Sunday, August 28, 2016

Been away...

Yes, I started a new job last week, at Bimbo Bakeries USA. It's an interesting place to work, but only a short (for now) contract. If you click the link above, you'll see their product line, which (I think) anyone should be familiar with. The commute isn't at all bad, since I'm doing a "reverse commute" and it doesn't take me nearly as long—and is not nearly as annoying—as the commute I used to make into Long Island City.

I have only one complaint, and it's not a biggie. They only type of paper towels they supply in either the bathrooms or the employee's cafeteria areas, are those non-absorbent, brown paper on big rolls type of towels. I spilled some water on my desk once, and I had to take about twenty feet of the toweling to pick up a half a glass of water, after pushing it uselessly around the desk for a while.

Well, I'm going to try to keep up this blog, but frankly, I am busy at work all day, and when I return home, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer again, except for the necessity of going through my emails.

I must, however, plan for the future, as I suppose I'll be looking for another position in not too many weeks, after this contract runs out. This is the first contract position I've held in more than twenty years, and I'm still getting used to it. I prefer permanent work and working on Long Island to commuting into New York City, but I don't know how many contracts will be available when I'm looking again. It's very nervous-making for me, I must admit. Well, as long as the pay is good and I can afford (or receive) decent benefits, I guess I can bite the bullet and work anywhere that's commutable.

No more for today, dear reader.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Where did I go?

Well, nowhere, actually, I've just been very busy at home: my wife was on a cruise with a friend of hers for a week, and I was busy doing various household chores that were assigned to me while she was gone.

I was also busy with my job search: telephone interviews, actual physical interviews, applications, all that stuff. So, maybe I did go somewhere; a couple of wheres, I guess.

I've also been learning to use a new application that I acquired in the last week or so: iSpring Suite, which includes components for creating eLearning modules from PowerPoint presentations and captures of working through other applications. It also includes a Quiz Builder component, which I used to create a short quiz for the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island (a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, of which I've been the webmaster for the last thirteen or so years). The GaSLOCoLI website can be reached by clicking this link, and if you are interested in taking the quiz, it's available on the homepage of that site.

Anyway, since I have so much on my plate, I pushed this blog to the side for a few days, but I will continue to add to it, as I have the time and the inclination.

Thanks for your interest!


Friday, July 8, 2016

Information Architecture, Content Strategy, User Experience?

There are a lot of articles and blogs about these three things on the web, and I have recently added the first two of these terms to my resume. But why? you may ask.

It seems to me that I have been an Information Architect and a Content Strategist for nearly my entire career. I suppose it is high time for some background information, which you will probably find nowhere else.

Something about me

I dropped out of college in my junior year—I was an Architecture student at the City College of New York—in the late 70s. After being something of a bum (I won't go into details here) and working in a hardware store for over sixteen years, I decided I needed to move on. While still working at the hardware store, I returned to school (the NYU School of Continuing Education) to learn programming. I had played around with some programming on my own, learning BASIC, Forth and some other languages on various home computers I was able to afford. At NYU I studied various programming languages which included Pascal, C, RPG II (the computer at the hardware store used this), Job Control Language (JCL), OCL and IBM 370 machine language and assembly language. I was pretty good at it—programming, I mean.

Soon thereafter, I decided I needed to earn some sort of degree, and went to a workshop at Brooklyn College (another college in the CUNY system) to find out more about what I had to do to get my degree. During the course of my interview with the counselor assigned to me, I expressed my knowledge of programming, and also my interest in writing, which had always provided me with a modicum of pleasure. As we spoke of these interests and accomplishments, the counselor asked me, "Have you ever considered becoming a technical writer?" I had never heard of such a thing and I asked him for an explanation.

While he described the discipline of technical writing, I had time to reflect on the many user manuals and so-called "help systems" provided with hardware and software that I had encountered over the years, and how I often felt dissatisfied and even angry at the quality thereof. Well, that pretty much decided me: I would become a technical writer!

The City University of New York by that time had created a program called the CUNY Baccalaureate program—which is still in existence and flourishing—which allowed students accepted into the program to design their own course of study along with the aid of their mentor; the counselor whom I already mentioned. One of the unique features of this program was (and is) the ability of the student to take courses at any of the CUNY colleges, if appropriate to the degree sought. So we did, and I did and here I am.

Back then, to the best of my knowledge, there were no such concepts as Information Architecture or Content Strategy. If there were, they were only gleams in the eyes of those who later came up with the concepts. There were only good (technical) writing and bad writing, and I have always firmly placed myself in the former category. As I have progressed in my career, the use of these concepts was never primary (or even peripherally) in my mind, but always informed the content—documents and online information—I created.

What about UX?

User Experience (UX) is another term thrown about with abandon on the web. I think that this site does an excellent job of explaining the role of a UX designer, which is certainly an emerging discipline.

I suppose I could spend anywhere from $615 to $11,500 for "certification" in UX (see this site for some more information), but that is yet to come, if it comes at all.


And so, I think that I can, with justice, claim that I am both an Information Architect and a Content Strategist. As I said on my website:
These two terms—Information Architecture and Content Strategy—are often confused with each other, as they overlap in many ways. They are, in my experience, quite different things, but are best viewed as part of a single, organic, whole.
Information Architecture is the structure that is created to hold the information you want to be seen by whoever; the menus, pages and their layout, navigation, etc.
Content Strategy is the actual information you intend to deliver.
I see no inconsistency with claiming these capacities for myself. You can agree or disagree with me if you like, but that won't change my opinion, dear reader.

Thanks for your attention and interest,

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Writing as a Habit

I never learned the discipline of keeping a daily log or diary, which I'm sure is a good thing to do when you're young. Well, I'm no longer young, and I find that in the midst of personal turmoil--I won't bore you with details--although I have a strong desire to write every day, I don't always have either the time or the necessary wherewithal.

I am also a little cautious regarding putting all my thoughts and feelings on the line or out in the public eye, as little as they might actually be read by anyone other than the lovely Beth.

However, I do wish to keep my hand in and although the nature of this blog is in many ways (all ways?) different from that of my usual occupation as a technical writer, I find it liberating by not having the constraints imposed upon me that my profession imposes upon me. When wearing my technical writer's hat, I must always keep in mind many different factors: the raft of corporate "standards" which I must adhere to, as far as formatting and phraseology; the opinions, edits and information which must be dealt with, and which I receive from my compeers, SMEs (subject matter experts), programmers, executives and others who form my "customers," as well as legal disclaimers and other information which must be included as a matter of course.

Blogging, of course, carries none of these requirements, and although it shares a common language with technical writing (English), the only thing I have to do with my blog is to please myself. I am not even at the mercy of you, dear readers, in trying to please my audience.

So, I have been writing to please myself, and hopefully, my lovely wife. My intention is to be neither boring nor pedantic (although I might sound highfalutin much of the time), and to write about things which not only interest me, but I which may prove interesting to others, as well.

I don't ever expect to become an Internet sensation who's blog is the source of manic re-postings and heated conversations around the water-cooler. I don't really expect to have much of a readership at all, but I don't think that's the point of this particular blog. It isn't, for me, at least. The point is, that I write, and I keep on writing, and perhaps, in time, I will inculcate in myself the habit of doing this sort of thing everyday, rain or shine, without having to drag myself to a computer to do so.

I wish myself success! Thanks for your attention.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Parenthetical Remarks

My wife—the lovely Beth Alyson—after reading my previous blogs, said to me, "You always write like that."

"Like what?" I asked.

"You always write with asides, making remarks that stop the flow of what you write. It can be very confusing."

Well, I thought about that for a while, and I admitted that she had a point. That's often the way I write. I have even been criticized for letting that kind of thing creep into my technical writing from time to time. Not often, but enough to earn me some demerits with certain of my managers.

I guess this is one of the (good) reasons I decided to start blogging: I can be as parenthetical and digressive as I like, and nobody can take exception to it, since I am writing for myself—and perhaps you, gentle reader. And even if someone does take exception to it, I'm not obliged to change it, or even defend it, it any way.

I have recently begun reading (and re-reading, in some cases) some of the "classic" works of literature, and I long thought that the record for the longest sentence in literature was held by one in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I have since been disabused of this notion. I know very little French, and have only a passable knowledge of two other languages: Spanish and German. Any others I may have a smattering of a word or two, but not enough to get by should someone drop me in Tokyo or India, for example.

I have even endeavored to learn Mandarin Chinese, but my Rosetta Stone lessons (complete, supposedly) on this noble language still sit in the box, somewhere in my office, yet to be assayed.

I have much yet to read of the classics, and I don't have the facility of recall that some of the characters in literature have when they come up with exact quotations from anyone—especially in the original Latin or Greek—but I will start taking notes, I think, when I come across something I think worthwhile remembering.

In that vein, and since I have but recently finished reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, I'd like to offer the following quotation which I shared with my lovely wife as soon as I had seen it. In my imagination, she must say it to me, or have said it to me, or will certainly say it to me:
"Could I ever have loved you, had I not known you better than you know yourself?"
Such is the love of a good woman, whom I sometimes think I scarcely deserve.

Enough for now, my friends. It is late and I am tired.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Blog?

I'm sure that people write blogs for many reasons, which I won't even begin to try to delineate. What I know is that I write because I have a few things to say. I'm not certain what they all will be, but if you bear with me (or even if you don't), all will be clear, eventually.

I really enjoy writing. As a Technical Writer, my aim has always been to make my documentation and on-line educational efforts as clear, easy-to-follow and instructive as possible. I believe I have been successful in this, and I am looking forward to continue this pursuit as long as I am able.

But a blog, after all, is not technical documentation. Although it may be instructive, I think it should be entertaining as well, if not in totality. Opinions (I think) are expected and saying what you feel and what you like or dislike is de rigeur for blogging.

Likes and Loves

  • I like good food, well prepared and well served. I also enjoy cooking, and I plan to post some of my favorite recipes on a parallel blog in the near future.
  • I like to watch too much television, I'm afraid.
  • I love music; most kinds of music (see below): Classical, folk, rock, Motown, new age, metal, et al.
  • I love to read. Although I have traditionally read Science Fiction, General Fiction and Fantasy, I also love history; historical novels, in particular.
  • I have recently developed a taste for "classic" literature, and you will be hearing more about this in the future.
  • I love to travel, but have done far too little of it.
  • I love to sing and to perform on stage (community theater)
  • I love learning things—all sorts of things, useful or not. More on that later, as well.
  • I love trivia.

Dislikes and (Dare I Say It?) Hates

  • I dislike "easy listening" (elevator) and rap music. The former I consider pablum and the latter quite unmusical, for the most part.
  • I dislike the way many people I encounter seem to be enthralled by their handheld devices to the extent of completely tuning out the world around them.
  • I hate the way many ads (on TV) nowadays seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the product that they are supposed to be advertising.
  • I hate the fact that, no matter how advanced we are technologically, our basic animal tendencies almost always overcome our better natures. Much more on this, I think at a later time.


I am certain I have left out many things on both sides of this equation, and I'm sure many of you, my readers (whoever you may be) will feel differently about many—if not all—of the things I have listed. You are welcome let me know your feelings. I hope you will have interest enough and take the time to do so. Life in front of a computer screen can be a very lonely and disassociating thing, you may know.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

OK, Let's start!

Shooting oneself in the foot

I've been a technical writer ever since I left the hardware store where I once worked over twenty years ago. I even did an internship in tech writing while still working for that store; thanks to the Berkoff brothers, Stanley and Marty for that.

But, as a tech writer, I am not allowed to make certain mistakes that might (or might not) be forgivable for any other person when creating my resume.

Well, I have been unemployed too many times in recent years to be sanguine about how quickly I will find myself a new position, but one must persevere, mustn't one? So I updated my resume and was quick to make sure the updated version was posted on the various sites where it might do me some good. I also sent copies to various recruiters and made online applications which included it—the whole nine yards, as it were.

Well, in my haste and in my mistrust of the spell checking facility built into MS Word—I rarely use it, except to furnish some laughs since the suggestions are often ludicrous, to say the least—I made an egregious error in the text which I did not catch for more than a week.

Shortly under the line which mentions my "meticulous attention to detail" I included a bullet point:
"Re-created and udated ... documentation..."
Well, I obviously meant to write "updated," but I'm afraid that all the people who downloaded and saw the erroneous resume were likely as not to laugh out loud and totally disregard me as an acceptable candidate for any technical writer or editor position.

Be that as it may, I still receive phone calls from recruiters and am filling out applications for new work, and my hopes have not diminished (at least, not much!) that I will find gainful employment, and soon.

All my respects to you, whoever you may be, dear reader.