Words and Software

Technical writing/user assistance in Microsoft.Azure Intelligent Systems Service (ISS). (old: Data Protection Manager and Operations Manager)

March, 2007

  • It's worth your during

    I know, you're tired of hearing about difficulties translating the american-english language. Still, when I encounter such an amusing example, I just have to share...

    They didn’t care about my schedule, offering only general remarks about making it “worth my during.” I think they meant “while.”

    From Alison Bowman's The Copywriter, via the Slush God.

  • Task-based documentation

    I'm packing up for the WritersUA Conference with great anticipation. It's a bit of a busman's holiday for me. Lately I've been immersed in the technical aspects of what I was writing about, so it's a pleasure to step back from that and think about the art of user assistance in general.

    If you didn't know, one of the key mantras in user assistance is task-based. One of those well-meaning phrases that seems to become fuzzier the more it's repeated. The literal-minded translate it to "the steps of the task", and I can tell when I'm looking something up in documentation if it was written by someone from that camp -- I'm told what to do, but given little or no information about why I would want to do it or what my other options are or how to make the decisions inherent in the steps.

    I think I've found that to be the greatest disconnect in documentation for me, as a user. Instructions are plentiful...but too often they assume you already know what you want to do (i.e., the specific tasks that accomplish your ultimate objective).


    Good article on the topic: "Help Is Dead. Long Live Help!"

  • Do not format the backup drive

    How bad can a format mistake be? Check out "Computer technician accidentally wipes out info on Alaska’s $38 billion fund". We emphasize the value of disk-based data protection in DPM, but that value is based on the understanding that you don't erase the hard drive.