Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken!

We all learn. And, here’s the post on one such thing I learned, recently. For one of the projects I worked before I switched jobs last week, I was the only tech-comm contributor who held the dual role of preparing technical content as well as marketing collateral for the flagship product.

Until that time, I thought that technical writing made me be proud of one habit of pursuit: Perfection. I have grown, learned with time. And, I have gradually improved on my work and writing style. Consequently, I have developed this habit of looking for perfection in what I deliver, both in my work and in the blogs I publish.

The tasks required me to prepare the “usual” user and administration guides and then some customer-facing, enticing marketing collateral to increase the purchases of our products. I took up that dual role on the special requests from the content writing team lead, because I – being the sole writer for the thread – could explain the products’ core strengths.

Though there were a lot of things that I improved upon in the project, there were some that I had to leave untouched as I wrapped up. Friday was my last day at the office. I also had the other engagements at my home to look into before I joined my new company on Monday. So, I was hardly left with any energy and time to manage the tasks pending with me.

I knew – and still know – that had I tried harder, I could have managed a couple of additional edit iterations on the marketing collateral I prepared. I wanted to share only the perfect content with my then customers and colleagues, but I was short of time. Just one more write-up. One more edit iteration cycle; another better version. One more day. One more feature. One more document. One more inch toward perfection… just… one… more…

<Pause>

Please realize that I don’t WANT to commit mistakes – no one wants to. Also, I don’t think that I am perfect. But, knowing that fact does not – and cannot – stop me from TRYING to be perfect. And, here comes the wisdom: I AM WRONG.

Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

The truth is: One of the biggest challenges in technical communication is feedback. And, it is good to assume that even if the users provide feedback, it is only for what (they know or they think they know) is missing from your documentation. Assumptions are good. So, if they never get back to you, you can ASSUME that you are good to go. Like it or hate it, it has always been the way to go for technical communicators.

But, if that is true, then what is perfection?

Perfection is the state of being “all correct” in a situation, given a premise, under specific parameters, and at a certain point in time. Given that to be true – I can’t find a definition better than that – I think perfection is BAD. It stops you from progression. Progression toward a version better than you created. Perfection is status quo. And, I want to continue to flow. I want to continue to evolve.

Once upon a Time in Technical Writing

Stories are the commonest way the ethics, histories, information, insights, and knowledge have passed on to the younger generations. Through its multiple forms, storytelling focuses on building touch points to get messages across: Something that we too do as technical writers. I try to find the threads that storytelling shares with technical writing. And, here’s what I find as I try to delve.

Do you create video reviews on newer technologies, too?

Time and again I get to answer the question about what I do for a living. Yes, it does get irritating at times. But, mostly I love answering such questions. This time around, it was a marriage party and the questions were from the father of a curious teenager.

“So, I heard you are a writer!”

Is that a question? No, he knows that I am a writer. It’s just a rephrased form of “So, though I know that you write, I’m curious to know what [the hell] you do for a living?!” There still are traces of suspicion, amazement, and non-knowledge, which I liked. Tip: Never let the other person know that you know how it all starts.

I said I don’t just write. Just to be informative, we – in India – mentally associate writers as mostly boring, wage-less people who write because they cannot do anything better than that. So, I said, I don’t just write, I work as a technical writer.

I continued, “I prepare technical documentation for a software company. We, as a company, create software blah… blah… blah… and I get to create user manuals, troubleshooting guides, and the other *important* stuff, which is similar to the guides that you get when you purchase mobile phones.”

“Hmm… OK!” [Expected reply.] That’s a sign for you to continue. So, we talked for some more time before this happened…

“You see, my son keeps searching on YouTube… he mostly searches for [and watches] videos, spoofs, reviews, and funny stuff on technology… Do you do anything of that sort?”

Spoof? Well, No! Reviews? Still a No. Videos? Maybe! He probably intended to say “tutorial” for “spoof,” but alas there weren’t any translators available. Nevertheless. That’s another word to add to the list of what I DON’T do for a living.

Toward the end, I could give him a fair idea of what I do to earn a bread (and the other edible stuff). It turns out, he too wrote occasionally. No, not the way I do, but he wrote poems and diary entries. He wanted to start writing more intently and found “So, I heard you are a writer” to be the only way to crack a conversation about it. I totally respect that.

We kept talking for about half an hour; It was nice talking to him. Our streams of thoughts converged when he asked me about that “one *all-important* thing about my profession.” From where I can see, there is only one answer to this question: Curiosity.

Though we never really concluded the conversation, I got to know one thing toward the end: the curiosity of the curious teenager was very much visible in the eyes of the now curious father. He was content with my reply, it seemed. But, I think I saw a writer in the making.

Don’t Waste Words

The ancient Indian literature is full of symbolism. But, the documents from the relatively recent history are no less full of insights and wisdom. During one of my regular conversations recently, someone shared something really interesting with me, which made me write this post. Right, so the verses in the post are originally composed (and possibly sung) by Saint Tukaram, a popular Poet-Philosopher-Contributor from the early 17th century. He is known for his devotional poetry, but is known to have educated community in general toward logical devotion toward the almighty. Click here to read this post.

Heuristics in Information Design: So that you get only what you need

Heuristics, unlike what most of us know, is not ONLY about the trial-and-error way of doing things. Heuristics are those basic guidelines that mostly cover the generic application of common sense. And, I don’t see a better faculty than technical communication to apply this technique. Here’s what I have to share.

Three Tips for Effective Localization

In this post, I take a closer look at the localization project in which my team and I assisted. I take cues from this project, and the similar ones that I have done previously, to discuss the top-three points for localization. This post is special to me, because it has helped me unfold those chapters of my life, which I had come to forget. If you are new to localization, this post will help you scratch its surface. If you already are into this field, I hope that the post will help add some new points to your localization plans. Click here to read the full post.

The Writing Principles

Have you ever come across a poorly written write-up? Have you ever felt that you could have written better? A couple of write-ups, which I read recently, drew my thoughts on writing about writing. I have always believed that anyone can write. But, if everyone can write, can everyone become a writer? I have explored this thought, and prepared a list (… which is not really an exhaustive one!) of guidelines that can help everyone write better. Read the full post.

The Inverted Tree of Information

I will start this post where I ended the previous one: the inverted tree structure of information categorization. As promised, I will talk about my interpretations on some of the verses in the Bhagwad Gita, which is a great source of inspiration for me on both, personal as well as professional grounds. Click here to read the full post.

Choose Your Luggage.

If life is a journey, and not a destination, isn’t your life all about how long do you keep walking? The challenges that you face, the people whom you meet, and the experiences that you glean: it all adds up to count as memories in your life. And, unlike the materialistic aspect, your richness is not restricted to the amount of money you earn, but the amount of memories you gather. C’est la vie!

We meet different kinds of people in our life. Each one has their own, small (but important) role to play in our lives. Some get registered as family, some as friends, and some as enemies. But each of them contributes something to our journey. We either succeed with them, or earn experiences because of them. But, we never walk alone. Nobody does!

So, what do we do to make the most out of this life? What do we do to go really long? Or, at least, go longer distances than we initially thought? Let us see.

We travel with a lot of luggage. Although, mostly an unwanted one, the luggage packs our memories. We carry our aspirations, emotions, learning, pleasures, treasures, and experiences. All in all, we carry two sets of luggage: the positive ones and the negative ones.  The negative luggage (of agitation, anger, frustration, hatred, or jealousy) are like bundles of cotton. Each time we have those feelings, the bundles become wet. And, the more we have those feelings the more those continue to get wet. And, if you’ve realized where I am getting at, it becomes heavier, and consequently gets difficult (almost impossible) to walk with a heavier luggage.

But, if we choose to leave aside those presumptions, let go off that negative set of luggage, we will eventually cover great distances in our journeys … I have realized that irrespective of what result do we get, we must choose not to get disappointed. That’s because, we will either succeed or earn a sufficient amount of experience.

I choose to set aside this negative set of luggage, so that I can go longer distances. What about you?

#suyogsutra

It is always good to keep your (in)abilities well bracketed. #suyogsutra

I know what I can do. But, I also know what I cannot – which is equally important. That helps me set achievable goals and workable standards so that I keep myself motivated. Although, it may not always be a great idea to not strive for goals that are beyond your capacity. But, it is seldom that you try to achieve something that you know you can’t!

By keeping the inabilities “well bracketed”, I mean keeping them well in check. Brackets, here, are symbolic to categorized restriction (premise?). So, when you can keep a check on what you cannot do (or find impossible to achieve at a point in time), you can easily calculate what you can do.

At times, knowing what to reject works better than knowing what to accept. And, bracketing your inabilities is an important tactic in the strategy of rejection.

– Suyogsutra