Ignorance, Part 3

Sarah O'Keefe / OpinionLeave a Comment

See the earlier posts in this series:

Ignorance as an asset?
Ignorance. A continuing series.

In my quest for crochet knowledge, I found numerous sites that described various crochet stitches. For instance, about.com has a huge list of crochet resources, including basic stitch guides and instructions on making a starting chain. The instructions have lots of pictures and detailed instructions.

Have I mentioned that I’m left-handed?

Theoretically, I could use about.com’s text by reversing everything. Or, I could find a site that caters to my particular user reality, such as Crochet Australia, which provides a choice of left-handed or right-handed instructions.

Lesson? Accessibility is important. Anticipating users whose requirements are not the norm is important.

STC news

Sarah O'Keefe / NewsLeave a Comment

The STC Board of Directors met on September 24-25 in Denver. Thanks to Joe Welinske, we have detailed notes from the meeting.


  • STC has changed the copyright policy for Intercom articles and contributions to the conference proceedings. STC had required authors to turn over copyright to STC. Under the new policy, authors retain the copyright and give permission to STC to use the materials.
  • This is an excellent step forward. I have not contributed to Intercom in many years because of their copyright policy. I felt that the “compensation” offered (publication of the article) was enough to justify the effort of writing the article, but nowhere near enough to justify granting all rights to the material to STC. STC policy was to allow authors to license back their work for reuse. That made the situation even more insulting.

  • The DC training program enrollment is not as high as STC had hoped. There was much discussion at the Board meeting about the reasons for this. Since we spend a lot of time developing and delivering training, I think I have some insights on this problem:
    1. It’s not training!
    2. Technical training means small groups (up to a dozen) and extensive hands-on work. The program being offered in DC allows for 60 attendees per course. SIXTY! People are willing to pay for small, targeted classes. That is not what STC is offering.

    3. Administrative details
    4. The list price for the “training,” $1295, includes three nights of lodging. The price without the room is $1095. The value is more appealing to out of town attendees, since three nights at the Hyatt would probably cost more than $200. But locals are much more likely to attend such an event. Looking at the pricing from their point of view, you might feel a tad resentful. Which brings us to item #3.

    5. Failure to coordinate with DC chapter
    6. This was news to me, but is found in Joe’s report. The STC office developed and announced the program without consulting the DC chapter.

    7. Direct competition with STC members
    8. The STC “training” program compete directly with training offerings from companies, including mine, that are run by STC members. It also competes with professional conferences, such as LavaCon (yes, I’m beach-blogging) and WritersUA, which offer longer workshops.

  • The program was ill-conceived and poorly executed. The lack of attendance is completely unsurprising.

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?