I blame Tom Johnson. Why, and for what? Several years ago, at a DocTrain conference in Vancouver, Tom did a presentation about setting up a blog using WordPress. That presentation, and a few conversations afterwards, convinced Aaron and myself to migrate our blog to WordPress.
And with good reason: WordPress is powerful, flexible, and can get you up and running very quickly. When working with clients of my technology coaching business, those who want to set up a blog usually settle on WordPress.
But WordPress can be daunting. For a new user, it can be difficult to know where to begin. For a more experienced user, but one without too many technical skills, bending WordPress to their will can be a challenge.
You can use any of a number of online tutorials or the WordPress Codex (the software’s documentation repository) to learn more about the software. But you’ll have to do a lot of searching. And the Codex is large and not as well organized as it could be.
Enter WordPress: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald. It’s a comprehensive guide to getting up and running with WordPress, and it goes beyond the basics (though the basics are well covered, too).
Let’s take a look at it.
(Note: This post was originally published on October 24, 2013 here)
Ever wonder what happens when 20 Open Source enthusiasts from around the world get together for five days? One of the things that can happen is that they write a manual. In fact, three manuals. Which is what happened that this year’s Google Summer (GSoC) of Code Doc Camp held at Google’s HQ in Mountain View, California.
Organized by Google’s Open Source Programs Office and facilitated by Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals and Alan Gunn of Aspiration, the event brought together contributors to the following projects:
- Mallard, a markup language used to deliver online help
- OpenMRS, an electronic medical record system platform
- BRL-CAD, a powerful design and modeling tool
Also attending were four folks (one of them being me) — referred to as free agents — who were unaffiliated with any project. Each of us was, however, keen to pitch in and contribute in whatever way we could.
As you may (or may not) have realized, I’ve been drifting away from technical communication over the last 18 months or so. But even as I drift away, I’m still occasionally drawn towards the shores of tech comm.
I keep encountering various ideas, technologies, and books that on the surface don’t (always) appear to have much to do with the profession. But looking a bit closer, they definitely are very relevant to what technical communicators do.
This is especially true of the books I’ve been reading lately. With a bit of thought, you can apply the ideas and lessons in those books to technical communication.
Curious? Then let’s take a look at those books.
Metrics. It’s a word that can strike fear into the heart of even the most hardened technical communicator. We sometimes need to prove the merits (in terms of dollars and cents, or whatever your local currency is) of adopting a new technique or technology. Especially if that technique or technology has an impact on the content of the entire organization.
On top of that, it can be difficult to know what metrics matter. Without a roadmap, it can be a lot more work than you need to put in. And you might not be able to impress upon the powers that control the purse strings how effective a new approach will be.
That’s all well and good, but to be honest I’ve never been much of one for metrics. Ask Aaron to tell you a story about that from our days at The Company That Shall Not Be Named. But my tune changed a few years ago. I met Mark Lewis (content strategist and DITA educator at Quark) at a conference around that time. Mark and I kept in touch over intervening years, and during that period he shared with me the first of a few whitepapers that he wrote about DITA metrics.
A few whitepapers later, and Lewis has come out with the book DITA Metrics 101. The book demonstrates that gathering and presenting metrics about the adoption of DITA (or topic-based authoring) doesn’t have to be a scary or difficult proposition. DITA Metrics 101 (as the title suggests) is a solid introduction to the subject, and it provides a practical roadmap for gathering the metrics that you need to justify the adoption of DITA in your enterprise.
Let’s take a closer look at it.
Scott is pleased to share the second edition of his book Google Drive for Writers with you.
The book has been expanded and includes new chapters that cover:
- Setting up a page
- Using and creating templates
- Working with links and bookmarks
- Taking notes with Google Keep
- Using a spreadsheet to track your writing, income, and expenses
While Google Drive for Writers was written with writers in mind, you don’t need to be one to take advantage of the information on these pages. Whether you’re a writer, a student, a user of Google Apps for Business, a small business owner, or just someone who wants or needs to put information down on a page, you’ll find something useful and practical in this book.
You can find more information about Google Drive for Writers (including a table of contents and a sample chapter) at Scott’s personal website. If you’re ready to buy the book, you can do so from any of the following online outlets:
One of the most difficult writing tasks is to combine visuals with words. And I’m not just talking about writing scripts. I’m talking about writing documentation and tutorials.
The difficulty goes beyond melding diagrams and flowcharts with your text, too. How about using visuals and words to present complex material? While it’s been done for decades, the results have varied from being quite effective to not quite hitting the mark. And if you’re not a very visual technical communicator (it’s OK, I’m not incredibly visually oriented) doing the job well can be challenge. To say the least.
If you’re willing to take the time to learn how to effectively meld words and images, then you’ll want to give the book Wonderful Life with the Elements by Bunpei Yorifuji a look. It’s described as:
an illustrated guide to the periodic table that gives chemistry a friendly face
And the book also, whether the original intention was there or not, provides a solid template for explaining a complex topic by melding text and visuals.
Let’s take a brief look at Wonderful Life with the Elements.