Writing ... or Just Practicing?

Random Disconnected Diatribes of a p&p Documentation Engineer

  • Blog Post: Defensive Writing

    One of the facts of life when you write technical documentation and guidance is that it will get reviewed by other people, resulting in regular changes to the content as you try to follow shifting advice, conflicting feedback, and suggestions that sometimes even make sense. It doesn't help, of course...
  • Blog Post: my data are getting littler

    It looks like our Big Data is getting smaller. At least that's the impression I get from the exhaustive investigation carried out by the editor on our current project. Of course, "data" is actually a plural word so perhaps it's just that each datum is getting smaller. Or maybe there are fewer (not "less...
  • Blog Post: A Book By Any Other Name

    So last week saw the sad demise of Bruce Robertson, the managing director of the UK-based Diagram organization that specializes in artwork and design for books and other publications. While I'm sure he'd most like to be remembered by the great work his company has done, the somewhat unfortunate fact...
  • Blog Post: The Royal We Is Working On It...

    I really am trying to get used to the dumbed-down (sorry, I should say "user-friendly") move towards simple language and a less technical description of the options and features in modern software UIs. Messages such as "We're working on it" and "Something went wrong" feel like they would have been programmer...
  • Blog Post: Agile Documentation - Tested to Destruction

    Agile development is an important technique here at p&p; and throughout much of Microsoft. However, I'm yet to be convinced that it's a good way of creating user guidance and documentation. It seems to me that the process often gets in the way more than it helps to produce a great final product....
  • Blog Post: Soft Drink Cans and a Man Named Norman

    So I finally got round to reading Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything". OK, so it's not quite as entertaining as some of his travel guides, but it is amazingly full of things that make you go "Wow" and "Can you believe it?" I especially liked the bits about soft drink cans and a...
  • Blog Post: Matrices or Mattresses?

    Nobody could accuse me of being posh, and compared to most of the developers I work with here at Microsoft I'm probably not the brightest button in the box. But I did study mathematics in the past, including matrix theory. I just never got to pronounce it right. It all came rushing back to me as I...
  • Blog Post: Is it a Scenario? Is it a Case Study? No, it's an Opportunity

    A few influential people in our little world of Developer Guidance here are Microsoft have recently been avoiding the word "scenario". It seems that it's now so overused, and has so many apocryphal meanings, as to render it useless in terms of determining user's documentation requirements and for planning...
  • Blog Post: Hyphenless Decapitalization

    According to Readers Digest, there's a dyslexic agnostic insomniac out there somewhere who lies awake all night pondering on the meaning of dog. Thing is, it really should be "doG", not "dog". But it seems that, according to our most recent style guide here at Microsoft, capital letters are fast becoming...
  • Blog Post: I Can't Yell Any More

    I suppose it just shows how poor my business skills are. If I ran a hugely successful business directory company called "Yellow Pages" and wanted to extend it to the web, I'd have kept the name and made the web pages yellow. Instead, they changed the name to "Yell". I guess it works to some extent in...
  • Blog Post: Meandering Meanings

    I bet you didn't know that the word "Wikipedia" actually means "fast child". And that the towns of Pendle Hill in Lancashire and Bredon Hill in Worcestershire both have names that mean "hill hill hill". No, neither did I until I bought Mark Forsyth's book "The Etymologicon" (which, incidentally, means...
  • Blog Post: Additional Integrational Hybridization

    For some unaccountable reason, my semi-coherent bluster a couple of weeks ago wandered across the topic of integration when discussing Windows Azure hybrid applications. Since then, I've been delving deeper into the whole area of hybrid application challenges as we fine-tune our thoughts on the third...
  • Blog Post: Living In a Land of Invented Languages

    They've been advertising the book "In the Land of Invented Languages" by Arika Okrent on The Register web site for a while, and I finally caved in and bought a copy. And I have to say it's quite an amazing book. It really makes you think about how languages have evolved, and how we use language today...
  • Blog Post: Soccer It To Me

    I've been struggling with the meanings of words again this week. Partly it's because I'm not a native US-English speaker, and partly it's because I tend to make wild assumptions about the way that the major IT hardware companies view their customers. I suppose I could buy a US-English to Queen's English...
  • Blog Post: Suffering Suffixes, Batman

    One of the features of working from home is that, if you aren't careful, you can suddenly find that you haven't been outside for several days. In fact, if you disregard a trip to the end of the drive to fetch the wheely bin, or across the garden to feed the goldfish, I probably haven't been outside for...
  • Blog Post: Miss Spellings and Bad Grandma

    I suspect that there is a crisis at our local council offices at the moment. They've obviously run out of things to waste taxpayer's money on, so they decided to publish a ten page full-color pamphlet containing really useful information about our local community. On page three, it says that - in case...
  • Blog Post: Time Flies Like An Arrow, But Not At Frankfurt Airport

    As a writer, I enjoy the weirdness of words. In the English (and US English) language, and particularly in technical writing, words often mean something distinctly different from their initially apparent meaning. When I'm looking at text provided by other members of the teams I work with, such as developers...
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