We’re planning to carry out a number of videoed interviews with a range of Technical Authors this week. This is to help promote the profession. We’ll be asking questions such as what their role is inside their companies, and how they became a Technical Author.
The videos will be uploaded to the YouTube Channel for the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, once we’ve edited and published them.
I thought I’d share some of the tools we use at Cherryleaf, starting with note taking. I’ve not covered audio recording tools, as we’ll probably look at those in another post.
Moleskine notebooks are a great way of taking written notes. The 13cm x 21cm size provides a decent page size, whilst being small enough to fit into an external jacket pocket. The large rule notebook contains 240 pages, which means you’re likely to need only two or three per year.
The elastic closure stops the notebook from falling open, and the bookmark helps you find the next empty page. These can be handy also if you sometimes wake up with an idea in the middle of the night. They enable you to open and find a blank page in the dark, without having to turn on the light. Once the thought is recorded, your brain can settle down to returning to sleep.
Uniball eye pens
The Uniball eye is a popular, everyday pen you can pick up from pretty much anywhere that sells pens. They are reasonably priced, so it doesn’t matter if you lose one, and they seem to last for ages. You can write with minimal pressure, as the ink flows smoothly. The pens are also comfortable in the hand.
One tool we all use is a mobile phone app called CamScanner Pro. CamScanner enables you to scan a document using your smartphone’s or tablet’s camera. It means everyone has their own personal scanner wherever they go. The app converts the image into a PDF, and then enables you to upload the document to a cloud storage service (such as Dropbox) or email it to someone. The Pro, paid, version can also convert scanned images to editable documents.
It confirms the locations where there are shortages of Technical Authors, with the exception of two areas: Birmingham and Glasgow. It also suggests new clusters: one around Colchester and Ipswich, and another around Cardiff.
It’s a fair bet that the introduction of the new Troubleshooting information type into the DITA 1.3 technical authoring standard will affect how all Technical Authors write troubleshooting topics, regardless of whether they use DITA or not. That’s because the proposed elements for troubleshooting topics make good sense, and it offers a standardised approach to writing these types of topics.
According to the Oasis DITA standards committee,
Troubleshooting topics provide descriptions of and solutions or workarounds for problem situations that users might encounter. Users refer to troubleshooting information to understand what condition or event generated their problem situation and to find out what they need to do to recover from or work around a problem, or to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Sarah Maddox’s post on how she has added “techcomm titbits” onto an interactive map, prompted me to look at whether we could create a map showing the location of Technical Authors around the UK. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years, and Sarah’s post suggested it was much easier to do these days, thanks to Google’s applications.
The map needs data, so if you are a Technical Author, please add your details to the map:
We will not include your name or email address on the map. However we do need your name and email address in order to check the integrity of the data and to update you of any developments. You can use the postcode of a neighbouring street, if you wish.
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David Farbey wrote a semi-existentialist post on the challenges for technical communicators yesterday. I’d like to look at the issue in a different way, by looking at the big questions in technical communication today. The answers to these questions (which may be decided by people outside of the profession) are likely to affect the future direction for technical communicators.
One of the most recent developments in web page design has been the introduction of “long form” web pages. Will we also see the long form approach used in Help, or perhaps start to influence the way some Help pages are designed?