tech light

Tethered to a cloud

It must have been twenty years ago when Larry Ellison fascinated me with the idea of diskless desktop computers. The benefit as I saw it was that some grandmaster App would keep the department’s word processing installations up to date.

Eventually, maintaining software as a service became its own product. Known as SaaS the service is enabled through cloud computing. Other service models include infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). These services make up about a third of cloud computing activities. File sharing accounts for another third.

By offloading IT involvement, users stay focused on work. It can be argued that universally accessible tools and services promote a strong collaborative culture.

Front end applications and services
Front end applications and services

Informal results from a session on documentation collaboration.

lists & tables

Professional programs compared

Hello, my name is Spring!

I’ve resurfaced, finally, after completing a long contract. Now there are IOU lunches to plan and vacation photos to edit, and after criss-crossing Canada, it’s a must-do to get back into the swing of professional development.

They say to carry a pocketful of business cards and memorize your elevator pitch. You just never know what can become of a networking opportunity. This week I scored four professional events happening in downtown Vancouver. It’s always instructive to observe, even better to hone the pitch, and totally awesome when your card is pulled for a door prize.

Offerings Agile Vancouver Editors’ Association of Canada International Association of Business Communicators STC Canada West Coast
Event Name Domain Driven Design Practices Plain Language Certification How to Network Effectively H.A.T. Tricks
Presenter Eric Evans, author Domain-Driven Design, Addison-Wesley 2004, thought leader in software design and domain modeling Katherine McManus, Director of SFU Writing & Communications Program Karen Lee, IABC Canada – Master Communicator, teaches for the University of Victoria in the Public Relations diploma program Neil Perlin, internationally-known online content consultant
Date March 18, 2013 March 20, 2013 March 21, 2013 March 19, 2013
Time 6:00-9:00 pm 7:00-9:00 pm 5:30-7:00 pm 6:00-8:30 pm
Topic Exploring and Distilling the Core Domain: An Anonymized Case Study SFU’s role in grant-funded project to launch international certification in plain language Industry expert advises how to effectively network your way through an event Overview of help authoring tools and history
Format Standup presentation, slides Standup presentation, slides, voice recorded, photographed Instructor led presentation (no slides) and networking practice Webinar, remote presentation
Networking Before and after Pre meeting dinner, before and after Before and after, and during as an activity Before and after
Venue Renaissance Harbourside Hotel YWCA Harbour Centre, SFU YWCA
Freebies Coffee and tea Door prizes, fruit, homemade cookies Door prizes, donuts, juice Tea, cookies, grapes
Registration Online thru Eventbrite, at door Online, at door Online, at door, by phone Online, at door
Seats Filled 80 33 20 12 (+9 remote)
Member $10 $0 $0 $5
Non-member $10 $10 $10 $20
book types & parts production & publishing

SIPOC tool

The process map is an information type in the Information Mapping Method. Similarly, SIPOC is a tool from the Define and Measure phases of a Six Sigma project. SIPOC takes its name from Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. These segments in the process map define where a process starts and ends. Here I’m going to show how the SIPOC tool is used to write process documentation. This is a quick exercise that serves process improvement.

  1. ID the process. Name the key point. What does it do? What is its purpose?
  2. ID the outputs. What happens, whether desirable or not. What are the deliverables, outcomes, and results.
  3. ID the customers. Who becomes the recipient? Think ‘voice of the customer’ and whether the customer is internal or external.
  4. ID the inputs. What series of events causes or triggers a process? Are they manual? Automatic?
  5. ID the suppliers. Who provides the resources? People? Systems?

SIPOC templates are readily available to help you sketch out this info using a particular flow. Or make your own template:

  1. Hold a piece of paper horizontally and fold it in fives.
  2. From left to right title each folded column, one letter per column, S-I-P-O-C.
  3. Then working in reverse from right to left identify the Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers.
design & typography

Font-challenged learners

If fonts were cars, the Arial Light would be fitting for night driving. I imagine it having a softly illuminated dashboard and headlight-cancelling rearview mirrors. Reading too should offer the same adaptations–flick a few switches to give us the best fonts in pleasing shades so we don’t ruin our eyes.

Twelve-point Comic Sans MS, if it’s not banned outright the silly font just might be critical to learning. A psychologist at Princeton University found that the harder a font’s readability, the better the recall. A block of text set with 50% leading is easier to read than text having no line space where ascenders and descenders touch. The point size can be used as a unit of measuring type and line space. For regular newspaper and book text, 8pt to 12pt usually satisfies.

Economist article, Learning Difficulties: Making something hard to read means it is more likely to be remembered.

authors & audience

Letter wizard – what the family pack proved

My mother remembered birthdays without fail. She’d pre-write cards for all December-borns, penciling the recipient’s DOB in the postage stamp corner. Three to four days later a Hallmark greeting arrived like clockwork. Given the scale of mom’s birthday card sending, a request for backup was reasonable at Christmastime. Dad enlisted to sign cards going to his brothers and sisters.

My father adopted a penmanship habit that resembled stretching before a run. He limbered up with a few air pen swirls, then pen on paper swirls. He completed the first card from our family to his eldest sister’s family.

When mom read the closing, well, I wasn’t sure if she’d throttle him or crack up laughing. It read Mr. & Mrs. John DiStefano. Not the formality you’d expect from a sibling everyone called Johnny.

Mom was not one to waste anything but a ruined greeting card was about as bad as a forgotten one.

terms & abbreviations

Holidays & Observances

Canadian poppy
Today, we paused to remember those who served. My father who served in WWII called it Armistice Day long after the US renamed it Veterans Day.

He’d fasten the poppy’s wire stem through a buttonhole. By December the poppy hung like mistletoe from the Ford’s rear view mirror.

Nations render their own design of the poppy pin. At last week’s meeting on the European debt crisis, we saw leafed and non-leafed variations adorn lapels of heads of state.

Remembrance Day, has now passed. Yet we vow to never forget.

design & typography

We value your opinion

Surveys are meant for collecting data. The analysis says how one measures up to other survey takers. But sometimes the data is useless. A simple error in survey design proves why.

If you’re a customer responding to a satisfaction survey, you’d assume “1” to be low on a scale of 1 to 10. The question goes something like this; How satisfied are you with your purchase? Very satisfied? Somewhat satisfied? Not at all satisfied? Phrased another way, on a scale of 1 to 3 where 1 means not satisfied and 3 means very satisfied, how satisfied are you with your purchase?

In this survey, the only sure rating is “5”.
on a scale of 10 to 1

We would value your opinion if we hadn’t redesigned the rating system.

authors & audience career exploration

My centred life

My identity blurred the day I become chapter president and employed. Leaving only pockets of time to savor summer, I relished one late afternoon, on a rooftop patio, sipping coffee and being interviewed about work.

Let me back up…

STC Canada West Coast recently launched a service that connects senior technical writers with people exploring a tech writing career. The idea flowed from a planning chautauqua. Thirty days later, a big idea became a new service. The information interview was born and already had a waiting list.

Part bedside manner, part job shadow, the information interview aims to entice students and job seekers to join professional associations. The interviewer gets questions answered and receives free admission to a professional program in exchange for a donation to the local chapter. Ostensibly, the interviewer gets a glimpse of a day in the life of a tech writer. As it turns out, this form of coffee break may yield fruit.

Learn more about the Information Interview Service.

production & publishing

A case for terminal punctuation

The key is knowing how tools work, whether a job takes physical strength or mouse clicks. I used the latter to find a handyman. My needs were simple.

  • Loosen shower handle so that it turns easily.
  • Adjust shower doors so that they slide fully from end to end.
  • Align bi-folding doors and adjust hinge hardware.

An online rating service helped pinpoint the ideal handyman. In describing the smallish job, I learned the estimate would cost the minimum charge. Exactly two hours later I was a pleased customer. My turn now to rate the worker.

When you can’t be sure how content will be presented use terminal punctuation. Omitting punctuation in a text box could display something unexpected. While the feedback form let me list a few items, the online version de-itemized the list.
text box word clump

design & typography

I am Courier

An app I stumbled upon pegs anonymous quiz takers to one of 16 typefaces. It’s a twist on the game asking what kind of animal you are. To analyze yourself, typographically speaking, you must answer four questions.

Question 2 asks:

Does something feel right or does something have a 1 in 2 chance of being right?

The analysis tells me I am Courier, the typeface designed to resemble typewriting. It has rhythmical insistence, is democratic for its even spacing and stands steadfast with its slab serifs. I am just your common character, amused by the personality of type.

Curious about your typeface?  I’d love to point you to the quiz from Pentagram but it no longer exists. Sorry.