Last year, Aaron wrote a post pondering whether or not a technical communicator can switch niches. As Aaron wrote:
Specialization commands a premium in many fields, including medical writing, aerospace, and telecommunications. Is it possible to switch from one niche to another after spending the bulk of your career focused on a specific domain? It seems to me that there are those who find a niche and stick with it, and others that gain a broader range of experience by working in different fields.
It’s the idea of specialization that intrigues me, and I recently ran into an example of specialization helping someone switch niches.
Over the last month or so, Madcap Software has been holding some webinars that I’ve heard have been very interesting. I wrote I heard because, for a variety of reasons, I wasn’t able to take any of them in. But I respect the opinions of the people I know who did.
Those webinars were so well received, it seems, that Madcap is holding a few more in the coming months. Including:
- Controlling costs by controlling language
- Users: Who are these people and what do they want?
You can learn more about this at Sharon Burton’s blog.
One of the best things that I’ve heard about these webinars (aside from the great content) is that they’re very tool neutral — except, of course, the ones that covered Madcap’s products.
Last time ’round, I talked about what you might need to prepare to take your first step into the world of freelancing. Keep in mind, though, that the move doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
In this post, I discuss finding gigs and getting paid. As you can expect, these are two very important aspects of the freelance life …
Yet another entry on my “blog about” list that I’ve finally gotten ’round to. This one, a blog post by Emma Jane Hogbin on why 2009 will be the year of documentation. At least for her. Her goal?
In the days of Web 2.0, the Kindle and 140 character twitter updates, print documentation has been falling out of fashion. But in a lot of cases print books still make sense and when they do make sense I want them to be worthy of your time.
But why not everyone? Or, at least, more people? Especially technical communicators. A good place to start is where Hogbin is focusing her attention: the world of free and Open Source software. As Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals told me, the state of documentation for free software is generally pretty appalling. I’m sure that a lot of projects in that world would appreciate the help.
(Speaking of FLOSS Manuals, a quick note to Adam and Sophea: yes, I’m still trying to get to work on the Audacity manual. Events over the last month or so have happy slapped me off track, though. Accept this as a mea culpa and a promise to get to work soon. Really!)
As for commercial software, I’m sure that a number of technical writers have files of tips, tricks, and tutorials that others (both in and out of our profession) will find useful. So, why not monetize that information as articles or ebooks? Or, if you’re not that ambitious, make the information available on the Web for free.
This post by Janet Swisher has been sitting in my “blog about” pile for a week or so. Considering my interesting in Open Source documentation tools, it’s a wonder I’ve taken this long to write about it.
The post looks at Sphinx, a document generator written in Python. Sphinx uses a lightweight markup language called reStructuredText to specify formatting, and lets the backend tools do all the heavy lifting of actually formatting the document. You can output both HTML and LaTeX (which you can then convert to other formats, like PDF).
And just in time for this post, Doug Hellmann wrote this article on a using a toolchain that includes Sphinx to output to multiple channels.
Sphinx seems to be aimed at creating more technical documentation — APIs and other developer docs. But Janet Swisher is using it to create training material for her employer, and Doug Hellman is using to to output posts for his blog (which is powered by Blogger) and content for the site python.oreilly.com.
Is anyone else out there using Sphinx? If so, how are you using it? Feel free to leave a comment.