Tuesday Jan 02, 2007

Hacking into an Alien Database...No Problem!

I'm a big movie fan and I've always been amused at how user interfaces and computer technologies are used in movies. Jackob Nielsen has done a great job distilling all of the UI "bloopers" in his article, Usability in the Movies--Top 10 Bloopers.

My favorite is #10, since I've worked at Sun for over 13 years. and, I have a real problem with #8.  I mean, I understand Jackob's point, but it's James Bond...he can do anything.  ;)

Wednesday Nov 01, 2006

Rage Against the Text Area

Sometimes in technology, you take a couple steps back in the pursuit of progress. A good example of this is many of the crude editors that are provided by wikis and blogs, if an editor is even provided at all. I found myself editing raw html content lately in a text area and that didn't give me a warm fuzzy.

Luckily, a new Firefox extension, called Xihna Here! enables WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editing in any Firefox text area. Once you install the extension, all you need to do is right-click on any text area, select Xihna Here! from the context menu, and the Xihna Here! editor displays in all its WYSIWYG glory. You instantly have a full-blown editor to get your work done fast and furious.

So, what are you waiting for?  Download Xihna Here! and don't be afraid of the text area void ever again.

Friday Oct 20, 2006

Teaching an Old Dog Old Tricks

o.k., so I don't consider myself old, but I'm kind of long in the tooth in the technical writing field. I've been tech writing now for about 15 years now...I shudder even as I write this.

Why am I telling you this? Well, my manager sent out a very interesting article called, "Corporate Blogging and the Technical Writer" (PDF), which talks about how blogging may change the future of technical writers. It's actually a pretty good article about blogging in general, so you don't need to care about technical writing to learn something.

I found one part very interesting:

"If technical writers blog, they will have to break free of the technical documentation mindset. Breaking out of the voiceless, impersonal prose that makes up the pure information of instructions requires a transition akin to letting your hair down, putting on jeans, and speaking up in meetings without hesitation."

This made me laugh. I remember back when I was fresh out of college and working at Cray Research. I had just graduated with a double major in Computer Science and English (there were no technical writing degrees at the time), so my writing was more on the creative side. My first project was a "change packet"...a set of page updates sent out to the field that replaced pages in a document housed in a binder. Ugh. Maybe I am old.

Anyway, I poured my heart and soul into this change packet and when I got it back from editing, my work was bathed in a sea of red ink. That first experience began the process of beating the "creative, personal prose" out of me and it continued from there.

So, I for one am looking forward to being able to "let my hair down" a little bit more in the future as I write in the new participation age. Technical writers still bring important value to information, such as organization, consistency, and customer focus. But, it would be nice to take some of the stuffiness out of what I typically do as a technical writer and get back to my "authentic voice."

Friday Oct 13, 2006

What's Wrong With Real Reality?

So, on Monday I found out that Sun had officially entered the world of Second Life. Second Life is a virtual world similar to ours where you can create your own avatar, meet people, own virtual land, and actually set up virtual shops. As far as I can tell, it's basically Sim City meets an MMOG.

Sun's chief researcher, John Gage, and Chief Gaming Officer, Chris Melissinos, held a virtual press conference in the Second Life universe this week to announce "Project Darkstar," which is designed to help developers of online games with server-side technology.

Maybe it's just me, but this whole Second Life thing kind of creeps me out. I have no problems with virtual reality, but I do have problems with a virtual reality that mimics our own reality. I mean, don't we have enough issues and personal "avatars" in our own real reality that we have to deal with? It's like Second Life is a complete reversal of The Matrix plot. Instead of people trying to get out of the Matrix, they are actually willingly going into it. Maybe I'm just a old fuddy-duddy (in technology years) for not embracing it.

But, that said, I do have to hand it to Sun for trying out Second Life as a new way to get the word out about all of our great products and initiatives.

And, BTW, check out the last part of this article. It's nice to know that Second Life isn't perfect. ;)

Monday Oct 09, 2006

Equal Participation?

We keep hearing about the Participation Age. In fact, Sun as a company is a big part of this new world.

But, is there really equal participation throughout the internet? Jakob Nielsen tackles this issue in his latest article, "Participation Inequality - Encouraging More Users to Contribute."

This is a very interesting article and really highlights how the current internet participation is dominated by the few. This article reminded me how the loudest person in a room full of people can dominate the conversation. And, I also think there is a difference between participating with the entire world and participating within a group of people you know. I believe the latter is much easier for people to do. I know it is for me.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be referring back to this article as I work on projects within Sun to promote participation and collaboration. I hope you find it interesting as well.




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