Time to stop blogging?

October 21, 2008

Yes, it’s been a while since I last checked in.

This article from Wired magazine struck a familiar chord, but it doesn’t completely describe my funk. It points out that Facebook, Flikr, and Twitter are becoming the preferred social networking channels for individuals. I’m not blogging, but it’s not because I’m Twittering, Flikring, or Facebooking instead.

The article also says that today, it’s almost impossible for a single individual to be a big-time blogger. But that was never my goal in the first place and still isn’t.

Technical communication is and will always be a small niche in the blogosphere. Since we are writers by profession, more and more of us have started blogs. I’ve been reading some of them and they are pretty good. I slowed down partly because I didn’t think I had much to contribute to the conversation.

But the blogging conversation is different than a conversation at a dinner party or even on a listserve. In those situations if someone says, “Consider the oyster,” and you just happened to also be contemplating oysters, you would look foolishing saying, “I want to talk about oysters.”

In the blogosphere—even the narrow tech comm corner of the blogosphere—there is room for two, or even five or ten simultaneous oyster diatribes because we all have different audiences with some overlapping on the edges. If we are truly speaking in our own voice, we won’t be talking about oysters in exactly the same way. This may or may not be useful to our audience.

I began blogging as a way to reach out to the STC chapter in Atlanta when I was president two years ago. I had a lot of fun with it and decided to continue. I like to write and I like to share things I’ve learned or seen or thought about. Sometime over the summer I lost my inspiration. Then I felt guilty as each week passed without a blog post.

When I read the Wired article today I thought, “What the heck? There may not be any pearls inside this oyster, but I’m still swimming along in the STC/tech comm tide with some opinions, thoughts, and observations.” So I will chug along here at a relaxed pace for a bit longer even though it is so 2004.

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Getting comfortable blogging at work

June 14, 2008

I work at a rather conservative company, so when we upgraded to the SharePoint version that supports blogs, I didn’t think much about it. But last week, due in part to a SharePoint presentation by Microsoft’s Chris Norred at the STC Summit, I made a 180° turn, and now I’m blogging every day at work.
Here’s why: 

Visibility. 
Yeah, I’m like most of you out there, looking for recognition, respect, and rock solid credentials that will protect me from the next reorganization. By blogging about our activities, challenges, innovations, successes, and strategies, we have a chance to tell our story in our own words. 

Currently only my team and my manager are reading the blog, but I’ve made it accessible to every employee. Viral marketing will drive traffic to my site, right? I’m a patient person. Soon IT will roll out SharePoint across the enterprise and tout its value as a collaboration tool. My blog can set the example. That’s incentive enough to generate quality content on a regular basis.

Communication.
Tech comm employees are all part-time contractors or “temporary” workers who work mostly from home or another office. We tend to work in silos and I struggle to find ways make us a “team.” I blog about what we’re working on, what’s happening at the company, and topics that I think would be of interest. This week I wrote a two-part post on Camtasia, explaining why we use it instead of Captivate or Mimic, the benefits, the drawbacks, and why I wanted everyone to think about using it more. 

Everyone on the team can post to the blog, but so far no one else has.
Well, it’s only been a week. 

Collaboration. 
I’d like the blog to be a place where we share best practices, lessons learned, and new ideas. Since everyone is working on very different projects, there’s a tendency for each person to invent their own wheel. Maybe this will be a way to share a bit more. 

Integrity. 
The blog is a way to keep me honest. If I write, “I’m going to hold weekly one-on-one meetings with everyone on the team,” then, by God, I’d sure better do it. Eventually our customers may contribute and we want to have an open discussion with them about the documentation and training we provide. 

Fun. 
Work is work, but it doesn’t have to be a grind. Our group enjoys communicating and the blog provides a outlet for us to talk about what we do best in a (relatively) unfettered forum. Next week, I’m running what I hope will be the first of several interviews with people from other departments who work in our area. The first question is “Who are those people sitting in the ‘bullpen’ on the 5th floor and what are they doing?” This means the person I’m interviewing will start reading my blog and maybe all those people indexing blueprints in the bullpen will read it, too. 

 

I’d like to hear from those of you who have been blogging at work. My work blog will never be public like Lindsey’s at Blackbaud (another strong influence on my decision to blog at work), but that’s why I plan to keep Don’t Call Me Tina active for the foreseeable future. 


Atlanta STC blog is now live

February 21, 2008

Our beautiful new chapter newsletter is online!

Kudos to Robert Armstrong for the design and execution!

This will replace our tired old newsletter, which has been on life support for a couple of years. With the blog format, we can post news and information as it becomes available.

With the STC Summit scheduled for Atlanta in 2009, we now have a year and then some to perfect this communication tool.

Atlanta chapter members (and others!) who want to submit a posting, should contact Robert or Al Hood, our chapter president.


The death of the newsletter?

January 25, 2008

Our STC chapter has struggled for several years to consistently produce a newsletter for our members.

Editors come and go. When we do get a volunteer editor with a volunteer staff, a major effort is required to coordinate the activities: soliciting content, collecting it, editing it, soliciting ads, formatting the layout, proofreading the final version.

A lot of work. Funny thing is that during the gaps when we couldn’t produce a newsletter, there was no hue and cry from the chapter membership. That makes me wonder if the effort is worth it.

Some chapters have switched to a blog format in favor of a PDF version. The Austin Chapter has a nice one. And the Suncoast Chapter combined their Web site and newsletter into a blog.

Our chapter council is considering using a blog for the newsletter. Al Hood opened a discussion about this in his president’s blog.

I’m wondering whether we need a Web site AND a blog/newsletter. With the blog format, we can use tags to form the categories that already exist on our current site. So, for example, all the Currents information could be tagged “Currents Conference” and if you click there, they would appear. You also have the option on most blogs to set up static pages.

This would simplify our work greatly and make it easier to recruit volunteers.

Another benefit is more timely information.


Why aren’t more tech comm leaders blogging?

July 10, 2007

I’ve been wondering why leaders in our field — people like JoAnn Hackos, Karen Schriver, Ginny Redish, Saul Carliner, Ann Rockley, etc. — aren’t blogging.

Are they just too busy or do they not see any value in it?

After listening to Karen Schriver’s presentations at the STC Summit in Minneapolis, I hoped she’d have a blog where I could read about her research and her observations on trends in design. But, alas, she doesn’t even have a Web site.

JoAnn Hackos publishes a regular newsletter: Information Management News with some pretty good articles on a variety of topics. Is that a better strategy?

In Alertbox this month, Jakob Nielsen says yes. “Write articles, not blog postings.”

To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

Don’t Call Me Tina does not presume to offer world-class expertise, so we will stick with dashing off our shallow postings.

Articles, blogs — whatever — I’d just like to hear more from some of these people instead of having to wait for the occasional article in Technical Communication or crowd into an STC conference session to hear them speak.

Mike Hughes is an example of an expert who uses a blog to present his musings on user experience. Scott Abel is another. They are very different blogs. Mike’s is written in a personal style, yet he poses challenging questions and provides unique insights on UX. Scott’s is more formal with article-like postings on content management and announcements of relevant events.

It’s interesting that one of the most popular tech comm blogs is Tom Johnson’s I’d Rather Be Writing. Tom didn’t start blogging because he was an expert. (No offense, Tom) He was interested in the medium and began exploring to see how far he could go.

Today he is an expert in a certain sense. More than any other person in our field, he is using Web 2.0 technology to share knowledge among technical communicators. This hasn’t gone unnoticed. Tech writers (and others) flock to his site to see what’s new and tune into the podcasts. His Technorati ranking is 13,936. The Content Wrangler is 76,900. DCMT is a lowly 3,827,667.


KeyContent.org: Wiki on

May 29, 2007

Stumbled upon Keycontent.org. It’s free to join and then you can add your 2 cents to the content. If you to practice working with a wiki, this might be the place to start. It’s a wiki and a blog with a mission similar to this blog:

Our mission is to provide a place where expert content developers, technical communicators, information architects, and web designers can come and express their views about the profession. . . created for and by professionals who want to keep up with the important issues in the transformation of technical communication.

The site includes articles as well, including some “reprints” from the Carolina Communique, the online newsletter of the Carolina STC Chapter, which is also a wiki disguised as a Web site (or vice versa).