Talking about podcasting  Clip to Evernote

In case you didn’t listen to last week’s podcast, Aaron and I will be giving a presentation at the May 13 meeting of the Toronto chapter of the STC. The title of the presentation is “The Ears Have It”, and it will discuss how podcasts:

  • Can help maintain an ongoing dialogue about a particular domain or topic
  • Are a great way to disseminate new developments
  • Are available anytime, anywhere, at the user’s convenience
  • Make supplementary material more interesting

We’ll also be outlining the mechanics of podcasting, analyzing why some popular training and educational podcasts are successful, and how you can use the same techniques with your audio materials.

If you’re in the Toronto area, why not drop in, have a listen, and ask a few questions? You can get directions to the meeting here.

Trends in technical communication  Clip to Evernote

Over at the HelpScribe blog, Craig Haiss discusses several current trends in technical communication. Craig looks at:

  • The rise of embedded assistance
  • Increased reliance on multimedia
  • The migration to structured authoring
  • Conversing with users

There are a few more trends out there, I’m sure. The ones that I’m interested in are using wikis for internal and customer-facing documentation, and incorporating user-generated documentation in your documentation set.

What do you see as being some of the current trends in our industry? Feel free to leave a comment.

Becoming a freelance technical writer  Clip to Evernote

In a February, 2008 blog post, Tom Johnson answered 13 questions about the job of technical writing. As with many of Tom’s posts, this one got me thinking. This time, about the questions people have asked me concerning becoming a freelance technical writer.

If you’re considering a move to the contract side of the fence, you might want to think about the questions in this blog post before making a decision.

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Choosing an XML schema  Clip to Evernote

Frame versus Word. Robohelp versus Flare. DocBook versus DITA. Coffee versus green tea. Those are some of the debates that many of us in the technical communications field take part in regularly. OK, maybe not the last one …

But I think that the DocBook versus DITA debate is one of the biggest ones going on right now. This article at The Content Wrangler looks at the DocBook and DITA’s strengths and how to make the choice. Teresa Mulvihill (with whom Aaron and I will be doing a podcast interview at DocTrain West) also wrote an excellent comparison of these rival XML schemes.

My take? DocBook and DITA both have their places. They’re both excellent for single sourcing. DocBook is better for what I call monolithic single sourcing, while DITA is better suited for discrete single sourcing. If you don’t have a lot of reuse of content in your organization, then DocBook is a good choice. If, on the other hand, if there is (or you anticipate) a lot of reuse then consider DITA.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment.

Hiring the right technical writer  Clip to Evernote

In many ways, technical communications is just like any other field. When it comes to the people doing the job, the level of skill, dedication, and competence varies from person to person. You have outstanding practitioners and those who are in the job only for a pay packet.

I recently read an article at CIO.com that looks at the problems you might face when trying to hire a writer. Some of the advice is old hat; some of it useful.

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