Advice for the novice tech writer: hold on to your passion

Although this may be a gross simplification, I see technical communicators falling into two main groups: ones who are truly passionate about what they do, and others for whom it’s just a job. If you’re reading this blog, I hope you’re one of the passionate ones.

Passion, though, is a funny thing. It’s easy to become passionate about something. But the fire of that passion can also be easily dimmed or extinguished, often due to circumstances that are beyond your control.

Throughout your career, you’ll definitely find your passion waxing and waning. But holding on to that passion and nurturing it will make you a better technical communicator.

Continue reading

An open question

I ran across this quote in an article in Wired about the company 37 Signals:

Complexity is a necessary byproduct of the modern age. When you actually sit down and analyze what you need to get the job done, it’s not simplicity.
– Don Norman

Do you agree or disagree with this idea? And how, as a technical communicator, are dealing with the problem of complexity? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Experiments in modern blogging

February in Toronto can be depressing. It gets very cold. We get a lot of snow. And, no matter how motivated you are, it’s easy to come under the sway of a certain malaise or ennui that makes you want to do … well, as little as possible.

Under those circumstances, it can be difficult to regularly blog. So, I unilaterally (sorry, Aaron!) decided to undertake an experiment during February: write a week’s worth of blog post ahead of time and let WordPress automatically publish them each day.

For the most part, the experiment was successful; I bet you didn’t even notice it was happening. There were a few not-so-good aspects to this experiment, too. But the good did outweigh the bad.

Continue reading

Weekly links roundup

  • Adobe Air has been getting some buzz lately. This tool from Adobe can convert WebHelp files to an Adobe Air application.
  • Craig Haiss debates the merits of full-text search versus keyword search.
  • This article examines the use of audio and video content for interacting with a computer.
  • Should simplicity drive the adoption of technology? One writer thinks so.
  • Sharon Burton of Madcap Software looks at topic-based content development.
  • Amber Swope of JustSystems discusses the five best practices for developing a strategy for content reuse.

Fostering user and author collaboration

As was discussed in a previous post, users can be an excellent source of information and of documentation. One of the key problems is how to get the community of users involved.

This article looks at the problem from the perspective of educating new users. The author points out:

… the value in educational content lies in context (what immediate problem the reader is trying to solve) and timeliness (what’s true today will be outdated tomorrow). Value no longer lies in the traits associated organization, pace, and tone as in traditional books.