shaydchara: dirty black keyboard with the F1 key missing (F1)
Back around the beginning of December, a poster with detachable tabs appeared in the kitchen at work. You know the kind: they get stuck on lamp posts and mailboxes outdoors, advertising everything from dog-walking services to bootie boot camp. Tear off the tab with the phone number, and hope you remember what it's for.

Well. These tabs had lightsabers on them. Unfortunately, I didn't snap a pic of the poster, because I figured it was a one-off. But I did snag a lightsaber.

At some point, that poster disappeared, and was replaced by this one: It's dangerous to go alone... )

So of course I had to grab one of those, too.

Then came this one: Here. You'll need this. )

... for some reason, I forgot to grab a towel. I know, I know! What was I thinking?

But I figured it was okay when Morpheus turned up... )

The red pill was more my style, I consoled myself. You didn't need a towel in the matrix.

Finally, the week before Christmas, this appeared: )

At first I snerked. Then I debated the implications and pondered the intent. Finally, I took my lightsaber, LoZ sword, and red pill,

wrote my name on the back, and dropped them in the pouch.

Vacation. During which many things happened, including an 8h visit to the emergency vet on Christmas Day. (Everybody's fine.)

Yesterday, I worked from home. Today, I came in to the office to water the plants, and discovered this on my desk: )

I love this job. I really do. :)
shaydchara: dirty black keyboard with the F1 key missing (F1)
When I was first interviewing for my current position, my boss-to-be said they were "sort of doing a kind of Agile development". I relayed this to my then-coworkers, to a loud chorus of "NO! Not Agile!" followed by warnings about how horrible it would be. (This from Technical Writers who had never worked in an Agile environment, mind.) So I came to this position with some trepidation about the processes I would have to adopt.

After 9 months of working in a 'kind-of' Agile environment, as we try to actually get Agile, I can see both why they were concerned, and why their concerns were misplaced.

A brief intro to Agile software development is probably in order. The basic idea is that you chunk work into units, and assign units of work (commits) to units of time called sprints. The duration of the sprint can vary -- we do two week sprints because it works for us. During the sprint, we have biweekly status update 'meetings' (scrums), as well as an initial sprint planning/commit meeting and a wrap-up meeting at the end of the sprint.

Writer concern #1, then: )
shaydchara: dirty black keyboard with the F1 key missing (F1)
Several times lately I have proposed what seemed like obvious (to me) solutions for automating repetitive tasks at work and have been met with delight from coworkers who didn't realize such things were possible.

In the spirit of sharing such revelations, then, I give you my current Tips for Tech Writers:

1 - If you have a sequence of repetitive tasks you perform on PDFs for publication, you can probably create an Adobe .sequ batch file to do them for you. For example, I just set one up that does the following:
- delete comments
- set viewing options
- prompts for document properties
- sets security

Run the batch file (Acrobat -> Advanced menu -> Batch Processing), save your file, and voila! All those tedious steps collapse into one.

2 - Likewise, if you're using the same settings over and over for generating PDFs from FrameMaker through Distiller, save them as a .joboption and set it as your default. That way, you don't have to redo all your settings for each new book you're working on.

3 - Not related to automation, but handy to know anyway: If you need to fake text on or in a dialog box, Paint is your friend. No really. Paint is too simple for most things, but the one thing it does really really well is match the standard Microsoft GUI font (MS Sans Serif).

I adore TechSmith Snagit for taking screen shots, but when it comes to finessing the text, back to Paint I go. (Ohho, looks like there's a Snagit for Mac now. Excellent.)
shaydchara: a pen and notebook (Default)
Started a new job on Tuesday, which seemed fitting -- it's amazing how long the school-year conditioning affects the brain. Of course, this also meant that I spent Monday night tearing the condo apart looking for my SIN card and, failing, had to make a side trip to City Hall first thing before work to apply for a replacement.

Still, arrived in good time and commenced what I have since dubbed "Operation Make Friends with Payroll". I highly recommend it. Today, a snafu that will result in my getting a manual check instead of direct deposit next week also resulted in two lovely chocolate croissants by way of apology.

Tuesday I also accepted an offer to become Social Media Coordinator for Crossed Genres, so expect to hear more about that (once I've got things organized).

And, in a fit of "things in threes", I've also been appointed co-Admin of a KoL clan.

Before starting new job, I replaced broken MacBook with an MSI Wind (adventures in tech wrangling deserve their own post), which I am currently (happily) using.

Meanwhile, I have also attended scrum meetings, discussed release notes, and migrated content to new templates. It's been a week! And it's not even over yet.

Now, back to test-knitting a pattern for my spouse.
shaydchara: dirty black keyboard with the F1 key missing (F1)
I skipped the 8:30 session in favour of breakfast. While standing in line to be seated, I got into a random conversation with the woman ahead of me in line (also at the summit) and we ended up sitting together for breakfast, which was nice (and unusual for me. so social!).

10:00-11:00 Useful Shareware for Technical Communicators (I learned more from the guy I was sitting beside than the presenter, including Illusion OS - a free open source version of XP!)

11:30-12:30 Proces Re-Engineering for Topic-Based Authoring (another great session, gave me lots of ideas)

12:30-2:30 was the closing luncheon, wherein I picked a table at random and had yet another conversation with a person I had not previously met. She had been a research chemist for Eastman Kodak before becoming a tech writer. I learned a lot, including Kodak's Big Blunder that cost them the market.

C and I travelled on MARTA to the airport together after the luncheon. There was a wicked thunderstorm: for a while there was about 4" of water on the tarmac and huge lightning strikes. Our flight was not delayed, though, so I was on the ground at YYZ by 20 after 7 that night, and back home by 9pm. My puppy gave me kisses and chased the cat it was so exciting.
shaydchara: dirty black keyboard with the F1 key missing (F1)
Tuesday. Tuesday kind of hurt, what with the staying up late and getting up early. Also, $2.50 for a bagel is a crime. Srsly.

8:30-10:00 WinHelp, WebHelp, AIR... Help?
10-10:30 break
10:30-12:00 Structure 2.0 (or, how the Symantec Tech Pub team saved the company millions and increased sales. True story!)
12:00-1:30 lunch (ate alone this time, then read a lot of "Black Powder War")
1:30-2:30 What Tech Doc Can Learn from the Comics (great session, very informative)
2:30-3 break
3:00-4:30 Understanding User-Generated Documentation: FLOSS Manuals (awesome stuff - go learn about FLOSS!)
4:30-5 break
5:00-6:00 Quick Reference Guides: Short and Sweet Technical Documentation (worst session, but got trapped and couldn't escape)

Dinner: with J and C (also from Winnipeg), and we shared this massive four-layer "Suicide Chocolate" slice of cake. It was all the 3 of us could do to finish it!

After dinner, I packed and read more adventures of Temeraire and Arkady before I crashed into bed (later than I meant to. oops). (And can I just say I ♥ Iskierka and Granby? hee~)
shaydchara: an orange tabby cat sitting beside a t-shirt that says "pen > sword" (pen > sword + Rufus)
Monday morning started reasonably at 9am with the keynote speaker, David Pogue, author of Macs for Dummies, NY Times columnist, etc etc. He was very entertaining and made a lot of good points about simplicity in design. He sang the iPhone Song and accompanied himself on a Yamaha keyboard, (there is a music video of the song), and then things got meta as people took out their iPhones with the lighter app and waved them at him. It stopped in him in his tracks, I kid you not, it was freakin' HILARIOUS! (His presentation was pretty similar to the TED one, except he focused on docs instead of the voice software at the end.)

Favourite quote: "The software upgrade paradox: if you improve a piece of software too many times, you ruin it."

At the keynote, I met two older tech writers, who had worked together on a project in China. One of them was from Calgary, and as we kept bumping into each other, we started making plans to do meals and such.

After the keynote, the Expo hall was open, so I wandered around talking to vendors, picking up brochures and swag, and entering all the draws I could find. heh. Except the Wii, as I already have one, and thought it more generous to leave that to others.

I had lunch with J from Calgary, and after lunch the "educational" sessions started. So, more for me than for you, I'm noting the sessions I attended. I was going to reformat and fix up the notes I typed on my Palm, but hey, I left it at work. *headdesk*

1:30-2:30 Documentation with Wikis, Blogs, and Online Communities.
3:00-4:30 Structured Authoring for Personalization

4:30 to 5 was a break, and I went to the expo hall again, and got talking to vendors and so missed the 5pm session I was going to attend. But that's okay! Because the STC is putting video of every session up online for attendees! Yay!

I skipped the Annual Meeting in favour of dinner, came back for the Communities Reception, wherein they had a trivia contest and I won a t-shirt (see new icon), and bought 2 umbrellas and a flashlight for a buck each, and then there was the Tweetup! I was a bit nervous about it, what with the randomness of my Twitter feed and all, but wore my tweetup badge anyway (apparently if you use the barcode app on your iPhone to scan the bar code on the back it auto-follows the person, so you don't have to write down their Twitter name). It was quite fun and I met even more new people and we chatted for a good hour or so. Then M (from Winnipeg) and I walked back to the hotel for the Canadian drop-in get together and hung out there for another hour. At which point it was after 11pm, so we all crawled off to bed as sessions started again at 8:30 the next morning.
shaydchara: dirty black keyboard with the F1 key missing (F1)
My day started waaaaay too early, as I was in a cab by 6:20, headed to the airport for the Technical Communication Summit of the Society for Technical Communication, in Atlanta, Georgia (aka #stc09 for those watching the Twitter feed). My flight wasn't til 9am, but for "international" flights, you're required to be there 2 hours in advance. Still, extra time was good, as my flight was by commuter jet, which meant I had to go through security in Terminal 1, down the stairs, round the corner, down more stairs to the tarmac level, and then catch the shuttle bus to the unnamed terminal where the flight actually boarded.

Arrived in Atlanta, took the MARTA elevated train from the airport to almost directly beneath the hotel, checked in, dumped my stuff, and went for lunch. Was starving. After lunch, I got my registration package and then had a couple hours before the opening "first timers" session. So after debating a nap, I grabbed camera and water and sunglasses and hiked downhill to Centennial Park. I did not find the alleged Olympic Rings, as a Cinco de Mayo festival was on, and it was actually quite crowded and busy. I indulged in some photography of some of Atlanta's weird architecture for a while.

Back at the hotel, went to the 4:30 newbie session, which was actually quite good. Then there was the opening general session, which included a great talk by Shawn Henry on why accessibility in documentation is so important. After that was the ribbon cutting on the expo hall, and general milling about with finger foods and drinks and such. Despite my INTJ ways, I managed to make friends bump into people and hold conversations, although it meant I didn't get to eat that much, so had to go grab dinner afterward.

Aside: Lack of accessible design was why I had to find out through word of mouth that wifi was not, in fact, free in the hotel, but cost $12.95/day. The landing page for the Hyatt would not load on my Palm T|X.


shaydchara: a pen and notebook (Default)
Shay D.

January 2014




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