New York Technical Writer running in New York Marathon to raise funds for Harlem United

Vancouver technical writer racing in the Scotiabank half marathon, 2008
New York technical writer racing in the Scotiabank half marathon, 2008

I have exciting news. As many of you know, I love running, especially on the awe-inspiring trails in Vancouver. To me, running provides a great balance to working as a technical writer at my computer. Much as I love working on projects for my clients, it can take a physical toll to spend too many hours at my desk, so I try to balance it out by running four times a week.

Now I have a great motivation to hit the trail at the end of the work day! I will be running in the New York Marathon on November 6, 2016 to raise money for Harlem United. My goal is to raise $3,000 for this fantastic organization that helps Harlem community members by providing access to health care, resources, and education about AIDS and HIV. They provide quality HIV prevention, housing, and care services in a safe and nurturing environment to unite Harlem’s diverse communities and address the needs of all people living with and threatened by HIV/AIDS.

I’m asking all my friends, family, clients, and colleagues to help support the amazing work that Harlem United does, and cheer me on in my dream of running the New York Marathon.

If you can help, please visit my donor page. You can sponsor me by:

  • Mile ($26 for the 26.2 miles of the marathon)
  • Kilometre ($42 for the 42 kilometres of the race)
  • Meal ($100 to buy a group lunch for LGBT youth at risk for contracting HIV)
  • Or pick your own amount!

Here is an inspirational video on YouTube about the impact Harlem United has made in helping people who had no hope.

I’ve been wanting to run in the New York Marathon for 20 years, since I first began running in 1996. It’s the largest marathon in the world (yikes!) and goes through all five boroughs of New York City. This will be my first full marathon, though I’ve run ten half marathons. I’m thrilled to finally run this race and to raise money for Harlem United.

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New York Technical Writer creates art video project Another New York Love Affair

Although my first passion is technical writing, recently I’ve been developing video skills as well. I am excited to share Another New York Love Affair #25 with you:

I took this footage of the “Sterling Cooper” building in my final week in New York, at the end of March. At the time I was midway through watching Mad Men on Netflix, and in love with the cast of characters. Also in love with New York, and the beautiful strangeness of Madison Avenue. Enjoy!

I am aiming for 100 over the next three years.

New York Technical Writer teaches Instructional Design for Smartphones

SmombiesTHEY’RE UBIQUITOUS. People—especially technical writers—love their smartphones the world over, from Vancouver to New York, and the smombies are among us! Yes, the smartphone zombies are among us! You’ve seen them—people walking slowly, looking down at their phones, oblivious to their surroundings, possibly risking an accident—an increasingly common social phenomenon.

To smombies, the content on their phones seems more interesting than real life. I did a one-minute video of a New York subway platform, and almost everyone on the platform was looking at their phones while waiting for the train. The situation is becoming extreme. But I understand, because I’m addicted to my smartphone, too! It seems like fun, not work, to learn on a smartphone instead of a computer. So how can we use this technology to teach?

The idea is to design short training pieces that can be delivered via your app or website. Keep the training sessions to 10 minutes or less. Make the training tasks interactive, so people can use the fun features of their smartphones. Deliver some of your content using video—people just love watching video!

Instructional Video Design Tips

Here are some tips for designing effective videos for learning:

  • Include a title slide for orientation
  • Use high resolution (1080P HD)
  • Include still pictures—both iconic (resembling
    real objects) and analytic (symbolizing objects
    or states)
  • Include short on-screen texts—labels, call-outs,
    short text slides
  • Facilitate closed captions and subtitling—create
    your own or use YouTube’s automated features
  • Include background music
  • Eliminate unpleasant background noise (electronic
    hums, static, and so on)
  • Use a speaking rate of 180 words per minute
    (faster is more popular than slower)

These 8 tips adapted from Petra ten Hove and Hans van der Meij’s research (2015).

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New York Technical Writer judges STC 2016 International Summit Awards

I was honoured to participate in the prestigious Society for Technical Communication (STC) International Summit Awards (ISA) in two different roles this year. I served as both ISA Competition Judging Manager and as a judge. This meant I had the chance to view an exciting showcase of the top work in the field of technical writing.

The winning entries demonstrated exceptional technical writing clarity, organization, and delivery, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of the end user. The winning entries’ communication delivery methods displayed both brilliance and beauty, with innovative video and voice narration, breath-taking print artwork, and game-changing web-based delivery methods. I felt inspired to see the fantastic work that other technical writers are doing, and look forward to seeing further innovations next year.

Who Can Enter?

The ISA competition is open to entrants who have won a Distinguished or Excellence award at the chapter or regional level. Technical writers do not have to be a member of the STC to enter STC competitions. This year we had entries from North America, Europe, and Israel.

Highlights – Video and Judges

One of the highlights was viewing the video entries. I am very interested in the ways that video can be used to deliver and enhance technical communication. I developed a new set of criteria for judging videos, and will be helping to revise the judging forms for future competitions.

Another highlight was managing a team of 20 experienced and committed judges. I met new technical writers from across Canada and the US, and had the opportunity to both coach and learn as we worked together. In order to meet a very tight deadline, my amazing team judged 34 entries in just over a week. Well done, everyone!

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New York Technical Writer converts to Twenty Sixteen

Google Analytics for WebsiteYou might notice my top-ranking Vancouver technical writer site looks a little different today. I updated to the WordPress twentysixteen theme. You may recall I gave an enthusiastic shout-out to WordPress last May, when I updated my site to use the twentyfifteen theme. I still think WordPress is awesome, and it would appear that website builders the world over agree with me. As of today’s date (February 6, 2016), 59.1% of websites in the world use WordPress, according to W3Techs.

It was a snap to make the change, taking about 2 hours total to select the theme, install it, create a few graphics in the right size, and make a few minor formatting tweaks. I added my own copyright information to the footer, customized the link font colour, and changed the font size for the tags in the left column. This is an amazing accomplishment (on the part of their coders to make the task so easy), and I am very appreciative of the service that WordPress provides for free to the world computing community.

I made these changes using a combination of the user-friendly WordPress editing platform and direct coding in the .php and .css files.

While I was at it, I took a look at my Google Analytics for the site. I thought it would be fun to compare the stats from the past month to the stats I reported in May 2015:

Device May 2015 Feb 2016
Desktop 918 – 92% 936 – 89%
Mobile Phone 70 – 7% 92 – 9%
Tablet 15 – 1% 26 – 2%
Total Visitors 1,003 1,054

The table above shows that the percentage of mobile users has increased slightly. Still, the majority of people who searched for a technical writer used their desktop computer, which makes sense. I imagine people would prefer to do this at work, not while lounging on the beach!

Browser May 2015 Feb 2016
Chrome 729 702
FireFox 115 127
Safari 72 108
Internet Explorer 31 90
Other 56 27
Total Visitors 1,003 1,054

No changes in the browser pecking order either, though the use of Internet Explorer did increase significantly.

I welcome your thoughts on the new site design. Drop me a line!

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New York Technical Writer publishes MadCap Flare 11 review on I’d Rather Be Writing

MadCap Flare User Interface
I am pleased to announce a collaboration with California-based Tom Johnson of I’d Rather Be Writing. In 2008, he wrote a definitive review of MadCap Flare v3 that has helped countless technical writers and prospective users of MadCap Flare. BC Hydro logoSince I had the pleasure of doing a recent MadCap Flare project for BC Hydro in Vancouver, we agreed that I would update his review and add some insights on MadCap Flare 11.

In the process of preparing the review, I generated this sample MadCap Flare project using their new Top Navigation feature. See what you think!

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New York Technical Writer knows mobile-friendly web design

Hi again. Following up on my previous Vancouver technical writer entry about iPhone 5 Simulation with phone number link - Karen Rempel Vanccouver technical writermobile web design, here are some new tips for mobile-friendly web design:

  • Use a stylesheet that re-sizes content based on the viewer size. As I mentioned in my last post, a current theme like WordPress Twenty Fifteen is set up to re-size for every common viewer size.
  • Use phone tags for phone numbers:

<a title=“Call me” href=
“tel://+16042516337”>
604.251.6337</a> (m)

Result: 604.251.6337 (m)

This allows the user to tap your phone number and call you, even in browsers that don’t automatically convert phone numbers to a clickable link.

  • Use a high-contrast colour for links, with enough space around links for people to be able to tap the link they want. Re-write or re-format to avoid crowding links together.
  • Put a Back to Top link at the bottom of long pages or entries, so people don’t have to scroll back up.
  • Use a simulation tool like MobileTest.me to view your website on different mobile devices.
  • Also remember to test your site in the top browsers, like Chrome, FireFox, Safari, and IE.

Whether you are looking for a technical writer consultant or contractor for work in Vancouver or another location, this website serves as a Portfolio sample of mobile design in action! Also check out my Resume page if you are looking for technical writer resumes or CVs.

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New York Technical Writer updates to Twenty Fifteen

Vancouver Technical Writer Karen Rempel Updates Websites to WordPress Twenty FifteenThanks for visiting my revised website! Hi, I’m Karen Rempel, a Vancouver-based documentation specialist and senior technical writer.

I just updated this website to be mobile-friendly using the fantastic WordPress theme Twenty Fifteen. I also updated my BC Wilderness Visions website, using the same theme but different settings. Check it out to see the striking effects that can be achieved by simple colour changes.

I want to give a big shout-out to WordPress for this awesome theme. It only took me a day to update both websites to use this theme. I was previously using Silver Light by Blog Oh! Blog. I loved this theme and didn’t want to change, but Google forced me into action by notifying me that my Google ranking would slip if I didn’t make my site resizable for mobile phones and tablets. What can you do?

I checked out my Google Analytics for the past month, and found that of the 1000+ visitors to this technical writing website:

  • 918 used desktops. This is what I thought! My clients are typically at their desk at work when they think about their need for a technical writer, do a search, and call me.
  • 70 used their mobile phones.
  • 15 used their tablets.
Technical writers bridge people and technology

Technical writers bridge people and technologySo isn’t it interesting that people use technology to find technical writers? Most of my clients find me by searching on the internet. And thanks to Google Analytics, I know which devices they use, what countries they search from, and even what browser they use!

Here are the stats for browsers used to find this technical writing website:

  • Chrome – 729
  • FireFox – 115
  • Safari – 72
  • Internet Explorer – 31

Please drop me a line to let me know what you think of the new site! And if you like, tell us what device and browser you used to get here. 🙂

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New York Technical Writer leads Super Shoreline Cleanup

East Van Pickers with trash
East Vancouver Pickers with 19 bags of trash

Yesterday I met with a group of friends—oddly enough, none of these bunch are technical writers—to participate in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Our group of 6 people picked up trash on a Vancouver shoreline for 2 hours and these are the amazing results:

  • 570 food wrappers
  • 1,074 takeout containers, cups, lids, bottles, cans, and utensils
  • 432 plastic bags and pieces of packaging
  • 1,120 pieces of tiny trash (1 inch or smaller)
  • 19 bags of trash (91 Kg or 200 lbs)
  • Additional furniture, construction waste, and large items totalled another 113 Kg or 250 lbs
  • Total items picked up: 3,592 pieces of trash
  • Total trail length cleaned up: 2.2 KM

For more details, see the full story on my BC Wilderness Visions blog. Thanks to my awesome friends for coming out on a Saturday morning to help make the world a more beautiful place.

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New York Technical Writer advises MadCap Flare content management for customized resumes

MadCap Flare WindowI recently completed a technical writing project for a Vancouver- and Calgary-based client who is a management consultant, program manager, and project manager in IT. Like many consultants, he has worked in a range of industries, and with over three decades’ worth of experience, he faces the challenge of condensing his experience and skills into a 3-page resume targeted to clients in two provinces. What would be a good way to solve this challenge? Enter MadCap Flare.

[Click the graphic to see a larger view that shows the use of condition tags]

Often thought of as an online help authoring tool, MadCap Flare is also a very user-friendly content management system (CMS). It provides a wide range of online and print-based output options (for example, Word, PDF, html). It uses XML as the backbone, making it easy to import source content and play nicely with most of the industry-standard authoring tools on the market today.

I thought that MadCap Flare’s CMS capabilities could help solve my client’s problem by providing a single-source database of skills and experience from which he can output a role- or industry-specific resume with one or two clicks of the mouse. In the words of our beloved Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I made it so.

I imported my friend’s main resume from Word, and then added in content from five other role-specific resumes, with conditional tags indicating which content belonged on which resume or CV. I set up two different style sheets, for two different looks – executive dark blue, and executive brown. I set up variable text for his phone, email, and mailing address, so he can select which of these to use on a given resume for a particular client. Then I created target outputs for nine different resumes. Et voila!

Target Options in MadCap FlareAll my client has to do is click Build Primary and then select the resume he wants to generate. But best of all, updating his resume with new experience is a snap. He can use MadCap Flare’s intuitive XML editor to type in new content, then apply conditional tags to specify which resume the content belongs with. Then simply use those same two mouse clicks to generate his new target resume. Beautiful. As you can tell, I am a fan of the Flare!

Of course, MadCap Flare isn’t cheap—a perpetual license is over $1,000 CAD (including tax). But for professionals who are aiming for top-paying consulting jobs, it is a reasonable career investment, and a tax write-off. If you are interested in creating your own database of role-oriented, industry-specific resumes, give me a call and I will be happy to help you.

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