Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions

Subject: Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions
From: Chris Morton <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2015 10:16:34 -0400

Hi Craig,

*Creating a Sample User Manual* ~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am a long-term user of J River Media Center. IMO, it's the best
software-based playback system available anywhere. Regardless of what you
think of him, Neil Young thinks so tooâthey're creating the Pono UI.

However, it has an underlying programming an interface and has a bazillion
options, so that the geek hobbyist with the time (I fit two of those
categories) can customize it to the hiltâregardless of your collection of
AV hardware.

I approached them a number of years ago about being their tech writer, so
as to produce a proper manual. Their response was, "We have our wiki and a
regularly-monitored user forum. G-bye." It wasn't that harsh, but the
message was clear. Since they're all geeks, they expect their users to have
all the time in the world to figure out their own custom configurations.

So... a REAL user manual, with several examples, would be of benefit. It's
a great way for someone like yourself to create such an item. You don't
need anyone's permission; just dive in and do it. Perhaps when you've got
something of which you're proud, J River might be interested in what you've
doneâbut do not count on this. Instead, you'll have a created a real user
manual for a real product that you can tout on your resume, show off during
interviews and such.

BTW, the open source Audacity audio editor also needs such a manual,
especially as geared toward nOObs just getting their feet wet. GIMP also
needs a manualâsame story.

*About LinkedIn & the Job Hunt* ~~~~~~~~~~~~

I encourage you to look at others' LinkedIn profiles, and then build yours
out in a similar manner. Publishing an article there about your trials and
tribulations in creating a user manual would be interesting reading, and
would cause the LinkedIn community to take notice (if you promote the
article well).

A LinkedIn premium account, while it;'ll cost you $24.95/mo., lets you
write an InMail to anyone who has a LinkedIn accountâthey do not have to be
within your first tier of contacts.

As an example of how this can work (part of a guerrilla job marketing
strategy), 3Q last year I saw an ad on Glassdoor (you should subscribeâit's
free and IMO is now the best place to learn of opportunities near you) that
looked as if it was custom written based on my resume. I used LinkedIn to
hunt down the president, learned that he is also a veteran of HP (under the
Carly Fiorina reign) in California, and sent him a brief InMail expressing
my interest in the advertised Albany, NY, position (where we were planning
to move).

They were originally looking for a full-time person, but after a protracted
courtship the parent company issued a hiring freeze. Since I was a shoo-in
by that point, I pitched them on doing freelance contracting work.
Ultimately they bit.

*Writing Resources* ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Beyond the style guides I cited earlier, get a copy of Strunk &
White's *Elements
of Style *from your library. It's a quick read, it can be humorous, and
you'll learn something. But don't accept everything touted in that volume
as gospel, for the English language is constantly evolving. To that end,
skim through Steven Pinker's recent book, *The Sense of Style*, where he
debunks many of "the rules" so many of us have lived with since elementary
school.

Professor Paul Brians' *Common Errors in English Usage: Third Edition* is a
book you should own. You should also check out the accompanying website.

I really get a lot out of owning a copy of *Garner's Modern American Usage*,
much more so than the *Chicago Manual of Style* (although that is a great
resource as well). Why is CMoS different than the Associated Press (AP)
Style Guide? You need to know. For example, when I'm working on whitepapers
and user manuals, it's CMoS all the way. But if it's a marketing brochure,
often it's AP.

One difference is in the use of the so-called Oxford commaâwhat is it? Why
would you want to use it? Can it make it difference in effectively
communicating by way of the written word? Could a problem arise downstream
if you don't use it in a given assignment?

*The Business Journal* ~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you live near a major metropolitan area, chances are good it has its own
{city} *Business Review* | *Journal*, published by Advance Publications.
Each has a corresponding website. I recommend subscribing for one year;
during that time you'll learn a LOT who's who and what's what. Or see if
the paper copy is in your library.

For example, at the moment I'm trying to court a local startup to see where
that might take me. Lo' and behold, the current edition for my city tells
the story about how modern high tech is coming back to urban centers, and
how their employees are thriving by being able to walk to work, enjoy lower
rents, have a plethora of restaurants and bars to haunt, etc. Two of the
company's employees are featured in a sidebar. So... just having that
information is a great way to engage in further conversation with their HR
person ('*Wow... Chris is really astute...*') That also gave me two more
leads to track down through LinkedIn, as I'm sensing the entire staff has
an up/down vote regarding accepting a geezer like me (all of the staff are
my son and daughter's age).

You'll also get a *Book of Lists* once per year; several pages will give
you a ton of contact info you can then mine as you perform your job search.
That, too, may be in your library.

*Guerrilla Marketing, Resumes & Cover Letters *~~~~~~~~~~~~

I mentioned this phrase before. If you think that you can blindly mail out
hundreds of generic resumes (don't forget the cover letter!) and have the
world lay out the red carpet for your arrival, you're mistaken. Each
attempt needs to be carefully targeted, with the resume and cover letter
specifically geared toward the position you're seeking. Rather than
addressing the cover letter, Dear Sir/Madam or (worse) To Whom It May
Concern, do whatever you can to learn the person's name and the appropriate
salutation. You might discover this on LinkedIn, through the Business
Journal, or even by calling and asking the receptionist, politely
explaining what it is you're attempting to do.

The hardest part of getting the job you're seeking is to stand apart from
the crowd, to get the hiring team to give you your due consideration.

Regarding resumes, what form should they take today? Should you use a fancy
typeface and colored paper? (Answer: NO.) Should you have a stated "Job
Objective?" (Answer: Only one that you can succinctly verbalize during an
interview.) Does anyone care about your hobbies? (Answer: Only if they're
somehow pertinent to the position for which you're applying.) Most
importantly, understand these two things: 1) The purpose of a resume is to
give the hiring team a reason to quickly toss yours in File 13, and 2) The
bulk of resumes today get electronically scanned and screened for
keywordsâyours had better be easily scannable!

So... regarding the electronic gatekeeper, I've found my chances are better
playing the state lottery. I have a unique skill set. I didn't graduate
from college, nor do I have an advanced computer science degree from
Stanford. But this is also true of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and even Larry
Ellison. I've long needed a different way to stand out from the crowd and
be able to tell my story. That said, today I think this is true of
*everyone*.

*Winning the War (the Condensed Version) *~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pickett's Charge (sending out hundreds of blind resumes) failed at
Gettysburg. Meanwhile, Col. Chamberlain and his troops, charged with
defending the Union flank at Little Round Top, had run out of ammunition.
Johnny Reb was approaching up the hill. You can read the story online. What
saved the day was for Chamberlain to think outside the box and dare to be
different. Taking a custom approach, they met their objective and likely
saved this country.

> Chris
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