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helpstuff blog

helpstuff blog

Helping end-users since 1981

11/16/08

Permalink 09:43:41 am, Categories: Announcements, 159 words   English (US)

New Tribes ebook is now available

Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us was released in October, but way before that, he created a Ning network called Triiibes[1], where those interested in the concept could meet and talk and even work together.

The Q&A is the second project that the tribe worked on and I'm happy to say that I was part of it. Thanks to Megan Elizabeth Morris, who may have gone without sleep that weekend but made sure we finished by deadline, and to the other 150+ people who donated their time and efforts. Even though most of my stuff was at the end (editing), it was great working with everyone. It's a wonderful feeling when a project like this comes together.

Seth announced the ebook's release this morning on his blog.

[1] The online group is Triiibes because a) Seth found that tribes.com was already taken and b) it takes a minimum of three people to make a tribe.

11/09/08

Permalink 02:45:29 pm, Categories: Social Media, 786 words   English (US)

Do you tweet?

I've seen questions popping up in various places about Twitter. What is it? What's it good for? Why use it? So my first thought was to write a blog post about it.

And then all sorts of other folks got the same idea ;-) So I'm going to give you an introduction and then a bunch of links for other articles that provide more information.

Twitter is considered a "micro-blogging" service because of the size of the posts, commonly called "tweets": 140 characters. (If you type more than that, anyone who gets your tweets will receive multiples.) Why 140? Because SMS (or text) messages max out at 160, and those remaining 20 characters are used for things like the sender's name and timestamp.

If you look at the Twitter site, you'll see that it wants you to announce what you're doing. But as many people have stated, it's more than that. People tweet what they're doing, where they're going, who they're going with. They reply to other tweets (but publicly, which means that everyone can follow the conversation). Some folks use it for business...for example, I've set up a broadcast Twitter account for @helpstuff where I tweet things that are happening in the online Help world. Some folks combine business and personal. Some folks only use it for personal information.

But why use it at all? To me, it's a way to see what's going on in my friends' lives and to meet new people. More importantly, it's a way to find out what's going on in areas I might not normally investigate or that I'm curious about.

When I think of Twitter, I picture me at a large conference exhibition hall. All around me are numerous conversations...some personal, some professional, some a combination. Some folks are sharing information they learned from someone else. Some people I know, some I don't, and some are friends of friends. But unlike an expo where I might be hesitant to walk up and listen (or even jump) into a conversation, that's just what I do with Twitter.

For an extroverted introvert, this is the best of all worlds :-)

Once you set up your (free) account, you start following people. I follow what might be considered an eclectic group: friends, other Help authoring/online doc consultants, consultants in other fields, and people I probably would never meet or talk to otherwise. And as you follow people, they start following you. You can jump into the middle of conversations or start one.

How much you tweet and what you tweet about is up to you. Who you follow is up to you. How much you read is up to you. So Twitter doesn't have to take over your life...it enhances it based on the content you're interested in.

What if you want to eavesdrop on conversations but not take part? You don't have to join Twitter...just go to the individual pages of people you're interested in and read their tweets. (For example, my pages are at http://www.twitter.com/CharJTF and http://www.twitter.com/helpstuff.) At the bottom of the page is an RSS link that you can use if you prefer to see what's going on that way. If I've replied to someone, you'll see @name and it will be linked. Click the link to then read that person's tweets.

Or instead of reading individual pages, you can aggregate content with FriendFeed. (My personal feed is at http://friendfeed.com/charjtf and I have an aggregated feed at http://friendfeed.com/charjtf/friends.) So you could set up your own FriendFeed that pulls the information you want to keep up with.

If you do get a Twitter account, most people install some kind of application that grabs your tweets. I use TweetDeck, which is an AIR application that lets me group tweets...for example, I have columns for All Tweets, Friends, Replies, and Direct Messages. I can also create custom searches...for example, I have a custom search set up that lets me know if anyone has tweeted about helpstuff or hat-matrix.

Now for some links:

So whether you tweet or not, now you know what all the fuss is about :-) See you in the Twitterverse!

10/02/08

Permalink 10:42:48 am, Categories: User Assistance, Help Authoring Tools, 214 words   English (US)

Author-it: Creating a list of topics in a book

Because Author-it is a component content management system, you'll find that you work with a lot of individual topic objects. If you're working on a book (aka a "project" in other applications), you can quickly create a list of topics in that book using the following procedure:

  1. Click Search.
  2. Under Object Type, select Topic Object.
  3. Under In Book, select the book name from the list.
  4. Click Find Now. The right pane will be populated with all topics used in the book.

    The list will not include any topics from books that are included in the book itself (when you're merging books) unless you tick Resolve sub-books.

  5. Select all topics in the right pane.
  6. Right-click and select Copy to Clipboard.
  7. Open Microsoft Excel (or other spreadsheet application). (You can use Word, but it comes in with the tabs...you’ll have to convert the content to a table.)
  8. Press CTRL+V.

Voila :-)

You can use the same technique to create a list of all topics in the library, or with 5.x, for topics in multiple books. (Click the ellipsis button next to In Book and select the books you want to use.) You can also use the same technique to create lists of any object type, such as index entries, graphics, hyperlinks, and so on.

09/29/08

Permalink 02:27:32 pm, Categories: User Assistance, Conferences, 193 words   English (US)

Use Godin's tips to fix your PowerPoint presentations

I've spoken at conferences, meetings, workshops, and more for years. And I would work really hard at putting together slides that would make sense when I wasn't there to answer questions. As a result, I've had some pretty slide-dense presentations. (You may have seen one or two. ;-))

As I was reading through Seth Godin's Triiibes site the other day, I found a post that said something like, "read what Seth has to say about PowerPoint." (The entire note I wrote was "Seth - PPT book".) Only it turns out that it's not a book. It's a blog post.

The post is titled Really Bad Powerpoint. (Yes, "Powerpoint". [sic]) And it's full of great information that for some reason I was just never able to wrap my brain around.

So for those of you planning on attending my upcoming DocTrain session, Four Features That Matter When Choosing a Help Authoring Tool, you'll be the first to see the results as I implement Seth's ideas. This will be fun :-)

(And if you want more information on Tribes, check out Seth's new book, coming soon: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, available from many online booksellers.)

09/08/08

Permalink 05:36:30 pm, Categories: Help Authoring Tools, 38 words   English (US)

Authoring tool survey now posted...

HAT-Matrix.com is sponsoring an authoring tool survey. A HATT member requested the survey, which will run through the end of September. The results will be posted in mid-October at HAT-Matrix.com.

Feel free to share the URL :-)

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