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For several years I’ve shown ads in my sidebar using the WP125 ad plugin. But I think readers tend to become blind to website ads like this, so I decided to switch things up a bit. If you look in my Sponsors section, you’ll see snippets of text beside each graphic. Sponsors also have control to update the text and images themselves.
The following is a guest post by Steve Goldberg. Steve is a technical writer and Confluence administrator working for a software company in London, UK. You can follow him on Twitter [@BergerofLondon](http://twitter.com/bergeroflondon]. This post is written in a personal capacity of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of his employers.
Atlassian’s 2013 Summit saw the company announce a swathe of new features and updates for their products, namely Questions (a Stack Exchange-style question-and-answer plugin for Confluence) and Service Desk (an end-user orientated U (more)
I was talking with a friend the other day when he mentioned that over the weekend he had crossed off a few items from his “bucket list.” For this friend, those bucket items involved skydiving over the Pacific ocean and sleeping on the beach. (Well, those last two items are fictional, because I can’t really write what the items were). But it got me thinking, what are the items on my bucket list?
First, a bucket list is a list of achievements or experiences you want to have before you kick the bucket, expire, or die. I’ve seen a lot of apps involving bucket list (more)
A reader asks the following:
Do you have any advice on how a rapidly-growing documentation team–i.e., a team that’s growing roughly in proportion to our company’s burgeoning number of engineers and enterprise software products–should go about managing peer reviews of each other’s work?
I’m specifically interested in best practices on how to give, track, and manage peer review assignments. For example, is it best to use a spreadsheet for this, or is a system such as JIRA better?
If a ticketing system is ultimate (more)
I gave a presentation at the STC Berkeley chapter last week. It was a lively group, and people had a lot of insightful things to say. Here are a few comments various participants made. I want to highlight these assertions because I hear them so frequently.
Videos are too tedious to watch — I’d rather have the text that I can go right to.
Users only go to help to search for a specific answer, so they want a short topic rather than having to wade through a lot of content.
My preferred way to get help is to have a friend right beside (more)
Do you ever feel like your life is just like the movie Groundhog Day? In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray has the same experiences over and over again each day. No matter what he does, he wakes up and experiences the exact same people, places, and other events on a repeating day. He interacts differently at times, which creates different (and comical) results, but when he goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning, the same day repeats.
I often feel like the main character in that movie, and I’m guessing many other (more)
The basic idea is that the most successful programmers or writers are those who ship products. And under time constraints, sometimes a duct tape solution, rather than an elegantly crafted one made from precision parts, is what gets the job done. In other words, sometimes you have to live with im (more)
Have you ever considered that technical writing is much, much simpler than we make it out to be? I think I learned the most important principles in preschool:
Of course we have grown-up names for these same activities:
The following is a guest post by Edgar Allen Poe. Poe completed many works of both fiction and nonfiction in his life, including The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, Eureka, and more. This guest post by Poe reflects a style in one of his most popular short stories, The Tell-Tale Heart.
The Tell-Tale Project
You may think me to be crazy when you hear this story. But I am not crazy. I’m as level-headed and logical as I’ve ever been. Just listen to my story. I will relate all the details in the mo (more)
A reader recently asked,Hi Tom,
Do you collect user guides, instruction booklets/leaflets, manuals etc that you think are a good example and use them for ideas and inspiration?
Would you say this is a good practice to keep up for a professional technical writer? As an aspiring technical writer, I believe it is useful and really helps me with ideas to convey information.
User Manuals of electronic tech gadgets: I always keep, even if I no longer have the product. Thanks.
I used to keep a box of old manuals for everything from appliances to electronics to anythi (more)
I’m giving a presentation to the STC Silicon Valley chapter on October 21 titled “Why Users Can’t Find Answers to Their Questions in Help Content.” Here are the details:Date and Time
Monday, October 21
6:00–7:00pm: social networking
7:00–8:00pm: my presentation
1909 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA 94063
(There’s a (more)
From my recent survey, one reason people said users aren’t finding answers in help material is because the answer is buried under a mountain of text.
The page may be 1,500 words long, but the user spends just a few seconds quickly scanning the page and misses th (more)
Continuing with my ongoing analysis of why people can’t find answers in help, we come to #4:
The user searches for the answer, but the help’s poor SEO prevents the answer from surfacing.
This reason received 81 votes — the third most voted reason.
I’ve written about search engine optimization (SEO) in the past, but this time I want to focus my attention more on SEO (more)
I’m continuing my series of posts addressing why users can’t find information in help and what to do about it. The following reason received a high number of votes:
The answer is an isolated task, but the user needs a more connected beginning-to-end workflow.
A reader asks,
I find your advice extremely helpful, thanks! Where can I get instruction to learn how to do 10-A tech writing deliverables, Is there a guide or open course university to show you how to write online help, how to guides, quick start tutorials or video tutorials? Thanks,
It’s not often that someone asks for advice for such all-encompassing instruction in tech comm, so I thought I’d take a stab at actually answering it. Exactly how do you create online help, how-to guides, quick start tutorials, or video tutorials? Here’s a 10 step process to (more)
Software Development Times has an interesting article on about APIs:If you believe a recent report from analysis firm Gartner, in just two years, we’ll be overrun by citizen developers (normal, untrained computer users) building 25% of new business applications. A major facilitator for these newbies? Some have posited that cloud-based API mash-ups would be so easy to use, toddlers would soon be selling mobile apps. But now, San Francisco’s hottest Platform-as-a-Service company, Salesforce (which recently acquired Heroku), is running toward (more)
One traditional stereotype about technical writers is that they work long hours in isolation, almost like a hermit in a lone cell immersed in deeply technical material, trying to make sense of it all by themselves.
We know that stereotype is a recipe for failure. Collaborating and sharing information across departments is essential for creating the right content. But exactly how we are to collaborate across departments isn’t as well defined.
In this post, I’ll identify 5 ways that you can leverage knowledge from other departments to help you write better content. E (more)
In my recent tech comm poll about why users can’t find information in help, one of the top answers was the following:
The answer isn’t in the help because the help sticks only with obvious information.
No doubt at some point in your life, you’ve clicked a help file and browsed around only to find that the information is too basic and simple to answer any real troubleshooting questions you have have. Through repeated experiences li (more)