On being influential

Time for a bit of self indulgence …

We got a bit of surprising and flattering news earlier today: we’ve been named among the 25 most influential technical communications bloggers by the folks at MindTouch. Thanks to Mark Fidelman and the folks at MindTouch for the vote of confidence.

In case you’re wondering, we’re number seven on the list. And while we will try harder, we’re OK with that ranking. Just take a look at who’s in positions one to six. Or for that matter, positions eight to 25. Even the people who rated an honourable mention. Every one of those folks deserves to be there. We’re honoured to be in such great company.

To be honest, neither of us view ourselves as influencers. We see ourselves as communicators. As learners who want to share what we’re learning. In our weaker moments, we see ourselves as teachers. But influential? It’s nice to be thought of as that!

That new badge you see in the sidebar? We’re hoping to be able to proudly display it for as long as we can.

A quick aside: If, like the folks at MindTouch, you can’t distinguish Aaron from Scott on their blog or Twitter, don’t worry. That’s by design. It’s a team blog and a team feed. We’re intentionally indistinguishable in those spaces. In case you’re wondering, in the photo that accompanies the post, Aaron is on the right and Scott’s the guy with the goofy smile on the left.

Documentation: the granny figure standing behind you

A while back, I wrote a post in this space about Sugata Mitra and his Hole in the Wall project. The project involved, literally, putting a computer and a track pad in a hole in a wall in several locations in India, and letting children (who’ve never seen or used a computer before) discover and learn to use the device.

I was browsing the BBC News Web site recently and stumbled across an article describing how Mitra not only continued the experiment, but also how he’s been expanding on it.

A paragraph in the article sparked a thought about the role of documentation:

Further experiment showed that having a person – known as “the granny figure” – stand behind the children and encourage them raised standards even higher.

Here are a few thoughts on that idea.

Continue reading

Text editors and the technical writer

Text editors. I’m sure that more than a handful of people in our wacky profession don’t see text editors as valuable tools. But for many of us they’re that and more. A good text editor is indispensable.

You might be editing HTML or XML — as I did to get around a problem I had. You might be viewing a shell script or a batch file. You might be perusing some code. Or you might just be taking a peek at a README file or change log to figure out what’s new in an application you’re documenting. Pulling those kinds of files into a word processor is overkill.

And what if you want to embrace your inner geek, and get your hands dirty? Using a text editor is a great way to do that.

Continue reading

Weekly links roundup