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helpstuff blog - March 2008

helpstuff blog

Helping end-users since 1981

Archives for: March 2008

03/25/08

Permalink 08:40:17 am, Categories: Announcements, User Assistance, 45 words   English (US)

Sample chapter from Wroblewski book online

Luke Wroblewski has been busy putting the finishing touches on his book Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks. Read Sign Up Forms Must Die at A List Apart.

(And see Tuesday at WritersUA for a link to purchase the book and a discount code.)

03/19/08

Permalink 01:26:38 am, Categories: Announcements, User Assistance, Conferences, 452 words   English (US)

Tuesday at WritersUA

Wow...lots of sessions and networking and talking and eating and drinking today!

I started the day in Cheri Lockett Zubak's session on reusability in Author-it. She's created numerous topic templates for one of her clients that include boilerplate text to help the content developers when they're creating topics. The nice thing about all those topic templates is that they are basically a way of identifying "information types" while in development, based on the template that's being used. And she wrote this really long document that describes each topic type, what information is required and optional, the styles that will be used, and more. (She should market that document. I'd buy it.)

Next up was Luke Wroblewski's session on visual hierarchy. I love listening to Luke...he does such a great job of presenting this information. (I started redesigning helpstuff while listening to him. I have no idea when I'll have time to actually do the work.) Watch his blog...he should be posting his slides soon. And his new book, Web Form Design (Filling in the Blanks), is due from the publisher "any day now". Go to Rosenfeld Media and save 15% by entering FOLUKE15 when ordering.

After lunch, Geoff Hart and I presented our session on editing online Help. Geoff developed a process for using Word with Track Changes enabled to edit HTML files for those folks using one of the HTML file-based HATs (such as Flare, RoboHelp, Doc-To-Help, etc.) which lets the Help author pass the file to the editor for review, and then the editor passes the file back to the Help author who resolves all edits and comments. The file can then be loaded back into the project folder and compiled. The system is slightly different for Author-it and other tools with a built-in processor, and slightly different again for tools that use Word (or Frame) as the word processor, as the editor can just use the appropriate application for editing.

I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to people...answering questions or just chatting. I talked about future conference sessions with a couple of folks, and answered some Author-it questions, too.

The day ended with MadCap's mixer in the Pavillion...good food (although a bit too spicy for me), big bar, and lots of prizes.

For various reasons, I'm headed home first thing tomorrow morning. I'm bummed because I'm missing some awesome sessions...Rhonda's on reviewing the user interface, Mike Hughes' on task support clusters, Dave Gash's on XSLT transforms, Mark Wallis' on DITA pilot projects, and the closing pundits panel. But after being on the road for almost two weeks, I'm ready to go home!

Watch the other blogs for information on day 3 at WritersUA :-)

03/18/08

Permalink 09:44:50 am, Categories: Announcements, User Assistance, Conferences, 405 words   English (US)

Monday at WritersUA

(BTW, Sarah is also blogging on the conference.)

I was really looking forward to the opening session yesterday...I find the topic of linguistics fascinating. I just wish the speaker had been more energetic, and I think I'm going to like reading her book.

I went to Cheri Lockett Zubak's session on procedures. Cheri's done lots of research into types of procedures, and having just left a client site where a previous consultant felt that tasks didn't need numbers, I was really interested in summarized procedures. (I still don't think the client's stuff was set up correctly, and Bonni Graham and I discussed how some subjects...like audit and security, or policy and procedures, aren't really good subjects for summarized procedures.) It was great having Cheri back again, and her session was terrific.

While I was listening to her, I realized that my soon-to-be-gamer son will be one of the folks Cheri was talking about in a few years...when the baby boomers aren't in control, the gamers will be, and the gamers don't read. (Other than text messages, of course.) But they do communicate, just more with visuals. We're going to have to change, and now I'm really looking forward to Luke's session later today because he's all about the visual.

Next session up was my panel of pundits (Sarah O'Keefe, Alan Houser, and Scott DeLoach), talking about features in HATs. We were put in one of the smaller rooms (probably based on Joe's surveys), and had people just about everywhere, standing and sitting on the floor. Jack Molisani of LavaCon was nice enough to find more chairs when he saw what was happening.

We didn't always agree, which I think is A Good Thing(TM), and we had lots of fun. The attendees asked some great questions, and hopefully the vendors who attended will take advantage of the input.

Adobe sponsored last night's reception, where we had Caesar salad, tortellini with tomato sauce and cheese, and garlic bread. On another table, big trays of cheese and fruit, with crackers and bread, were laid out. And at the end, they brought out huge chocolat-covered strawberries. The food was great, and those who won copies of the software were thrilled.

Now on to day 2...I'm going to go to Cheri's session on reusable content in Author-it, and then Luke's session, and then Geoff and I will talk about editing online Help. It's another full day!

03/17/08

Permalink 10:39:42 am, Categories: Announcements, User Assistance, Conferences, 223 words   English (US)

WritersUA has started!

Over 500 Help authors etc. are gathered in Portland this week for the 16th Annual WritersUA Conference on Software User Assistance.

There's lots of stuff going on this year, and plenty of places for you to get perspectives.

If I hear of any more, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile...

Yesterday was "registration day". It's always fun seeing people as they check in and catching up with those folks I only see at conferences (versus those I see and talk to throughout the year). And I got to catch up with some of the vendors while they set up their booths.

Last night, I went to the MadCap dinner...the food was great (as always) and MadCap has several announcements taking place this week. I'm not sure when I can say anything, so I'll stick with "watch for the press releases". I'll provide more information when I can (which should be later today).

Breakfast is starting soon, I'm looking forward to the opening session, and my panel discussion is later this afternoon. I'll post more later!

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