Changes

I’ve thought a lot lately about the hatred we see in our country.  Republicans vs. Democrats, religious groups vs. non-religious groups, men vs. women, and so much more.  We also see an overabundance of people protecting their rights, whether or not they impinge on my rights.  We have become a people who expect things to come to us without costing us anything, looking for ways to have others pay our way.

When our parents/grandparents/great-grandparents came to this country, they assimilated into the American culture. They learned to speak English, and they worked hard to be able to afford “the American Dream.” When a neighbor was in trouble, they stepped up to help. They knew their neighbors, and if another’s child misbehaved, they felt perfectly free to discipline them. And the child’s parents thanked them for doing so. That is what the American Dream is…having the opportunity to prosper, and to raise a family.

Why is it now that most people don’t know their neighbors?  I watch House Hunters and other similar shows, and one of the things that most people say when looking at their back yard is, “I’ll have to put up a fence…we need privacy.”  What goes on in their backyards that they don’t want other people to see?  Nude sunbathing?? I live in a condo, and I don’t know most of my neighbors, and the ones I do know, I only know enough to say hello to. That wasn’t the case when I was growing up.  I knew all of our neighbors, and I played with all of the kids.  We didn’t have play dates because we just went over to someone’s house or they came to our house.  We were always playing outside…a bunch of kids would get together for baseball, or just walking through the forest. There was always something to do. Someone always shoveled the widow’s driveway and we didn’t expect money for it.  It was just something we did.

We lost a lot when we lost the sense of community.  Because I think community was the American Dream. We worked together to help each other, not to hurt each other.  We didn’t accuse people falsely just to make my side look better. Our political system worked well for over 200 years. But as we lose the American Dream, we are more interested in working against each other than together.  More interested in hurting our opponents rather than helping them succeed.  More interested in protecting ourself rather than protecting our way of life.

We now spend millions of dollars in all aspects of our economy to provide our documents into other languages, both government and private sector.  We create regulations that cost businesses lots of money to prove they have done this or that. They may already have been doing all those things, but now we have to prove it, and that costs money.  We  lost a lot when we stopped knowing our neighbors.  We lost trust and we lost a feeling of safety. And that is a big part of why we see all the hatred.

Telecommuting

So, I’m on a great contract, and I’ll be working from home. Good news and bad…
Good news:

  • There is no commute. I can get out of bed and be at work in about 30 seconds.
  • I don’t have to buy gas as often, which will save me money.
  • I’ll save money on lunch since I usually eat out when I’m in the office.
  • It is easier to create better dinners, since I can take a five-minute break and put something in the oven that needs to cook a few hours, which I normally wouldn’t do during the week.
  • I won’t get frustrated in traffic.
  • I’ll be spending less time doing laundry.

The bad news:

  • I miss being around people.
  • It is easy to get distracted.
  • The cats won’t leave me alone.

Seriously, there are a number of good articles written about working from home. (Check out The “Work From Home” Generation by Alex Iskold)  Each person needs to decide how they work best, and what works out best for them. As for me, I’m going to enjoy this job!

IPv4 to IPv6: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I found a great article today entitled “There is no Plan B: why the IPv4-to-IPv6 transition will be ugly.” The title pretty much sums it up. The article is heavy techie and long, but it is good. http://bit.ly/9z95Gj

Resumes

As I navigate this time of unemployment, one of the most confusing parts is getting your résumé just right.  The problem is that everyone you talk with has a different idea of what makes the perfect resume.

I was talking to a friend today who is a recruiter, and she says there is no perfect standard.  Each hiring manager is looking for something else, however, they don’t tell anyone what that perfect resume looks like.  She told the story of one hiring manager who didn’t want to interview one of her clients.  When she asked why, noting that this candidate was seemingly a perfect fit for the job, the manager said, “He has references in the résumé!” Of course, there are bound to be other hiring managers out there that think references should be in the resume.

Looking online for guidance can be a mess of confusing and contradictory information.  Each article will tell you something different.  This  article will tell you the number of pages doesn’t matter, as long as the information is relevant.  The next article will tell you no more than two pages.  At one of my networking groups, one of the guys got a job after posting his résumé for only nine days, and his résumé is seven pages long!

I’m going to stick with two pages for now.  I’ll keep tweaking the wording, and hopefully, I’ll stumble upon the right resume for the right job.

Learning new software…

The other day, I came across a job posting that mentioned a software package that I had never used.  Being the good internet user that I am, I googled the software, and went to their website.  What a wonderful treasure trove of information I found there!  Not only  was I able to download an evaluation copy of the software to work with, they offered a number of FREE online tutorials that would be helpful, not only for a new user, but for an existing user that needs to learn something new. The best free online tutorials I have ever seen were for MadCap Flare, XML-Based Single-Source Content Authoring for Multi-Channel Publishing. (http://www.madcapsoftware.com)

There are a number of companies that offer evaluation copies of their software.  There are often limitations on how you can use the software and how long you can use it. However, it can be a great way to add a skill to your résumé or evaluate different software programs before you buy.

So, the next time you see mention of a software package you aren’t familiar with, check it out online.  You may be surprised!

Style Guides, Part 2

Second and final installment in my look at style guides.

APA Style: “The rules of APA Style, detailed in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, offer sound guidance for writing with simplicity, power, and concision. APA Style has been adapted by many disciplines and is used by writers around the world.”

One nice thing about their website is that it offers tutorials on using their style.

The Research and Documentation Online 5th Edition:  This seems to be more of a guide used to help you decide which style guide to use.

Chicago Manual of Style:  This is the one I remember using back in college all those many years ago.  It gives almost no information on its website, but offers subscription access for $35/yr.  Print copy is $65.  They are up to version 16, but I think I’ll stick with the one I’ve got, version 14.

MLA Style: MLA actually has two different style guides:  The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. I guess that pretty much sums up what they are used for.  Can’t get info from the website on actual style usage, but the books are cheaper than the Chicago book.

Microsoft Manual of Style: “The essential reference for technical writers, editors, journalists, and everyone else who writes about computer technology. Developed by Microsoft’s senior editors and content managers, this manual of style captures the up-to-date standards and best practices for delivering clear and consistent technical communications. Now in its third edition, this popular reference has been fully revised, expanded, and optimized for ease of use. You’ll find new coverage on meeting the needs of a global audience, accessibility concerns, and the latest technical terms and acronyms—along with expertly organized sections on usage, grammar, punctuation, tone, formatting, and common style problems. Whether you’re creating print documentation, online help, Web content, or other communications, you’ll get the information and examples you need to maximize the impact and precision of your message.”   Well, it is Microsoft.  Of course they think it is the best.  But for a technical writer, I think it is pretty comprehensive.  You can find the book, which includes a CD with the eBook, for sale online for about $150. O’Reilly is now offering an eBook in various formats for $23.99, which, compared to the $150 of the print book, seems to be a pretty good deal.

That’s all I’m going to write about style guides.  Google “style guides” and you’ll find more info than you will need.  I’m sticking with Microsoft and Chicago.

Style Guides

Last week, someone asked me which style guide I used. For my work as a software technical writer, I’ve been asked to adhere to Microsoft Manual of Style and Chicago Manual of Style.  But, the question got me thinking about other style guides, and what the differences are. After googling style guides, I found a few others. So, over the next couple of days I’ll be posting about some of them.

Elements of Style: “First published in 1918, William Strunk, Jr., believed that one must first know the rules to break them. This classic reference book is a must-have for any student and conscientious writer. Intended for use in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature, it gives in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style and concentrates attention on the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated.”  It was last updated in 1999, and is found online. I wanted to see if there was any mention of websites or software, and neither term appears in the online text.

2010 AP Stylebook: “The AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, a style manual produced by the world’s leading news agency, is an essential handbook for all writers, editors, students and public relations specialists. The 2010 edition provides fundamental guidelines on spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage, with special sections on social media, reporting business and sports. Included is an updated guide to media law.” Cost is $10.49 at Amazon.com.  Again, probably not the style of choice for tech writers, but used in many fields.

More next time…