bookmark_borderHappy New Year

Looking forward is always a good thing, but I’m going to start this year by looking back at the lessons to be learned.

Things I will need to improve upon include better planning of work, there is one big project that I will head up that needs to be delivered by September, so I’ll be looking at how to get a better handle on that. One thing I learned last year was to rely more on my colleagues, to look to their strengths to compensate for my weaknesses; attention to detail is something I can struggle with so I’ll be getting some help with that by getting my plans reviewed by a couple of people before I present them to others.

Delegating the right things is something else I didn’t quite get right last year, there are some things I do need to keep tabs on but the rest of the work I can, and should, delegate to the rest of the team. They have proven they can deliver so I need to trust them to do so again (and they will, because as I may have mentioned, I am very lucky to work with some excellent people!).

However, it is a new year so let us look forward.

I’m going to keep on writing here, suggestions for topics or questions you’d like me to tackle are welcomed, and I’ll hopefully get back to the Technical Communications Conference again next year. I’ve got plenty of things to do for the ISTC website and at some point will be assessing a new authoring environment for the team which, possibly, will expand to include resource overseas.

Plenty of challenges then, which is just how I like it!

bookmark_borderMerry Holidays!

I hope the holiday season finds you all well, thank you for visiting and reading, and all the best for 2013!


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bookmark_borderWhy seems to be hardest word

I was chatting to a new colleague, an experienced technical architect, the other day to give him an overview of my team and what we produce. He asked what type of information we provided, was it the “clicky clicky” type or something more useful that explains how our product works.

I assured him that we covered more of the latter type of information, but also provided “clicky clicky” (procedural) information when appropriate. For his type of role, that audience persona (experienced and highly technical), that form of information is exactly what he wants. For other parts of our product, used by inexperienced staff often with a high turnover, we try and help keep the costs of training down by providing more of the “clicky clicky”.

It’s all about the audience after all, right?

Thing is, as I walked away from that conversation, there was something in the back of my mind that wasn’t sitting right, something was irking me and it wasn’t until a couple of days later I realised what it was.

Within the team, there is one question we try and answer, one question that we find useful when trying to understand the latest greatest features of our product. Why?

We ask it of technical architects, product managers, software engineers and business analysts. We ask customers and our professional services staff. Hell if we can we’ll ask our Chief Technical Officer.

  • Why are we building this?
  • Why did we build it this way?
  • Why didn’t we build it that way?
  • Why should our customers use it?
  • Why should I use it this way and not that?

The list goes on…

And yet, walking away from that conversation I started to realise the one place we don’t ask it often enough. Within the team, of ourselves, we need to be asking one question more often; Why are we writing this piece of content? It’s a simple question but should allow us to follow on with further reasoning.

  • Who asked for this?
  • Who will use it?
  • Why am I WRITING this, would it be better as a video?
  • Does this piece of functionality even need any supporting information?

As the team continues to grow, and we start to take on more work from other parts of the organisation, we will need to keep these internal challenges in our minds.

This notion also fits, loosely, to a general theme that has been in my head since TCUK12 the idea of lifting your head, getting out of the default position of “write content” that many of us fall into. Whilst that’s a good default to have, as the world of Technical Communications continues to change it will benefit us all to spend a little bit more time asking why.

Challenging presumptions and changing attitudes towards our profession is not easy, but asking why can help.

Our profession is largely focussed on product, we understand that there are users of the product, we understand that those users vary in skill level and knowledge. Asking those why questions tells everyone else that we are thinking at a higher level, that we are trying to do better, that we want to contribute value to our organisation, this is particularly of value when you bear in mind that we tend to have a different view of our products from many of our counterparts.

As a technical writer, we touch all levels of a product, from the conceptual information all the way through to the technical detail of the implementation itself. We understand the business requirements, the use cases, and the end functionality. Not many other departments share that view so when we ask why, we can ask it from a position of knowledge and, increasingly, authority.

Too often I hear people say that they feel frustrated, that they don’t get the information they need, or struggle to get people to understand what value they bring to a company. Maybe the questions we are asking are partly to blame? Asking why is a soft way of challenging, of gently nudging people to a different view, if you are persistent and consistent the people you work with will start to anticipate your questions, raising their game to meet yours and that’s where the value lies. Not only does asking why get you more of the information you need, allowing you to make better decisions about your work, it’s also provide a link between parts of your organisation.

So be that person, be the central resource that asks why. It may take some time but stick at it and, along the way, you’ll have opportunities to promote what you do and others will start to place more value on the information you produce and the value you provide to the company.

And that, to me, is a perfect example of a win-win situation.

bookmark_borderFrom the bottom

It’s the anticipation he fears.




The endless tumble in the pit of his stomach. Not knowing. Giving up everything with no return promised. But it arrives. Always. Regardless of interaction, whether gentle caress, stinging slap, or simply ignored. It always returns.

He yearns. Pines. Flinches. Wants. Adores. Hides. Desire, desire, desire.

There is a certainty of nothing. He wants everything and silently pushes for more. For enough. The junkie fixed on the immediate. More, more, more. Now, now, now. Stop. More. Stop. More. Stop. More. More. Stop. Stop. STOP.

He melts and dissolves, static flows downstream, he gives it all away. Willingly. Wantonly. Wantingly. The nervous calm arrives. At her word he is nothing of himself and everything she commands.

He bows to it. Embraces it. Sinks in to the swirling emotions, chemicals billowing cloud-like through him. Breath shallow. Lips dry. Eyes flickering nervously. Covered. Dark. Isolated. Connected. He touches her soul once more as his explodes. Ka-fuckin-boom.

Darkness amplifies the noises, deafening and shrill in his ears. His brain a hurtling race car, charging through the gears, tyres leaving strict marks as he burns, trying to place the sounds, always in second place.

He guesses anyway. Wrong. Right. Game of chance. Take a card from the Top.

Reactions spark nerve ends before the movement even begins.

New sounds heard through tightly closed eyes, veiled in black. A fist, clenched tight, muscles scream and roar.

Then the chemicals fry his brain.

Inside, through it all, he is smiling.

Happy, content, safe, loved.


Murrayfield Stadium, originally uploaded by Gordon.

In total I’ve raised over £850, so thank you to everyone who donated.

I quite enjoyed myself, thankfully the weather held and I almost managed it in my target of 4 hours (4hrs 7mins in total).

Add in cycling to and from Glasgow Green and I covered 69 miles on Sunday, no wonder my legs are a bit sore!

Will I do it next year… yeah.. maybe.