Would you like to walk a tortoise?

When I read this post on Mashable , it intrigued me – no, not the part about taking it slow…the part about taking an attitude, a basic human attribute, and fitting it so well into a job profile. Such a perfect fit! Almost like the photographer getting a job as a travel expert…But then, content skills are like that too.

It takes all kinds of content in this world to make it happen – just as a tortoise walker needs to take it slow, different channels and audiences require content of different types, formats. If you love visuals and graphics, try your hand at creating #infographics If you love the long hand, articulation of putting pen to paper, take a stab at writing thought papers, articulate an idea into its business reflection. And if you simply love collecting content, showing off what you read, become a content #curator. Get your content skill upgraded to aggregating content of different categories, yet put together to show different levels within a categorization.

#content is fun, and your individual skill matters…go find ’em!


Play Ball!

It was just another Saturday morning when a friend and I started tossing a ball around. It was fun – we tried different catching techniques – the reverse cup catch, the orthodox cup catch, short catches, underarm catches – anything that came to mind and was fun, energetic, enjoyable.

It wasn’t something professional or for a particular goal, just a break because a tennis ball was handy. We didn’t worry about glass table tops, the television, the ceramic ornament – all those dangerously breakable artifacts, which certainly would have caused heartbreak, if even one catch was missed.

That was part of the fun – avoiding obstacles, ensuring no damages – but the objective was to have fun, show-off some techniques and to have an energetic, amusing time that friends normally have.

PlayBallIt got me thinking around how we, as experienced technical communicators, sometimes lose out on bringing in fun and inexperience into our work day. As we get more and more thorough with technical writing concepts, we tend to oversee others, correct our teams or put in coordination time to somehow deliver. How about playing ball once in a while?

Rewrite yourself a sample chapter in that mundane product manual you’ve been looking at for months. Explore a technology platform that will help automate a certain tedious documentation process. Don’t leave it to the tools team to figure out – discover that amazing feature in the tool and show it off to your team. Go volunteer to write a sample article for an upcoming publication in your business unit in an unknown domain. Discover the basic inherent skills in you of exploration, learning, instinct and writing.

Pick a ball of your choice and go play!


A derivative came to mind while reading about how worldflows work better than sitemaps at the zurb site.
Normally in end-user documentation the table of contents (Toc) lists the contents at the start. Experienced technical writers often compare a toc with a sitemap, which is again a listing of the contents of a site.
Drawing a parallel from the article, it seems more beneficial to the user to have a Trail of contents (toc) which would explain say how best one could use this user manual or how the user could get more help on a specific query.
I find more value in understanding HOW to work with an interface rather than knowing WHAT is in it.
So would you still advocate a table of contents or have you switched loyalties to a trail of contents?

Is this content strategy?

Looking at Google’s homepage today paying tribute to Jules Verne, I was trying to figure out what this would be called-personalisation is too broad a scope…
Would there be any scientific nomenclature for a site to have information customized/personalized/presented at will.
There’s knowledge-there’s visual delight-there’s curiosity to know more,probably using the same site (search)-awesome content strategy!
Oh yes…that’s what its called 🙂

Content Libraries

This morning, a sort of affirmation came to mind – shorter, crisper content, easy to access, easy to consume is preferred. One can see it all around – in the form of 140 charachters or around that today. But definitely nothing to stop that number from changing from 140 to maybe 500.

I’m talking about the technical content for products, as an example. Surely, I can’t explain an installation procedure in 140 charachters, but I might be able to do that in say 500 words? So, I write a snippet of a procedure, give it a sensible and logical ID, and connect all these snippets to form one installation procedure of a certain feature.

Now that sounds doable. And then I put that snippet in a content library. I tag the snippet with all the logical tags that give it context. I put it up on the shelf along with other snippets. Along comes a user, who’s interested in putting together a certain procedure for a feature he’s tweaked from the base product. Aha – now that’s a library that would be useful for him to pick from. The logical tags guide his choice and using the right technology, he builds his set of snippets or as we would like to call it – an installation manual!

I quite liked this story. Did you?