Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will SEO be replaced by AEO (Answer Engine Optimisation)?

Internet psychologist Graham Jones has just posted an interesting Blog called "Search is on its deathbed...bye, bye SEO".

In it he states:

"They (Search Engines) would like us to think that we are constantly "searching" for things online - but we aren't. We are "locating" stuff we already know about, a lot of the time."

"We are merely locating things that we want to find following some offline trigger... Add to that the fact that people are now seeking answers to questions rather than searching for general information, it means that traditional search engines are going to have their work cut out in the months ahead."

This sounds an awfully lot like the behaviour of people using Help files - typically they know WHAT they want to do, but they don't know HOW to do it. They ask questions, in many cases. Navigating and locating become more important than searching.

Perhaps this means the strategies and technologies adopted by technical authors when creating Help files should be adopted by Web developers. Content may need to focused on answering questions, as people migrate towards "answer engines" rather than search engines, such as Google. For software companies, this may simply be a case of adding the content of their Help files to their Web site.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How barcodes could be the technical author's best new friend

The latest mobile phones in the UK are using barcodes to provide one of the first practical applications of augmented reality. It's technology that could see barcodes appear on thousands of physical items - something which would open up new opportunities for technical authors providing user assistance for equipment.

The advert below shows how it's being used today:


Barcode Scanning with T-Mobile G1



In the future, users could use their mobile phone to scan a barcode (like the one below) on an item to call up instructions on how to use it.


The consequence would be that technical communicators would need to write content that can be read easily on the screen of a mobile phone (until pico projectors become more widespread).

See also

Will Nokia's new technology reinvent the manual?


Share Life with T-Mobile


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Thursday, March 05, 2009

User documentation - Does it matter?

It's very hard to tell how much user documentation matters to people. One completely un-scientific way is by looking at the messages on Twitter, on any given day, that make mention of it.

Below are some of the messages posted on Wednesday 4th March 2009 that mention documentation.

We've omitted those messages that relate to legal documents and others not relating to user documentation, and we've removed the poster's name. Some people are motivated enough to post a message because they hate the user documentation they are using; some because they like it so much; and others because they hate writing it.

Here they are:

Writing Documentation (sigh)
Documenting the documentation. I should burn these someday.
Rewriting some old VB5 apps that don't have any comments or documentation.
Mired in documentation hell. Can't take any more so off home to flop in front of telly with Pino Grigio.
Yeah, why AREN't you using Groove yet? Now I gotta put all all documentation on some old media like CD or USB
Using Fiddler to inspect S3 requests from S3Fox - now that's faster than reading documentation!!
I like the concept of Capistrano but the lack of documentation is alarming.

Trying to use 2 spot colors with pdflib in PHP. Also trying to think of an even more obscure, documentation-lacking task. Failing at both
When did the Wordpress API documentation go to sh*t?
Pulling together blog content for mvccontrib.. Anyone have a preference on what feature needs documentation in MvcContrib
It's crunch time. documentation review final stages commencing. t minus 2.5 days to finish.

Why I always understand the documentation with mistaken meaning
Another day writing documentation ... good times. (yawn)
Documentation or help sites are next to useless without a search!
Time to brush off the GMaps API documentation, right, right?
Ahh cool. i do have the notation guide, i think i'm just impatient haha. i basically only use it to update documentation!
Writing Documentation
Is working on an endless series of software installs and documentation... Yaaaay...

Wishing Cappuccino actually had some proper documentation and decent tutorials, I suppose it is early days though.
Is back to writing documentation
Listing to Explosions in the Sky and writing documentation. Not exactly Zen meditation, but close enough for this morning.
Cursing inadequate documentation. But going out later for drinks and canapes, mwah mwah

Eurgh! More documentation. I'm frakkin' siock of documentation!
Motivation issues again. Revisiting an old project and rewriting documentation isn't my idea of fun.
Dear Apple, This documentation is not good enough for a parameter called userInfo: "The user info the new timer.". Thank you, Dave.
Reading documentation.
Frantically writing documentation and updating config for a big release... no joy to deploy ;o)

Taking screenshots and writing boring documentation
First I have to finish programming it, then outcome 3 (testing it then 5 test journeys + documentation + screengrabs) then outcome 4
Ok so maybe so far documentation day isn't so hellish.
Taking some Mac documentation we did and creating the same docs for Windows XP. Surprised at what works on XP, as well as what doesn't.
Congrats on the upcoming worldwide Documentation Sprints

Congrats to @add1sun for winning one of the 6 Knight Drupal Initiative winners for documentation sprints. w00t!
In place of proper documentation (coming soon), here are some lengthy release notes for WebComic 1.8 & InkBlot 1.3
Getting intimate with Adobe Acrobat as I create boatloads of documentation for our SACS review next year. Brain turning to mush!
Do it! Joomla has a bit of a learning curve. WP is great for blogging and has its
own CMS as well as a plethora of documentation.

Writing documentation for SMARTY FUNCTION OF DOOM. Seriously, that's what it's called.
Canon Professional Services documentation almost as nice as apple packaging!
Putin mais quand est ce que ces putains de projets open-source fourniront une documentation compl├Ęte d'utilisation...
Proofreading is a very valuable skill to have when writing technical documentation and specifications

Printing the Admin Guide for Respondus Lockdown Browser prior to installing it for our 8-week pilot test. 12 pages of documentation. yay...
Researching twitter for documentation use -- ideas, anyone???
Writing up documentation on maintaining the RSS Feed. I hadn't realized just how many steps there were until I started writing them down.
JCE is also a lot easier for novices to use which means less documentation.
Just baby barfed!! Doing more documentation!!!
Today is documentation day. Oh joy. How can I make this fun?

Pouring through PayPal API documentation
IT Intervention ep. 4: Sysadmin gets out of control setting up 55 virtual machines with no documentation, standards or even hostnames.
Writing another CMS documentation for a website which is due to go live next week.. 25 pages thus far.
Hello, software documentation writers: QuickStart is two words, separated by a space, that thing beneath your thumb.

Documenting processes. Not exciting, but it's better than not having documentation!
Looking into using the Amazon Seller Central SOAP API but documentation seems a bit sparse, not great for company like amazon
After many tries to undestand values of a MATRIX 3D and iam at the same point. Can't find a great documentation or sth to solve that!
Writing help documentation might be useful but it still sucks
Breaking my balls with springsecurity.. reading its documentation! o/

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cherryleaf has been approved by the North East England Service Provider Register

Cherryleaf has achieved Full NEESPR (the North East England Service Provider Register) approval. Only registered providers with satisfactory customer feedback are eligible to receive referrals from Business Link and other business support organisations using the North East England Service Provider Register so, it's a true mark of quality.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Looking for a Technical Author in London?

Cherryleaf's clients are often looking to work with a technical author who is based in or near London. From our location near London Heathrow Airport, we're able to do this. Indeed, our other locations (in Brighton and near Oxford) are also with in commuting distance to the city, as well as the Thames Valley.

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How Pico Projectors could help the Technical Author of the future

Pico projectors are the latest technology to be incorporated into mobile phones, and their introduction could provide technical authors with a new way of delivering technical documentation. They could be of particular interest to those writing documentation that's used in factories, workshops and other areas unsuited to computers and paper manuals.



Pico Projectors are miniature low power projection modules. They are able to produce full colour, high-resolution images up to 1.5 metres onto any surface. Their size means they can be embedded into mobile phones, with the promise that people can show their friends what they've recorded using their mobile phones and other videos, such as music videos of their favourite bands.

They can be used to project other information too, and this could well be user documentation. The aircraft engineer of the future could project the maintenance instructions next to the item they are handling - on a nearby object or wall.

At present, they work best in subdued lighting, but the Lumen output from this technology will increase in the near future.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

26 March DITA Workshop - 75% of places now booked

75% of the places our special DITA workshop on the 26th March have now been taken.

There are still some places available at the moment, but this training workshop is now likely to sell out.

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