Google Print and copyright law

Sarah O'Keefe / NewsLeave a Comment

The advances in digital rights management lead to the restriction or elimination of fair use rights. It’s interesting that the Google Print program resides at the opposite extreme.

Google Print is creating a searchable library of books. The trouble is that authors must opt out to prevent their books from being scanned.

[T]raditionally, content users must have affirmative authorization from a copyright owner to use the copyrighted material, said Terence Ross, a partner and copyright law specialist at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a Washington, D.C., law office. ‘Merely saying that if we don’t hear from you we assume it’s okay has never been accepted by any court and I doubt it would ever be accepted,’ he said. InfoWorld: Authors sue Google over Google Print

Google’s response is found on their blog:

The use we make of all the books we scan through the Library Project is fully consistent with both the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law itself, which allow everything from parodies to excerpts in book reviews.

Google Print program is swimming against the tide of increasing copyright restrictions. It’s unclear, though, where this lawsuit might go.

Monty Python and FrameMaker

Sarah O'Keefe / HumorLeave a Comment

It’s become apparent that John Cleese of Monty Python fame has an in with Adobe. How else do you explain this:

FrameMaker: I’m not dead!
Adobe Sales: What?
FrameMaker: I’m not dead!
Adobe Sales: ‘Ere! ‘E says ‘e’s not dead!
FM Users: Yes he is.
FrameMaker: I’m not!
Adobe Sales: He isn’t?
FM Users: Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.
FrameMaker: I’m getting better!
FM Users: No, you’re not; you’ll be stone dead in a moment.
FrameMaker: I feel fine!….I think I’ll go for a walk!
FM Users: You’re not fooling anyone, y’know.

Adobe announces FrameMaker 7.2
Main product page
In depth page with FAQs and other release details


Sarah O'Keefe / News1 Comment

We have watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with horror. North Carolina has some experience with killer hurricanes, such as Fran (1996) and Floyd (1999).

Katrina will be an least an order of magnitude worse than Floyd, with deaths numbered in the thousands, not the hundreds. The devastation is unimaginable.

Please consider a donation to the Red Cross.

We have some space available in our Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, office. If you know of a displaced technical writer who needs a temporary office, please have them contact us. We can provide phone, fax, Internet access, computer, and assorted technical writing tools, including of course FrameMaker.

Ignorance. A continuing series.

Sarah O'Keefe / OpinionLeave a Comment

In an earlier post, I wrote about using a new craft to develop a better sense of what users face in learning new technology. I took my own advice a few months back, and have taken up crochet. In this series of posts, I’ll address the lessons that technical communicators can take away from such an exercise.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the “sense evolution” of the word crotchety is “obscure.” I beg to differ. It obviously derived from somebody who was trying to learn to crochet.

1. Jargon presents a formidable barrier.
Crochet patterns are written with abbreviations such as this:

* Sc in center ch of next ch-5 loop, work 8 dc over next loop, sc in center ch of next loop, ch 5, repeat from * across to last loop, ch 2, dc in last sc. Ch 1, turn.
Complete pattern

Before you can begin to comprehend this, you need to know what sc, ch, ch-5, loop, dc, and turn mean. The preceding pattern is rated “easy.” A pattern for experienced crocheters looks more like this:

Sl st into ch-3 picot lp, 1 sc in same lp, ch 4, sk next picot lp, 1 sc in first picot lp of group, ch 4, in next ch-7 lp work (1 sc, ch 3, 1 sc), * (ch 4, sk next picot lp, 1 sc in second picot lp of group) 2 times, (ch 4, 1 sc in first picot lp) 2 times, ch 4, in next ch-7 lp work (1 sc, ch 3, 1 sc) *; rep from * to * 2 times more, (ch 4, 1 sc in second picot lp) 2 times, ch 4. Join with sl st to first sc.
Complete pattern

Trying to read jargon-laden documentation feels like learning a new language. Can you avoid the jargon? If not, how will you support your readers in learning the new terminology?

Ignorance as an asset?

Sarah O'Keefe / Opinion1 Comment

There’s a recurring debate over how technical a technical writer should be. One faction argues that ignorance of the technology being documented forces the technical writer to think at the same level as the target audience — the end user.

The other faction argues that the ability to pretend ignorance may be valuable, but that the more the writer knows, the better.

I definitely fall into the latter camp, but I do recognize that being able to empathize (or maybe commiserate) with the end user is useful. I suggest that you periodically take up a new craft, like woodworking or crochet. This allows you to relive the experience of being adrift in ignorance, with little or no help available. Or try home remodeling (preferably on nothing of structural importance).