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An Old Story Retold

One issue tech writers are facing again is keeping things a little personal.  It’s an old story retold because that’s a major component of any tech writer’s professional blog.  That problem’s surfaced again in things like screen casts and podcasts.  Sometimes, authors will forget to include audio in their screen casts, or they’ll include audio that seems strictly instructional.  The answer’s actually very simple: include short pieces of audi0 (Tom Johnson recommended 5–7 seconds).  That way you include the human element, and you get a little instruction in, too.  Does that also mean being a little more efficient in word use?  Yes, but a tech writer shouldn’t have a problem doing that.

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Categories: General, Uncategorized

Trigger Happy with Hyperlinks, Part Two

As promised, this post will deal with the technology associated with technical writing.  I said we include things because we can, and that’s true.  Technical communication integrates technology with language.  There are some emerging programs that will allow you to enhance your work, two of which are:

1.  Dita markup language

2.  Google Wave

I’ve already spoken about Dita in my post, So How Do You Get Ahead?  I haven’t spoken about Google Wave.

Google Wave is an easy application that allows you to embed wave files in Confluence wiki pages.  Once you’ve downloaded it, you only need to follow two steps:

1.  Edit an existing wiki or create your own.

2.  Add a {wave} macro.  You can do that by typing the wiki markup or by using the macro browser in Confluence.  Here’s the form: {wave:url=my.wave.url}.

Play with Google Wave a little and see how it works!

I’d like to acknowledge that my main source of information for this blog as Sarah Maddox, a technical writer in Sydney, Australia.  You can visit her blog at http://ffeathers.wordpress.com/.

Yours,

John R Larsen

Categories: Technology, Uncategorized

Trigger Happy with Hyperlinks, Part One

Technical communication is beginning to lean pretty heavily on interactivity (i.e, electronic technical documents are beginning to be interactive for their users).  I think there are a few major reasons for that trend:

1.  People retain more information when the document is interactive.

2.  An interactive document keeps the attention of its readers.

3.  We have the technology.

Even if we think the content is very interesting, we could watch an entire presentation without remembering a thing.  If we were given a PowerPoint presentation that required its reader to participate (e.g., one that made us use the tool we were being taught about), we’d be much more likely to remember something.  And since we’d be participating, our chances of losing interest drop dramatically.  All technical communication is about gearing your work to your audience, and making your work interactive is a fine way to do that.

There are a lot of things we do because, frankly put, we can.  That’s where the technology comes in.  We include video links, hyperlinks, wave files, and work from Captivate because we can.  What we do changes with the technology.  We’ll talk more about the technology in the next post.

Yours,

John R Larsen

Categories: Uncategorized