I had a blast last November running in the New York marathon. I exceeded my fund-raising goal for Harlem United, with the help of many generous friends, clients, family members, and colleagues. Together we raised over $3,000! And I ran in memory of David Bowie, which added another special element to the day and made the crowd interaction along the race course even more fun.
I had such a great time that I am running in New York Road Runners’ 9 + 1. That’s 9 races and one volunteer shift in 2017 to qualify for the New York Marathon 2018. I’ll be running a crazy 5 races in June! This will include one in a mini-skirt, a retro run in old-school track clothes, a pride run, a dash through the Bronx, and a special race in Queens where I’ll be raising funds for Team for Kids.
I am thrilled for this chance to support kids to learn the love of running. Something that will last their whole lives and lead to life-long health and fitness. If you’d like to make a donation of $5 or more to Team for Kids, please visit my fund-raising page.
BTW, I just ran in the Central Park Classic 10K last weekend, and the oldest runner, an 82-year old New Yorker named George Hirsch, ran faster than me! So you see, it really is possible to run for a lifetime, for those of us who are lucky.
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)
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.
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!
THEY’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
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).
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!
I’ve written previously about the Information Interview Service that I created for the STC’s Canada West Coast chapter. Our chapter won a Pacesetter Award for this service, which pairs aspiring technical writers with experienced technical writers. I published an article about this service in Intercom, the professional technical writing journal of the STC, and both the New York Metro chapter and the Chicago chapter implemented similar services. So now if you would like to talk to a senior technical writer about what is involved in joining our technical writing profession, you have three choices:
BTW, the New York Metro chapter also won a Pacesetter Award for their Talk to a Professional service, and the Chicago chapter won a Pacesetter Award the year they implemented their service as well. I am delighted that my idea bore such wonderful fruit for technical writers across the continent!
You 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:
918 – 92%
936 – 89%
70 – 7%
92 – 9%
15 – 1%
26 – 2%
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!
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!
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. Since 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!
Thanks 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
So 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. 🙂
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.