Tag: <span>WHO</span>

About a year ago, maybe more, I started writing (sporadically) in a journal and I’m quite surprised that I’ve kept it going, even though how I use it has changed.

I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing, this blog is testimony to that, but even before there was this place called the internet which I could pollute with the detritus of my mind I’ve always had a fondness for the written word. I can remember spending an evening with a girlfriend where we wrote down questions and answers for each other, passing sheets of paper back and forth. Even then, as a naive teenager, I realised that I preferred that form of communication over, say, actually telling someone what you thought.

Of course I’ve grown up a bit since then, not much mind you, but I still fall back on the written word and the process of writing as a way to get a handle on things I don’t really understand.

  • Why do I get so annoyed when plans change?
  • What was it that happened that makes me cringe when I have to get my hands dirty?
  • Am I inherently lazy and selfish or is there more to me than that?

The last few years have been amazing and I’ve learned so much about myself, about who I am (rather than who I want to be), and where my life may be heading. I’ve written a lot in my journal, not all of it has been positive, sometimes I wrote in anger, letting the emotions drive the words knowing that that flash of emotion would fade quickly, sometimes I paused to recognise just how many blessings I have to count, and sometimes it’s good to reflect on how lucky I am. The over arching theme remains though, it’s a place where I dump my thoughts so they can stew for a while.

More recently I’ve been looking back over what I’ve written, seeing the change in tone and in emphasis as I start to understand things better. I can see that I’ve made steps to put myself in a better place, some of which I’ve mentioned here, and that even in the past six months things have, once again, changed for the better. Of course it’s not all about how wonderful my life is (it is pretty fucking wonderful to be honest), and there will always be days which are challenging but, as I learnt recently, there is no such thing as a good day or a bad day, they are all just days and there is always a tomorrow, a new day, lurking around the corner.

With those realisations I notice that I’m now using my journal much more as a memory store. I’ve started feeding in other data, not just the random wanderings of my brain, but the photos I take, the places I’ve been, the music I’ve listened to, and I’m finding that has value as well (not just because my memory is awful!).

In fact it’s occurring to me now that, whilst I’ve struggled to instil new habits in other parts of my life, my journal has been a constant companion for a few years now. I wonder what it’ll feel like to look back on it in another year or two. Where will I be then? WHO will I be then?

For once I don’t really care about the answers to those questions, I will be wherever I am and I’ll be whoever I’ve become, but I do know I’m really looking forward to finding out.

Personal Musings

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There are some fundamentals tenets of our profession that are widely accepted. One being that you always need to know your audience before y can begin to understand their needs and so produce the information that they require.

The reason I mention this is because, whilst it’s something very basic and is deeply grained in the technical writer part of my brain, I keep forgetting it.

Let me explain.

I’m currently working on a mini-project aimed at making sure the language we use and the things we talk about through all levels of our product information (from the website and marketing brochures, down to the lowest level of reference information) tell a consistent story. From basic facts and terminology to the concepts we need to convey, it’s important that everyone throughout our company talks about things the same way.

As such we’ve modelled the information into four layers with each layer (roughly) representing a broad layer of user and information types. These types match our engagement model and will allow other areas of the company to understand not only what information is required but, most importantly, WHO the information is for.

I’m writing up a summary document (covering two of the four layers) which will cover the main areas of the product and what language and terms we want to use. The document also outlines the basic concepts of our product, and for each concept describes the level of information expected. This will allow others to build specific documents at the appropriate level, focussed on the correct user type, using the correct language and terminology.

The trouble is that I’ve really been struggling to get my head around it and I was finding it very hard to write the descriptions for each conceptual area. I was mentioning this to a colleague earlier and that’s when it struck me.

I’d forgotten who I was writing for.

The summary document is aimed at internal staff, but is covering the information likely to be required by two different types of reader/layer. As I’ve been developing this information I’d lost sight of that and was trying to write one piece of information for two very different types of user.

So, I’ve decided to split the summary document into two, one for each type of reader and I’m already finding it much easier to structure the information accordingly.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to this kind of thing, that it’s very easy to become blinkered to everything else when you zero in on a particular task. I’ve been working fairly closely with a colleague on this but hadn’t spoken to her for a few days and, without that check in place, I’d started to lose sight of the big picture.

And yes, I know this isn’t rocket science, but hope it may serve as a timely reminder to others or at least let you learn from my mistakes.

Work

Revisiting an old post over on the Cherryleaf blog, where Ellis was prompted to ask “Can technical authors be part of ‘the conversation’ in the connected Web 2.0 world that’s emerging?” (excuse the paraphrasing).

As a long-term blogger, and someone who believes that there are many tools in the Web 2.0 world that can and should be embraced by technical communicators, I immediately started thinking about this. It’s taken until now for me to distill my rambling thoughts into something coherent. Mainly because it’s a fairly open-ended topic, and because his post includes several questions:

  1. If we are going to be part of the conversation, will we be let in?
  2. What would make people do that?
  3. Once we are in the conversation how can we best add value to that conversation?
  4. Will engaging with a community in a social networking environment create a new and better way of providing user assistance?
  5. Will social networks create an opportunity for technical communicators to eavesdrop a conversation as well as take part of it?
  6. Will the rise of streaming websites both for audio and video such as YouTube enable technical communicators to be more viral in their efforts to provide effective user assistance?
  7. Will technical communicators see snippets of their technical information embedded in other people’s Web pages?
  8. Might the lines between technical support and technical authors start to cross over?

I left a comment on the Cherryleaf blog, which I’ll expand on here, but the jist was that I think Technical Communicators are (can be, should be) the social web of the workplace.

However, I guess we first need to understand what we mean when we refer to the “the conversation in the connected Web 2.0 world”. The fact that you are reading this blog suggests that you are already au fait with the Web 2.0 world, and are probably familiar with the popular commenting system most blogs have. That is one part of the conversation, a direct dialogue with the author and with others who have an opinion on the current topic. Now, take that conversation, expand it on your own blog, mention it in your Facebook, add a publically shared link to your del.icio.us account, or even link to it using Twitter… all of those expand the conversation by increasing the audience. There are other examples but you get the gist, the Web 2.0 world allows multiple discussions, centred around one conversation, to take place in different places, with different people and provides them ALL with a way to find out what everyone else is saying.

Needless to say, information is the key component of these discussions, and it is at this point that you realise just how valuable that information has become. Because information is now passed around, diluted, distilled and deconstructed, then rebuilt, reposted and reworked, in multiple places by multiple people with multiple aims, then the person who is central to that information becomes a V.I.P. indeed.

Whether we like it or not, our primary role SHOULD become information guardians. That will mean less writing, and more knowledge/information management and architecture. It will mean a shifting of skill sets towards new areas, where there is no best practise only gut feel, and the embracing of openness. Information will still need to be filtered, focussed and published, but once you’ve set it free, you’ll also need to nurture it as it develops. The delivery of information, naturally, becomes paramount.

We are the ONLY people (in the IT space) that can fill this role properly, and so getting a foot on the rung now will stand us in good stead. Embracing Web 2.0, and thinking about content rather than documents is a small step but a vital one.

So, let’s revisit those questions:

  1. If we are going to be part of the conversation, will we be let in?
    Why are we waiting for an invite? Perhaps the future of technical communications models itself on sales and marketing rather than the technical departments. If WE want this, WE need to grab it.
  2. What would make people do that?
    Convincing others of the growing value of information is paramount. Those that get it will embrace the change and happily let us push the conversation forward, those that don’t will flounder.
  3. Once we are in the conversation how can we best add value to that conversation?
    By monitoring it, gently tweaking it, and making sure it has a useful life, wherever it is. This may mean collaborating with your competitors, it may mean sourcing information externally, but as long as you remember that the conversation is a big value-add to the information, then you won’t go far wrong.
  4. Will engaging with a community in a social networking environment create a new and better way of providing user assistance?
    Yes. How can it not? Is it better to lock away your information, leave the users to stumble around for their own solutions and create a distrust of the information you provide, or be open, honest and provide assistance as and where needed, realising the value, power and benefits of having a thriving user community?
  5. Will social networks create an opportunity for technical communicators to eavesdrop a conversation as well as take part of it?
    Yes and no. Yes, you will be able to eavesdrop but I’d encourage that to only be used in the “monitoring” sense. Get involved, ask your own questions, post your own thoughts.
  6. Will the rise of streaming websites both for audio and video such as YouTube enable technical communicators to be more viral in their efforts to provide effective user assistance?
    Possibly. I would argue that information shouldn’t be viral but expected. However, it may be a useful way of raising awareness and kick starting the conversation in the first place.
  7. Will technical communicators see snippets of their technical information embedded in other people’s Web pages?
    Yes. Why not? It’s not “your” technical information really, it’s information for the uses of your product. In fact, if you DON’T see this happening then the conversation is failing.
  8. Might the lines between technical support and technical authors start to cross over?
    Yes. There are already signs that this is happening. Ultimately, a conversation friendly company won’t care WHO is doing the talking, as long as the conversation is taking place.

There does seem to be a trend in our profession to expect things to happen a certain way, only for them to pass us by in favour of others. Ellis makes the point that Technical Communicators should’ve been more involved during the rise of Intranets, yet that never happened. The same may be happening already, with the Web 2.0 conversation already taking place. Yes, that’s right. Somewhere, people are already talking about you and your product. It may be on their blog, in a Wiki or forum, or maybe it’s all hidden away in emails and instant messages. Regardless, the conversation has already started.

So go and find these people, get to know them, make friends, chat a little. Understand what they want, find out what they are discussing and contribute.

Join the conversation.

Work

1999 – where it all began.
2000 ish
2001 ish
2002 ish
2003
2004
2005

Blimey, that’s an epic amount of rubbish I’ve posted, and a hugely huge waste of time (mine and yours) that I’ve managed to perpetuate.

Actually that’s not true.

Personally I’ve come a long way in seven years, far from the reason that made me start this silly site in the first place that’s for sure. If, seven years ago, you’d asked me where I was heading I’d have given you several blank looks and mumbled something approximating what I thought you wanted to hear.

But now, seven years on I can look to the future and have some knowledge of where I’m heading, or at the very least where I wanted to be and more importantly WHO I want to be. That’s a big thing. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point.

As for this website, well, it’ll continue to evolve with me but I have absolutely no idea what form it’ll take over the next seven years. And of course I’ve met some fascinatingly wonderful people thanks to this blogging hobby, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

So, here’s to the next seven years, or at the very least to the next year when I write up another “gosh haven’t I been doing this for ages” style post…

Blogging Personal Musings

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They say you shouldn’t post if you have nothing to say.

But what if all you have to say is “sorry, can’t be arsed”?

And what if your own conscience meant that, despite not having much to say, you felt you had to post just to let people know that they don’t need to worry, I’m fine, everybody is fine and nothing of real note has happened.

Although that last bit is a complete lie and should read “nothing that I’m going to blog about has happened”.

Maybe the guilt behind not posting is enough to force a post into life, the feeling that people are visiting and thinking “Ohh.. still not posted, maybe he’s bored”.

Or maybe it’s my guilt about other things that is stopping me focus, outstanding projects, commitments missed and so on?

Blimey, it’s a complicated business, least of all when such “meta” posts aren’t always looked on favourably. Rightly so mind you, they can be hugely boring and tediously dull, yet somehow they remain the crux of things around here.

Why blog? Why NOT blog? When NOT to blog? WHY not to blog? WHO not to blog about? and so on and on and on…

Taking all that into consideration, should I still not post anything?

Yours confusedly.

Life

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Survived. Just. Not sure how well my legs will function in the morning though.

And whilst I’m here I’d like to thank the person that sent me a book from my wishlist (Alasdair Gray – Lanark). I have a few suspicions of WHO sent me it but as you didn’t say who you were when you add a note to the order I can’t thank you by name (hint, hint).

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Hang on!

It’s March. MARCH!! How the chuff did that sneak up on me?? That means Mother’s Day, father-in-laws birthday and.. er.. some other ‘family’ things that Louise will remember. Anyway I have a complaint to make:

I want an extra day.

We had one last year, why can’t we have one this year as well? In fact why can’t we just add a day to the year EVERY year? What’s to stop us? WHO will stop us?? Well apart from the Catholic church of course, but let’s be honest here. What power do they have these days? The days of the Inquisition are long gone even if it would seem that a large portion of the aforementioned church are still living their days with that mindset. I digress, this isn’t supposed to be an anti-Catholic rant.

In fact as we didn’t adopt this calendar until 1752 aren’t we owed .. er .. 639,480 days. Can we get a petition together, maybe start a campaign? I’m sure we can find a politician to give it some backing, just tell him that for each day he gains back, he’ll get a vote.

March.

Blimey.

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Movie info from IMDB
Movie reviews from Metacritic

Other than knowing WHO starred in this movie, and that it had won awards and is nominated for some Oscars, we were a bit in the dark as to the story. Is it really just about a female boxer, the good ole American rags to riches story? Yes it is.

But it’s also so much more than that. The pace of the movie drags you in, and the three lead roles are all played to perfection, even if they are all cliched to a degree; the haggard gym owner set in his ways and haunted by his past, the ex-boxer janitor who is wiser than he should be, and the white trash girl who won’t give in. The script is light, and the direction is handled well, allowing the actors to act without too many constraints and yet none of them overplay things. The last third of the movie is nicely setup, and the emotive issues are handled wonderfully.

Not a movie for everyone, but if you enjoy the craft of movie making – wonderful lighting and production, character development and interplay, first class direction – then you’ll enjoy this. Whilst this movie using boxing as it crutch, it’s the characters that make it and make it so much more than a simple sporting movie. Highly recommended.

Media

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