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!
The festive season is upon us, cards have been posted, presents have been bought, and in a couple of hours I’ll head home, leaving work behind until early January.
2012 has been an interesting year.
We started the year with a challenge, one of making the information we produce ‘findable’. Cutting across more than 20,000 topics of information, it was always going to be a big project, particularly as we still needed to keep up with product development. As the year draws to a close the final pieces of this mammoth project are falling into place and should, fingers crossed, be launched in the first couple of weeks in January.
From my viewpoint, it’s been an excellent example of giving people the space to do great things. I’ve not interferred much with this project, gently pushed it when it was needed, made decisions when required but by and large left the team to get on with it. The results are looking good.
Of course plans were impacted when the company I work for was merged with KANA software. Thankfully it was, for us, a mostly seamless experience. The day to day activities of the team haven’t changed (yet), but there has certainly been a lot more for me to pick up as the requests for documentation resource started to come in from other parts of the organisation. We are still figuring out how best to provide a service but it’s already looking like we will need to hire to backfill some gaps in other geographies.
Elsewhere I finally managed to get the new ISTC website launched, and have since enhanced it in a few places, adding in new Area Group pages, and generally beefing up the functionality in the background. Plans are coming together for the next set of changes so keep an eye out for those.
So, plenty to keep me busy in 2013, and that’s without covering off the building of a new community website at work …
One highlight for me has been getting back into the blogging habit here and generally feeling a bit more excited about my profession, hopefully I will continue to get a lot of value from sharing my thoughts here in the future!
That said, I’m off on holiday now but will be back in the first week of January. If you celebrate it, have a very Merry Christmas, and all the best to you all for 2013, thanks for reading!!
As some of you will now be aware, I am no longer writing my monthly Blog News column for the ISTC newsletter, InfoPlus+.
It actually started life here on this blog, every week (or so) I used to post a list of interesting posts and blogs and for a while there was an overlap but, eventually, I dropped the feature from the blog as the monthly approach gave me a little more scope to collect the best links and yes, I will admit I enjoyed the writing process that went with the column (believe me, it took me longer than you’d think).
Alas life continues to challenge my time so after not managing to submit my column for a couple of months (the shame!) I decided to make the hard decision and stop altogether. It doesn’t mean I’m not reading blogs any more, just that I’m not writing about them as much.
When it came to writing my final column, I checked back at when the column started and I was more than a little surprised to find out that it had been going for over 4 years! I’m quietly amazed it lasted that long, given my normal propensity to prefer tackling new things than sticking with current projects (I am a magpie).
There was one thing that I always struggled with though, and that was the lack of interaction, the lack of feedback. I had no idea if anyone was reading the column! The newsletter is published as a PDF and sent out via email so there are no stats to be viewed, in fact it was only at the Technical Communications Conference when a couple of people mentioned that they read it and, even better, they enjoyed it that I knew for a fact that it was worth writing. What a lovely little boost that gave my ego!
I most certainly wasn’t writing the column for that reason, in fact I’ll be honest and admit that I was writing it to try and boost my profile (I was also speaking at conferences and presenting webinars at the time) but that brief moment of adulation was very welcome. At least I think it was adulation… maybe they didn’t actually want me to autograph their conference programmes… hmmmmmmm.
I’ve been blogging for a long time so I guess I get a little blasé about feedback. Comments are great to see, I love the discussion aspect and the fact there is a passionate community of technical communicators who pop in here now and then, and if nothing else I can always check my stats to see that people are visiting the website (and presumably reading for they stay for a few minutes at a time), but being told face-to-face that someone has enjoyed something I’ve done, not much tops that.
It’s only now, reflecting on the fact that for the first month in 4 years I’m not starting to collate links and thoughts for the Blog News column, that I realise that saying thank you is something I’ve not done enough of, so let me start.
Thank you, dear reader.
Thank you for visiting and reading.
Thank you to those who visit, read and leave a comment, who join the discussion.
Thank to those who link to this blog, or retweet the link for others to see.
Thank you for taking the time.
I sincerely appreciate it.
Now, it’s your turn. No, I’m not looking for anyone to thank me, but take a moment and consider who you should be thanking, have you said thank you to them recently?
If not, now is the time. Go on, you will make someone’s day!
Like many people, I like to ponder self-improvement, how I will read more books, learn to play the guitar, exercise more and invest in myself more than I have.
However it seems that deep down I’m actually not that bothered, that I must be happy enough with where I am in my life at the moment. I know this because I keep on booking events, planning nights out and trips, and leaving myself with little free time to do much of anything.
OK, this is a bit of an excuse, I’m sure I COULD spend my free time NOT sitting on the sofa but rest is important too, right?
This is a bit of theme with me, all of a sudden I’ll realise I’m massively busy and overcommitted, that doesn’t seem to change but my attitude towards it certainly has. What I am finding, as I mentioned before, is that I’m putting more and more onus on how I spend my free time, making sure I get the most value from it, regardless of what it is I’m doing.
Looking ahead at my calendar for the next few months has me:
– in Birmingham this coming weekend
– in London at the end of November
– in Manchester at the start of December
– attending two comedy shows; Scott Capuro and Ada Vidal
– attending five gigs; Coheed and Cambria, Band of Horses, Band of Skulls, Simian Mobile Disco and Elbow – and it would’ve been six (Grizzly Bear and The Villagers) but we double booked the trip to Birmingham
– attending two ISTC events (one is in London, hence the trip)
– attending a few (five) other events
And that takes us to the second week in December.
Still, I’m managing to fit in a weekly game of basketball, work on the ISTC website, and so far I’ve managed to do a little more writing than I’ve managed all year so it’s not that I’m not getting things done!
Importantly I do feel like my work/life balance (and my life/love balance) is back on track, I’m enjoying being me!
Disclaimer: I serve on the Council of the ISTC, who organise this event.
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time a young (ok, middle-aged) man had started a new job and was trying to figure out the best way to improve things and solve some of his problems. The year was 2007.
At the time, the young man (oh shut up) had started a blog and was finding a lot of interesting people writing about Technical Communications. From that he heard about something called DITA. To learn more, as it sounded very much like it might solve his problems, he went to a conference (X-Pubs) in Reading. He learned a lot, and met a lot of inspiring and interesting people. Turned out DITA wasn’t for him though (yet).
Later that year, he had the opportunity (entirely thanks to his blog and a lovely woman named Anne Gentle) to attend and speak at TICAD, an opportunity that came about directly through this blog. It was a smaller conference in scale but just as rich in information.
Having set a precedent of attending conferences, he looked around for another the following year and, remembering how good he found the Digitext conferences (many years ago now) he decided to attend the User Assistance conference in Edinburgh (2008). Again, he found himself surrounded by his peers, and took away some valuable lessons.
The following year he heard of new conference, and as it had multiple streams of presentations he thought that would give him the best chance of learning. He also felt foolhardy enough to present at it (but let us not dwell on that). The conference was called Technical Communications UK (2009).
And that’s quite enough babbling about me.
It’s always interesting to see what presentations and theme the conference will have, each year has had a different third stream, and this year it’s focusing on Accessibility and Usability, something I know many technical writers working in a software environment inevitably get drawn into (if it’s easier to use, it’s easier to document). Add in the longer workshops on the first day and, for the money, it’s hard to beat.
Like many people I’ve had to convince my boss it is worthwhile letting members of our team attend, but I’m convinced that everyone will find a handful of topics that they could learn about and look to apply at their own workplace, the trick is to plan to do just that.
Any time I’ve ever returned from a conference I’ve been excited and looking to apply ideas and techniques to what we do. If we hadn’t managed to implement some of these things then it would be much harder to ask again the following year as the evidence of value is a hard thing to argue against!
Above all though, TCUK seems to have a good energy, a good ‘vibe’ and everyone who attends seems that little bit more driven and up for learning, discussion and basically getting stuck in. I does help that most people stay over so you start to make friends over a glass of wine (or three) and that carries through into the next day giving the entire conference a relaxed, friendly feel.
If you only plan on attending one conference this year, I would heartily suggest TCUK as a great starting point.
The next ISTC West of Scotland area group meeting in Glasgow will take place on Thursday 16th February 2012, from 7.30 pm onwards. Come along to talk about latest news and trends in communication, or just to meet other communication professionals.
The event is free and open to anyone interested in technical communication, such as technical authors, information architects, internal communication professionals, report writers, marketing writers, web content writers and graphic designers.
Venue: Waxy O’Connors pub, 44 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 1DH. Please make your way to McTurk’s Room on the middle level.
Firstly I’ll admit that I’m starting to feel a bit like a fool. I’ve been close to getting the new ISTC website launched for several weeks now, only for an subtle twist or unforeseen working process to scupper my plans.
I realise now, of course, that what I should’ve done was revisit the usage models of the website and finessed those first, rather than trying to shoehorn a somewhat antiquated set of processes into what is a fairly standard membership model. Oh well, live and learn.
That said, it’s not been the legacy processes that have really slowed me down, “life” hasn’t been particularly helpful either although quite how I’m sitting here in January when I’d hoped to have the new website launched in September last year is beyond me. My sincerest apologies, and please trust that I’m hugely annoyed by these delays.
The main reason for the delay has been making sure the membership functionality work, making sure that the processes for applying for membership, as well as renewing existing memberships, has been tricky, as has considering non-member access. The latter is something that only came to light at TCUK (in Sept) this year, Area Groups are not attended only by ISTC members so the website needs to be mindful of that as it will have, in the future, specific areas for Area Group attendees.
As such, there are essentially five levels of users for the new website:
Administrators – essentially myself (webmaster) and the team at ASL
Editors – anyone with the ability to post new content to the website
Members – access to content for ISTC members only
Attendees – for those who attend Area Groups but aren’t ISTC members
Guests – anyone visiting the website that isn’t logged in, or isn’t a member
It’s a more complex setup but in the long run it will make the new website much more flexible. A lot of the ground work I’m doing at the moment is in the background, with the hope that, this year, new features will be much easier and quicker to roll out.
And, just to prove that the new website does actually exist, here’s sneak peek of what will be launching soon: http://188.8.131.52/