Have you thanked your technical writer today?

The Mojo of technical communication and writing as mused by Dr. Lu Kondor

Friday, December 5, 2014

Specialization in Technical Writing - Enroll To Take Advanced Technical Writing Course

http://www.csudh.edu/technicalwritingonline/Thinking about improving your writing skills in the New Year? Don't feel like getting the certificate but want to increase your knowledge but not sure if you have time?  You are going to be interested in the online Advanced Technical Writing course at California State University Dominguez Hills at the College of Extended and International Education. The whole certificate is available online if you don't live in SoCal. So why not try the advanced course if you aren't sure about the whole certificate? In the advanced course we work on pieces to build or enhance your portfolio.

To find out more about the schedule, click here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thoughts of school dreams and syllabus nightmares

This was going around CSUDH email yesterday - I thought it was interesting. It stimulated debate and commentary, which I love. Now let me start with this - truly my syllabi are long too, otherwise I am flooded with confused student questions. I started teaching before the electronic age and students have so many more questions now than 25 years ago regarding everything from file formats they can hand their work in to electronic libraries all Universities now have. 

Many are returning students who remember older ways of learning and are confused by the integration of new technologies. I also like to mention that an aging school population knows what it wants from a class. I understand that sentiment, I received my doctorate a few years ago, having returned a number of years after my last masters degree.

Don't get me wrong, I like to answer questions and do as quickly as possible. But students may not be able to wait for an answer especially if they are working at the last minute late at night. Many could say students shouldn't wait that long, but the reality is today quite a few students can't help it. I also worked full time while I went back to school and from personal experience, so many students I have do just that with a need to balance their lives. Students need to work on classwork when it fits them and providing a tool that helps them work is just that, a tool. I do think that most syllabi are long today but it is a sign of the times that we are trying to define information (including required information by the University) by providing as much info. as possible, as quickly as possible.

I recommend with a syllabus including keywords in the document so when a student searches, they find what they want. If possible keep everything in sections together regarding similar information. I am contemplating on my next updated syllabus to include a click-able table of contents at the top. Worth it if you syllabus is over 5 pages.

The good? They are PDF files you can search instead of reading word for word. Like everything else today, most readers skim & scan. When you have questions as a student, why not have the info at your finger tips?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

One of my favorite screen capture tools & there is a free version

As we all know video is very helpful in training & documentation, especially in applications, science etc. So I wanted to give a shout out on one of my favorite tools for recording videos, http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/

Now to start it is free. Not bad but there are a few restrictions in the free version but for a fee you can get a lot more. I haven't needed the pay version yet except that a previous employer had it and I found it nice. But for my classes the free version works just fine. This is great when you really focus on screen instructions on you computer. I'll actually save these and intercut with other material as necessary.

For the free version there is a breakdown on the page listed above but for me there are a few key things for the free version:
  • 15 mins recording - not a problem because I will break up my videos. If they are longer than that I lose students' focus
  • Watermark on the bottom - probably the most annoying part but it isn't very distracting 
  • It supports the following formats: MP4, AVI, FLV movie
  • Easy to use - just try it
I like to edit on my desktop so I save there and editing using my normal tools (Adobe Suite is great for this and if you aren't using the cloud version of their software I suggest you do - it is awesome). Now if you like to go 

But here is the kicker - for so much more in the way of toolsets you can just pay $15/yr. Wow, now that's pretty cool. So I suggest you can try it to see if you like if first. I probably will get the pro version in the future. I use Firefox without any issues.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Very cool site - ptable.com

I normally don't go into site promotion but rather concept info. But I think this is a web page worth looking at in technical writing. It is a dynamic periodic table. I really appreciate the work that went into this page. The site, ptable, provides quite a bit of interactive viewing and information for the reader. Click on just about anything and you will be given details and new views. This site is why I like the web as a learning, training, and dissemination of information tool.

There's a video on using it too.
Ptable video

Special thanks to everyone who attended the LASTC Dinner

Thanks to everyone in LASTC who was able to come to my talk on Preventing Scope Creep on Documentation Projects. I enjoyed talking to everyone. Remember you can download a copy of my presentation in PDF format from my site. Click here to go to the page.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

LASTC Dinner Talk Announcement

(From LASTC email)

To reserve a seat go to the LASTC.org site

LASTC is proud to host a dinner meeting on Tuesday June 17 with Lu Kondor

Preventing Scope Creep on Documentation Projects

Scope creep in project management refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. It is generally considered harmful. - Wikipedia

Successful delivery of any documentation project depends on monitoring and controlling the scope of the project. It is critical to clearly define project deliverables, timelines, and budget estimates at the start of a project.

Lu Kondor will describe how to recognize and address scope creep on documentation projects. She will discuss how to prevent your projects from going over budget and over time so that you can deliver successful, quality documentation for clients and employers.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014


6:00 pm - Check-in and networking
6:30 pm - Dinner
7:00 pm - Program


STC members: $25
Not-yet members: $30
Program only: $15

Use the PayPal link on our website (lastc.org) to register for the meeting. Or, send an email to treasurerlastc@yahoo.com to RSVP and pay at the event.


Damon's Steak House
317 N Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 507-1510

Damon's is in the heart of Glendale--exit on Brand Boulevard off the 134 freeway, and proceed south. Damon's is on the west side of Brand, and there is plenty of street parking either in front or in back of the restaurant.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What the Internet excels at to help tech writers...

I thought I'd write a bit about what the Internet excels at, at least in my opinion. One thing I find handy are examples of documents (among other things) or real useful technical documentation. Let's face it. There are many ways to write documents. Sure there are some rules but as far as layout, design etc. some of the rules are improvised upon. For one thing Apple is a company whose docs should be examined.

For a company that innovates in technology, it only makes sense that they innovate in documents too. Check out the layout for iPhone 4 finger tips quick start guide.  For this type of doc, I find scrolling left to right so much easier than up or down (especially on an iPhone). Yet so few technical communicators think a document should be used this way. A company that innovates electronics and makes the use of electronics creative doesn't surprise me when they think different for their documents. I have always found their online help very useful.

I also find the Internet useful for general information. For example I found this site O*Net Online. For technical writers/communicators it provides a quick reference for all the titles we go by, job tasks, skills, knowledge needed, etc. Very useful for people just starting out or wanting to get more information in job searches. I'm not that familiar with the organization but the site did make me realize that perception of a technical writing job varies widely between employers.

I don't recommend believing everything one sees on the Internet, yet I do find that when I need a little inspiration or a set of new ideas I reach for my browser. But like any tool it has a downside (for me it can  be a time bandit - robbing me of time to do other things if I am not very careful). So I recommend using the Internet for what it is, a big sharing community with all the good and bad that is associated with it. Take all you see and weigh it in relation to the source that is providing the information. There is a lot of good stuff to be found.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CSUDH Certificate classes starting in June

I wanted to post that the classes I teach in Advanced Technical Communication as well as Information Design start soon (June 2). I love teaching in this program. In the course I teach students stretch their abilities and enjoy a nurturing environment.

For general information see this PDF by the University

For class cost and dates: see College of Extended & International Education

Friday, April 25, 2014

"...Simplifying the complex."

I love this quote I found "Technical writing is sometimes defined as simplifying the complex."
from TECH WHIRL. I agree that the goal of technical writing, according to the site, makes information useful to a particular audience. "Good technical writing results in relevant, useful and accurate information geared to specifically targeted audiences in order to enable a set of actions on the part of the audience in pursuit of a defined goal."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thoughts on creating course content & the web

I was thinking about course content the other day and I decided to Google some. When I feel I need motivation or just feel 'blank' I Google. I know, not the answer to everything but it does set me on a path of thought. (My other go-to is YouTube. Seriously folks, there are plenty of videos on just about everything. If you get bored there are plenty of amusing things on there.)

I came up with this link and I found it gave me plenty of ideas. Course Syllabi and Materials from various courses around the world. Some are pretty old but since not all tech writing changes they are a nice place to start. I started thinking on how diverse technical writing is (or perceived) since it can be taught at times in Extended Education. English Dept., Computer Science & Engineering Depts., Communication, or even Journalism. I think that diversity has always been an attraction for me. 

This site is the Association of teachers of Technical Writing. I'm not promoting this association in any way (nor do I belong to it) but I thought they really do have very nice tools and ideas for not just teachers but anyone who wants to learn more about technical communication. So the next time you are in need of some inspiration or ideas, take to the web.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tip in writing: Beware the homophone

In many forms of writing, a writer relies on word processors to catch issues. One issue that is difficult for word processors to catch are mistakes with homophones. According to Merriam-Webster (2014) a homophone is "a word that is pronounced like another word but is different in meaning, origin, or spelling." In writing that needs to be clear and concise, this accidental switch will definitely confuse a reader. Just imagine switching minor with miner, elicit with illicit, or switch theirs with there's. A switch like that may not happen often for most writers, but it is still a great idea to read through work to look for any of these issues so that they don't get into a document, especially if one is a lone writer at an organization and has no editor.

My vote for the most accidental use of a homophone: to and too
It is just too easy to hit that extra o by accident.

Merriam-Webster. (2014). Homophone. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homophones?show=0&t=1390180461

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year! What are your Goals?

It's now 2014 and time to contemplate career and personal goals. The new year always provides a lot of excitement and the fresh feeling for new potential. Personal goals are very subjective as are many tech writing goals for individuals and organizations. Here are a few suggestions to think about when setting tech writing goals for you and your organization.
  • Style guides - do you need to create them for your organization or update the ones you have?
  • How are documents managed? Is it time for a content management system or just better organization?
  • Talk to your manager? What are their needs? Can you align your documentation goals with their expectations?
  • How can I improve communication with my subject matter experts (and their departments)? 
  • What needs updating? Not just docs but policies and procedures...
  • Do we have a quality control procedure for the organization's documentation?
  •  Any way to save money or improve documents in general? Perhaps recommend if management is still using paper docs that they could go online or update a current web site for customer usability.
  • Can documentation redundancy be reduced?
  • Is there any piece of software that would make creating documentation better? (This should include reduce time to create docs, better usability, and all together better?) If so try to get a cost and write a proposal to management.
  • Consider creating surveys (lots of free stuff out there like Google docs or Survey Monkey) to find out the positives and negatives of your docs (anonymous feedback is great. Just drop the outliers and look at the main body of feedback).
  • Is there any software you want to learn or any new skills you'd like to take a class in to improve your job? Consider a certificate program if you don't have a degree in tech writing even if you have been tech writing for a while. New perspectives are great, just make sure you focus on courses that offer a practical approach.  (For example CSUDH's technical communication certificate.)
  • Consider branching out to other types of technical writing for your own personal skill enhancement. Do you like white papers? Consider writing one or ghost writing with some SMEs.
There are so many opportunities to increase your organization and your own personal potential that the list can go on quite a while. So I recommend every technical communicator ask themselves at the beginning of the year "What are your goals?"