Writing Tips : Why should I bother?

writingTowards the end of last year I wrote a series of blog posts about public speaking tips. I’ve decided to start a similar series, but this time about writing. It could be blogging, writing articles and whitepapers, or just writing documentation in your company. So for the first instalment, lets talk about why I think you should take the time out of your day to write something.

  • Check your understanding. Writing has always been a really good way of ordering my thoughts. There are plenty of occasions when I’ve thought I understood something, only to find as I wrote it down there were gaping wholes in my knowledge. For me, the process of writing something gives me an indication of how much I really understand it. If it’s a struggle, it’s probably because I don’t really understand the subject and I should take a step back.
  • Aid Memoire. I’m always telling people, the single biggest user of my website is me. I don’t have the best memory in the world, so I rely on my articles to remember how to do things. That’s the reason the articles usually have simple copy/paste examples. If you write for yourself, not to please others, you will be happier with the results.
  • Build your confidence. The more content you write, the more confident you become. Having access to a whole bunch of “recipes” you’ve created makes life a lot easier, which in turn allows you to be more confident about the approach you are taking.
  • Documentation skills. If you’re a developer, you’re probably saying to yourself, “I write self documenting code, so I don’t need to document my work!” My response to that is, “You are full of shit!” All systems need documentation. The art with documentation is to write enough to be useful, but not so much that people can’t be bothered to wade through it. Writing blog posts and articles helps you learn this balance.

Cheers

Tim…

Birmingham City University (BCU) Talk #3

bcuOn Friday I took a day off work to pop over to do my 3rd talk at Birmingham City University (BCU). This one was rather unfamiliar territory for me, because it was directed at the staff and was focussed on student employability…

During a previous discussion with Stuart Hutchison from BCU, he suggested I take the “Community” session I presented at the UKOUG Next Gen event, add in some information about graduate recruitment and Bob’s your uncle. Sounds fine, but what do I know about graduate employment? It’s 20+ years since I left university…

Luckily, the online community came to the rescue. I sent a bunch of emails out to friends, small companies and huge corporate types. Over the years I’ve built up a network of contacts all over the world who were happy to help me out directly, or put me in touch with people in their organisation that could. I’ve already sent out thank you emails, but I’d just like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you once again to everyone that helped me out!

As the session started, people introduced themselves and it became apparent that everyone in the room (except me) was in some way linked to student employment and career development. Needless to say, I suddenly felt completely out of my depth, incredibly nervous and needed a change of underwear! :) I introduced myself and made it very clear I was definitely not an expert in this subject, then proceeded to present the information I had gathered. It was meant to be about 60 minutes, but there was a lot of audience participation, so it ended up being more like 90 minutes. Despite my initial nerves, it went really well and was really good fun.

After the session I chatted with Professor Nick Morton, the Associate Dean (Student Experience) at BCU, and he was keen to get me involved in some of the other stuff they are doing, which also sounds like fun. After that I spent quite a long time chatting with Stuart. I will of course keep doing the technical stuff with his students.

I guess some of you may be wondering about my motivation for doing this stuff, especially the non-technical presentations. This isn’t a career move. I’m not being paid to do this. It’s good to try something different and stretch yourself. I’m not suggesting that technical presentations are easy, because they are not, but doing things like this take you out of your comfort zone and teach you a lot about the craft of presenting. I definitely feel this is making me a better presenter, which is a great confidence builder.

Cheers

Tim…

MOVOBall : Kickstarter

movoballThis morning I went to the launch event for MOVOBall, an invention by one of my (In Real Life) friends Steve Priestnall. The event was held at the Electric Cinema in town.

It was kind-of fun to see the name up outside the cinema.

cinema

I’ve kept the ticket as a memento.

ticket

Later this month they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the product development.

deviceSo what is it? It’s a neat little device to make using a swiss ball a lot more fun. You can either put your mobile device into the cradle, or use a MOVOBug to talk to your phone. It uses the motion detectors in the phone, or MOVOBug, to detect the motion of the ball, so it can be used as a game controller or to interact with fitness apps.

ballI can imagine Noel Portugal and the AppsLab folks coming up with some party piece at OpenWorld using this. Maybe MOVOBall controlled Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. :)

When the Kickstarter film is released I’ll put a link to it. It’s pretty fun, especially the outtakes at the end.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.

Cheers

Tim…

 

WordPress 4.2.2

wordpressAnother day, another WordPress release. I woke up this morning to see WordPress 4.2.2 has arrived. It’s common after a big release to get a bunch of quick fixes, so I expect to see a number of these over the next few weeks.

Downloads and changelog in the usual places, but you will probably find your auto-update has already installed it for you. :)

Cheers

Tim…

 

WordPress 4.2 “Powell” (and 4.1.3)

wordpressOvernight I got an auto-upgrade to WordPress 4.1.3 maintenance release and a notice telling me WordPress 4.2 “Powell” was released. The downloads are in the usual places, and of course available from the update screen in your blog.

The announcement page has a video explaining the new features, which seem to make it easier to repost other people’s content, where you would normally expect to just tweet a link. Not sure what I feel about this yet!

Happy upgrading.

Cheers

Tim…

Update: WordPress 4.2.1 came out today.

When bad form design attacks!

Take a look at these two items from a form I was using today.

confirmation-text

If, like me, you thought that checking those boxes meant you agreed with the statements, you would be wrong. It turns out what they mean is you’ve remembered to copy that text into the main body of your request. WTF?

I suggested to the company in question, they either make the check boxes work as they should, or at least change the text to explain what they are there for! It amazes how people can turf out pages like this and not see how blatantly bad they are!

As it turned out, the person who this DMCA takedown notice was directed at has already taken down the offending pages, so I don’t need to “correct” the notice and resend it.

Cheers

Tim…

WordPress 4.1.2

WordPress 4.1.2wordpress has been released. It’s a security release and I’m guessing most of you will pick it up passively using the auto-update features, so it’s nothing to worry about too much.

You can read about the fixes in this release here.

I’ve just installed it on 5 separate installations and there were no dramas.

Cheers

Tim…