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  Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Blogs and technical writers

The current poll question over at TECHWR-L is "As a technical writer, do you maintain a blog?" The question came about in conversation with Jenny over at The Creative Tech Writer. Responses are running nearly 50% in the "hunh?" category.

I've noticed that for many of my co-workers, technical writing is a job, not a passion. They don't belong to STC, they don't go to seminars or conferences or take classes, they don't seem much interested in anything outside what they need to know to do the current job. A minority track evolving technologies, are interested in indexing or single-sourcing or other fun topics. A few write for fun: one writer in our group (of over 20?) just had her very first sci-fi/fantasy novel published! Another writes comics on the side. So I guess it should be no surprise that the tech writing bloggers are a distinct minority.

It's still a mystery to me how we will implement blogs as tools for technical communication within our various enterprises. Jenny and Gordon have both raised the question of using blogs, or blog-like tools, to improve online help systems. Jenny posits the makings of a reputation based system to weed out the useless and elevate the most useful comments or postings, in contrast to, f'rinstance, the Slashdot system of moderating. Should we migrate toward a Wiki-based system, where anyone (or a select elite) can post their opinions and experiences? Or will we continue to link according to our own needs and serendipitous discoveries? It's far too easy to stay comfortably within a fairly constrained group of self-referential bloggers. Will that provide us the information we need? I think not.

Thanks to Jenny and Gordon for raising the issues. I've suggested we arrange an ad hoc gathering of tech writing bloggers at the STC conference in Dallas this May. Any thoughts?

4:57:34 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

R.I.P. Lou Harrison

Composer Lou Harrison, Aptos resident and long-time regular at the Cabrillo Music Festival, collapsed and died Sunday on the way to a program in his honor in Ohio. Here's the report from the San Jose Mercury News, with additional links.

I had the pleasure of hearing several of Lou's compositions performed live. In one case, at the now defunct San Jose Symphony. In another case, in a pre-CMF recital at UCSC of his gamelan music. I have to admit that my appreciation for gamelan began with Harrison's work. I note also his collaborations with American music icons Charles Ives, Harry Partch, and John Cage, three of my favorite American composers. We'll miss the man, but his music will live on, enriching our lives for years to come.

8:45:59 AM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

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