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My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

Recently, due to the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Surface machine, RJ Jacquez released two blog posts promoting the idea that tablets, in time, will indeed replace the PC as we know it, and that Microsoft is going in the wrong direction with this Surface device. Between his post titled, “For the sake of ‘Mobile’ I hope Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet fall short” and Tablets Will Replace PCs, But Not In The Way You Think, he says that he feels that Surface is not taking us forward because it embraces the idea of adapting our devices to old software, instead of moving forward with mobile devices and rethinking how to create new productivity software for these new tablets that can make users more productive.  After paraphrasing several articles that have been out in the press that claim that productivity apps such as Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro (to name a few) are items that need to be addressed by the tablet industry, he counter argues,

Personally I think that most of these articles miss the bigger point, namely the fact that most people think that Tablets replacing our PCs will require a 1:1 task-replacement approach. I don’t buy this argument….In other words, we are currently shaping our mobile tools and soon these amazing devices, along with the incredibly creative apps that accompany them, will shape us and redefine every single task we do from here on out, including learning design, image editing, web design and yes every productivity task as well.”

I understand what he’s saying. If I’m interpreting him correctly, his argument is that devices like Surface should not be adapted to run bloated “power” software that needs the extra storage and peripherals to work, thus making the devices less mobile, but rather software should be streamlined to become more efficient so it can run in a tablet like an iPad which doesn’t need extra storage because it relies on the Cloud nor does it need any other peripherals to function. Some of the other “power” apps that RJ mentioned that critics think would need PC power include Photoshop, Microsoft OneNote and Avid Studio.

Well, I do have to agree with RJ insofar as I think that mobile is the future, and it is forcing us to really look at software and its limitations, and it’s making us think about how to streamline processes and our needs. mLearning is in the midst of a huge revolution due to that mindset right now. And actually, there are tablet versions of Photoshop, MS OneNote, and Avid Studio available for tablets that cover most of what users need. So it’s not like these kinds of software can’t be adapted for most people’s uses.  The average user does not use Word or Excel or Photoshop or other apps the same way as a power user, so streamlined apps are fine.

However, I think there may be a need–at least for a little while longer–for PCs to still exist for other kinds of “power” uses. The first thing that comes to mind are apps that are not as mainstream as the ones mentioned so far. Tech comm apps like Framemaker, RoboHelp and Flare are the first ones that come to mind. Now I know that Adobe is working to put just about all of their major software products on the cloud, so that’s a move in the right direction. I have no idea if Flare or the other leading tech comm productivity software packages are moving that way as well. The same thing with e-learning software…again, Captivate is part of Adobe’s cloud-based Technical Communications Suite 4 right now, but what about Lectora or Articulate or other instructional design software packages?  These are all software programs that aren’t quite ready for tablet use yet, but for the sake of mobile productivity, it might not be a bad idea to move in that direction. But for now, staying as desktop apps is probably fine.

There’s an app called Cloud On that has the right idea. It’s an app that’s available for both iOS and Android use, and essentially it provides a means of accessing full versions of Microsoft Office on tablet devices, and then saving documents in a Dropbox, Box or Google Drive account. No short cuts here! Full functionality of the software, on the go!

So, why aren’t the all the big software companies jumping onto the bandwagon with this? Apple already has by creating tablet versions of their iWork and iLife apps, but what others? Some companies have taken baby steps, or are working on it, and others…well, I think they are not keeping up, or are in denial that having a lean version of their software is needed.

I can say, as I mentioned, that I’ve used Cloud On, but I’ve also used my iPad’s Notes app. I used the Microsoft OneNote app on my iPad heavily last year during grad school, as I would start my homework assignment on my iPad during my lunch hour, and then sync it in my SkyDrive account so I could access it from my laptop at home to finish an assignment. I recently used Photoshop Touch on my iPad when I was too lazy to power up my laptop one night to fix a photo for a friend.  When I’ve made movies or did any digital photography projects, they’ve been done more on my iPad than on my laptop due to more affordable choices that meet my basic needs for editing.

So, my answer to RJ’s question is that I feel there will still be some apps that will need a PC to do much bigger jobs. Desktops and laptops are our workhorses right now, and you wouldn’t ask a pony to do the work of a Clydesdale horse. The PC isn’t going away anytime soon, and it will remain the hub of business and other work for some time to come. But, I agree with what RJ said, that in looking forward to the future, we need to continue to think mobile and how we can make it work so that much of these workhorse products can be made more lithe and flexible to our needs.

One last thought to put the mobile/tablet point in perspective–if you are a Star Trek fan like I am, you will have noticed that everyone carries portable devices–the size of a tablet, e-book or smartphone– to access huge databases and information, and to do much of the “heavy” information lifting for anyone aboard a starship. This was depicted on the shows well as much as 25 years ago, before the advent of tablet devices and smartphones. Think about how the various characters on the show used their devices. They would tap into a main computer device on the ship–much like we would access a network or the Cloud–to obtain information and make various calculations as needed.

It would seem to me that we are getting closer to that kind of scenario in reality, but we’re not quite there yet. We’re getting close, though!

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Flame Wars need not apply.

I had planned for this post to be something a little more lighthearted, but my plan was changed when I received my first insulting comment on this blog. It came in, and made accusations that proved that the person hadn’t read the blog post carefully, and additionally made insult of my relationship with Adobe. I was shaken up by this comment, because it was meant to be insulting, and in no way was the criticism constructive in any way. I was taken aback by it, and when I told my husband about it, he replied, “This is ‘typical’ internet behavior these days… don’t take it personally.” I knew he was right, and but still…it truly bothers me. It certainly doesn’t seem like professional behavior.

I choose my words carefully on this blog. Every entry is not written off the cuff, and I take a lot of time to write and edit each post. I do my best to be as diplomatic as possible when writing, even if I have a very strong opinion about something. I do my best not to insult anyone or anything. I try to dish constructive criticism when I feel it’s necessary. My intentions are to put forward my own thoughts as a new technical communicator who is trying to make her way into the field, and share ideas that I find interesting or educational. If I curate something from the web from my ScoopIt account, it’s because I found something worthy of sharing with my TechCommGeekMom audience.

This blog started out as a class project in graduate school, and it has taken off to have a life of its own. I don’t claim to be an expert. I don’t claim to be highly experienced. I don’t claim that I am familiar with everything that is related to tech comm. I try to be humble with what I do or don’t know. Yes, I have some knowledge and experience, but if you want to read commentary from someone more experienced who is an “expert” in the field, please, be my guest. You can go elsewhere.

I do write a lot about Adobe on my blog, and I feel that I need to clarify that, because if this one individual is questioning it, perhaps others are as well. My current relationship with Adobe was something that happened to me by surprise. I have always been a fan of Adobe products, even before this association happened. I’ve been using Adobe products for the last 15 or so years. I wrote a case study in grad school supporting Adobe’s business practices with Flash a year ago–well before I ever started this blog. So, when Adobe contacted me several months ago, it was a total shock. It was really out of nowhere for me. All I did was promote my blog and a post on my blog that called out Adobe and its competitors for making it a little difficult for students to get their hands on tech comm software. I never expected anyone to respond. If the MadCap Software, the makers of Flare, had responded the way that Adobe had, I’m sure I would be a Flare advocate right now. Same with the makers of Lectora and Articulate. I’m new, and when I wrote that fateful post, I just knew that these software packages have the same main function, and that I needed to learn this kind of software to get a job. Plain and simple.

Out of the many companies that I named in that blog post, Adobe was the only one that actually responded. As I said, I didn’t expect ANYONE to respond– it was just a fairly well articulated rant, if I do say so myself. Evidently, someone at Adobe thought so too, and wanted to help. Since I already liked their products, how could I not respond favorably to them? When offered the chance to do a webinar for their Thought Leadership series, that shocked me as well. What the heck did I have to offer or to say? I’ve been told that because I’m new to the TC world, it was because I had a fresh perspective of the field, and it was great to get a new opinion in the mix. From there, Adobe has provided me with opportunities such as sitting in on a conference call previewing products, attending a pre-conference event hosted by them at a major tech comm conference, and promoting my blog to a global audience. Did I ask them to do that? No, not at all. Am I going to take advantage of such opportunities? Well, I would be very stupid not to do that, especially since it’s still very early in my tech comm career!

Adobe is an advertiser on my page, but they aren’t paying me a salary. I am not employed by Adobe at all. (Although I wish I was! I’d be a great product evangelist!) I would love to have additional advertisers on this blog, as I totally embrace diversity in products and software if it helps get the job done. If Apple, Google, Microsoft, MadCap, Lectora, Articulate, TechSmith or any other software or hardware vendor wants to establish a business partnership to advertise on my blog, I welcome the opportunity! These are among the best of the best, and there are plenty of others out there as well that I’d be happy to include. Adobe happens to be the first to take advantage of my offer there on the right column.

Adobe is like the Doctor Who in my life. They came in unexpectedly, have taken me places and given me opportunities that I would not have had without them, and so there is a certain amount of loyalty they’ve earned from me. Is that so wrong in that context? I don’t think so. Unless they do something really ugly and downright horrible to me, I have no reason not to support them, especially in light of them supporting me and this very young blog that’s only 7 months old. They have never told me or asked me what to write on this blog. They have supported my independent thinking. This is not an Adobe blog. Perhaps it leans towards a “fan blog” sometimes, but it’s not solely concentrated on this.

TechCommGeekMom addresses technical communications, m-learning, e-learning and educational technology from my perspective as a new technical communications professional who is trying to make her way into this field and make a difference. While TechCommGeekMom is meant to be a place where I can share my thoughts and concerns, others can as well. Differing opinions are welcome if they are done in a fair and constructive manner. This blog is meant to embrace and discuss the best practices in the tech comm and e-learning fields as they move forward. If you don’t like what you read, that’s your prerogative, and you can go elsewhere. But I’m not going to change how I write or who I am for anyone. I hope that my regular readers, as well as newer readers, will appreciate my position, and embrace it by continuing to visit this blog.

As a mom, I’d like to quote Thumper in the movie, Bambi,

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Just let me set the record straight…

Right now, I’m working very hard to finish up the coursework for my Master’s degree in Technical and Professional Communications. I’ve worked for two and a half years on this, studying part-time, usually taking two classes at a time, while most of the time working full-time while also being a parent to a special needs kid. It’s a lot of work, and it’s incredibly draining, but hopefully the fruits of my labor will pay off soon enough.

Part of one of my last classes is to present my e-portfolio of my professional and academic work for prospective employers.  I fought with my professor about my e-portfolio, because while I knew I needed to take the emphasis off the academic and put it in a more professional light, I really liked how I formatted it–it reflected my personality to a “T.”  She hated it, and made me reformat the whole thing. It was an incredibly laborious process, as I had to take something that took me two years to get it to where I wanted and liked it, and totally scrap it in favor of having something else together in a fraction of the time. I still wanted it to reflect my personality as well.  So, in trying to use some new software (Adobe Muse) to help me build it, I came up with something that I thought was pretty good. Visually, it was slicker looking, and while it didn’t have all the flexibility that I had in the old one, to paraphrase Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, I made it work. Even now, there are some very minor tweaks that need to be made, but I feel like I created a really good e-portfolio that prospective employers will respect and like.

Well, some smarty pants suggested to the professor that we get outside critiques for our e-portfolios before we present them for our upcoming capstone presentations and make them “public”. Sounds like a good idea in theory, but I wasn’t too keen on it. (Mine is already public, as far as I’m concerned.) I submitted mine for review. Overall, the reviews I received back were good, although it was hard to tell from the notes what was going on with some of it. First it criticized my navigation and menu choices, and then the next moment it praised it.

The part that actually stung me the most was that one critique told me to remove my blog page from the site, as the blog was mostly repostings of other articles. Yep, you guessed it, it referred to this blog. (I had also listed my academic blog, which I plan to integrate it with this one at some point.) I was royally TICKED. Yes, I know I am reposting things from other sites in here, but there is some original information in here too. I recently read a review of another very public e-learning blog site, and it was actually PRAISED for sharing articles from other sites as it made that particular blog current and showed that the blogger was sharing current thoughts and information. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do here!

Look, I know that I’m still a beginner at this m-learning and e-learning thing. I’ve blogged for many years on different subjects. I know the blogging game, believe me.

So let me set the record straight:

While this is a blog that reflects my personal interpretations on all things m-learning, e-learning and tech comm, I also am still learning about these subjects. I can’t write about the benefits of using some Lectora trick if I’ve never used Lectora. I can’t talk about e-learning pedagogy if I’ve never taken an instructional design course. I’ve learned things about e-learning “on the streets,” so to speak. I learned through experience, not through theory. I still have SO much more to learn, and I know it. I’ve never been in denial about that. But at the same time, the purpose of this blog is not only to share MY thoughts, but to also open up the forum and share information. I want to learn more from those who read this blog, who have more experience. I want other newbie e-learning and m-learning specialists to come here and share experiences and questions through the comments. Please, voluteer to guest blog on here–I’d love it! I’m trying to build this up as an m-learning/e-learning/tech comm community, so sharing articles that I think are helpful and useful WILL be posted. And as it is, my site stats actually went up once I started sharing these articles, so I don’t think I’m going down the wrong path.

So to the person who gave me that critique, I think you need to see the bigger picture, and read more blogs. The only impression I’ve ever had of the e-learning/m-learning community is that we share. As my husband would put it–we’re sharers. I haven’t seen it in any other field I’ve been in as much as I see it in the e-learning/m-learning world, and I’m happy and glad that this community has taken me into the fold.

So the next time you see an article that is just a repost from my ScoopIt account, please know that I post it because I want to share something that I don’t know well, yet find interesting and informational that I think others would benefit too.

And I’m not taking this blog off of my e-portfolio. I’m proud of what I’ve done here, and what I continue to do here. I still have big plans for this site. I’m working offline on the Educational Resources and Links items listed in the navigation above, and I have ideas for articles I want to write but can’t get to right now. I just stopped to write this…again, just to set the record straight. Keep watching this site…it’s only a month old, and it’s just getting started…

Just bear with me in the next two weeks, as I have to finish up this semester, and term papers from hell are calling me. Please keep me in your thoughts, hoping that I can make it through these next couple of weeks with my sanity intact. 😉

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Tools? We don’t need tools. (Or do we?)

One of the things that is highly debatable in the tech comm world, as well as the e-learning and m-learning world, has to do with software.  It’s always the eternal question.


I’m here to tell you….I have no idea.


I’m not joking.

One of the regrets I have about the Masters program in technical communications I’ve been in is that while we were introduced to several different types of software, most software applications used were either free or low cost, or we’d have to use the free trial version as quickly as possible, but they were not necessarily the industry standards employers use.  If it weren’t for the fact that I would read industry magazines and look at plenty of “help wanted” ads, I wouldn’t have any idea what these software packages werethat many tech comm and e-learning professionals use. The arguments that my school made for not teaching us some of these software packages was a) it was too expensive, and b) upgrades on packages are made so often that they’d never be able to keep up with the constant upgrades.  While I understand both arguments–and they are valid ones–I don’t agree that they are doing us any favors.  I am taking classes through a technical institution, and it seems unfair that many types of similar or more expensive software packages are being purchased and licensed for the engineering students, but not for tech comm students. We can access MS Office products…and that’s about it. No Adobe. No MadCap. Nothing like that. And yet, that’s what prospective employers ask for–not only technical communication know-how, but experience using “X” software or something similar.

I know that it can be expensive, but it’s more expensive long-term not to help us learn the basics of these packages.  I’ll use the example that I’ve mentioned to some most recently. The first version of MS Word that I ever used was the very first one–Word 1.0. Yes, it was a long time ago, and I know I’m old, thanks. But the point is, I haven’t taken a training session or class on how to use Word since learning that first version. I’ve just figured out the upgrades through trial and error, like most people, but I already understood the basic concepts.  If I was taught from an “old” version of Flare, Robohelp, FrameMaker, etc. I’m sure that I would figure out the upgrade pretty quickly, since I already understand how the software program works generally. See my point?  The software packages that I just listed, and more of them, are a technical communicator’s bread and butter.  While exposure to using MS Office in a creative way, and using free products is good to understand concepts, it’s not what will help burgeoning technical communicators like myself find work. I can write storyboards, and I understand the basic principles of instructional design, but if I can’t use Captivate, Lectora or Articulate to expedite those things, then none of that matters unless there is an employer willing to either train me or let me figure out how the software works.

As I just mentioned, this applies to the e-learning and m-learning world too. If you don’t know how to use Captivate, Lectora, Articulate, or one of the other great instructional design software packages, you are up a creek.  Add the mobile factor in it, and considering that not all software packages– for e-learning or tech comm– have kept up with the mobile revolution…it really makes things difficult, to say the least.

My main argument is that if you learn one package, more than likely you can figure out the others–there’s just a slight learning curve.  Bringing back that MS Word example again, up until the time that I started using MS Word, I was a diehard WordPerfect user, and had used that for many, many years. (Okay, you can stop with the old jokes now!) Because I understood how to use WordPerfect, I understood how to do word processing, and it was just a matter of learning which types of buttons or commands were the same, and which ones were different. I haven’t used WordPerfect for many years, but I’d bet you that I could figure out whatever the latest version is, simple because I know how to use a word processor in general.

I’m not promoting any specific product here–I mean, I’m willing to learn any of them! Part of what holds me back is the cost. It’s expensive to try to buy these packages, even with my student discount when applicable. I was looking at one of these software packages just today, and for a single license it was $1000.00! Really? I supposed if I was in business for myself and I already knew the software, I could consider it an investment and make it a business write-off in my taxes the following year. But a thirty-day trial isn’t long enough in most cases, or they are limited as they will only allow you to use the product, but not save your work. Or, let’s say you have one of those thirty-day trials with full access, and you get hooked, but then you can’t afford the software. What good is any of that? You can see why this would be incredibly frustrating to a fledgling technical communicator.

So, if I am to learn any software products, and I can’t spend a fortune to buy all of them, which ones are the best to learn that would allow me to adapt to other software packages easily? Should I learn Flare, or should I learn Framemaker and Robohelp? Should I learn Captivate, Lectora or Articulate? These are all industry leaders. But for all I know, some other product might work better and be the best at teaching me how to be adaptable to all of these.

Any suggestions? Please comment!

This topic totally exhausts me.