A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

McLean, Gordon

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Access is Good

Yesterday we launched a new version of our developer community website. It doesn’t have many ‘community’ features as yet but that’s all to come. One thing it does now have is an HTML version of all of our product documentation, in an easily searchable format. This new format of the product documentation is largely to move us away from PDF only documentation. At present we still have a set of PDFs but they aren’t particularly usable.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Documentation


Are You Interruptable?

I’m permanently interruptable because that’s my job. It took me quite a while to realise this, and getting yourself into a position to be interruptable isn’t all that easy. You need a good team around you (which I have) and you need to trust them and delegate to them as much as you can (I trust them, and I’m working on that delegation thing!).

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2010). Articles>Workplace>Management>Collaboration


The Black Art of Estimation

Estimating the amount of time it takes to write documentation is tricky as it relies on many differing, subtle, factors and, for many people working outside of a highly regimented and heavily project managed team, it tends to boil down to a mixture of guesswork and experience. However, it’s not impossible to come up with a more reasoned estimate as long as you don’t mind doing a little planning.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Careers>Documentation>Technical Writing>Estimating


Bye Bye STC

Perhaps the time has come to wrap up the STC and let a new organisation grow from the ashes. Those who are interested, and who believe our profession needs such an organisation will rally round and rebuild something. If there is not enough interest then perhaps that is a further indication that the STC has had its time.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>TC>Community Building>STC


Designing Websites

The parallels between the theories of technical communications and those of web design are very similar, the key aim is to keep the audience in mind at all times. The way you structure and present the information is also important, as is a sense of usability of the content itself.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Web Design>Technical Writing>User Centered Design


DITA Is Not the Answer

Single sourcing is good, I’m sure most of us can agree on that, but I’ve recently been wondering if perhaps DITA isn’t quite good enough?

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2007). Articles>Content Management>XML>DITA


Does Single Sourcing Content Work?

One of the more popular posts on this blog is titled DITA is not the answer and, whilst things are certainly moving forward, it’s a little sad that it is still valid. A recent comment on that post suggested that it’s not just DITA that is lacking, it’s the working realities of single source that is flawed.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Content Management>Single Sourcing>DITA


Driving Development

By partly adopting the process suggested by Daniel Brolund we, the technical writing team, can be involved right up front and the documentation can be one of the methods used to validate the software as it is being built.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Documentation>Writing>Technical Writing


Dumping the Manual

I honestly can't remember the last time I picked up a user manual, an honest-to-god paper book of technical documentation. Actually that's a lie, it was just last week when i was tidying up. I picked up several user manuals and moved them to a lower shelf on my bookcase. So why do we still maintain a traditional view of how information should be provided?

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Documentation>Online


Everything is Connected

These are exciting times and we have a great opportunity to finally leverage technical communications into the spotlight. The value of information is finally being properly realised, and we are ideally placed to help any organisation make the most of what information they have and help them understand and create the information they really need.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Content Management>Content Strategy


Getting to Expert

The gaps in your documentation aren’t there because you haven’t consider a particular level of user; the gaps in your documentation are there because you haven’t considered how one level of user becomes another. How DO you get from Beginner to Expert?

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design>Technical Writing


Hacking Author-it Webhelp

Author-It Webhelp output is built using HTML templates (for the layout and structure), CSS (for the styling) and is powered using Javascript. If you are competent in HTML and CSS you can do a lot of tweaking of the templates.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2010). Articles>Documentation>Help>Author It


How to Prioritise Your Work

We all have a need to make sure we are working on the most important thing, the thing that needs our attention and focus the most. Given that all of us will have more than one thing that needs to get done, you need to prioritise. But how?

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2010). Articles>Project Management>Planning


Information Strategy Pyramid

Consistency is an important part of communication, even at the simplest level of having a common terminology, using the same words consistently throughout a document helps the reader learn. Take this idea up a level, from a single document to a number of documents and maintaining the same terminology across all documents can further help re-enforce the messaging and aid learning, and should give the reader a level of comfort that the entire set of information has been thought of, and delivered, as a cohesive set.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Information Design>Content Strategy


ISTC Community Website

As has been mentioned elsewhere, I’m currently planning to build a community website for the ISTC and thought it time to get you all a heads up and ask for some help.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2010). Articles>Web Design>Organizations>United Kingdom


On Taking Notes

I have been remiss at writing new content for this blog, and whilst this topic isn’t one that I said I’d post about (those posts are coming, I promise), it’s something I was discussing yesterday and so is at the forefront of my mind. Like many people I still use pen and paper when taking notes, and regardless of the type of meeting I stick with three basic categories.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Interviewing>Writing


Only the Good Die Young

Enterprises looking to fast track their content strategy and minimize the risks of a big-bang initiative are choosing DITA–one of the most popular information models to suit today’s content–rich, multi-channel environment.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


Pick a Card

There are obvious benefits to single sourcing, the ones that roll off the tongue the minute single source is mentioned: multi-format publishing, consistency of information, quicker updates of common content, lowering translation costs and so on. But beyond all those, what else is there? In this guest blog post, Gordon McLean discusses just that.

McLean, Gordon. DMN Communications (2009). Articles>Content Management>Single Sourcing>Documentation


Pick a Card

Whether magician or crook, the ability to manipulate the contents of a deck of cards, making the right card appear at the right moment, is the key to their success and takes a long time and a lot of practice to perfect. The obvious take away here is that hard work will take you far, but what of working smarter?

McLean, Gordon. Communications from DMN (2009). Articles>Single Sourcing>Technical Writing


Revisiting the Basics

There are some fundamentals tenets of our profession that are widely accepted. One being that you always need to know your audience before y can begin to understand their needs and so produce the information that they require.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Testing Documentation

As part of the product, testing documentation seems like an obvious thing to do, but what does it really mean? I’ve fielded the question in a few different places now and it’s always interesting to delve deeper and understand the rationale behind the request.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Documentation>Assessment>Testing


What do the Users Really Want?

I have no idea what our users want. I do know they want information, and I know they want that information to be kept up to date as our product evolves and as far as those basic needs are concerned, I’m happy that we are meeting them. Beyond that I admit I’m not really that sure.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design>Surveys


What Do You Not Do?

When was the last time you looked at the things you don’t do?

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2010). Careers>Consulting


Why I am a Technical Writer

Like many people in this industry, I certainly didn’t set out to be a Technical Writer, far from it. But I’m happy to say that I’m a Technical Writer, that I work in the field of Technical Communication, and I don’t see either of those things changing any time soon.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Review: Writer River

Tom Johnson set up Writer River as a way to allow anyone (with an account) to post links to interesting blog posts and articles. The website has been running for a whlie now and continues to provide links to useful and topical articles.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Reviews>Social Networking>Blogging



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