Archive for Madcap flare

Catching up

Posted in MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2009 by Mike

It’s 6:45a on a Sunday morning for me. Current Husband is sleeping, the animals are all asleep, and I’m awake. I’ve been up for an hour and a half, because the old dogs wake me up at 5am to go out. And once I’m awake, I’m up.

In a way, I don’t mind being up so early. I’m home and it’s quiet. I have so little time at home to myself, it’s rather nice.

Other stuff I do

Saturday morning, I taught my first Crochet class at my favorite local yarn store. What does this have to do with Tech Comm you might be asking? Oh, lots.

Friday night, I realized that if I were teaching crochet to people, they needed a thing. So I had to come up with a thing that could be made easily with simple stitches. I could teach the stitches in class and then send them home with the pattern. So I wrote a very simple hat pattern and quickly made a sample to show in class.

In class, I had them start with the simplest stitches and then do those over and over until they were confident. Then we did the next one. And so on, until they had practiced all the stitches they needed to have to make the hat. After 2 hours, I sent them on their way with the pattern.

Coat of many Tech Comm colors

Teaching this crochet class was Tech Comm in action. I identified the:  

  • Audience: Knitters
  • User goal: Learn the basics of crochet
  • Learning attention span: About 2 hours
  • Skills needed for the goal (that fit with the above): 4 stitches
  • Order to teach the stitches: from simplest to more complex, building and reinforcing skills from one stitch to the next
  • Opportunity for reinforcing with self learning: The simple hat pattern

My Tech Comm background was very useful in putting this class together! I had a good time teaching it and several people are now able to crochet. I’ll do another class on Tunisian crochet in March sometime.

It’s fun to get slightly outside my usual life and teach new skills to people. I think that when we stop learning, we spiritually die. It’s why I love our field so much – I learn new stuff every day.

Work, work, work

Work this week was long and busy. We have a new promotion you may want to look at for the month of February. It’s a screaming deal and should help you get noticed if you’re looking for work or think you might be looking for work soon.

We did the second of the webinars this week as well. These are so successful, I’m working with several people and scheduling June and July now. Keep watching our website for more webinars on various Tech Comm topics.

Between the new promotion for Feb and the webinars, your skills should be so up to date, you can’t help but be successful!

The rest of my day

I have a fairly busy day ahead of me. I need to do laundry, meet a former student for lunch, work on the sweater I’m making for my grand daughter, watch Super Bowl and spend time with Current Husband.

Be very good if I could get the oil changed in my car and get it washed, too. That would be a productive day!

Off I go!

Advertisements

We owe you all a big thank you!

Posted in MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by Mike

For 10 years, Red Herring has been awarding exceptional start up companies who are changing the playing field. MadCap Software has won a Red Herring award! We are in the top 100 companies internationally, which is a huge honor.

Previous winners include Google, Skype, YouTube and others.  To see us listed and learn more, go to http://www.herringevents.com/global08/redherring100.html.

As we were talking about how great this is, we realized that this award is really all about our community of users. Four years ago, we had this idea that we thought might change the world a bit. It must have been a good idea, because many people have joined us.

Without people using our products, we’re not even a good idea.

But because people use our products and love our products, we’re successful. We really do owe it all to our user base.  So thank you!

In other news

The free webinars are going very well. I’m planning some new ones for April and May, so stay tuned for those. They should be posted in late February.

We’re offering tool-neutral free webinars to give back a little to the community. Expect topics that may not have much to do with our products at all but should forward your knowledge of the field.

Because these are recorded, they are more available for all time zones. So now you have no excuse!

As always, feel free to send me topics you’d like to know more about and I’ll see what I can do.

Personal notes

I just received word that I’m been accepted as an STC Associate Fellow! I’m delighted.

I knew I was nominated but working for a vendor might have changed things. Most of what I’ve done in the field has been teach and support tech comm in every place I could, which is part of why MadCap hired me, but… It could have been an issue.

This feels really good. I need a new dress.

Too much to do this week

I need to record more short demos this week and other stuff, so that’s all the time I’ve got right now.

End of the quarter blues

Posted in Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2008 by Mike

I seem to like blogging on Saturday morning, when the animals and Current Husband are sleeping, so I thought I’d post.

The free webinars are filling up nicely. We have the info posted on our website now, so you can go to http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/webinars.aspx and sign up there as well, if you like.

We use GoToWebinar and are probably not recording these. I know the time is a problem for people in Asia and that part of the world. If that’s you, send me an email and tell me the names of the webinars you’d like a replay of and I can schedule those just for you all. 6pm for me is about 9am for you all – it’s doable.

And remember, if you want to present a topic, contact me and let’s talk about it. It’s a good line item on your resume and gets your name out. In this economy, anything you can do to stand out is a good thing.

Are you Certified MAD?

Another thing you can do to stand out is be certified, Certified MAD, that is. For $149, a short test, and a small project, you can be Certified MAD in Flare. That lets you use the Certified MAD for Flare logo on your resume, blog, website and other places. Potential employers or clients can call and verify your certification with us.

I like this program a lot. It shows you know what you’re talking about and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve seen these programs before and they were always a lot of money – $1500 or more. We priced this one low because we want to make it affordable for people. It’s a win all the way.

To find out more or to sign up, go to http://madcapsoftware.com/training/certification/.

Want to teach MadCap products?

I’ve been teaching part time for 10 or 11 years. I love teaching because it lets me know I’m doing good things to help people. I’m giving back to the community I love, training people in something I’m passionate about. In a few cases, I’ve been part of changing people’s lives by helping them get the background they needed to start a new career. That’s exciting.

So with that in mind, I’m thinking about starting a program to make our products very available to programs offering Tech Comm classes. If you teach for a program or coordinate a Technical Communication program, contact me at sburton(at)madcapsoftware.com. I’d like to bounce some ideas off you to see if these would work and find out what else you might need.

Finals, finals, everywhere

My students took their finals this week. That means this weekend is one long grading binge until we’re done. Today is grading and tomorrow is putting together the grades and then electronically submitting them.

Bonni isn’t as good in Excel as I am, so I get to put together the grades and submit them. And Sunday is her birthday, so it seems mean to lock her up with a spreadsheet as her birthday gift. Happy Birthday, here’s a spreadsheet.

Vacation, all I ever wanted

I’m taking 2 weeks off around Christmas. I’m cleaning out the garage, my home office, and probably helping a friend who is retiring clean out his office. It’s going to be a cleaning frenzy.

I typically use the last week of the year to clean out the junk and give it away, usually to Goodwill. This year, I’m trying something different.

There is a movement called “Free-cycling”. It’s based around the idea that the more stuff we can keep out of the landfills, the better. So local groups have email lists where you can post what you have to give away or what you are looking for. People respond if they need what you have or they have what you need.

I’ve been watching my local list (found on Yahoo) and I think I’ll be giving away a lot of stuff. I’ve not cleaned the garage in about 5 years, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s perfectly fine, I just don’t want it any more.

In these economic times, this seems a good way to pass on some Good in the world. The stuff will go to people who actually want it for the cost of gas to come get it.

Time to start my day

OK – it’s time to start looking at finals. I can’t put it off any longer. I have piles of sleeping dogs on the floor in my home office, Current Husband sleeping in the next room, I’ve read the ‘Net, posted to my blog, answered emails.

Short of starting laundry, I have no excuse left.

Cool Flare or Blaze trick

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, technical writing with tags , , , , , on December 10, 2008 by Mike

We met with a user and we went over some of the high end stuff she wants to do with Flare to support her move from Frame/RoboHELP to single sourcing all her content in Flare. It was a great meeting and Mike and I learned a bit.

One trick we learned is so cool, I have to share it.

Mixed media

Let’s say you’re working in Flare or Blaze you want a printed cover page with art and text on it. Further, let’s say the art needs to go the height of the left side.

Let’s start with a page layout that looks like this:

Page Layout with Text frame

Page Layout with Text frame

The grey area is the Body frame, where you will put text from a topic. Now let’s drop a Decoration Frame on the page, making the frame a little larger than the graphic we’re going to put on the page.

Page Layout with Decoration Frame

Page Layout with Decoration Frame

With the Decoration Frame selected, press F2 and click No. The Frame Contents view opens.

Now, on the Insert menu, click Picture. Find the picture you want and click OK. The graphic appears in the Frame Contents view.

Right-click over the graphic and click Object. Make any changes you want, including positioning. Click OK when you are done.

Save and close the Frame Contents view. Now you can see the graphic and it appears where you expect it. You can move the Decoration frame around to be exactly where you want it.

Page Layout with graphic

Page Layout with graphic aligned

So why is this useful?

Because the cover of your printed manuals usually need corporate art for the branding. Now you can have it. You can set up the page layout and use Variables in the topic that populates the Body frame to provide the name of the book.

And think of DITA. When we release the DITA solution, you can easily use page layouts like this to brand your content when you publish.

Cool, huh? I’m impressed.

Ryan, our young support fellow, showed me this. I think he’s smarter than I am.

Goings on at MadCap Software

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by Mike

Mike and I are finally home from traveling. Fall is a travel time, with shows all over the place. But we’re both home until probably late March, which is good for our families.

Since we’re home, we have time finally to do things. One of the things I remember from the recession of 2001/02 was that training budgets were cut right out. But training needs remain.

It’s important to stay current, to know what the hot topics in our field are, and what’s coming. If you’re looking for work, it may be even more important to know about the new stuff.

Free webinars

Toward that end, we’ve created a series of free webinars. [Updated: We have VoIP for the webinars now so you don’t have to make a phone call!!!]

Almost all of these webinars are tools independent. You’re not going to get a sales pitch about MadCap products. You’ll get good information about topics that further your knowledge or show you Best Practices, regardless of the tools you’re currently using.

The tools-specific webinar is clearly identified in the title. It won’t be a sales pitch, though. It’s Mike showing you really advanced stuff that probably even I don’t know. But I’m going to learn from the master!

When you click a link below, you will see more information about that specific topic and a sign up form.

Topic Based-authoring: Doing more with less

15 January 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/961665594

In this tool-independent webinar, you learn about topic-based authoring and how it can help you.

Advanced Publishing Techniques in Flare V4 or Blaze V1

29 January 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/812049597

This webinar focuses on producing high quality, high value documents for your customers using Flare V4 or Blaze V1. Learn ways to efficiently assemble and deliver your content.

DITA 101 — Why the Buzz?

5 February 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/598015341

In this tool-independent webinar, Sarah O’Keefe discusses DITA concepts, the business case, and typical scenarios where DITA is used to evaluate whether DITA makes sense for you.

Moving to Topic-based Authoring: Making the Business Case

12 February 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/706899386

In this tool-independent webinar, Bonni Graham explains how to make the business case for topic-based authoring to your management. You know the savings, now you can show your boss!

Planning for Content Reuse: Best Practices for Legacy and New Content

24 February 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/647207434

In this tool-independent webinar, Eddie VanArsdall discusses Best Practices when planning the move to topic-based authoring.

Can your HAT be a Content Management System?

12 March 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/187845873

In this tool-independent webinar, Neil Perlin discusses how you might use the hidden features in your existing HAT tools as a Content Management System.

I hope you’ll come play with us

I really hope to see you on one or more of these. I’m doing support Chat for almost all of them so I’ll see you in the chat if you’re there.

If you have other ideas for webinars, contact me and I’ll see if I can’t add them to the line up. If you would like to present one, contact me and let’s talk your idea through.

Feel free to spread the word.

See you soon!

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.

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