A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

One Man Writes

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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


Consideration Layer Model

As a technical writer, every decision you make is influenced by several discrete things, considerations for either the audience of the information, the process you’ll need to follow to collate and verify the information, and so on. Every decision requires such considerations but is it possible to model these?

One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Theory


Consistency of Message

The main aims are to provide a consistent set of information to our customers, throughout their relationship with us. So from initial contact right the way through to rollout and future upgrades, we will have a coherent set of information that is updated accordingly and a clear idea of how it will all be communicated to the customer.

One Man Writes (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Usability


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 Soon is Now?

One common complaint a lot of technical writers have is that they aren’t included early enough in lifecycle of a project. The downsides are that by the time work hits your desk you don’t have a full picture of who the customer is, why they want whatever it is you are building, and how they want it provided to them. All of which directly impacts the information being created.

McLean, Donna. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Project Management>Technical Writing>Collaboration


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


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



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