Adobe DITA World 2017 – Day 1 Summary by Danielle M. Villegas – Adobe Technical Communication Blog

Summary of Adobe DITA World 2017 Day 1. By resident blogger Danielle M. Villegas

Source: Adobe DITA World 2017 – Day 1 Summary by Danielle M. Villegas – Adobe Technical Communication Blog

It was a thrill to be asked to be the Resident Blogger for Adobe DITA World this year.  It was a lot of hard work taking notes nonstop for three days (about 21 hours of presentations), but I’ve gotten great feedback about the summaries I’ve written each day.

Here’s the first day’s notes.

–TechCommGeekMom

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When Working From Home Doesn’t Work – The Atlantic

IBM pioneered telecommuting. Now it wants people back in the office.

Source: When Working From Home Doesn’t Work – The Atlantic

My good buddy Larry Kunz turned me onto this article, and gave me a heads-up that he’s also going to be commenting on this article soon, so be sure to check out his blog as well.  Knowing that we both have a vested interest in remote working, Larry shared this article with me offline. I’m glad he did, since this article has been gaining some traction on LinkedIn lately.

This was an interesting article, indeed, and made quite the argument in favor of not working remotely, using the recent IBM remote call-back as an example. However, I saw flaws in the arguments made.

The main argument was that workers who worked farther away from each other, whether they actually worked remotely or simply had their desks significantly farther away from each other, communicated less often than those whose worked together and had their desks closer together.  This was seen negatively in the article, but as someone who has worked remotely for several years, I didn’t see this as a problem. Why? Because it’s not different from those who are in distant outposts of present or yesteryear.

If you are farther apart, you become more self-sufficient, and you learn to fix the problem yourself. You are more motivated to get the job done knowing that you don’t necessarily have the same support system in place as if you had someone sitting next to you. You only communicate to your peers if you are really stuck and have tried all other options, or you communicate only what you need to communicate. Communication is lean purposely, and that’s not a bad thing. In this respect, it’s actually MORE efficient, and it makes remote workers more productive, independent, and stronger workers, because they become better problem solvers. It’s less of a waste of time and resources.

It also depends on the kind of work that’s being done as well. Yes, in the case of flying a plane (the example given in the article) you do need people there, and being in close proximity is an asset. A few verbal grunts or words and gestures do the trick. It doesn’t need as much communication, like emails, calls, IMs, etc.  For most of us in technical communication, emails, video conferencing, phone calls, and IMs are normal things, whether you are at the office or not.  Yes, some of the tech is a little faster at an office, but not by that much, at least in my area. Sometimes we have less network clog-ups working from home that being in the office. You also have fewer distractions working from home, which is important when trying to write complex documentation.

The other problem I had with this article is that it wasn’t specific as to the kind of work that was being done by the workers in these studies. Were they software or web developers? Were they tech writers? Were they the marketing department? Or did the studies lump everyone in the company together? That makes a difference. Despite being a huge advocate of remote working, I can own up to the fact that there are certain jobs or fields where you do need to have people in the office.  For example, an IT department itself–not software or web development–is best served with people physically in the building to help with hardware issues like fixing a network server.

There’s still a fact that gets lost somehow, which applies especially for national and global companies. If you are making these same phone calls, IMs, emails, and video conferencing calls across the country or around the world to connect with your teams, what difference does it make whether you are physically in the office or not, if you have the appropriate tools to make the full connection? A video conference call from home performs exactly the same way as if it were in an office. It’s the same for all the other means of communication. As someone who has worked remotely for several years now, I can strongly assure you of this. There is little to no advantage to working in an office in these situations if your team is spread out nationally or globally while communicating through email, video conferencing, calls, etc. NONE. If anything, the only advantage I see is that in an office, you might get a lot of people sharing one conference line, albeit yelling across a room to a speakerphone to be heard. Nope, not even that is really an advantage. Most people don’t bother to learn how to use the mute button on their cell phones or home phones if they dial in, but that’s minor in the grand scheme of things. And if communication is done correctly, you can still create those personal bonds with your colleagues globally. I’ve always been able to do that, working with people not only on the other side of my country, but in Europe and in Asia. It makes no difference–really! Like anything else, it’s all about the quality of the communication content exchanged.

To me, the people who are using whiteboards, sticky notes, and other physical means to get their point across are not being creative enough to figure out how to use technology to their advantage. There are online/web Agile tools, and even whiteboards built into apps, if that’s needed. You can share these tools–or share your screen so others can see the tools as well–in most video conferencing apps that I’ve ever used (and I’ve use most of the leading ones).

My experience is that most people either don’t want to use collaborative technology, don’t want to use it fully, or don’t take advantage of what collaborative technology can offer.  So yes, this can slow down productivity if proper adoption isn’t done. It sounds like a lot of IBM workers are resistant to using those tools to the fullest.

You might also be surprised that in a more global economy than we’ve ever had before, this slowdown or collaborative technology resistance is bound to happen as we continue to evolve technologically. I remember when it wasn’t that long ago when you would hope and pray that a fax you were sending to the other side of the world got through okay. If it didn’t, then there were phone calls to see if it got through, and more attempts to fax information. That was slower and more inefficient. But emails, video conferencing, and the like at a long distance are “inefficient” and not as productive? Rubbish! It’s up to people to keep up with technology to enable what can be done, and use that technology to the fullest. You’d be truly, TRULY surprised at how slow those changes to keep up with technology are made with very large corporations. Even though IBM is thought to be a cutting edge company, how much do you want to bet that many office locations, or at least a significant part of the company, are still using Windows 7 or 8?  I’ve worked for a global company that is cutting edge in its industry, but all the networks are still running of Windows 8–and that was the “new upgrade” as of last year! Seriously!

Having worked for several huge global corporations, they are always behind, so it’s no wonder they are not getting the efficiency and productivity that they think they should have. Understandably for security reasons, workers can’t upgrade their software tools on their own–not even just to update their browser versions–even if it’s the company approved ones! Or, be able to download standard security updates for their outdated Windows 8 systems without it being applied globally to everyone. It pulls everyone down.

So, this argument that the author of this article is making? It’s very one-sided, and looks at that side of the issue too broadly. We don’t know what specific kinds of departments are impacted by this, or if the higher number of communications between workers that were closer-by was quality, significant content, or if much of it was “fluff”. Volume of communications does not equal quality of communications. For example, how much of the communication content was actually co-workers asking each other when they wanted to go to lunch, and where? This article seems to only look at things from the perspective of the “pro-office” view, instead of looking at both sides carefully in a modern perspective.

Another part of what’s left out of this article is the quality of life part. People who work from home tend to actually be more productive, because they don’t have the commute and don’t have as many distractions. This allows workers to have an opportunity to balance their home life better, which allows them to be more relaxed, happier workers. There are plenty of studies on that.

I’m sure the arguments will continue to be made on both side of the pro-remote and anti-remote camps. Most people who read this blog frequently know which side of the equation I favor, at least in terms of technical communication. When I read this article, I thought that a Baby Boomer wrote it, but looking up the author’s profile, I was surprised to see that it was written by a Gen-X’er. It surprised me, because I know more Gen-X’ers who support remote work than don’t, and they like that flexibility. It’s usually the Boomers and the Millennials that like being at the office more.

What do you think of the arguments made by the author of this article? Do you think this is a balanced view of the pro- vs. con- remote work argument? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Music is the ultimate single-sourcing resource

A few years ago, I wrote an article for someone else about how music was used in remixes and mashups, but it never got published. Even so, I was reminded of how music has a lot of reuse due to two events that happened to me over this past weekend.

First, I went to a concert given by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. The pieces that were played were Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Beethoven’s Ninth “Choral” Symphony. About an hour before the concert, the maestro/conductor held a little talk about the pieces, giving some history and other notes about the pieces. He mentioned that both pieces were reflections of the times, in that the music reflected the turmoil that was going on in Europe during the early 19th century. But what also struck me–and what I listened for–was the reuse of music to reflect some of the action or feelings of the time. In the 1812 Overture, for example, they played the original Russian version, which begins with a Russian Orthodox chant. Later, you hear the French National Anthem several times repeated over and over to reflect Russian and French forces at odds. Beethoven also used bits of well-known (at the time) country songs that were reflected in each movement.

Second, I started to watch an excellent program on television about the Beatles. It was on very late, and my husband and I–who are big Beatles fans–got drawn in, but had to turn it off as we needed to get to sleep. But when we did see was fascinating, and it put an interesting spin on their music. The episode was concentrating on how revolutionary the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was. It was the first time any musicians purposely made a studio album that wasn’t meant to be played for touring. This allowed the Beatles a lot of freedom to experiment with sounds that were either repurposes or found a new place. Sometimes it was the instrumentation that was new; sometimes it was the hybridization of two or more different styles. The one piece that they broke apart that captured my attention was “Penny Lane”. “Penny Lane” is about observations around the area where Paul McCartney and John Lennon grew up. Musically, it captured the old vaudeville sound yet at the same time had a pop/rock sound to it, with overtones of baroque as well. The final track included 4 separate tracks of piano, and a host of other instruments like a special piccolo trumpet (I think that’s what it was called, but correct me if I’m wrong), which wasn’t an instrument used often in modern pop music! Another example, although not part of the album but part of the recording period, is “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Did you ever think that the vocal track sounded a little weird, even though it worked? That’s because the main music background track was made on one day at one speed, and the voice was recorded at a different speed on a different day. John Lennon wanted to use both tracks, but they didn’t synchronize well. Because the technology wasn’t there electronically like it is now, sound engineers had to figure out how to change the variable speed on both recordings so that they could get them to synch. That sort of thing didn’t exist until then! Fascinating stuff.

So what does this have to do with content strategy? Everything. Here’s why.

A big part of content strategy is knowing what to keep and what not to keep. Content strategists are always promoting reuse of content to be used in new ways. By mixing and matching content appropriately, you can get a hybrid that is something new and unique to itself. Nowadays, copyright laws can get in the ways, but if they are heeded appropriately, something new and wonderful can be produced. The music world really started to notice when rap and hip-hop started sampling and reusing music, a practice that’s still used today for new music, remixes, and mashups.

What do you think? Did musicians have this figured out well before writers by almost 200 years? Include your comments below.

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Remote Workers vs. Office Workers | LinkedIn

To me, there is no debate for bright people who want more control over how and where they work. Remote workers win every time. And the statistics prove it.

Source: Remote Workers vs. Office Workers | LinkedIn

My STC-PMC friend, Ellen O’Brien found this on LinkedIn. This is a great article that I think not only speaks towards the benefits of why remote working CAN work and why more companies should be using remote options, but in my mind, it also supports why this is a very good option for technical communicators.

I keep hearing that “remote” is “in”, and that more remote jobs are becoming available. To be honest, I haven’t seen it at all. If anything, when I even suggest to some companies that I am available and ask if I can work remotely, the answer is usually a flat out NO.  This makes it really difficult for people who are not in a position to relocate for a closer commute, yet the jobs are far away. (Yes, I put myself in that category.)

My argument has been the same as outlined in this article, in which the author, Brian de Haaff, says he’s been asked, (and I quote directly from the article,)

  • “How do you collaborate with the team?”
  • “What tools do you use to stay connected?”
  • “When will you really need an office?”

The answers he provides are pretty much the same answers I would give from my own experiences. I wish employers would get the hint. They could save SO much money allowing for more remote work, and get better productivity from their employees and contractors.

What do you think? Yes, I know some of you are diehard office workers who want to be close by to your co-workers. Some jobs do require that–I’m not denying that. But most technical communications jobs don’t require that necessarily. Read the article, and tell me what you think after reading it.

–TechCommGeekMom

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7 eLearning Experts Share Tips on How to Choose the Best Learning Management System

Here are best practices from eLearning experts on how to choose the best LMS platform that would help business owners make the best eLearning decisions .

Source: 7 eLearning Experts Share Tips on How to Choose the Best Learning Management System

I find that for those who have to either choose an LMS or a CMS, they often don’t choose…wisely. Oh, some do, but others don’t think it all the way through.

Fortunately, this article can help those who are searching out the best LMS for them, at least. My friend, Joe Ganci, who is one of the leading e-learning experts out there, is one of the people in this article. His advice, as well as the advice of the other experts, give a great summary of things that one should consider carefully when choosing an LMS. There are so many choices, but the advice in this article helps you figure out how to narrow down your choices.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots in Technical Communication – A Primer – How to Create and Deliver

Source: Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots in Technical Communication – A Primer – How to Create and Deliver

Ellis Pratt wrote this excellent article and primer for writing for chatbots that’s worth the read.

Ellis has pointed out correctly that chatbots and other forms of AI (artificial intelligence) is starting to emerge, and as technical writers, we need to be aware of how to write for these outlets. Having skills in writing manuals and help screens, some of the foundational skills should be easy or somewhat second-nature, but he has several tips in the article on how to frame that thinking for chatbots.

I share this because it’s a reference source that I plan to use if I should get the opportunity to do this kind of writing in the near future.  Ellis is very good at what he does, so this resource is a must-read.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Adobe DITA World 2017 – Adobe DITA World 2017 – The DITA Online Conference | Adobe Events

3 days. 21 sessions. Tune in to the world’s biggest DITA Event, October 10–12, 2017.

Source: Adobe DITA World 2017 – Adobe DITA World 2017 – The DITA Online Conference | Adobe Events

Adobe is sponsoring the biggest DITA event ever, and the best things about it are that it’s FREE, it’s VIRTUAL, and the some of the world’s leading technical communicators who are tops when it comes to DITA will be giving keynotes and presentations.  How can you pass this up?

Adobe has created some great products that work using DITA practices, especially with FrameMaker, which is one of the biggest industry standard tools to write DITA content. Looking at the line-up of speakers, I know that attendees are going to get some fantastic insights, as I’ve been learning from many of these people myself over the years.

You can register for the event by either choosing the Source link above, or going to www.dita-world.com.

Disclaimer: Adobe is a sponsor of this blog. Even so, I am an equal opportunity blog, and try to allow as many products and viewpoints on here. If I see a great event coming up, I’m going to advertise it, and this one looks particularly good.

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