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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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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Take an ethnographic approach to content design

Sometimes my worlds collide and I try to surf the seismic wave.

World A: Technical Writing

I’m part of technical communication team that agonizes over the usual stuff. Should we be using DITA to create reusable content? What’s the best way to localize our material for an international audience? How do we keep our videos up to date? How do we encourage our expert community to help each other? And, the m-dash—is it possible to overuse it?

Then there’s the big umbrella question. How do we design relevant, accurate, engaging content that both informs and delights our users?

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Does your content strategy include Snapguides?

There are so many platforms for delivering content but you’re confident that you have all the bases covered—user guide, video, wiki, forum, online help (authored in a structured reusable-ish way). Then, all it takes is a friend complaining that his iPhone is slugish and the panic sets in. Here’s why. In a bid to help him out, you consult Dr Google who prescribes a Snapguide.

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