5 reasons content wranglers should love Blogcast FM

BlogCastFM
Dear Blogcast FM,

I love you, it’s true. Let me count the ways.

1. Jogging is hard for a sloth like me but your voice in my head is distracting and the kms just slip away. Most of your interviews last between 45 minutes and an hour, which is good because I can’t run (shuffle) for any longer than that. The trajectory of each interview is perfect—warm up, pound the pavement, cool down.

2. You claim to be a podcast for ‘online entrepreneurs’ but really you’re for anyone who cares about writing, making things and having a presence online. For me, the word ‘entrepreneur’ harks back to the ‘greed-is-good’ 80s but you’re more like Gordon Gekko’s alter ego—encouraging us to pay less attention to crunching the numbers and more attention to being authentic, developing a unique voice, enjoying the ride, harnessing community and staying on task (1000 words a day). It’s the wholesome face of capitalism.

3. Your voice (channeled through Srini Rao) is buoyant, fresh and endearing. You have a way of making your guests comfortable and confessional without ever trying to score points at their expense. Sometimes you flirt with them (even if they’ve been in jail for drug trafficking) but it’s never sleazy. Each interview is enhanced by your own thoughtful perspective and you always make sure we have some practical strategies to take away. You mention ‘surfing’ in every conversation. Nice.

4. Oh, and your subject matter. Smart people doing innovative things and describing it all with great eloquence. I can be pretty cynical about life coachy, self helpy advice but you rise above that and offer a new perspective. Some standouts for me are:

These interviews are full of useful (tweetable) insights—worth untangling the ear phones.

5. You make me feel like I’m part of a revolution. I’m not sure who we’re overthrowing (or why ‘monetizing’ a blog is a crusade requiring small armies, misfits, instigators and renegade collectives ) but I’m ready to take up arms—because it’s all about designing, delivering and doing something useful with digital content.

Seems like a worthy cause and everyone knows that love is a battlefield not a victory march.

Your devoted listener,
Kath x

Excuse me, but has LinkedIn gone feral?

You know what it’s like when the popular kid finally takes you under her wing? She introduces you to the in-crowd, helps you make connections, lets you in on all the best discussions. At last, you feel like your opinion matters and the world is full of possibilities.

Well, that’s how I felt about LinkedIn.

Shortly after I signed up, people started to ‘connect’ with me (some of them in reasonably high places). I joined interesting groups and initiated a few discussions. As a technical communicator it was a great way to befriend my audience – find out what concerned and challenged them and maybe offer some advice.

Young woman looking at her virtual friends isolated on whitePeople were viewing my profile and, like a good friend who has your back, LinkedIn told me exactly who they were. So my ego was well stroked even before the endorsements started rolling in:

“Brian endorsed you for content strategy!”

“Janine endorsed you for usability testing!”

Every morning there seemed to be a new endorsement in my Inbox or some other email from LinkedIn letting me know how much I was loved. How many people liked my comments. All the amazing companies that wanted to hire me.

Ok, so my new friend was becoming a little intense but that’s what extroverts are like, right? Besides, if I started to back away, I might lose all the great connections that I’d made. So I let the relationship continue.

Then things took a turn for the creepy.

I was following a discussion in one of my favourite groups and decided to add a comment. My comment wasn’t accepted and I got a message saying that it was “pending approval”. This had never happened before and I felt a small sting of rejection (especially since the comment never did get approved because the manager of that group wasn’t very diligent). No big deal right? Until it started happening in EVERY group when I tried to make a comment. My day in the popular sun was over. I was confused and humiliated.

But at least I wasn’t alone. In the LinkedIn Help Forum I found a full blown discussion about this very issue. Turns out that if a manager in one group blocks you (either accidentally or on purpose) your comments suddenly become second class citizens in ALL the groups you belong to. There is no way around this and LinkedIn are making no promises to fix it.

But it’s not fair. I didn’t do anything wrong! No spamming. No trying to sell stuff. No political incorrectness. Why have you forsaken me?

LinkedIn remains strangely silent on the subject.

Well at least I have my endorsements. Or do I?

On Monday, my pod buddy at work was amused that I had endorsed her for “agile methodology” since it’s not really her raison d’etre. Only thing was, I hadn’t endorsed her at all. It seemed LinkedIn (my egomaniacal friend) was putting words in my mouth. Another foray into the Help forums revealed that LinkedIn sends out fake endorsements to ‘get the ball rolling’. This is not just creepy, it’s dishonest.

When I went back to look at all my endorsements, I felt my ego deflate like a three day old balloon. Were most of them fake?

Did Neil really think I was good at “telecommunications”?

Was Katie really in awe of my “blogging” skills?

Probably not. I felt an existential crisis coming on.

So my relationship with LinkedIn has cooled. I still check in from time-to-time but I’m more guarded and less naive.

Ironically, I got an email from LinkedIn this morning saying “kathleen, we want you back”. They’d like me to renew my ‘premium membership’ but I think that ship has sailed.

I should have known better, the popular kid is always trouble. Much safer hanging with the geeks (on Google+).

Blogs, Tweets, Pins and Podcasts – why you should make a curation map

I have a serious case of DCSD (Digital Content Stress Disorder).

I fear that the web is not making me smarter. It’s distressing my synapses and dumbing me down. Not because the content is junk but because there is too much good stuff. Amazing material at my finger tips – TED talks, zeitgeisty blogs, beautiful pins and seriously meaty journal articles.

Like a kid on a post-party sugar high, I’m over-stimulated, feral and I need to have a nap.

Last week I wanted to learn more about ethnography. Since I write instructions for ethnographers and other qualitative researchers, I need to keep tabs on current practices and emerging trends.

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HTML 5: Confessions of a low tech writer

Blogging is all about sharing your personal experience and giving it universal appeal. So here’s the personal, painful part:

My name is Kath and I’m a low-tech tech writer.

Is my computer 32 or 64 bit? No idea. What version of Internet Explorer am I running? Um, the latest one? I don’t know my RAM from my ROM even after decades of dictating the minimum requirements to my users. It’s not a great selling point on my resume but there it is.

I’m better with the ‘soft tech’ content – helping users to interact with software, explaining the concepts they need to get their job done, drawing pictures, making movies. That kind of thing.

As soon as the conversation turns hardcore (someone mentions SQL or DNS) then the lining of my brain turns to teflon and nothing sticks. At times, I feel like an imposter and worry that some Gen-Y upstart will point out that the emperor is butt naked.

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Does your help content need a makeover?

makeover_beforeYou know what it’s like when you’re pregnant—you suddenly notice pregnant women everywhere.

After I wrote my last post about reader-engagement (tabloid style) people seemed to be muttering about ‘readability’ wherever I went.

Over coffee, Judy told me about her postgrad students who struggle with their writing. They have trouble getting to the point. She encourages them to reveal their findings up front and points out that a thesis is not a whodunnit. Good advice for a tech writer too.

Later, my friend Lil described the reports she writes for her parliamentary committee. She wants to reduce the reader’s cognitive load and is experimenting with ways to make sure the important stuff gets read. Yes.

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What can the tabloids teach a tech writer?

Do you know how Kate Moss feels about her million dollar tattoo? Are you familiar with the secrets of Tom Cruise’s scientology marriage? Do you even know who Elizabeth Olsen is?

No?

Well, maybe you need to put your structured authoring aside for one minute. Take a break from your bulleted lists and procedural steps. Check your ‘content snobbery’ at the door and explore what is going on in the real world of reader-engagement.

We tech writers are always complaining that no one reads the online help. We work so hard to make sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive and concise. So, why do so many ungrateful users ignore it?  The hard truth—because it’s quite boring.  A desperate user may turn to our carefully crafted instructions when things go wrong, but they will never say:

“Now, I’ll just make a lovely cup of tea, put my feet up and read that online help”.

What can we do to change this perception? Well, I think we can take a few lessons from the world of tabloid journalism. This morning, I locked the kids in the house and escaped to the garden to read the Sunday newspaper. As usual, I worked my way through the main news; politics, economics and social dysfunction. Then it was time for dessert—the Sunday Magazine.

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5 ways to harness the list obsession

I just got an email from the Oxfam shop. 5 tips for a happier Christmas. They may be selling fair trade goats, but they understand the power of a numbered list.

These lists are everywhere.

6 ways to better blogging.

Top 5 inspirational songs for joggers.

Ten ways to find more ways.

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