Call for trainers: technical communication and content strategy

Are you a top professional in the technical communication or content strategy fields, with a passion to teach and share your knowledge with others? Cherryleaf is extending its range of training courses, which focus on technical communication and content strategy topics, and we are looking for trainers with expertise and excellent teaching skills.

Cherryleaf handles all customer registration, payment processing, administration and any hosting fees, and we work on a straightforward and fair revenue share model. For online course development, you’ll be able to use our video recording studio and our course design tools.

If you are interested, contact Cherryleaf now.

The Internet of Things – creating a user guide for a fridge door

The Internet of Things (IoT) is, according to Wikipedia, the network of physical objects – devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The popular example is the concept of a smart fridge that could warn you when it was out of milk.

Yesterday, we spotted a tweet mentioning SeeNote, a digital version of the sticky notes people use around the house and office.

This got us wondering if it were possible to create a digital user guide that could be:

  • Stuck on the wall (or the fridge door)
  • Have a screen that was always on
  • Automatically update itself
  • Notify you when there was new information
  • Run without mains power for approximately a month between charges.

The SeeNote is a little too small for that purpose, so could another e-ink device, such as an ebook reader be configured to work in this way?

Continue reading

Our approach to writing procedures documentation

Yesterday, I went on walk to celebrate the life of Richard White, and I was asked by someone on the walk how we tackle procedures writing projects. They asked two great questions: Do you use templates, and which tools do you use?

I thought it might be useful to describe our approach.
Continue reading

Creating documentation in a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery environment

Creating user documentation and online Help in a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery environment can be challenging for technical communicators and developers.

Continue reading

MadWorld 2016 Conference Review – Day Two

Last week, I spoke at, and attended, Madworld 2016, the conference hosted by MadCap Software for its users. Here is a summary of what I saw and heard on the second day. These were mostly for advanced users; I didn’t see any of the presentations aimed at new users of Flare.

Continue reading

MadWorld 2016 Conference Review – Day One

Last week, I spoke at, and attended, Madworld 2016, the conference hosted by MadCap Software for its users. It’s the most rewarding and enjoyable of all the conferences on technical communication that I attend. Here is a summary of what I saw and heard on the first day.

Continue reading

Perfecting collaborative authoring for online Help

Yesterday, I wrote:

“There are some activities that seem like they always could be improved. One is creating an authoring environment where professional technical communicators and other staff can work together.”

Writing online Help is different from writing some other types of content, in that it involves topic-based authoring. Content is stored in modular, re-usable and flexible chunks of information. By moving away from a page-centric, document model, you’re able to organise and present published information in many different ways. However, it’s a different approach to what many non-professional Technical Authors are used to. Unfamiliarity with this content model, as well as the tools, can make collaboration difficult.

Continue reading

Perfecting the green screen in elearning videos

There are some activities that seem like they always could be improved. One is creating an authoring environment where professional technical communicators and other staff can work together; the other is setting up the best lighting for training videos.

This is especially true for videos where chroma-key will be used to remove and replace what was behind the person being videoed. The type of background designed to be easy to be removed from a video is known as “green screen”, although sometimes the colour can actually be a shade of blue.

photo studio backdropIn the past, we’ve used a green screen cloth on a frame, which has worked fairly well. However, it was bulky. We’d either have to dismantle it and the reassemble it for each recording, or live with office space being taken up by the frame and cloth.

There also always seemed to be a few wrinkles in the cloth that resulted in a green halo around the presenter. Photographers call this “spill”, and it’s caused by light bouncing off the green screen on to the presenter. Many professional video software applications have a feature called spill suppression, but it’s best not to have to use it in the first place.

In the end, we decided to take a different approach and paint one of the office walls. Using a special latex green screen paint from Germany, we painted a large green rectangle. Here is a photo taken after the first two coats of paint:

walll painted in green screen paint

It took quite a few coats to get an even colour, but it has made recording videos a lot easier, and it’s given us back some office space.

It’s reduced the amount of green fringing around the presenter, but there is still a little of that if someone looks closely. We may never be able to get rid of it completely, unless we carry out post-processing spill suppression. However, we believe we can make some improvement by changing the bulbs in the kicker lights.

 

This image from Virtualsetworks.com shows where the kicker light should be placed:

You can never have too many lights.

Hopefully, we’ll come up with even more improvements, and report on those in the future.