dear reader, I’d like your thoughts and suggestions please.

My current keyboard is almost ideal. It has two USB ports on the back which I use for thumb drives (and occasionally to plug in a USB mouse when the batteries need charging on my main mouse), I’d be lost without the multimedia buttons (the silver ones in the photo), although I don’t use the ‘internet’ ones at all. It’s small, well constructed and my only complaint is that it’s quite noisy. The keys are a bit “clicky” which isn’t ideal for me as I work late at night quite often.

I’ve previously tried slimmer, laptop style keyboards which I do like using, but alas the only one I found that had a nice feel to it didn’t have multimedia buttons. I’m very keyboard orientated and I really missed being able to skip tracks without my hands leaving the keyboard (yes I know I can Alt+Tab to iTunes and then use keyboard shortcuts but that’s still 4 or 5 keystrokes as opposed to 1).

Suggestions of a suitable keyboard are welcomed, I’d be very interested in hearing about any experiences with a wireless keyboard too, but it must meet my requirements:

  • Quiet keys
  • Ability to control iTunes – volume, play, pause, next at minimum
  • Must be small (the Microsoft keyboards are stupidly large)
  • USB ports on keyboard are a bonus

Mouse wise I have been using a Logitech wireless mouse for some time now and the only gripe is the flipping docking station which takes several goes (as in 10-15 sometimes) to get the charging nodes lined up. That aside it’s nothing flash but does the job.

I’m not completely set on a wireless keyboard, but I couldn’t go back to a wired mouse. I use one at work and it’s forever ‘dragged’ when the cable gets caught under a piece of paper or whatnot, most annoying.

So, suggestions for a keyboard that meets my needs? And if it’s a combo of keyboard and mouse, which one??

Work

Right on cue, the star of the show wanders into the living room, damp from the drizzle outside, he rubs himself dry on my trouser leg. And now he’s lying on my foot, dozing off… purring like a contented cat should.

Actually I wasn’t going to talk about him but as he’s made an appearance it’s probably worth well letting all his fans know that he’s still as playful, friendly and inquisitive as ever. If he’s awake then he’s always at your feet, checking what you are doing. So helpful. We do have a bit of an issue in that, during the day, he tends to sleep on my office chair so if I’m at home and on the computer he tends to hover around me, occasionally nibbling my feet, reminding me in that way only a cat can to HURRY UP AND GET OFF MY CHAIR!

Again, right on cue (I’m typing this on the laptop whilst the TV is on in the background), the O2 broadband advert has come on. It’s telling because I’m considering switching to them for both our broadband and my mobile phone.

iPhone thoughts aside, I’m fed up with Orange and desperate to get a better handset, one which syncs with my Outlook calendar (or Google Calendar) and so I’ll be heading back to Windows Mobile land again (HTC Touch Diamond anyone?) or if the new iPhone is worth it I might go down that route.

As for broadband, it’s not that I’m unhappy with Virgin Media it’s just that the O2 deal is better. I’ll need to get a full idea of price as I’ll need to factor in getting a BT line reconnected and how much I save if I’ve already switch my mobile to O2… anyone with any thoughts on this, please chip in. Most of the forum posts I’ve found about O2 are all positive, and having had an O2 SIM card (PAYG) the signal is much better in our house than the one I get with Orange.

And lastly, me. I’m now popping 5 pills a morning and I’m back to the doctor in a fortnight. By then my blood pressure should (better!!) be hovering around normal. If not, well I’ve no idea what is next but we’ll cross that bridge etc etc.

Aside from that, not much else to report. Life, as ever, keeps on keeping on.

Cat Life

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 see this kind of thing being discussed and it’s the step beyond where I’d gotten with my thinking. Well worth a read.

Some thoughts on writing better error messages
Real-world tales of woe shed some light.

This lack of coordination between error reporting and error origin often leads to incorrect human reasoning about root causes. One simple help to sysadmins (and other users) would be to report errors in context.


Separating content, structure, format and behaviour

One from a session of AODC which helps properly define how and why we should be separating out the various components of information production.

What we’re aiming for:
* Maintainability — you can change one of the above four components without breaking the others.
* Re-usability — you can re-use the same bit of JavaScript, for example, in other documents.
* Separation of skill sets — different people can work on the component they know best and enjoy most.
* Simplified updating of content — content is likely to be the component you update most often.

Designing for the Social Web: The Usage Lifecycle
Pertinent to anyone working with an application that has any form of social web (web 2.0, community interaction, pick a term) features, or for those of us trying to build an online community around their product

The lifecycle is particularly relevant to web-based software because the product is inextricable from the service. The product is the service. If a person has a question about what your software does, for example, you can literally build that answer into the software itself.

Wiki on a Stick
And finally, a downloadable, zero install, personal Wiki. May be useful if you want an example of how Wikis work. Extra handy for maintaining your own To Do lists or as a way to centralise your notes (or both).

That’s all for now.

Blogging

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