Happy Birthday, Son

A few years ago today, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, 2 weeks early, about 1:40 in the afternoon, I gave birth to my son.

Matthew Michael turns 30 today. He lives in Tulsa with his wife and 2 children and runs a photography business. If you are in the OK area and need photos, he’s your man. Click the Burton Studios link and see what he does.

If you like his site, he did it himself. He talked to my brother, the web god, and described what he wanted to do.

“Gee,” my brother said. “Most people use PHP for that.”

“OK, then I’ll learn PHP,” Matthew said.

So he did.

Did I mention that he has no formal training as a programmer? Yeah. He checked out a book from the library, looked up code samples on the web, thought about what he wanted the site to do, and started coding.

When he was 5, he started taking stuff apart to see how it works. Phones – *working* phones – were one of his favorite things to take apart for a while. Then it was off to VCRs and other stuff, just because he wanted to know what went on inside.

He rebuilt a car engine a few years ago because it needed to be rebuilt. “It was pretty easy, Mom. It’s obvious how it all goes together.” Apparently, my son “sees” how things must go together and then just does that.

This is the sort of brain this kid has. It was…interesting(!) to parent him. A strong visual, kinesthetic learner.

I’m a very proud mom. He’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Despite all the stupid stuff I did as a parent (and I’m sure he’s got a list), he turned out a good man. I’m delighted to know him.

Happy Birthday, Matthew! I doubt he remembers much of the day he arrived but I do!

In other news…

Another quarter of Fuzzy Ducklings has been set free. Bonni and I sent the Ducklings off last week and graded their finals over the weekend. No one cheated, at least that we could tell, and everyone passed. We had some great students this time and this was overall a good class. This group of Duckling engineers seemed to get the relationship between good documentation – spec, test cases, manuals, and so on – and the quality of the product.

We have 3 weeks between quarters before the next group of Ducklings come quacking in. Be nice to have the break.

By the way – our first group of Duckling engineers graduated last June. You may be working with them at some point. If they seem to value tech comm, you can send the thank you cards to me here at this blog and I’ll pass them along to Bonni.

Going with the X-Edit flow

We have exciting stuff going on at MadCap in the next few weeks. I thought I’d cover a little about the X-Edit family of products, to give you a little heads up about how we’re supporting your workflow.

The X-Edit family is 3 products in one, but it’s easier to think of X-Edit and X-Edit Contribute as 2 different modes.

X-Edit    Full featured word processor that also does everything the other 2 products do. Think of it as everything you could want. Saves to PDF, XPS, imports into Flare or Blaze, all that good stuff. Not a replacement for Blaze or Flare, because you don’t have the sort of topic-based authoring features you have in Flare or Blaze.

X-Edit Contribute    Lighter word processing features. You create a template in Flare or Blaze and then send that template to people who contribute to your projects. They open that template and start creating content with your styles, table formats, variables, if you allowed that, and so on. These files import seamlessly into your Flare or Blaze project. You can also do review topics, just like X-Edit Review.

X-Edit Review    When your Flare or Blaze topic is ready for review, you send it for review from inside Flare or Blaze. Flare or Blaze wraps all the stuff it needs for that topic and sends it to the reviewers you specify. The reviewer opens the topic in free X-Edit Review, makes edits or annotations, as you allowed, and then sends it back to you. You save it to your project, review the changes, and either make the changes to your source files or accept the changed topic into your project.

Common Tech Comm environments

As you know, the environment for Tech Comm people varies. I’ve worked with groups where the tech writers designed and wrote all the content. SMEs reviewed the materials for accuracy but never wrote a word.

But I’ve also been in the other extreme, where I didn’t write a single word – my role was to take the content from all the SMEs and wrap it into a tool to publish it. I was the tool expert, not the domain expert.

The X-Edit family lets you work at either end and in the middle somewhere. It fits your workflow, instead of making your change your workflow to fit our idea of what you should be doing.

OK, I hear you saying, so why can’t my content contributors write in Word and send me those files? I thought Flare and Blaze imported Word files?

Your content contributors can still do that, if that’s how you all want to work. We won’t make them stop if that’s what they’re comfortable with.

The advantage to the X-Edit family is that the content they’re creating is using your templates, your variables (if you want them to), your table styles, your everything, if you want them to have it. This means the content comes is very clean, significantly reducing any cleanup time and effort.

And the interface is pretty straightforward. And because you can specify what project features your SMEs can use, you can keep them from hurting themselves by misusing things like variables, conditions, and so on. They can be smart in their domain and you can be smart in yours. It’s a good match.

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2 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Son”

  1. Yes folks that’s my mother. I don’t share her gift for words but I do like to take things apart and “almost” put them back together. They always seem make electronics with a few extra parts or at least once I am done with them.

  2. […] Sharon’s MadCap Blog My MadCap life « Happy Birthday, Son […]

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