Archive for August, 2009


SXSW Panel Discoveries

August 31, 2009

I just spent an hour browsing through the SXSW 2010 Panel Picker voting site. If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth a look. The SXSW program team posts descriptions of proposed panels for the conference (where panel can also be a presentation). Anyone can view the proposals, but the cool part is that you can vote thumbs up or down on any proposal (to vote you need to register, but it’s free and fast).

I went over to the site because XML Press author Alan Porter has two panel proposals, Wikis are Wonderful – or Are They? and Spandex and Software: Can Comics Get You To Read The Manuals?. Both look very interesting and well worth voting for. Alan always has something interesting to say, and you can bet he will show some good comics as part of his panels.

In addition to Alan’s panels, which I urge you to check out and vote for, I was really pleased to see proposals by several other people whose work I respect, including:

Greening Your Content: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Rahel Bailie

Coauthoring Without Homicide by John Hedtke

All About Audience: Improving User Experience by Brenda Huettner.

Will User-Generated Content Wipe Out Technical Writers? by Sarah O’Keefe.

I was also pleased to see several panels on publishing, which curiously does not have its own category, but which is represented in categories like Writing. In addition to reading about, and voting on, several publishing related panels, I followed links to some interesting sites, including a blog by Richard Nash that’s now in “tight rotation” on my list of daily reads.

On a completely different note, after watching Julie/Julia yesterday, I started reading the original Julie/Julia Project blog, which is fascinating. I started with the first entry and am working my way through in the order it was written. Well worth checking out. I’m reading it in parallel with Julia Child’s My Life in France. I haven’t seen Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, yet, though if the blog and Julia don’t wear me out on butter-based food, I may give it a try, too.


Seize the Moment

August 26, 2009

We just got back into town after a short trip. When we left, our grape vines still bore green, unripe grapes, and we thought they would ripen after we returned. Because of that, and frankly because it’s a real pain, we didn’t put netting over the vines like we usually do.

We came back to a scene of mass bird destruction. The vines were completely stripped of grapes, and the surrounding deck and patio were covered with the inevitable “output” of well-fed birds. The result of inaction is that our crop of grapes is gone for this year, and we have an unpleasant clean-up ahead of us. Fortunately for us, we don’t depend on grapes for our livelihood, but the event brought home to me the importance of acting decisively when opportunity beckons.

As managers, we often look at the consequences of our actions, but I think we often ignore, or are completely oblivious to, the consequences of inaction. We get absorbed in the day-to-day business of being a manager, react to whatever comes our way, and leave opportunities unexplored. This is always dangerous, but with the massive changes going on in the technical communication world, the cost of watching from the sidelines can be your job.

Having just published Anne Gentle’s Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation, I’m acutely aware of the opportunity Social Media provides for technical communicators, but even more aware of the danger of ignoring Social Media.

No one knows whether twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc., will be around in 5 years, or 5 months, but you can bet that Social Media in some form or another is here to stay. Even if you aren’t using Social Media, your customers are. They will learn about your company from others who use Social Media, and they will notice how you use, abuse, or ignore those venues.

The good news is that as Social Media evolves from its current immature beginnings, there is room for experimentation and there is an opportunity to be at the front of this trend. But, very quickly, the question will change from “How should I be using Social Media?” to “Why aren’t you using Social Media?” If you’re not acting now, you may soon discover that the grapes have been eaten and all you’re left with is bird droppings.