Monthly Archives: December 2008

What’s micro boredom?

The term microboredom caught my eye on this Trend Blend 2009 graphic under Media, furthest out on the Information Overload tentacle. Beth Kanter blogged about the graphic and trends she’ll be looking into in Trend Blend 2009: A Map of Time and Tide.

trendblend2009Click on the image to go to a flickr-stored full sized version so you can read it.starfish

Darren Barefoot first displayed Robert Scoble’s social media starfish in his book, Getting to First Base: Social Media Marketing Strategies and Tactics.

So, what does microboredom mean?

Here’s a great description from mid-2007 in this News and Tech article.

These so-called “micro-boredom” moments occur in three- to six-minute intervals during the time a consumer is using his or her cell phone.

And these intervals, which can occur anywhere from five to 20 times a day, represent a significant opportunity for a publisher to exploit readership and advertising consumption.

What else will 2009 bring to us? I’m looking forward to finding out, how about you?

Happy holidays to all my blog readers!

2008 Christmas card

Happy holidays to one and all

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to an enjoyable 2009. It looks to be a great year even though money will be tight for many of us, and time may be tight for all of us.

I’ll be studying the Trend Blend and Beth Kanter’s blog and trying to figure out how it affects technical communication. I’m also attending Network Cultures Winter Camp in the new year, representing FLOSS Manuals. I hope to get to a few conferences also, such as the STC Summit and Web Content.

I’m anticipating editor markup on my new book this week, and the new year should bring you the opportunity to read my book, Documentation as Conversation, about harnessing the power of social media, networking, and communities for writers.


How to create a photo mosaic – and print it out as a poster

I wanted to share a fun photo mosaic tip. Let’s say you wanted to decorate your office door using just your computer, the office printer, white 8.5×11 office printer paper, and the digital photos (especially screenshots!) you have stored on your computer.

Use a photo mosaic program called Andrea Mosaic and then print a giant mosaic tiled on separate pieces of regular paper. Here’s a link to the photo mosaic software that’s a free download: Andrea Mosaic, and then to print out on multiple pages, use Posteriza. Here’s what’s on my door this holiday season:

Screenshot mosaic snowman

tools work writing

How do you develop a strategic website?

My son’s preschool has decided it needs a new website. Parents and board members want an online presence that has more interaction, dynamic logins, and password-protected content. We have goals! Elementary and private schools have followed many paths to achieving their web presence including an all-parent volunteer web staff to hiring freelance web designers to $30/month services.

I wondered how these services differed from what a firm like Duo Consulting did to develop an organization’s website. So I interviewed Duo Consulting CEO and visionary, Michael Silverman. I quickly recognized that Duo’s web content strategies for businesses far outpace my preschool’s relatively static content needs. But what I also learned was that the goals of websites for many business models are often similar.

Its All About Content

What Michael told me is that websites that have a lot of changing content represent a breed of website.  These may be content publishers or transactional websites. But the universal feature is that they all experience a challenge sharing their copious information online. Professional service firms, like law and accounting firms, have a lot of intellectual property that they publish on their websites.  Universities, colleges and other higher education clients market themselves with their content.

Transactional websites, essentially online stores, receive considerable visibility in media coverage of the Internet. But helping organizations publish authoritative and informative content that helps them achieve their business objectives is a more challenging goal. Michael said one thing they’ve learned is that Search Engine Optimization and other traffic generation strategies is only a first step. You also need a highly usable and easily navigated site so that once visitors arrive at a site, they have a meaningful business experience.

Experience Managing Content Produces Client Dividends
With a focus on helping its client manage content, Duo has clients in multiple market including newspaper and magazines, professional services and non-profit organizations. Having experience with these industries permits Duo to more effectively scope a project when they’ve done one like it before. And they can bring best practices to the client for their particular type of business and online presence.
Having content management experience helped Duo to be chosen by the Christian Science Monitor to implement their Web-first strategy. The Christian Science Monitor intends to convert their content from a print-based periodical to a weekly web publication system. Duo has the experience with online periodicals to design and build the online interaction that they will need to be successful with this new direction for their content.

Wikis and Social Media Serve Non-Profit Organizations
Non-profits, especially those that do online fundraising, need an evolving strategic web presence to accomplish their business goals. According to Michael one of the trends Duo is seeing with non-profits and web content is a strong interest in using wikis. Volunteers collaborate using wikis when they’re on committees, they share files and communicate with the wiki. They’re also seeing much more uptake of social networking in a website’s strategy, adding functionality for websites so that people can easily form groups for discussion or common interests or other tasks. He mentioned Google Friend Connect which has been in private beta until now. It lets you add social features to your website, and indicates Google is ready to compete outright with Facebook.

When You’re Thinking About a Website Think About…
Michael said he’d like to leave people with two suggestions for strong web content – one is that a web site should have a “job description” just like any employee does. They ask people, what do you want your website to do, and how do you measure its success at doing those tasks? You may not want to set specific numbers to reach within a particular time frame, but you do want to see continual improvement.

Along those lines, he also says that you are never really done with a website. Do not expend all your energy and resources just towards a launch of a website – ensure that you can have the sustained power to see how it’s performing, then look at improvements along the way and milestones that you want to reach with your content.

Social media and web content writings

I’ve got more blog entries published on the Duo Consulting blog about social profiles, blogging policies, widgets for your web content (I like to call it bling for your blog) and general posts about online interaction and learning. I really enjoy blogging for Duo because it’s encouraging me to research in areas that are important for all content management but especially for the content that people make money on, where they content itself is what people are paying for.

If you are interested in web content, you want to take a look at the Web Content conferences that Duo offers – Tampa Bay in February 2009 looks to be a great opportunity to learn a lot, eat great food (according to one of their conference goers!), and meet like-minded individuals. I can swing a discounted registration your way if you email me via my Contact page.

But Mom, Time Online Is Not a Waste

Teenagers do think differently than the rest of us – you probably knew that already or could have guessed that. But did you know that the way teens develop their skills online is actually being studied by the MacArthur Foundation? They have released the results of their study from three years of interviewing young people and their parents. From the article, they conclude, “America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online, often in ways that adults do not understand.” The two page summary report is a great read, and I was excited when I found danah boyd in the list of authors. Read more

Why Create Yet Another Social Profile?

Some days it seems like an invite to a particular network spreads like wildfire. First you get a smattering of invites for LinkedIn, and then Spock invites spread, and then, out of nowhere, Naymz appears in your inbox, telling you to worry about your personal brand management. It’s enough to give anyone social media overload. Read more

Widgets for Your Web Content

Bling is usually characterized as offering a special extra “punch” to an ensemble or outfit. Bling is an accessory, which is how I would describe sidebar widgets on your website or blog. Accessories can enhance the main site but can also offer eye candy or a shiny bauble to help the main site gain more attention at the social web party. Coco Chanel is quoted as saying, “Before leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.”  Do you need to examine your website to see if it has one or two too many widgets that may detract from your site’s main messaging? Read more

How Did You Get To Work Today?

Have you ever stopped to think about all the signs, infrastructure, access, and coordination it takes just to get people to work each day in a major city? World Usability Day gives us a chance to do just that. The day itself was Thursday November 13. I hadn’t stopped on that day to take notice of what the day is all about so I thought I’d take some time now to look into it. Read more

Blogging and Social Media Policies

A blogging or social media policy describes how an employee or volunteer should represent themselves and the organization online. It also describes whose time and whose equipment may be used for blogging or other social media activities, and it also clarifies when someone is representing themselves, and when they are representing an organization. I’ve written blog entries based on a corporate policy at BMC Software, and it was helpful to know what were the expectations for my time investment and also where privacy lines could be drawn. Read more

From Written Reports to Visualization for Website Analytics

Duo uses a persona-based approach to website designs – which should help answer questions like, “Are potential clients or current clients the most common website visitor and your target for content?” Personas help designers and programmers visualize real people reading and acting on the content they find on a website. But after the design is done and the website is implemented, you have to know what your visitors are doing, how long they’re spending doing that, and whether your website is efficiently “converting” the behavior you want to see – buying a product, signing up for a class, or connecting with other like-minded individuals. So you constantly monitor your website to answer the questions related to your personas’ behaviors. Read more

Searching is Easy – Finding a Community is Hard

Twitter, Twine, and now Twing – I have signed up for all these web applications that start with “Tw!”

Twing is a specialized search engine for deep searches within community discussion groups or forums. So if you want to find niche communities or specialized discussion, actual online conversation, about a topic or a brand, Twing offers a way to search through community content that Google or other search engines may miss. Twing sports a directory listing of different communities so you can click down through the forums that interest you (or may be of interest to your clients or customers). Read more


Winter conference opportunity

There’s a great-looking conference coming up at the end of January, and you don’t want to miss out on early registration before December 15th. One of the keynote speakers is Salim Ismail from Confabb, a website that helps you find and keep track of conferences – 81,000 of them according to the number on the front page! Another keynote speaker wrote Content Management Bible! It’s The Rockley Group’s Intelligent Content conference, being held Jan 29-30, 2009 in sunny, mild Palm Springs, CA.

I know when all the news spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt about layoffs, bail-outs, hair cuts, and belt-tightening, it’s harder to justify the cost of a conference registration. But these times are also times to put the slash in your career and learn something new, or finish up a nagging project to get some closure. While learning the news that former fellow coworker writers were laid off this week, I was reminded of Ann Rockley’s post titled “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” Here’s a quote that stuck with me:

The next one started off the worst, this was 2001. It began violently and unexpectedly. All our business disappeared in a 3 week period, and I mean all. This time I had staff, and the question was what to do. Many people had been with me for years. I decided to hunker down and keep my staff. Together we wrote the book we had been talking about for years, Managing Enterprise Content and unexpectedly got a contract we had bid on four years before! Without that period of focus I’m not sure if the book would ever have become a reality.

This winter might be just the right time to get out to some conferences, meet new people, and learn about managing ever-changing content – content that actually pays the bills like new media sites, or content that connects creator and consumer like blogs do.


I’m a Technical Writer

I browsed through the new I’m a Technical Writer site this afternoon. Does it dispel the “Is Technical Writing Boring?” myth?

Which has me asking, which picture of me should I submit? 🙂

Enjoying live music in the Live Music Capital of the world, Austin, Texas.

Playing outfield on a softball field in Austin, Texas.

Biking on the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver, Canada at DocTrain West in 2008.
Biking on the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver, Canada at DocTrain West in 2008.

Helping my son cross a bridge in my parent's backyard.
Helping my son cross a bridge in my parent’s backyard.


Technical Writers in Demand, Mix Experience and Education Before Applying

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of online colleges and universities. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 49,000 technical writers in the United States last year. They also say job prospects are best for technical writers over all other types of writers. So, why are so many people just coming out of college with technical communications degrees having a tough time landing that first job? It can be completely frustrating for both new graduates and prospective employers who have vacancies and feel the talent just isn’t there.

Let’s look at some of the skills and education required for technical writers and then examine why entry-level technical writing jobs are few and far between.

Some of these include:

A degree or certification in technical communications.

Often a background in another technical field such as engineering or science and may specialize in a technical area where they have expertise.

An ability to create, assimilate and convey technical material in a concise and effective manner.

In technical writing, even more than in other fields and industries, you need experience to get the job. A technical communications degree is a very good start but many companies (often led by engineers) doing this sort of hiring see writers as ill-equipped for the job and seek a more technical background to “prove” they can handle the job. Writing skills aren’t enough and even knowing the lingo and the software used are often not enough. So, what’s a new technical writer to do?

Here are some ideas:

If you can, take some engineering or computer science classes. If you’ve already graduated, take some continuing education classes to bolster your knowledge.

Offer to do a small project on spec (unpaid) for a company, or seek out volunteer work, such as documentation for an open source software project. You get a portfolio piece if nothing else and the company or organization for whom you did it may be willing to keep you around if they like what you’ve done.

If you’re a more creative type, learn how engineers work and think. They are very linear, literal and see few gray areas in anything. If you can learn how to talk to them in their language, you’ll be more successful.

Like anyone starting a new profession, you’ll need to take smaller or lower-paying jobs in the beginning as you build your portfolio and gain experience. This takes time, but if you decide you can stick it out, you’ll find a wealth of opportunities in a field that’s got nowhere to go but up.


Corporate blogs learning from reviewers

Diane Wieland has a great post at the Duo Consulting blog called Free Expert Blogging Advice that points to the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki. In the blog entry she encourages bloggers to learn from the reviews of blogs using a standard set of criteria found at Business and Blogging. They say:

Good Blogs will be:

  • easy to find
  • frequently updated
  • written in an engaging manner
  • relevant
  • focused
  • honest
  • interactive
  • responsive

Bad blogs will be:

  • hard to find
  • infrequently updated
  • censored
  • one-way communication
  • unresponsive
  • defensive

Ugly blogs will be:

  • boring
  • inaccurate or misleading
  • filled with technical jargon (for a non-technical audience)
  • full of regulations and legal disclaimers
  • self-absorbed
  • press releases in disguise

It would be interesting to apply these review criteria on technical writing tool vendor’s blogs. MadCap has what I consider to be a groundswell-blogger-style with personalities first, company second. Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite team’s blog has a distinct corporate and enterprise appeal while still identifying posters by name and letting you get to know them. ComponentOne has a collection of blogs and bloggers but buzz generation fills the first page. Author-it has a new nicely branded WordPress blog. WebWorks has a group of bloggers also and Alan Porter is my favorite blogger there. TechSmith hosts three blogs – the Jing Blog, Blog and The Visual Lounge Blog.

I won’t apply bad or ugly criteria to any of these. I’m happy they’re blogging. What are your thoughts as more and more of “our” vendors begin to join the blog world? Have I missed any of your vendor favorites?

For even more corporate blogging resources, see the link list on Rhonda Bracey’s post entitled Corporate/business blogging.


A nice OLPC story

Lifted in whole from the December 1, 2008 OLPC Community update – what a neat story.

Cambridge: Samuel Dalembert, the 6-11 starting center for the NBA’s
Philadelphia 76ers, is a devotee of technology whose personal foundation
supports a variety of youth projects. Samuel attended the OLPC country
meetings in May. Recently, he was watching an episode of “House” on
television when he saw a G1G1 spot. Samuel immediately volunteered to do
a commercial for us, too. He will also make sure that XOs are deployed
to support his projects in his native Haiti, the Dominican Republic and
elsewhere, and will encourage other NBA players to get behind OLPC.