Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Top 50 Blogs and Feeds for Technical Communicators

February 15, 2011

Both my career and personal life is undergoing many dramatic changes. So I was not able to update anything over here after Jan 14th. On a pleasant surprise, I got an email from indoition.com stating that my blog too listed in the elite list. I am giving the URL so that  it will be easy to catchup other useful technical communication blogs. *ahem my blog  comes as forth from the top (of course there is no particular numbered list, number matters you know 🙂 )

Here we go:

Top 50 blogs and feeds

Writing Plain English

June 30, 2010

Last two months were hectic as I was running on my toes for our product release – updating the help system, reviewing, testing the product, re-checking the bug fixes… So I was temporarily not been able to update this page (though this site has very limited readership).

OK, coming to the point, recently I came across a website www.plainenglish.co.uk . These people conduct courses on writing plain English. First it sounded a bit funny. But when I read through a PDF from their site, I understood the importance of plain English in day-today life.

Let me give an example: Have you ever read and understood any Insurance, Bank policies or disclaimers especially Subject to Market risk paragraph..?  Those paragraphs will be in such a way that even if you read thousand times, you won’t be able to get the point.

Click here to read some general guides uploaded in their site. It has some special guides on grammar notes, financial glossaries, reports, Forms, websites etc… Worth reading.

Disclaimer: I announce that I was not paid(I wish) to endorse this website and it is purely on my intention to share and spread this useful information.  🙂

All about Technical Documentation

December 31, 2009

  1. Are you curious to know about technical documentation?
  2. Are you planning to begin your career in TW area?
  3. Do you have any plans in changing lanes from your development or academic field to TW area?

If the answer is YES for all the above questions, then you must check this website.  In this site, you can find some basic know-how, checklists, tools and links, which will help you to write create clear and concise user-friendly manuals, online help files, software demos, tutorials and other forms of user assistance.

There is a huge list of useful software, useful websites too. Hope you will like it.

I wish you all a happy NEW YEAR 2010 and may this year brings all happiness and prosperous in everybody’s life.

Documentation – Still a least cared area…?

November 9, 2009

 

I am a frequent visitor of Tom’s space. Last week when I was reading his post on wiki, few thoughts provoked me to update my space too. There is a unanimous belief among TWs’ is that Documentation is the least cared area and hardly very few project managers concern about the documentation while releasing a product. More or less it’s a fact too.

Though TWs’ took active participation in requirement analysis, UI designing, even QA testing, still documentation is considered as a grey area. I am really curious to know what will happen if any one ships their product without any documentation (includes both online and printed manuals)..? What will be the customer’s reaction on that product..?  It may sound funny or even weird, but I mean it.

Jeff has given a reply on my above comment at Tom’s space as follows:

I just read about a product that shipped without documentation – it’s called Fitbit, and in multiple reviews the reviewers complained that they couldn’t figure out how to use it and that there was no documentation.

See http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/15/fitbit-review/   for example.

Excerpt: “…shame that wasn’t in the manual. That’s because no manual comes with the thing, the implication being you just throw it on and go to town. Again that’s not quite the reality, especially when it comes to sleep.”

Thanks for this link Jeff.

On the other side of a coin, rarely we give feedbacks in our daily life. In any websites or help sections, there is a separate comment section for customer feedback.

Do we really like to drop a line over there..?

To be honest, I admit that I hardly give feedback. So, even I am not doing any justice to documentation, how could I expect a fair justice from others..? Hope I will change gradually.

Out-Of-Office

October 21, 2009

 

Last week I sent an email to Mr. X. I got an Out-Of-Office reply from Mr.X as follows:

I am on leave (dd/mm/yy). For any urgent queries, please contact Mr.Y.

 Ok, this is fine for me because I know both Mr.X and Mr.Y and their email ids (even their mobile numbers). Imagine if someone who don’t know Mr.Y and his email id (obviously), how he/she will contact Mr.Y on urgent situations. Am I sounding correctly..?

In Office 2007, there is an Out-Of-Office assistant (tools > Out-Of-Office assistant), where you can set many rules. No, this post is not about how to enable an Out-Of-Office reply from Office 2007. I wanted to point out the communication gap happens while we communicate with others. We assume that we have communicated effectively.

So, here’s my revised O-O-O version:

Hi,

Thanks for your e-mail. I am on leave (from dd/mm/yy to dd/mm/yy). Please contact Mr.Y [e-mail id & work phone (if possible Mr.Y’s mobile also)] for any urgent queries you may have.

Hope I have covered all the information for a new user. Did I missed anything..? Comment section is always open for you. 🙂

US English or UK English

October 16, 2009

 Today when I was commuting to my office, I saw a display board hanging in a petrol station.

USorUK

 What a big deal..? That Z in authorized and the word ‘centre’ draw my attention. I mean to say; those words draw a TW’s attention.

Authorized – It’s clearly an US English style

Centre – I believe, in the US, this word is spelled as ‘center’.

So a perfect mixture of (or confusion I would say) US and UK English has happened in this display board. Either it should be

“Govt authorised centre….” 

OR

“Govt authorized center….”

(Here, I haven’t pointed out the acronym Govt refers to Government).

In India, people love to ask one common question when interviewing technical writers “Are you able to write for US audience?”

I am searching for a book or journal which discuss the difference between the US and UK English standards in detail. Any suggestions..?

Three inevitable skills for a Technical Writer

October 13, 2009

If you are looking for a Java software developer, your requirements will be someone with good knowledge and experience in core Java or advanced Java, able to write some Java scripts and so on. It is very straight and narrow.

Now, here is the question:

how do you evaluate while recruiting a Technical Writer..?

Should we test his/her knowledge on conditional text knowledge in FrameMaker or test his/her context-sensitive help creating ability..?

It’s a bit wide and confusing. In fact most of the programming managers don’t know or ignorant while interviewing a technical writer. 🙂

This post is the answer for all these questions. Please note that this is just my point of view and need not to be the same answer as like how much will you get when you add four and three?  🙂

  1. Can you write..?

Imagine you are in the National Cricket Selection Board. While selecting a player, will you ask someone “Do you know how to play cricket?”

Sounds so stupid, rite..? Yes, it is.

It is inevitable that a Technical Writer ought to possess good writing skills – free from typos, error-free grammatical sentences and so on.

Can you list any tool that gives a blank output/help page..?

No, you can’t.  It is the Technical writer who needs to document/write procedures and instructions to generate an output.

             2.   Eureka

As a Technical Writer, you need to know and understand how things work. How a software application runs? Nobody will come and train you. You need to find, go around with a can-do attitude, try your hand, make a trial and error attempt, and test it.

As a Technical Writer – you are the first consumer/client of that application, play around and document your experience.  Gain the required knowledge on technical writing tools available in the market and choose the right tool which suits for your client’s preferred deliverable.  

Gaining knowledge on a specific tool is not as complex like a cryogenic engine technology. Always, there is a thirty days trial available, and of course a manual or an online help is there. Install and play around in it.  Still feel like landed in a no-man area..? Google is there. 🙂

           3.   Say hello!

Ok, now you can write, able to use a tool of your client’s choice and able to create manuals and help. Is that enough?

Still you need to horn-up a very important skill, yes, I am talking about people interaction skills.

Every day you may need to:

  1. Work with developers
  2. Discuss about a technical issue with Quality Assurance engineers
  3. Clarify one important point with a subject matter expert
  4. Give a demo on advance features of the product to your team members

So interacting with people is an essential skill for you. You may have to buy their time, interview, gel with them (even though if you get irritated with their crack jokes).

There may be many other inevitable skills essential for a technical writer. But I consider these three as very crucial. Any other thoughts or points that I missed are most welcome as comments here.

Hit the Nail on its Head

October 12, 2009

 In our daily life, we often want to convey some message to someone. But we communicate in a different way and it’s taken in a different way. So our purpose doesn’t meet at the end. Let me illustrate this with an anecdote.

In my office, there is a community team which helps to literate rural children, builds houses for the needy people and so on. Recently there was a flood in AP and Karnataka. So our community team sent an e-mail to everybody requesting to drop one rupee for every cup of coffee/tea we take.

Quite simple and straight rite…? I also thought like that. But what happened was the core of this post.  Read on.

Above mentioned e-mail was sent on Friday – end of a week, hardly people care about such announcements. As announced, a glossy plastic box was kept near the coffee/tea vending machine. Here is the message fixed over the box:

Drop-in for the community service

Now, let us see this message in Technical Writer point of view.

  1. Drop-in – what? Or where? Or when?
  2. Community service – what kind of service?

Quite ambiguous rite..? Now, let us rephrase the same message to be meaningful.

“Please drop minimum 1 Re coin for every cup of coffee/Tea you take. This money goes to Flood relief fund”.

  1. What/How much?  – Minimum 1 Rupee. Many kind hearts may drop more. why should we restrict them..?
  2. Some coffee/tea fans may sip more than a cup. So they may be willing to pay for the second time.
  3. Where it goes?  – This money goes to flood relief fund.

Now it is very unambiguous. Rite..?

Very few people convey their needs clearly. Many of us are still beating around the bush.


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