TechWhirl Tech Writer Recap for December 9 2011

This week’s update is supported by Platinum sponsor Adobe & RoboHelp 9

Monkey hard at work at TechWhirlThis week’s TechWhirl Tech Writer update is brought to you by the letter “U”.

It’s been a “U” type of week for us here at Tech Writer Today with us focusing on upgrades, understanding, and when dealing with changing ad servers, U really only tells half the phrase we’ve most often uttered. George Carlin would have been proud.

I’m unsure if there’s a Monkey Doing a Math Problem Muppet but if not then TechWhirl’s claiming copyright on it.  Why not own how I (Al) felt most of this week?

My Muppet moments have been occurring as I attempt to follow the very sparse directions provided by one of the largest search companies in the world.  No name, but this one right now tends to have an affinity for me-too products and unnecessary white space.  Hmm, maybe this week should have been brought to you by the letter G, and U in addition to F.  Go head, figure it out.  We have time. Got it? Excellent! Let’s move on.

The backstory is simply that right now we’re running our own server (OpenX) but to finish off our {ahem} very public and searchable tech writer email discussion group archive upgrade we decided to sunset this tool.  It’s not just our desire to avoid the need to restructure it for our final changes that got us to decide to make the change, but also that some of the other solutions in the market are faster and more robust.

To be fair to our ditto-machine mobile operating system friends, there’s a lot of user error in this story too.  I don’t have an advertising background so all the language is new. This was an understood challenge so instead of jumping in headfirst I took time to read the online directions.  The directions were well laid out, direct and very simple to understand.  However, things went south when I started putting the ads into the system.  Each time I enabled an ad, the system kept telling me that there wasn’t enough inventory for all of them.

Huh?  How can that be?  I have 10 ads and 10 spots for them.

Reaching for a banana, I knew something wasn’t right.  Which tiny box somewhere wasn’t checked (or ticked so I can claim this note has been translated into the Queen’s English)?  So back through the directions I go, looking for the answer.  But, this time I find their simplicity and ease of use unhelpful because it makes no mention of my inventory problem.  Now hanging from my tire swing, I introduced our final half-phrase “U” in a torrent of verbal delivery not heard since we ran the site on Drupal.

Finally after searching, searching, and more searching, I discovered that the new system is far smarter than me (not that this was a huge shock).  It tracks site traffic and adjusts “inventory” to accommodate the volume.  And, since Connie, a few spammers, and I are the only visitors to this test server, it projects that our traffic for the site is approximately zero.  The simple solution was to override and move forward.  Yet, there was no word on this particular topic in the “getting started” documentation. Come on ‘man document something more than the happy path.

Personally, I think it’s a great strategy to drive search.  Create terrible documentation and some gotcha functionality and then watch the daily searches increase.  So there you have it, our TechWhirl Top Tip for Friday: Don’t improve your documentation, in fact, make it more useless; start a search company that sells online advertising and watch the second revenue stream start rolling in.

I tell you what ALIWEB.Com.  If this situation doesn’t improve, I’m about done with you.

Have a great weekend!  Enjoy this week’s articles and send us your Santa’s wish list by Sunday at the latest if you want it published.

– The gang at TechWhirl

In Case You Missed it: This Week  @ TechWhirl

What You’re Talking About

A quick What you talkin’ ‘bout to our Tech Writers and their discussions in our email discussion group:

  • Nancy Allison wondered “Can you figure out what tools produced a PDF?” Whirlers responded with a number of ways to find out what the source application might be, including using the PDF properties function.
  • Michelle Viña-Baltsas is leaning on the experience of list members to determine good practices for “Revision control.”  Many advised her to consider a formal version control system, embedding part numbers for the documentation, and matching release numbers for the documentation to release number for the product (including major and interim release identification.)
  •  Ryan Minaker wants more efficiency in reviewing help content and asked for “Help! Authoring/maintaining content directly in RoboHelp 9 (HTML) — Best practices…?”  Responses focused on ways to keep reviewers away from source files by using Robohelp’s PDF review functionality.


Social Media and the Chance to Follow TechWhirl:


We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their support. Stocking stuffers!  Think stocking stuffers for the technical communicator in your family.

Platinum A: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Platinum B: Madcap Software, ComponentOne Software

Gold: Society for Technical Communication (STC), EC Software, Vancouver Island University,

> Any inferences made to other search companies in this post are the fault of the reader and cannot be held against TechWhirl.Com or its owners so please don’t fiddle with our search rankings.

Subscribe to TechWhirl via Email