The Importance of Labels

Those who work in certain regulated industries, most especially the pharmaceutical field, know that labels are important. In fact, companies have people who do nothing but manage the labels of their products, and the language on them. This is because a change of even the positioning of a comma can require going through a regulatory re-approval process.

While this might seem like a lot of bureaucratic hassle to some, the reasoning is that a minor typographical error on a label can cost lives.

There are many aspects of life other than technical communication where this is true, and I have recently had the sad occasion to experience one case.

Continue reading “The Importance of Labels”

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Who Has a License to Drive the Information Superhighways?

Update – 2 March 2015: The promised part 2 of this post is now published!

The former U.S. Vice President Al Gore coined the term, “information superhighways” to describe the Internet. It was a great political slogan, and Gore was certainly one of the most internet-friendly U.S. political figures (and one of the first). But that doesn’t mean the term has legs.

A superhighway, for example, has a speed limit – well, just about everywhere except Germany, that is. Does Internet have one? I suppose it might, purely in terms of capacity – but not for the kinds of reasons that motivate automobile speed limits. In fact, we limit driving speed for safety – but on the Internet, the faster the better, and speed limits are seen as an impediment to efficient operation, not a safety regulation.

To drive on a superhighway, you need a driver’s license. Are we willing to pass an examination to drive on the Internet superhighway? Should we be? Personally, I think not.

In many countries, superhighways have tolls that pay for their maintenance and provide a profit to a concessionaire. We do pay our ISP’s, but in general, we don’t seem to think they provide good maintenance of our routes. And now, they are wanting to control what makes, models, and colors of car can drive on their highways.

In short, the traditional model of superhighways includes some sort of pay-per-distance, the need to be licensed to use it, and other forms of legal and social controls, that in general, Internet users have been reluctant to accept.

Why is it that we think it’s OK to have our cars registered with the government, our drivers’ licenses issued by the government (which can then track us thanks to both), and to have a whole raft of laws affecting how we drive and how fast, that restrict our “freedom” of movement – yet we are not willing to have analogous controls for navigating the world’s info-paths?

My best guess has two components:

  • The Internet is NOT a system of superhighways – it has a meta-existence that only a few roads have ever known (The Silk Road, Route 66…)
  • The Internet functions in the realm of ideas – and we do not take well to “thought control.”

In this post, I’ll deal with the first component.

Continue reading “Who Has a License to Drive the Information Superhighways?”

Why I Left Facebook

I left Facebook on June 16, 2013.

I hated to leave – ever since I’d been in touch with former classmates, and people from my original home town, an extraordinarily special place, I have really cherished my Facebook contacts, old and new, as my network has grown and thrived.

I had to do it, though. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy any longer.

Continue reading “Why I Left Facebook”

Where are the Content Industries Going?

Some of you may have heard me talk, already, about The Transformation Society – a new research group that I have co-founded in Barcelona with Dr. Neus Lorenzo, a specialist in new technologies applied to education.

TransForm2

I’ll be blogging more about The Transformation Society in the near future – but you can already see the results of some of our research.

Continue reading “Where are the Content Industries Going?”

The Coming Crisis

I’m not an academic. I haven’t done any research. I just observe the world and say what I see, and what I see is this:

  • We think it’s OK to deliver personal attacks, salacious innuendo, smear campaigns, and lies, and refer to it as “political discourse.”
  • We think it’s OK to advertise every product made in every part of the globe at every level of quality as “the best” – thereby rendering the word “best” meaningless.
  • We think it’s OK to announce loud and clear that we are against money laundering, tax evasion, and fiscal fraud, proclaim significant measures to combat them, and do nothing.
  • We think it’s OK to patent living organisms, genetic codes, and other aspects of life on this earth, as if they were industrial products.
  • We think it’s OK to use a term like “intellectual property,” and we think we can buy and sell ideas.

Continue reading “The Coming Crisis”

A Cognitive Design for User Assistance – Comprehensive Links

Update, 17 September 2015: Adobe has a new platform for its recorded webinars. Links to the recordings are now updated and will work correctly.

It is important to follow the Instructions for viewing them, which is also updated.

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I’ve had a number of emails, tweets, and other requests for information on how to get slides or recordings of the webinar series I just finished for Adobe.

Thanks are in order

First off, I need to thank all of you who attended, asked questions, passed me feedback and food for thought.

Thanks also to Adobe for giving me the space and the freedom to present these ideas, and promote the research we are starting to do in The Transformation Society. I’ll be blogging about that more in the near future.

Some Practical Information

Slides are posted as pdf files to Slideshare. You are welcome to use, but not modify, these slide decks, with attribution.

Recordings of the webinars are on the Adobe site – you need to have an adobe.com account to get to them. This will not hurt, I promise 😉 You can get the account for free, and there’s no obligation attached to it.

 Instructions for viewing webinar recordings 

When you click the links to the webinar recordings, you’ll arrive at the webinar description page. Click the “register” button, then fill out the form. You’ll be sent a link that will activate watching. The user experience is less than stellar, but don’t worry about it – just plod through, you’ll end up at the recording, just as we promised 😉

The Links

Session 1: Users Become Learners

Session 2: Empowering User/Learners Through Cognitive Development

Session 3: Integrated Learning: Building Customer Loyalty

 I’ve tested the links, and as of this writing, they all work as advertised.

Enjoy!

 

Let’s Break a Tech Comm Rule

Update: Links to all session slides and recordings are grouped here.

I’ve been a technical communicator for nigh on 20 years. I teach technical communications. I theorize about technical communications. And for all this time, I have steadfastly held to the great rule that you do not mix concepts with tasks.

DITA has three major topic types. Two of them are Concept and Task. Why? To keep them separate, of course – everyone knows that!

And yet – and yet – and yet – here I am, telling you that “everything we know is wrong.” Continue reading “Let’s Break a Tech Comm Rule”