Day two of Flash class

June 28, 2007

A few takeaways from class:

  • When developing in Flash, you need to decide what Flash player you are developing for.
    Flash Player 9.0 is the latest, but not everyone has it. This Version Penetration site will show you the stats on how many people are using each player version.
  • Set your frame speed ahead of time. If you change it halfway through your development, your animations may not work the way you want. Holly Q. recommends 18 to 24 frames per second.
  • Should you use templates? Probably a good idea if you are starting out, but it can be limiting. Customizing a template is a good way to take advantage of the structure.  
  • If you are a newbie, start small. Master little things and build from there. (Of course, this is true for just about any new technology.)

Flash resources:

www.flashkit.com  

www.actionscript.org                   

Kirupa.com 

moock.org (Colin Moock wrote the O’Reilly book on Action Script)

And the Adobe site.

I got my certificate of completion. Now the challenge is to keep working in Flash to retain what I learned.

If I do anything cool with it, I’ll post here.

You can win a Flash class, too!
Just sign up on echo-eleven’s home page.
Those of you outside Atlanta will have to pay your own travel and lodging.


Three Hollys and a Flash lesson

June 26, 2007

When I was young, I asked my mother if Methodists were opposed to drinking. She said, “Well, in theory, yes,” she answered. “But in my experience whenever you get four Methodists together, you’ll always find a fifth.” As a ten-year-old I didn’t get the joke, but I was reminded of it today.

It appears that whenever you have two Hollys in a Flash presentation, you’ll always find a third and maybe a fourth.
Some of you may remember that I won a free Flash class from echo-eleven last February when Holly Quarzo gave her presentation at the Atlanta STC‘s chapter meeting. That night we had three Hollys in the room and everyone had a good chuckle about it.

This month I finally found the time to attend the class, which started today. Naturally, Holly Quarzo was the instructor. Lo and behold, when we went around the room to introduce ourselves, a third Holly was also attending the class! Weird.

We took a break mid-morning so that Holly Q. could participate in brief phone meeting. When she returned to the classroom, her eyes were wide open. “You’ll never guess the name of the woman I was talking to. . . .” Yep, another Holly. Creepy.

I’m not sure how much I will actually use my new Flash skills, but I couldn’t see turning down the opportunity to learn something new (and pretty cool). The echo-eleven offices near Perimeter Mall are very nice and their classrooms are set up differently from other computer training rooms I’ve seen. Next to each student’s monitor is a smaller monitor that displays what the instructor is doing. There’s no projection on a big screen at the front.

Ms. Quarzo is an awarding winning Macromedia (now Adobe) instructor. As someone who has been conducting a lot of computer training, I was curious to observe her methodology. Would she have toys for the participants? Use storytelling techniques? Spray the room with subtle aromas to keep us alert? Bribe us with candy?

No, none of these things. Her presentation style is informal and natural. She knows her subject inside and out, conveys her enthusiasm for the software, and moves the training along in a crisp, well organized way. Even though she’s an expert, I never felt that she was dumbing it down for us. My classmates ran the gamut of experience, yet she kept us all engaged without leaving the newbies in the dust.

Good lesson for me in Flash and in how to conduct effective computer training. Day two is tomorrow, so I’d better stop now and get a good night’s sleep.


JoAnn Hackos “Best Practices” conference to be held in Atlanta 9/17-19

June 22, 2007

Well, not exactly Atlanta. It’s at Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in the north Georgia foothills.

The 9th Best Practices Conference is for publications managers. This year the theme is  “Building the Information Community.” If you are drawing a blank on what that means, here are the bullet points:

Using experience as a guide, we’ll exchange understanding and expertise to

  • assess the impact of Web 2.0 methods and trends (e.g. peering wikis, blogs) on the information-development community
  • engage with customers in the design and development of information
  • partner with support, training, and other internal colleagues
  • deliver information to handheld devices
  • engage in agile development practices
  • support effective growth and development of staff
  • measure the performance of your organization and your progress toward corporate objectives

Quite wide-ranging! I have not attended this conference in the past, but Hackos’ reputation in our profession is enough to recommend it.

Registration is $1025 and the hotel room is $199. Those of you who live in North Fulton might be able to commute.


News flash: Jean-luc Doumont is confirmed for Currents 2008

June 21, 2007

We just have to work out the details, but we’re on his calendar.

He has agreed to do a workshop as well as a session on Saturday.

Mark your calendars for Currents next year: March 14 and 15 at the J Annex at Southern Poly.


Favorite sessions at STC Summit

June 20, 2007

Small turnout at last night’s meeting due to (much needed) rain and a major accident on I-285. I suspect many of our usual attendees simply gave up. Despite that, we had a good discussion of the conference. A couple of visitors came who were interested in getting into the field. It was a cozier atmosphere than our larger meetings.

Robert did a good job posing questions to the six panelists. Everyone had a lot to say about the conference, including the two first-time attendees, Dorothy and Howard. By the way, Robert won a prize for guessing the exact number of registrants. He told me the number last night, but I forgot. It was around 1400 (up from recent years).

Some complaints were that the conference program came out very late making it hard to plan what sessions to attend. Also, many sessions were overcrowded, excluding some altogether, and making it uncomfortable for those who managed to squeeze in at the last minute. Mike Hughes pointed out that many conferences poll registrants ahead of time to get a sense of which sessions will be the most popular, then plan accordingly.

Another complaint was that we still have not received a conference evaluation. It’s easier to give feedback within a couple of weeks of the event. There’s no reason why a conference evaluation can’t be prepared well ahead of time. The list of attendees and the conference proceedings just came out. (I guess this answers my question posed yesterday about the problems with conference organization.)

Overall, the feedback was positive. Jean-Luc Doumont of Principae was cited by several as the best speaker at the conference. Materials from his session, “Road Signs: Making Your Way in the Visual World” and “Effective Layout for the Non-Artist” are available at the links posted here. We’re in discussions with Jean-Luc about presenting at our Currents conference here in Atlanta in March. Stay tuned.

Another popular session was Scott Abel’s “Web 2.0: Understanding the Semantic Web and It’s Impact on Technical Communication.” The link here is to his slides.

Jane Wilson and I enjoyed Karen Schriver’s sessions. I will blog about those soon.

Most of us felt that the networking was as much a  benefit of the conference as the formal sessions. I pointed out that you have to work at networking at a large conference; it doesn’t just happen. Sometimes it’s possible to shoot an e-mail to a member you’ve corresponded with on a listserve and set up a lunch meeting ahead time. Chris McRae said that he likes to collect the e-mail addresses of people he meets in case he needs a quick answer to a vexing problem or simply wants to bounce an idea off of some peers.

We finished up with a brief discussion of the 2009 STC conference in Atlanta. Our responsibilities as a chapter are minimal, but the opportunities are huge.  We plan to set up a task force to set some goals.  Anyone who is interested should contact Al Hood. Or post a comment here and I’ll get in touch with you.
Appropriately, our door prizes last night included some of the swag Robert had collected at the conference Exposition.


June Chapter meeting to recap highlights of STC Conference

June 19, 2007

Tomorrow night’s chapter meeting will feature a panel of chapter members who attended the STC Summit in Minneapolis last month. Robert Armstrong, our new program manager, and 2nd vice president, will serve as moderator and interviewer. If you attended the conference but aren’t part of the panel, please come and share your perspective from the audience. If you didn’t attend, you’ll get a flavor for the conference and the initiatives that made it different this year from other years.
You can read Mike Hughes’s entertaining review of the conference at UX Matters as well as this rather sour assessment from a first time attendee.  I can’t understand her low marks for organization. STC conferences are no better or worse than others I’ve attended. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.


Videocasting as technical communication

June 16, 2007

Common Craft has two videocasts explaining wikis and RSS respectively.

The audio could be better and the video is a bit jerky, but the striking thing about these is their simplicity as well as their effective use of imagery and storytelling to instruct their audience. No fancy production equipment needed, just a piece of paper and a magic marker. They call this format “Paperworks.”

In their own words:

We produce short videos that make complex subjects and messages easy to understand. . . . We use simple concepts and plain language to create an engaging experience for viewers.

Isn’t that what all technical communicators should strive to do? It’s this kind of innovation that makes me excited to be in this field.

Wikis in Plain English

[blip.tv ?posts_id=251312&dest=-1]

RSS in Plain English

[blip.tv ?posts_id=209879&dest=-1]

Thanks to the Chicago STC’s blog for turning me on to Common Craft.

The people behind Common Craft are Lee and Sachi LeFever. They seem to have a lot of fun with whatever they do. Last year the team traveled around the world and blogged about their experience in The World is Not Flat. Some good advice here for anyone else who is thinking of chucking the rat race and traveling for two years.  (I wish)

And, of course, Common Craft has a blog.