Rahul’s Top 10 Lessons Learned as a Technical Communicator

Here are some very wise words from Rahul Prabhakar. He lists and discusses the top 10 lessons he has learned as a technical communicator. I won’t even list them here as a teaser. Go to his site and read them. Or listen to them at Tech Writer Voices. You cannot just read or listen once.

I contemplated starting my own list of Top 10 Lessons after reading this list. I thought that would be a nice touch to carry on the concept and have it spread to other technical communication sites. However, I am too influenced by Rahul’s ideas right now. I would need to mull over these ideas for a while before I dare set pen to paper, or rather, shoved a few electrons around on the screen. Besides, the intention of my site is to share lessons, big and small, on a fairly regular basis. Maybe I can do a year-end blog about the lessons I learned this year. The learning never stops, you know!

If you decide to write up your Top 10 Lessons Learned as a Technical Communicator, post the link here.

And keep an eye on Rahul. At only 20-something, he will go places! Thanks for sharing, Rahul.

Is Snap really a snap?

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Rhonda snapped. Now Tom snaps. I’m talking about Snap, which does seem to be a very cool plug-in to WordPress and other blogging tools. When your cursor hovers over a hyperlink, a square cartoon-bubble-like pop-up appears with a miniature version of the site or Web page referred to by the link. I like it. It has a high cool factor, and Tom provides a few thoughts about it on his blog.
But is it accessible? How does it work in a screen reader? How does it work with slow connections? (56k modems still exist!) That I haven’t quite figured out yet. Do you know?

Update: Rhonda is snapping on her blog, not her work site. That was the type of confusion a technical communication should avoid. I did that just to see if you were awake out there. 😉

And thanks to Tom, I discovered Laurelle’s WordPress blog with lots of helpful tips, including this one with an answer to my question about accessibility. As a sighted person, yes, it does look very cute the first time you see it. It is the way it can disturb your reading if you are using the mouse to scroll during your read and the cursor happens to stop on a hyperlink. From Laurelle’s post, I can see how the Snap preview can cover too much of the reading area for low-vision users who have enlarged text, say 400%. Being a comanager of the AccessAbility SIG of STC, and just plain interested in accessibility, I think about these things, even though they don’t apply to me personally. It’s just a part of my critical thinking process when viewing new technology. “Will this promote universal accessibility?” Because

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

as Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director said. And now I’ll get off my soapbox.

Listen to the Voices of Technical Communication

Yes, you can now listen to technical communication. More specifically, you can listen to podcasts about technical communication at Tech Writer Voices. Tom Johnson is the creative force behind these podcasts. (Thank you, Tom!)

I love the idea of listening to technical communication topics. I have piles of books and articles and magazines that cover many of of these topics. They can keep me busy for days and weeks and months. But the time! That’s where these podcasts prove their value to me. I can listen to them during my daily trip to and from work. From the time I go out my front door until I sit down at my desk at work, I can listen to about 25 minutes worth of podcast. If I used the same time period for reading, I could read about 4 minutes on the Metro and 8-10 minutes on the train. I have been known to read on the walk from the train to the office, but that is only possible with easy-to-handle books – and not on a rainy day! The podcasts are a relaxing way to spend my journey.

The podcasts are not a simple diversion. They are packed with nutritional value for your brain cells! Tom has selected good topics that I am interested in right now. There are also topics that have nothing to do with my daily work. I will listen to most of them anyway.

Why? Because I believe that is what a good technical communicator should do. Keeping up to date with new trends and technology is also common sense, even if from a distance. It keeps you prepared and ready for what your manager or customer might throw on your desk one day. It helps you to plan for the future, whether the future is just around the corner or several years away. In fact, you can hear more reasons from Emma Hamer in one of Tom’s podcasts: How to Increase Collaboration and Performance. I found this one so interesting that I listened to it twice!

For example, Emma Hamer proposes the radical idea of holding performance reviews many times during the year! The idea makes perfect sense as she explains it. I am going to suggest the idea at my workplace. She has several other great ideas, some may even be radical to your way of thinking. Your brain cells will definitely get some exercise.

Do stop by Tech Writer Voices and see what Tom has lined up for your listening and learning pleasure, including links to even more podcasts. Wikipedia can help you on your way if podcast is a new term for you.