A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

New York Times, The

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By the Water Cooler in Cyberspace, the Talk Turns Ugly

Thousands of message boards for individual companies have emerged over the last few years, creating a window on what some employees feel but never say publicly. Often the view through this window is rather ugly.

Abelson, Reed. New York Times, The (2001). Careers>Workplace>Collaboration>Online


Care to Write Army Doctrine? With ID, Log On

In July, in a sharp break from tradition, the Army began encouraging its personnel — from the privates to the generals — to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of the field manuals that give instructions on all aspects of Army life. The program uses the same software behind the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and could potentially lead to hundreds of Army guides being “wikified.” The goal, say the officers behind the effort, is to tap more experience and advice from battle-tested soldiers rather than relying on the specialists within the Army’s array of colleges and research centers who have traditionally written the manuals.

Cohen, Noam. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Content Management>Documentation>Wikis


Companies Turn to Grades, and Employees Go to Court   (members only)

An increasingly popular technique for evaluating employees is prompting lawsuits charging discrimination at three big companies. At issue is the ranking of managers, professionals and sometimes lower-level employees from best to worst, or grading them on a bell curve, and then using that ranking to help determine pay and sometimes whether to fire someone.

Abelson, Reed. New York Times, The (2001). Careers>Collaboration>Assessment


Former Book Designer Says Good Riddance to Print

A recent blog post by Craig Mod, a self-titled computer programmer, book designer and book publisher, offers a thoughtful and distinctive perspective on the move of books from paper to interactive devices like Apple’s iPad. Mr. Mod summarizes his argument in the subtitle of his post: “Print is dying. Digital is surging. Everyone is confused. Good riddance.”

Bilton, Nick. New York Times, The (2010). Articles>Document Design>Online>eBooks


Helping Businesses Evaluate Their Internet Presence   (members only)

To ensure that their Web sites are conveying the intended image, a growing list of businesses, including Avis Rent A Car System, McDonald's, Staples and Holiday Inn, are turning to companies that test usability and brand opinion for help. These companies conduct surveys and focus groups and even use high-technology eye-tracking devices to uncover how customers use a Web site and how their experiences affect feelings about the parent company.

Bannan, Karen. New York Times, The (2002). Design>Usability>Assessment>Eye Tracking


Helping Elders Along the Digital Path

Some of the highest growth rates in broadband use are happening among the elderly. The Pew Research Center found that broadband use for those 65 and older increased from 19 percent in May 2008 to 30 percent in April 2009. Since 2005, broadband use has tripled in that group.

Taub, Eric A. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Usability>Technology>Elderly


How Did This Happen?

Even a newspaper like The Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done.

Hoyt, Clark. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Editing>Collaboration>Case Studies


How to Publish Without Perishing

One could imagine the book, venerable as it is, just vanishing into the ether. It melts into all the other information species searchable through Google’s most democratic of engines.

Gleick, James. New York Times, The (2008). Articles>Publishing>Online


Let Them Eat Tweets - Why Twitter Is a Trap   (members only)

Twitter can be entertaining, and useful — and, really, who doesn’t like the illusion, from time to time, of lots of company? I have only lately begun to wonder whether I’d use Twitter if I were fully at liberty to do what I liked.

Heffernan, Virginia. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Online>Social Networking


Mistakes in Typography Grate the Purists

I feel guilty enough about grumbling to my friends whenever I see this or that typographic gaffe, but am too ignorant to spot all of them, unlike the designers who work with typefaces on a daily basis, and study them lovingly.

Rawsthorn, Alice. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Typography>History


Plain English Is the Best Policy

The health care reform bill now under consideration in the House of Representatives includes a proposal that certain disclosures in insurance policies be made in “plain language.” Another piece of legislation now being considered by both houses of Congress would likewise require uniform and simplified coverage information, much like what’s required on nutritional labels. These are excellent proposals, but they do not go far enough. Plain-language disclosures of some policy information and consumer-friendly labels are no substitutes for making an entire policy readable.

Cogan, John Aloysius. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Writing>Policies and Procedures>Minimalism


PowerPoint Makes You Dumb

PowerPoint is the world's most popular tool for presenting information. There are 400 million copies in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes place without it. But what if PowerPoint is actually making us stupider?

Thompson, Clive. New York Times, The (2003). Articles>Presentations>Software>Microsoft PowerPoint


The Science and Art of Science Writing

And while some scientists are themselves fine writers, science writers are seldom experts in the fields we write about. Most of us have dabbled a bit in science ourselves, but we’re more or less professional amateurs, best at explaining complicated things with both maximum simplicity and maximum accuracy. There’s always more to learn about the science at hand, and there’s always a more graceful way to communicate it.

Nijhuis, Michelle. New York Times, The (2013). Careers>Scientific Communication


Send Jobs to India? Some Find It's Not Always Best

Even as the prospect of high-skilled American jobs moving to low-wage countries like India ignites hot political debate, some entrepreneurs are finding that India's vaunted high-technology work force is not always as effective as advertised.

Porter, Eduardo. New York Times, The (2004). Careers>TC>Outsourcing>Offshoring


A Tale of Installation Frustration

The technology business is filled with frustration. Trying to hook something up, troubleshoot something, make it do something–on a deadline–is a weekly occurrence for me. But last week, I just about blew my stack.

Pogue, David. New York Times, The (2006). Articles>Technology>Usability>User Experience


Tech Terms to Avoid

Why tech writers use so much jargon, I don't know. Maybe it's self-aggrandizement; they want to lord their knowledge over everybody else. Maybe it's laziness; they can't be bothered to fish for a plain-English word. Maybe it's just habit; they spend all day talking shop with other nerds, so they slip into technospeak when they write for larger audiences. In any case, I'm making available to all, for the first time, my list of pretentious pet-peeve words to avoid.

Pogue, David. New York Times, The (2008). Articles>Technology>Writing


Technology's Untanglers: They Make It Really Work

Sometimes there is a huge disconnect between the people who make a product and the people who use it. The creator of a Web site may assume too much knowledge on the part of users, leading to confusion. Software designers may not anticipate user behavior that can unintentionally destroy an entire database. Manufacturers can make equipment that inadvertently increases the likelihood of repetitive stress injuries. Enter the usability professional, whose work has recently developed into a solid career track, driven mostly by advancements in technology.

Whitaker, Barbara. New York Times, The (2007). Articles>Usability


Twitter Is What You Make It

There’s nothing quite like Twitter. It’s a Web site where you can broadcast very short messages — 140 characters, max — to anyone who’s signed up to receive them. It’s like a cross between a blog and a chat room.

Pogue, David. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Web Design>Community Building>Social Networking


We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan. “PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina.

Bumiller, Elizabeth. New York Times, The (2010). Articles>Presentations>Instructional Design>Microsoft PowerPoint


The Web Means the End of Forgetting

How are we best to live our lives in a world where the Internet records everything and forgets nothing — where every online photo, status update, Twitter post and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever. With Web sites like LOL Facebook Moments, which collects and shares embarrassing personal revelations from Facebook users, ill-advised photos and online chatter are coming back to haunt people months or years after the fact.

Rosen, Jeffrey. New York Times, The (2010). Articles>Social Networking>Professionalism


What Good Writing Indicates, and Doesn't

Employers who rule out applicants who can’t write might be misconstruing what an applicant’s writing shows about job qualifications. Good writing — writing that is clear and interesting and free of most surface errors — is a reliable indicator of certain job-related abilities. But the opposite does not hold true: writing that looks careless and is riddled with errors does not preclude the possibility that the applicant has other skills and plenty of determination.

Haussamen, Brock. New York Times, The (2012). Articles>Business Communication>Writing>Grammar


Who Wins and Who Loses as Jobs Move Overseas?

The outsourcing of jobs to China and India is not new, but lately it has earned a chilling new adjective: professional. Advances in communications technology have enabled white-collar jobs to be shipped from the United States and Europe as never before, and the outcry from workers who once considered themselves invulnerable is creating a potent political force.

Kinetz, Erika. New York Times, The (2003). Careers>TC>Outsourcing>Offshoring


Why 2007 I.P.C.C. Report Lacked ‘Embers’

Several authors of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the projected effects of global warming now say they regret not pushing harder to include an updated diagram of climate risks in the report. The diagram, known as “burning embers,” is an updated version of one that was a central feature of the panel’s preceding climate report in 2001.

Revkin, Andrew C. New York Times, The (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric


Writing Science for Children in an Age of Discovery

Writing a children's book is never easy. But the challenges are multiplied for children's books about science. It is all too common for the paramount importance of accuracy to conflict with the need to make a book enticing, or at least accessible.

Nagourney, Eric. New York Times, The (2003). Articles>Scientific Communication>Accessibility>Children

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