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”

We Are Family

Over here in Europe, we get a fair number of American TV series, but not all of them. Recently, a friend passed me a complete set of all the existing episodes of Firefly which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I’d not heard of it before, but I understand that it has become something of a cult series in the U.S. and I understand why.

It has something in common with a series that has had vastly greater success, in the U.S. and abroad: NCIS.

I’m not sure why one series failed and the other succeeded, but what ties them both together, and makes them both so appealing, is the sense of dysfunctional but united family.

Continue reading “We Are Family”

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!

 

Doing Well by Doing Good

In the late 1930’s, two significant political figures discovered new technology.

At the time, the new technology was called Radio. And both of these political figures discovered, pretty much in parallel, its power and influence.

One of these figures was Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
The other was New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Continue reading “Doing Well by Doing Good”

The Gestalt of Bookkeeping

Well!  The STC election is over (I won). The spring conference season is over – at least for me, with many successes and then – the one I didn’t do so well at. The home stretch in this hectic season, before relaxing for the summer (apart for some client work to pay the bills) was French tax season.

To do my taxes, I first have to do my books. If you’re like me, you wait until the last minute to do a lot of the bookkeeping work. Resolutions, year after year, to keep my books up to date all during the year have all gone down the road that’s paved with good intentions…

Bookkeeping is a simple, boring, annoying task, right? Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be? Funny thing is, each year, when I start this process, so many things come back to me:

The lunch in New York, where I invited two of my former students, from two universities on different continents and from two different generations, because I was sure they’d have something to say to each other, and they did.

The EuroIA conference in Prague that stimulated and excited me.

The Intelligent Content conference in Palm Springs where I not only was stimulated and excited, but got to have a wonderful reunion with an old friend I hadn’t seen since high school (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was…)

The new sound equipment that I bought and have not yet used as intended (real soon now).

The trip to San Francisco that I didn’t plan, after the death of my closest cousin.

The weekend canoeing with my Barcelona friends on a meander of the Ebro River near Flix.

Doing one’s books for the whole year all at once provides the kind of reflection and review that we are supposed to do around various religious ceremonies, but that many of us largely ignore. Holding that receipt in the hand opens a floodgate of memory. It can be a time for nostalgia, for bittersweet reminiscence, even for regrets, or might stimulate us to beg pardon of someone for something we did during the past year.

Bookkeeping. Who woulda thunk it?

I Keep Thinking…

…about all this communication stuff:

  • I keep thinking about how information architects don’t like to be called UX designers. “IA is so much more,” they say. The “more” they’re talking about includes content. Not Lorem Ipsum, but real content. Many IA’s think of themselves as content strategists, too. They probably are. In fact, I think IA and CS are interlocking, interdependent parts of a single, holistic process – whether done by one person or a team.
  • I keep thinking about how Map should be an element used on the publishing side of DITA, not the authoring side. Let’s rename Map to Container (that’s what it is) and then a Map could really be one: you could map a layout out on a graphic of a page or screen of your publication, and fill it with DITA elements: topics, concepts, and the newly named containers. Using these graphical elements, you could have text flows just like in old fashioned desk top publishing programs, and you could control the layout and make it pretty – removing one of the most common criticisms of working with XML.
  • I keep thinking how I really want to do it all myself. Not because I don’t like teamwork, not because I’m jealous of others’ competencies, but because I love all this stuff so much, I just want to have the fun of doing it all. Silly of me, I know.
  • I keep thinking how technical communication is a lot like playing the piano. Not just because you need to make your fingers work a keyboard in both cases, but also because, as you develop your skill and hone your craft, you become aware that you are working with subtleties that no one other than a few other specialists in your field would ever be aware of. Quality assurance people would say that this is “too much quality” – you should provide just as much as the customers ask for, and not a jot more. But we do this, every day, even though we don’t really get paid for it, and users do not – at least consciously – notice. Not only that, I encourage everyone to keep doing it.
  • I keep thinking that everything is connected. I’d better quit it, because in the end, it means thinking about the entire, infinite, exquisite universe – makes my head ache.
  • Yeah, but I keep thinking that the only really valuable skill in this age is the ability, just exactly, to make connections between things where seemingly none exists.
  • I keep thinking that one day, we’ll discover basic principles of electronic networking and break through to achieving the wonderfully facilitating type of many to many communications environments we used to have on The Source back in 1985.
  • I keep thinking that Ted Nelson was right. About just about everything.
  • I keep thinking that the more means we have to communicate, the more we seem to be throwing words and preconceived ideologies at each other like weapons.
  • I keep thinking about silence.

The Value Question

OK, this is not a blog for or about my family, but I’m going to talk about my sister again.

You see, I pick on her (she’ll tell you I always did) as an example because she’s pretty typical in certain ways.  She’s been carrying on quite nicely as a science writer, web content editor, media rep, and other nifty stuff that technical communicators routinely do, but to my knowledge, she’s never written a user manual or other direct user guidance in her life.

She’s done all this very well over a long, distinguished career (family resemblance is much more than coincidental ;-)) without ever being a member, herself, of the STC.

Suddenly, she gets it into her head to join, partly because of my participation and activism in the society, and guess what?  She can’t find anything that speaks to her.

I’ve already posted about how my sister didn’t go to the STC technical communication summit and I did. So, she looked for a webinar to take, and found one on scenario-based IA. Of course, she had to pay $79 for it. This was her take on it:

I thought this session was far too basic for a tech comm crowd (tell me who doesn’t already know what a scenario is?) and far too limited in scope, with the entire focus on “get your customer to do x monetizing goal.”  …I was looking for something a bit more directed to the education/nonprofit world, and my question [about that] was never acknowledged or addressed in the live presentation. So, what would motivate me to pay that much money for a live STC webinar in future, when it’s essentially a canned presentation?  I could have bought two books on info architecture for that $79 bucks.

This is the value dilemma. When a professional organisation offers a webinar and expects people to pay for it, it needs to make sure it’s delivering good value, or people will spend their money elsewhere. Stands to reason. My own first webinar presenting experience gave me pause to think about this from the other side of the screen – and to feel a bit guilty.

Seems obvious to me, that an organisation that presents webinars for a fee needs to be sure of the quality of the content. Beyond that, however, a proper educational service should be vetting the presenters, and be able to provide some help and support for them beyond managing the technical presentation tool. Those of us who do a lot of teaching already know there’s no better way to learn, and speaking for myself, although an experienced teacher and presenter, the webinar situation was new to me, and I could have used some preliminary coaching.

In STC, in this day when so much information is available free via social networks and search engines, it is incumbent on us to be “serious,” as the French would say, to be sure that our quality, and our image, be consistently above average. I think I’m pretty good, but my webinar for STC was not above average. This is certainly my fault and not STC’s – let’s be clear. But perhaps the education department should have – could have helped prepare me to make sure that my first time avoided the common pitfalls. This is not only a help to the presenter, it helps to guaranty quality for STC.