Social networking and you

coffee_cups Social networking is something that frequently crosses both my vision and my mind. To be honest, I have little time for networks like Facebook and MySpace. I’m grudgingly doing some microblogging. And while I’m not the most regular user or vocal advocate of it, I definitely understand the appeal and uses of social networking.

A trio of tweets by Scott Abel got me thinking a little more about social networking. Here’s what Scott wrote in those tweets:

  • Why reinvent the wheel? Groups/associations should consider using social networks as their “platform”; saves $, increases reach
  • STC chapters should have Facebook groups like Puget Sound’s there’s increasingly no need for
  • [TechComm] Most common answer when I ask unemployed tech writers if they have a profile on Linkedin: “What’s Linkedin?”

Scott started a small excrement storm with one of those tweets (can you guess which one?) — as usual, he was just calling things as he saw them. And I have to agree with him on all of those points. Not just with regard to the STC and our wacky little industry in particular, but to the professional world in general.

To me, social networks are (or, at least, can be) a manifestation of what musician Robert Fripp called small, mobile, self-contained units. They can spring up quickly. They can readily adapt to new trends and adopt new ideas. They’re easier to maintain and lack all of the organizational and historic and inertial baggage that burden far too many established organizations.

Going back to the third post in the list above, I’ve heard something like that from far too many technical communicators. Not just about LinkedIn, but about social networking and the like in general. For every technical communicator who blogs and podcasts, how many don’t? For every technical communicator who regularly uses a microblogging or social networking site, how many don’t? I’m sure that the number would surprise you as much as it would surprise me.

I could hammer out a lot of words trying to analyze why that is, but that’s not the point of this post. I’ve got a couple of questions for you:

  1. Are you a user of one or more social networking sites?
  2. If so, which ones?
  3. Why?
  4. If not, why not?

OK, that’s more than a couple. Even more than three of a perfect pair. I was never good with numbers, which is why I turned to writing …

But feel free to leave a comment with your answers.

Photo from

Form and function

The other night, I was watching the Andrei Tarkovsky movie Stalker. Like Tarkovsky’s other venture into the realm of SF, Solaris, Stalker was a very stark and spare film. No special effects to speak of and the use of special sets was minimal. The key was the story. The content, if you will.

The next day, I was reminded of a conversation that I first had back in the mid-1990s about form versus function in documentation.

Continue reading

An interesting perspective on wiki use

After five months of trying (long story there), I finally managed to get to a session of Toronto Wiki Tuesdays. While I missed what sounded like a few interesting sessions in the past, the one I went to earlier this week was well worth sacrificing a few hours of my evening to attend.

This time around, the presenter was Keith Robinson, supervising editor at TV Ontario (TVO, the province’s public educational broadcaster). Robinson works on a daily public affairs show called The Agenda, and earlier this year the folks behind the show decided to do something a bit different: AgendaCamp.

Continue reading

Comment moderation

Yes, that’s something we do in this space. So, why do we do it? There are some people out there who think it’s because we want to vet the comments that people leave on our posts. Sorry, wrong guess. Please try to keep your knees from jerking in the future.

The actual reason is two words, 11 letters: comment spam. We get a lot of it.

We use the Akismet plugin for WordPress (and various other blog engines), which catches a lot of comment spam. But some always creeps through. Sometimes, more than just some. We’d rather spend a few seconds bulk approving comments rather than spending longer hunting through comments to find ones about cut-price pharmaceuticals, enhancement products, cheap insurance, low-cost flowers, and the like. We’ve got little free time as it is, and have better ways of spending it than trying to elmininate spam.

The good news is that once a comment is approved, future comments on an old or new post won’t need to be moderated. Generally … Sometimes, it doesn’t work that way. Technology be fickle now and again.

You might be asking whether or not we’ve deleted comments that haven’t been spam. Nope. Never. Haven’t even edited a comment. And we don’t plan to, unless that comment is abuses another commenter. We don’t care about people abusing us; it’s happened in the past and will happen in the future.

Some folks might find our stance on comment moderation annoying or distateful. Know that we’re not trying to censor, to show favouritism, or to shut people up. That said, we try to approve comments as quickly as possible. The other things in our lives can get in the way, though. So please be patient.

If you have an opinion about this, feel free to leave a comment. Just remember that your comment might have to be approved first …

News, housekeeping, whatever you want to call it …

Things are pretty busy at the Home Firm right now. Client commitments, personal commitments, side projects, and the like. Busy doesn’t come close to describing what’s happening at the moment. Which means things could be a bit slow when in comes to blogging in this space.

That’s one of the changes happening here. We’re going to experiment with posting three days a week — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Along with our regular links roundup on Saturdays. Most Saturdays, anyway. When we make the change (starting next week), let us know what you think of the new editorial calendar.

Scott’s writeup of this month’s Toronto Wiki Tuesdays MeetUp will be posted later this week as well. If you’re interested in some of Scott’s thoughts, you can read his (lame) attempt at live microblogging here.