Archive for the Flare Category

Start of a new week

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by Mike

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, if you celebrate Thanksgiving. If you are not a celebrant, I still hope Thursday was a good day for you. Current Husband and I had a pleasant time with his family and ate lots of yummy food.

I don’t see my mother-in-law as often as I should, but I think of her. I try to bring her gifts when I do see her. This time, I brought her a crocheted shrug and a crocheted sweater. She seemed to really like them and showed them off to the other female relatives as they arrived.

I crochet in the evenings and on the weekends. It’s a way to force my mind to be quiet and still after a 12+ hour day or a week of 12+ hours days. It’s meditating with a useful result.

A brief tech comm side step

Apparently, the Japanese are crazy about crocheting but were frustrated with the lack of patterns in Japanese. So they came up with a way to show any pattern as a picture.

The most complex pattern can be created as a diagram that shows all the stitches as symbols and how they all go together. You don’t need language to follow the pattern, making the craft available to anyone with the materials. For an example, click here.

Knitting and crocheting are kinesthetic activities, by definition. I’m not a visual learner; I’ve stated that before. But I find the graphic to be very helpful if I’m working on a complex project. I can see how this goes together and what to do next when the words make no sense to me. The best patterns include words and a graphic of the pattern to help “see” what to do if you get lost.

This is a brilliant way to think about the information. How much of the information you are working on could be reduced to a graphic? Are you using graphics as supporting materials for people like me who are not visual learners but would like the visual to help them stay on track when the words make no sense?

If a strongly kinesthetic activity can be reduced to pattern pictures, what can you do to support your users and reduce confusion?

The week ahead

This week I’m planning and scheduling free webinars for January and February. WIth training budgets gone in the economic meltdown, we’re hoping to help by offering tool-independant topics and topics about our products.

I’m thinking about (in no particular order):

Moving to topic-based authoring—the last one had 225 people signed up with 170 attending. Hopefully, there’s still interest out there.

Planning for content reuse—regardless of the tool you use, how do you migrate legacy content? How do you start? What about new content?

Building the business case for topic-based authoring—how to make the case to your boss. How to state the issues in a business way and then show the solution so your boss understands why this is the right move.

What’s new in Flare 4—an overview of new features in Flare 4 that will make your life so much easier.

If you have more ideas for other webinars on topics that interest you, go to my poll at this link.

Virtual is good

If you’re interested in learning more about our products or about tech comm topics (such as the above), I’m always available to do a virtual meeting for STC, AMWA, PMI, QA/Test and other organizations. All you need on your end is an internet-connected computer, speakers, a microphone (so people can ask questions) and a Skype account (or a speaker phone and phone line) and we’re good to go.

This is a great way to get a demo or other topic for your professional group at no real expense and reduce the carbon footprint. I was responsible for finding speakers for 2 STC chapters over about 5 years. It can be really hard to find speakers month after month on topics that interest your members.

Contact me (sburton(at)madcapsoftware.com) and let’s set it up!

Fly away duckings, fly away!

This upcoming week is also the last time we see this crop of baby engineers. The last lecture is Tuesday night and then they go into their finals. I’m never ready to let them go.

We only get 10 weeks with them and we have to let them go, assuming they don’t fail the class. As much as I don’t want to let them go, I also don’t want them to fail, so there we are. Off they go!

We get a whole new crop in January. The U is so happy with what we’re doing with the undergraduate students, they offered us 2 more classes. Starting with this Winter quarter, we’re doing Technical Communication for the Graduate students – a huge honor. Probably starting in Summer 2009, we’re offering User-centered Design, 10 weeks about designing for humans and what that means at every step of the process.

Time to start my day

Time to start my day. I have a pot of soup to make, a house to pick up, lunch with a former student, a dog to take to the U to run off leash, laundry to fold, and other household tasks.

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Jet lag

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by Mike

Germany is 9 hours off the US West coast. And I’ve always found it harder to go from Europe to the US. As a result, I’m seriously jet lagged. My brain woke me up at 2am this morning, convinced that it was 8am and I’d overslept.

Oddly, I’m 6 hours off, not the 9 I would expect.

I looked at the clock yesterday, thinking that it had to be mid to late afternoon. It was 10am. This was so disturbing, I found Current Husband and verified. It was the correct time, he said. But it was wrong, according to my normally accurate internal clock.

Sigh.

Lord, I was born a rambling woman

After being on the road for 3 weeks, I’m taking 3 personal days to recover, do laundry, pet the dogs, and see Current Husband. I was hoping to get adjusted to the new time zone, but it isn’t going so well. I did do 6 loads of laundry, tho, with another 4 to go today, so that’s not so bad.

However, I teach tonight and have to stay awake until we’re done so this may help. I have no idea if I will be even slightly coherent. Thank the gods that Bonni co-teaches with me so if I become incoherent, she can step in and say things like: “What Sharon is trying to say is…” while I nod off for a few minutes.

You would think these very bright Engineering students could get right on that Teleporter technology. Talk about an interesting problem to solve. What a group of under-achievers… 🙂

Homecomings

This trip is the longest Current Husband and I have been apart and neither of us liked it much. We recognize that these trips need to happen, that once I’m in Europe, the best thing I can do is maximize that time for the company.

But it was really hard to be apart that long. Thank the technology gods for Skype and Yahoo IM (sharonvburton). It saved us several times. We’re just glad that these very long trips will only happen once or twice a year.

The dogs had given me up for dead, I think. When I came thru the door, Gus looked at me like I was a dream and then leaped, grinning. We spent about 10 minutes on the floor while he sat on me, wiggled, and licked me. At 65lbs, you notice that.

Sara came in the room, stopped, looked (she doesn’t see well anymore), smelled, and then moved as fast as I’ve seen her move in a while. She wagged as tho her butt was going to fall off and licked my face.

Lady wandered in and sat behind me, out of the way of all the excitement so I could reach back and pet her. She gets nervous with all the motion because she can hardly see anything.

All the way, very fun. And no one has gotten too far from me since.

Oh, that’s enough about me. Tell me, what you think about me?

(That’s a Groucho Marx quote from, I believe, Coconuts, if you’re curious. I’m a huge Marx Brothers fan. Hey, I’m jet lagging here…)

If you are at all interested in our DITA solution, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go to our website and sign up for the beta. We want to build tools that do what you need but we can’t do that without your help.

One of the many things I learned from my Second Husband was that I just completely suck at reading minds. It’s just not something I’m good at. So I don’t know what you want or need, after some basic guesses, which, as it turns out, isn’t enough to keep a marriage together.

We need you to help us develop the tools that do what you need them to do. That requires you participate in the process.

Stay tuned for the beta. I think you’re going to like what we’ve done: https://www.madcapsoftware.com/downloads/ditasignup.aspx

Munich in November

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2008 by Mike

I’ve been traveling for 13 days. I’ve been to Boston, Wiesbaden, and now I’m in Munich. Another week and I go home.

Boston

The DocTrain East conference was wonderful. We announced our DITA solution the day the show started and were flooded with people who wanted to talk about it. The 3 days are sort of a blur, but I showed a lot of Blaze and Flare and talked about what our DITA thing is going to be.

Just before I left, the guys were able to give me an early alpha build of DITA Flare, Phase 1. I can import DITA documents and create a branded help file in Flare. I can change skins, add corporate logos, and all the stuff you would expect after you get content into Flare. It’s a good alpha – it works mostly.

We had a hard time getting across to people that our solution is not based on the DITA toolkit in any way. Our developers looked at it and decided that it was easier to modify Flare/Blaze. So no programming, no toolkit, just Flare or Blaze.

But we’d explain that and people would say, disbelieving, “So how does the Toolkit integrate here?” “No Toolkit. All Flare or Blaze.” “Right, but how do I get the Toolkit installed to work with Flare?” ‘You don’t. Flare and Blaze deal directly with the DITA content. No Toolkit in any way.” “OK… But I don’t understand how this works with the Toolkit…” and so on.

But when the light went on, people were super excited. I guess the Toolkit has some challenges.

Where everyone knows your name

Saturday, while Mike was doing a post conference workshop, I met my oldest friend and we walked around Boston. Tom grew up in Boston and we had a lovely time on the walking tour. We would up in Little Italy and got to speak Italian to the waitress in Mike’s with our cappuccino and pastry.

Tom and I met when I was an Army wife, married to my first husband, and attached to the NATO base in Naples, Italy. He was Navy, doing shore duty at the Navy base in Naples. Now, we get to see each other about every 7 to 10 years, so this was great fun. Good man and I had a wonderful time. We rode the subway back, which was delightful.

Germany

Mike and I flew from Boston Logan to other airports, arriving at different times, in Frankfurt where we connected up with Anthony, who came in on yet another flight. We took the train to Wiesbaden and got checked into our hotel. We’d all slept 3 or 4 hours on the flights, so we screwed around in town until a normal bedtime. Mike and I were only(!) 6 hours off, as we’d adjusted to Boston.

Tekom

Tekom is an amazing show. It’s about 2500 Tech comm professionals, gathered together for 3 days of learning. The entire trade show happens at the central convention center and it’s packed with people and vendors. Apparently, they sold out the vendor halls. Trust me, that’s a lot of vendors!

We had our own booth this year for the first time. In the past, we’ve shared space with one or more of our resellers but we decided we needed to stand up on our own this year. We’re big enough. Here’s how the booth looked after we finished setting it up:

The booth after we set up and before the show opened.

We had a young woman to help us with translations. Most people speak English to some degree but the Tech Comm vocabulary can be specialized. I’m from So Cal – I speak Spanish. I can almost be basically polite in German.

Corrina was a delight. She has a degree in Tech Comm and works in Zurich. She’s young, passionate about our field, knows her stuff, and is beautiful. I delighted in watching the German-only speaking men lean towards her as she talked about our products. They were captivated by this bright, lovely, passionate woman. We called her our “Portable Language Device” and she giggled. She giggles a lot.

Mike was Flare boy. I was Blaze, Analyzer, and X-Edit girl. When the sessions were out, we were hopping, especially the 2nd day. I missed lunch that day.

I showed Alan Houser our DITA solution. He was impressed at the mix and match you can do. You can import a regular Word document, a Frame book, and DITA content into one project and then mix the output from these. So your help file can have topics from some of each, if you want.

He said that no one else can do that or even come close. Made my day.

Munich

Yesterday (Saturday), we all slept late and then went to the train station. Corrina was going home to Zurich, Anthony was going back to the States, Mike was off to Amsterdam, and I was heading to Munich. We all changed trains in Frankfurt and said our goodbyes. I won’t see Mike or Anthony for another 10 days or so.

I arrived in Munich about 4 in the afternoon, just before dark. By the time I checked in and unpacked, it was dark. But today I walked around downtown Munich, took (bad) photos and generally enjoyed the nice day. I wore only a sweater because it was about 50F. But when the dark clouds blew in and the temperature dropped, I walked back to the hotel.

I’m doing product shows for our resellers Tuesday thru Friday in Munich and Stuttgart. It’s going to be really busy so this down time is nice. We don’t get a lot of this when we’re doing shows and I’m appreciating it.

General thoughts about Germany

One of the things that’s cracking me up is that I seem able to only speak Spanish or English to these nice Germans. Apparently, my brain is fine with another language and if another language, then I must be speaking Spanish. I spend a lot of time laughing at myself.

It seems that everyone speaks English to some extent. But I was trained as an anthropologist and I want to be polite. In Spanish, apparently, which helps me not at all. But I have to admit, sitting in an outdoor cafe, in the late fall sun, drinking coffee, surrounded by German speakers this afternoon was fun.

When I was 20, I was sitting at an outdoor cafe in Naples in the sun, one lovely spring day looking at the Bay, at Castel d’Ovo right there, Mount Vesuvius behind me. I’m living in Naples, I thought. How utterly extraordinary.

I’m in Munich. How utterly extraordinary.

Cheeseburgers in Paradise

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by Mike

I feel compelled to tell you that’s it’s in the upper 80s and is expected to stay there for the next 10 days. The sky is that heart break blue that we get this time of year. You want to send a Thank You card to someone or just applaud.

May and October are my 2 favorite months in So Cal. If I have time to do errands, be sure I’ll put the top down and pop Jimmy Buffett in the CD player. Because nothing says Cool like blasting “I’m looking for a smart woman in a real short skirt” in my convertible on a glorious day.

You may have noticed I sometimes play off song titles in some of my blog headings. Today is more obvious, as it’s a Parrot-head sort of day.

School boy heart, novelist eye

I’m going to Boston and then on to Germany in the next 3 weeks. Both places will be almost freezing at night and the 50s during the day. A crashing disappointment, weather-wise.

But I bet both places will be interesting and I’ll meet some great people. I may have time to walk a bit and perhaps take photos.

Son of a son of a sailor

I was hired in large part to bring Blaze to market. And a year after I arrived, it’s released. I’m delighted to announce we’ve had our first review and it’s really good. I’m so proud. To learn more, go to http://blog.editorium.com/2008/10/21/262/

It’s been…interesting bringing a product to market and trying to get attention drawn to it. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met a bunch of people. But most important to me personally is I think we delivered a product that you can actually use. It has features that make your life easier and actually helps.

He went to Paris looking for answers

I’ve spent my professional career trying to do the best tech comm work I was capable of. It’s mattered to me that the users of my documentation felt they were getting useful information. If I didn’t help my users, I failed.

Moving to product management, I bring the same passion for helping. I want to develop products that make a difference to your daily work life. Being a tech comm professional is hard enough – you shouldn’t have to fight your tools, too.

That’s what makes me happy about Blaze. I think we made a useful product and the review confirms that. It makes me really happy.

A pirate looks at forty

We finished this round of public webinars this week. That was very exciting. The attendance was out of sight for all of them. The survey questions sent the next day said that people found them really useful.

If you wanted to participate and couldn’t, we’ll be doing more again this winter. Keep watching here for details. We’re hoping that GoToWebinar will have VoIP when the next round starts.

If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like an hour on:

If you have other ideas, suggest them. I want to be helpful.

One particular harbor

I’ll try to blog while I’m on the road but don’t panic if I can’t. I will when I come home, after I sleep, see Current Husband, and pet the dogs. I have my priorities.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2008 by Mike

OK, I haven’t seen rain lately, except briefly last week in Atlanta between flights. But it’s Fire Season for us in So Cal. We have winds and starting last Sunday, we have fires. The worst is north of LA in the western end of San Fernando Valley. Houses burnt, lots of acreage burnt, evacuations, all the normal stuff. We’re a migratory population.

This could continue for us for another 6 to 8 weeks. We always hope not, but our rains don’t always start in late October, like we’d like them to. Sometimes it’s February before we see rain and that’s just no fun at all. We’d prefer a nice early rainy season with just enough rain to get Green by January but not so much rain that we have Flood.

I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end

The PCOC show in Tennesee was very fun. I met lots of people and just generally had a really good time. Chattanooga seems like a great town to be eccentric in. I can’t tell you why, I wanted to just be eccentric. But the conference was a success and I think all left with useful information.

On my way out of town, I was looking forward to going to Lookout Mountain where, they said, you can see 7 states. But the day was cloudy and overcast, so I wound up at the airport and left for Atlanta early instead.

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend

I spent about 6 hours in the Atlanta airport with Brenda H, who, it turns out, is very fun. She was stranded because Atlanta won’t let you check in to board your flight if it’s less than 45 minutes before your flight leaves.

Brenda got to the counter with 40 minutes and they wouldn’t check her in. So she had to wait 13 hours to see if she could stand by on the next flight to Tucson. She ended up in Denver that night and made it home the next day. I felt really bad for her – normally, this is my traveling karma and she got it this time.

But we ate and chatted and hung out and it was good. Turns out we have about 5 people in common, including 2 of my closest friends.

But I always hoped that I’d see you, baby, one more time again

I got in about 11pm Sunday, just dead. My body had no idea what time it was and so defaulted to bone weariness. I spent about 30 minutes talking to my husband and passed out until 6:30a.

I got caught up a bit and then left for San Diego about 11 hours after I got home. As I was unpacking the suitcase to pack the overnight bag, I felt homeless, a transition with a rag top. David assured me that where ever I am is home for him, which helped.

And we have a date this weekend, which I like muchly. We’re going to see Paula Poundstone at the University of California, Riverside. I’m very pleased and excited. I like her work very much and this should be fun. Maybe David will hold my hand and everything.

It’s traveling time again

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2008 by Mike

The last trade shows of the year are coming. They seem all bunched in the last week of Oct and the first 2 weeks of November. We can’t cover them all, but here’s an overview:

October 9-11, PCOC in Chattanooga TN http://pcoc.stc-etc.org/
I’ll be there and I think I’m doing a presentation of some sort.

October 13-15 Localization World, Madison WI http://www.localizationworld.com/
Mike will be there, showing tools and stuff.

October 15, NorthEast Ohio STC, Cleveland OH http://www.neostc.org/calendar/20081015.html
This is a virtual meeting for me and you don’t have to be onsite to see it.

October 16, North Bay STC, CA http://stc-northbay.org/nextmeeting.php
I’m presenting Blaze to the STC chapter.

October 29-Nov 1, DocTrain East, Burlington, MA http://www.doctrain.com/east/
Mike and I will both be there, showing Flare, Blaze, and more.

Nov 3-6 DITA/TechComm, Raleigh NC, http://www.brightpathsolutions.com/pages/conf/tc08/index.html
We won’t be there because of conflicts (see next) but Paul Pehrson is doing 2 presentations about our tools.

Nov 5-7 Tekom, Weissbaden Germany http://www.tekom.de/tagung/tagung.jsp
Mike and I will be there with bells on, showing off products and having a good time.

Nov 6-8, Lavacon, Honolulu, Hawaii http://www.lavacon.org/
We won’t be there because of the obvious conflicts (see previous) but Bonni Graham will be doing a “Lessons learned moving from Robohelp to Flare” presentation.

So, that’s lots of chances to see us at a trade show or learn about our products, even if we’re not there.

DITA

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, technical writing with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2008 by Mike