Clear and to the Point

8 April, 2009


Filed under: technical communication — monado @ 11:36

The Vimeo video-sharing site is something to consider instead of its practically ubiquitous competitor. The quality of the videos tends to be higher, so there’s less dross to sort through. You can find it at

20 February, 2009

Connecting commercial e-mail to a web site and vice versa

I got what I thought might be a phishing e-mail message. I tried to forward it to the supposed originator. It bounced. Then I tok a look at the originator’s web site. After looking for a while, this is approximately what I sent to them.

Hello from a former customer. I’d like to alert you to a few things that I noticed about your communications.

[I’m using “techie quotes” throughout: no extra punctuation in code text-strings.]

The first is that I got the e-mail below and, finding that it pointed to a non-YourCompany address, suspected it of being part of a lure to get information. However, when I visited your Web site after my message bounced, I found that strange-user-name appears to be really your fulfillment address. You might want to make your return address in your public domain, even if messages are then rerouted to your fulfillment service.

Second, my post to your “phishing” account bounced because you don’t have one. Perhaps I should have tried again with “abuse” (which is a pretty standard address for reporting trouble) or even “root“. However, the people who are likely to forward suspected phony messages probably know what phishing is.

Third, you have no “Contact us” link on your home page. That is now part of expected home page layout. Instead, there’s a welter of FAQs, submission forms, and “If this, send to that” instructions scattered over several pages. And phishing wasn’t covered. So you need that link to a simple contact mechanism, with a visible e-mail address, on the home page. It can open a page that says, ‘This will get to us. For quicker response about different different subjects, send to these. [table of addresses]’ You can slip that page in front of your existing address pages with few changes. Then you can sort incoming general e-mail by keyword or get help-desk staff to route inquiries to the right group.

Regards, …

Am I being helpful or just arrogant?

23 December, 2008

Work rhythms

Filed under: technical communication,work — monado @ 14:24
Snowfall in Brampton, December 16

Snowfall in Brampton, December 16

I was working onsite in Brampton last Tuesday. And I was planning to go home in good time because there was a snowstorm moving in. But I got caught up in my work. I was making an analysis of all likely procedures for implementing a system. I was given a set of procedures but they were for different circumstances. Some didn’t seem to apply. Others applied some of the time. And some precluded others. If you were doing this, it didn’t make sense to do that. So I sorted them out into two cases. There was still a little confusion. Why would you do it such a way?

I took it back to my expert and we had a fruitful meeting late in the day. He pointed out that there were three cases. There was a simple install. There was recovery of backed-up systems or rollout of new systems from the server. And there was a complete restore of the server itself. Each of the cases implied a certain set of procedures in a certain order. Now it all made sense. I wanted to get the new analysis down on paper with procedures in the right places. Then the main tasks of each procedure. And the logical order of cases. There. It was almost 10 p.m. before I had everything neat, right, and backed up to the network.

You might think that technical writing is not creative. But in some ways—organizing information or deciding how to present it—it often is. And when inspiration strikes, it’s best to capture your insights of the moment rather than struggle to re-create them later.

When I left Brampton, a very pretty, fine snow was falling. I drove home carefully and safely on snow tires. And it worked out for me: by putting in too many hours on Tuesday, I was forced to stay away on Friday and miss its snowstorm and traffic chaos.

10 December, 2008

Resources page

I just brought in a whole page of Technical Communication links and added them to the Resources page.

Here they are. Anyone finding a broken link or a new resource, please mention them in the comments. You’ll get a tip of the hat and a virtual sweet.

As this post sinks below the horizon, you can always find the page by clicking “Resources” on the upper right.

30 October, 2008

My previous contract: online resources for technical support

Filed under: technical communication,work — monado @ 10:15
Tags: , , ,
My most recent gig was an interesting contract with an excellent project manager. The Toronto Star’s company, Torstar, merged with Metroland early this year and the two companies are aligning their resources.
Metroland owns the K-W Record, Guelph Mercury, and Hamilton Spectator along with a wealth of community newsletters, from London to Ottawa, put out by different publishing offices. Each of them uses a different mix of software. In fact, there are more than 200 applications. Some of them are small but others are used every day by many people to publish the paper and the Web site. Even when different offices use the same application, they use different parts of it and call it by different names.

Torstar and Metroland wanted to create a help desk for Level 1 user support and they hired a team of technical writers to create training materials and a resource for the help desk to use. There were six of us and we created a wiki, which the support team could edit themselves after our contract was finished. In parallel, a support team was getting a thorough grounding in company operations.

We devised an information structure and page layouts for the wiki, researched the most important applications, and seeded the wiki with the most common support issues and procedures–not only for publishing software but for HR forms such as expense requests. We also provided online resource such as log-in links for application servers for various regions, so the support team could quickly log in and fix things for their caller.

We trained the support team to update the wiki as they find new and improved solutions or how-to’s. Along the way we picked up the task of coordinating the day-to-day training for the intense classroom segment of the support team’s orientation. Meanwhile, our process guru found tools for creating & maintaining backups as the wiki content changes.

It was a challenge and a behind-the-scenes look at a new industry—which is what I like about my career.

This blog can be linked to LinkedIn

Filed under: communication — monado @ 01:01
Tags: , ,

WordPress has added a new “App” that will let you echo posts from your blog over to LinkedIn. It works for blogs hosted on WordPress or using WordPress software. You will also have the choice of echoing everything or only posts tagged LinkedIn.


  1. Visit the LinkedIn Application Directory.
  2. Select the WordPress App that you want.
  3. Enter the URL of your blog.
  4. Choose to display either all of your blog posts or only those tagged with “LinkedIn.”
  5. Save.

This works for a or blog.

Your WordPress avatar appears beside the top post. You can use Gravatar to create one.

Blog at