TechWhirl Recap for December 16 2011

Subject: TechWhirl Recap for December 16 2011
From: INKtopia Admin <admin -at- inktopia -dot- net>
To: Techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2011 13:17:29 -0500

*TechWhirl Recap for December 16 2011 *

This week’s update is supported by Platinum sponsor Madcap & their Ultimate
Communications Suite, MadPak |

*From the Desk of the Editor*

Back when Eric Ray first founded Techwr-l (now officially renamed TechWhirl
to help with peanut butter in the mouth pronunciation issue for the
uninitiated) one of the guiding principles was that the list was a free
resource. Since taking over TechWhirl in April, Al and I have made a lot of
changes (we hope for the good!), but that guiding principle still remains,
we want to be the best free resource on the internet for technical

The discussion list has been a valuable resource for a long time, and like
other discussion lists, it goes through ups and downs, heated debates and
near hibernation. Questions are asked and answers are generously (every
once in a while obnoxiously) given. It’s always been free, open and
public. The level of activity on our list is such that it’s easy to forget
that it’s public. We have a few thousand friends, colleagues and mentors
that we’ve never actually met, and still we feel that we can confide in
this group and offer advice. All of this is made possible by the financial
support of our sponsors (so very NPR without the now quarterly requests for

Lately we’ve been reminded that our community is open and public, and on
what we hope is rare occasions, that poses a risk—that our comments can be
linked back to us in potentially negative ways. The archives keep a record
of every discussion ever had on the list. And, we don’t exaggerate when we
say the technical communication email
archives<>are searched thousands of
times each day. Those searching are there to
find those nuggets of information that can answer a question, but sometimes
to see who is saying what on a subject.

Other resources do exist where discussion is private, and stays private,
and probably the best examples can be found within the Special Interest
Groups of STC<>In
exchange for confidential and narrowly focused resources, you become a
dues-paying member. And we believe that technical communicators receive
extraordinary benefits when they use the resources of both TechWhirl
and STC<>

In a world where privacy is becoming the rarest of commodities,
professional communicators constantly perform a balancing act. We
generally have a good idea what and how we need to communicate messages for
our employers, but sometimes slip and stumble when it comes to
communicating messages for ourselves. I suggest you follow a few simple
but sound principles:

- Think about the consequences before you post, and choose your medium
- Never say anything you wouldn’t want your parents, your significant
other, your favorite high school teacher, or a jury to hear - even in a
private discussion.
- Like embarrassing baby pictures in the family album, once it’s part of
the Internet, it never really disappears.

We hope you’re enjoying reading the letters to the big guy in red, we’ll
have a few more for you next week, as well as a TechWhirl
podcast<>so you can have all that
audio goodness in time for your holiday
parties…And because great information is a gift that keeps on giving, we’ll
have more technical communication
and features to help you start or finish those tech comm projects you have
to deal with this holiday season.

Have a great weekend!

- The gang at TechWhirl
In Case You Missed it: This Week @ TechWhirl

New on <>:

- Lovingly curated by humans, it’s Tech Writer This Week:
- Interview with Andrea Ames |
- Book Review: Learning Author-it Version 5:

Letters to Santa:

- Melinda Anderson: Technical Writer's Short Christmas List |
- Greg Larson: All I want for Christmas from Greg Larson |
- Ryan Minaker: Tech Writer Christmas Wish |
- Dear Santa, Day 2: Fraser Hannah: Letter to St. Nick |

Tech Comm News:

- Cloudwords and MindTouch Offer Integrated Translation and Content
Publishing |
- STC Extends Charter Deadline for #TechComm Certification |

What You’re Talking About

A quick *What you talkin’ ‘bout* to our Tech Writers and their discussions
in our email discussion group <>:

- Kevin McLaughlin showed us how a non-traditional solution can answer
the questions he put-- “How/where would you handle this documentation
problem?” His problem stems from a nearly endless list of combinations
of OS and servers that will and won’t support his computer card product.
His answer, with a little help from some other Whirlers includes
proposing an easily updatable, web-based list of the combinations which he
hopes will be maintained by customer support. He also worked on
designing a small label for the product, to ensure the “documentation stays
with the product.”
- Monique Semp got the list’s attention when she asked “what doc
formats do READERs want ?” Responses have ranged from what individual
Whirlers prefer, to some worthy philosophical debates on the conditions
that should dictate the form, to the sensible “ask your customers” and the
highly venerated “it depends.” Many worthwhile questions and answers,
tangents and sidebars that point out that sometimes we are cursed with
abundance of choices.
- Leonard Porello presented an interesting comparative analysis when he
asked “Which is better for simple online help, more or less nesting,
more or fewer hyperlinks?” His examples referenced two styles of TOCs for
online help (flat and deeply nested), and which is likely to be more
helpful to the end user. How handy the “it depends” answer is, as
Whirlers pointed out how usability is improved with each type depending on
the complexity of the UI.

*Social Media and the Chance to Follow TechWhirl:*


- Our Google Plus Page – what’s happening behind the scenes |
- Will you be our Friend? Please, you know you want to click |
- Want all this TechWhirl goodness a few characters @ a time |
- Updates from TechWhirl delivered to your email in box |
- Or, try our RSS feed (great on Flipboard) |


We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their
support. {cough} We’re a free resource because they support us. {cough}
Buy their stuff, review their stuff … or we start doing that NPR
fundraising drive stuff, and no one wants that to occur. J

*Platinum A*: Adobe Systems

*Platinum B: *Madcap
ComponentOne Software<>

*Gold*: Society for Technical Communication (STC) <>, EC
Software <>, Vancouver Island

> Coming Soon TechWhirl Coffee Mugs, umbrellas, and those bags for your
groceries. Really? Nooo, not really, but we do have some great lapel pin

Online Magazine and Discussions for Today's Tech Writer

Follow TechWhirl on
Twitter: @TechWriterToday

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