When a (presentation) disaster strikes  Clip to Evernote

There’s a moment that everyone who presents or speaks in public fears. And I entered that moment during a presentation last week.

I went blank.

Stage fright. Freezing up. A very pregnant pause. None of those terms really sum up what happened to me during that talk. I went all tabula. As in rasa. It wasn’t pleasant, for me or for my audience.

Here’s a look at what happened, and what I learned from the experience.

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Sprinting to a manual  Clip to Evernote

As you may or may not know, I helped organize a two-day FLOSS Manuals book sprint at this year’s Toronto Open Source Week (held at Seneca College).

If you’re not familiar with a book sprint, read this for details.

This book sprint came about because:

  1. For the last two years, I’ve been promising Adam Hyde (head honcho of the FLOSS Manuals project) that I’d take a more active part in a book sprint
  2. I thought that this would be an interesting event to hold at Toronto Open Source Week

This time around, the goal was to complete a manual for the Mozilla Thunderbird email client. I hosted the book sprint in Toronto, and Adam Hyde took overall control from Berlin (where he lives).

It was an interesting two days, to say the least. Here’s a summary of what went down.

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Dealing with acronyms and jargon  Clip to Evernote

Jargon. Acronyms. They’re everywhere. Yes, even in technical communication.

Jargon and acronyms have helped bloat the English language and contributed to a level of obfuscation and confusion that’s deeper than an unknown foreign language. In fact, people who overuse jargon and acronyms often sound like they’re speaking a foreign tongue. Or just speaking in tongues …

As technical writers, we regularly run into this. I sure do. Worse, we can’t seem to escape jargon or acronyms.

But that doesn’t mean we have to put up with either. We can do a lot to minimize the amount of jargon and the number of acronyms in what we write. By doing so, we can make what they’re trying to convey clearer for any reader.

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Content strategy for technical communicators: what happens to my doc plan?  Clip to Evernote

by: Larry Kunz

The buzz about content strategy has never been louder. During the past few weeks we’ve been treated to a whole gamut of views about content strategy.

There was Tom Johnson’s characteristically thoughtful analysis of what content strategy is and is not. Rahel Bailie showed that content strategy isn’t just about web content. The staff at Johnny Holland gave us a week-long series on common issues surrounding content strategy. We even had a great conversation that started with an editorial error.

There’s no doubt that, as Tom said, content strategy is gaining momentum.

While there’s still discussion about how best to define content strategy, I think that most everyone agrees on a couple of key points:

  • A content strategy is, well, a strategy. A strategy, by definition, provides an overarching framework within which specific actions can be planned and executed. A strategy gives purpose to every action, but a strategy is more than just the sum of the actions. It’s not tactical: for example, it doesn’t dictate things like how a style sheet should be coded (although it might contain broad guidelines for how the styles should look).
  • A content strategy should be broad enough to encompass all kinds of content: content from all over the organization, as well as (increasingly) from the user community; and content that can be distributed in a variety of formats.

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