Showing posts from 2016 Stole My Money

מלל של הפוסט הזה למטה בעברית.  . Text of this post appears below in Hebrew I have written a bunch of blog posts about business and customer service - two of my favorite subjects. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes businesses are just disorganized. Sometimes the staff is just poorly trained. But in this case, outright stole my money. I've had the same laptop bag since about 2005. Cool, right? But the zips are coming apart and, despite my sentimental attachment, it needs to be replaced. Retail stores charge an absolute fortune for laptop bags, so I went to to see where I could get the best price on a new backpack. - the company that eventually stole my money - advertised a bag that suited my needs for a price that I could afford. Considering that my current bag is falling apart, it was even worth it to pay for door-to-door delivery just so I could get it sooner. I entered my credit card details, the payment went thro

Constantly Satisfying Your Natural Curiosity

This is Part 2 of a 2-part blog. In my last post , I waxed lyrical about the virtues of Technical Writers, compared to technology journalists and engineers. I said that a writer embedded in a company has the opportunity to take part in the development of amazing new technologies, end-to-end. That is truly cool. But there is another level that tests a technical writer's mettle and turns good writers into great writers. I recently had the opportunity to work in a number of companies as a consulting writer and I came to an interesting realization. In-house writers have the luxury of learning their company's technology over time. In-house writers have the opportunity to create relationships with engineers, managers, and SMEs of all sorts. A short-term consulting writer has none of that. For example, I was sent to update a user guide in a company that wrote database software for System Administrators. I had just over half a day to learn the software, interview the SME, and write

Living Life on the Cutting Edge

This is Part 1 of a 2-part blog. Tech journalists get to play with all the new toys as they come to market or, if they go to the right bars , much before they come to market. How cool is it that as a tech journalist, you are invited to all the big events where brand new, ground-breaking technologies are announced? Tech journalists even get free stuff - for review, of course. What could beat that? Technical writing. As writers, we embed ourselves in companies that make the cool gadgets and amazing software. Game-changing ideas take form before our eyes. We are in the picture from kickoff through delivery. You might think that the engineers get all the fun, after all, they are the ones creating the innovations, actually putting the thing together that will change the world. But you'd be wrong. Engineers do have an awesome job as they bring the concept to release, but when was the last time an engineer was an integral part of the entire process? Product development usually inv

Dr. Strange: Review

I saw the movie "Dr. Strange" in full 3D glory. Here's what I thought of it: 1. Benedict Cumberbatch should not speak in an American accent in any movie. Sorry, but he's a quintessential Brit and doesn't wear an American accent well. Fine effort, though, but no cigar. 2. Benedict Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor. Despite the accent issue, he is a convincing Dr. Strange. He has perfect comic timing and pulls off the character with flair. 3. The movie is dizzying to the point that at some parts of the story I couldn't tell if my uncomfortable cinema chair was firmly planted in the ground or not. There were scenes that turned the world upside down and inside out. It was quite reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio's "Inception". 4. The story was formulaic, but fun. It was what audiences have come to expect from a "genesis" story of a comic book hero. I could have predicted the ending half way through the film, but I was so overwhelmed by

Naming Things

One of the most difficult aspects of the creative process is naming the thing. What you call your creation can have a deep impact on how people perceive it and how (or if) they use it. For example, this morning I saw a concrete truck with the brand name "Putzmeister" emblazoned on its side. Turns out that Putzmeister is a large US company. I might have gone for a different name, though. More telling is the story of "poop juice", an ancient treatment for digestive issues (otherwise known as Fecal Transplant). The patient drinks a mixture of water and a healthy donor's poop. Apparently, it works. Doctors call it "yellow soup". Rolls off the tongue better than "poop juice", eh? Today, when attention spans are shorter than ever, it's vital to develop catchy titles that draw readers in. My informal (and decidedly unempirical research) clearly shows that titles  with a number in them are favored by click-baiters - evidence that it works

Black Market Candy Pushers

According to Time4Learning , in 2012 there were approximately 1.77 million kids in America who are home-schooled. That's 3.54 million American parents who believe they are smart enough, dedicated enough, organized enough, and patient enough to teach their kids everything they need to know to get into college or do whatever comes next. In a regular school the math teacher specializes in teaching math and the history teacher specializes in teaching history. As a parent who has committed to home-schooling your kids, you have to be an expert teacher for every subject through all age groups. There are resources out there to help you, but you need serious skills to pull it off. But there are some serious flaws in the traditional schooling system. Home-schooling, by definition, is a non-traditional learning environment, and by contrast, regular schools create rules that stymie non-traditional education. The following example seems to be universal and cross-generational. It was true wh

VR, AR...MR?

Oculus Rift VR headset Virtual Reality (VR) is an amazing technology. Strap on a headset that gives you 360 degrees of "surround vision" and you are instantly immersed in a virtual world. The real world is blocked out, enabling you to feel like you are somewhere else. Haptic feedback, audio, and even touch sensors make you feel as if you have left reality for this new virtual experience: Mars, the Mariana Trench, or wherever your fancy takes you. Microsoft's VR HoloLens Augmented Reality (AR) combines virtual elements with the real world. For example, Pokemon Go players see the characters on their phone screens (via the camera), as if the characters are actually there. Don a headset, such as Microsoft's HoloLens and you can see and interact with digital representations overlayed on your own reality. You can shoot aliens as they storm down your hallway, or you can see that 3D model you've designed in CAD software in front of your eyes in all dimensio

Book Review: A Town Like Alice

Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice" is one of those rare books that hooked me from its first words and upset me simply because at the end, it was over. Among its many qualities (like excellent writing and a sense of humor) it has three distinctive attributes that made it difficult to put down: it's an excitingly heroic story, it's a three-act play, and that a large part of it has to do with Australia. Firstly, I'm a sucker for heroic stories, and this is certainly one. It's a story of leadership forged in the fire of desperation, anguish, and against impossible odds. This might seem like many other "hero" stories, but it isn't. In "A Town Like Alice" the author wraps the characters in an ever-tightening blanket of misery and only then gently peels back the folds. There is no moment when Jean, the hero, bursts forth in sudden acknowledgement of her purpose. It's a slow, organic process. It started when, in an attempt to deal wi

It's Business Time

The New Zealand duo, Flight of the Conchords, sing a hilarious song called " Business Time " about an awkward husband in the mood for love when his wife is more interested in sorting the recycling and going to sleep. You know when I'm down to my socks its time for business. That's why they're called business socks. But that's beside the point. Really, though, it's business time because for the last few months, my wife and I have been working on getting our new business up and running. Finally, last week, our website, , went live and we are open for business. Yes, folks, it's business time. As you can probably imagine, the whole process has been a huge learning experience. We learned to revel in the small victories, like finding office space that is almost perfect, to bigger victories, like convincing suppliers to sell us stuff, to even bigger victories, like finally getting our website up and running. We do a lot of hi

All Roads Lead to Trump

On 12 December 2015, the world celebrated what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday. The Chairman of the Board, The Voice, crooned his way through the second half of the 20th Century until he passed away in 1998. Frank Sinatra sold over 150 million records worldwide, and won an Academy Award for his performance in "From Here to Eternity". I know this because I Googled him, and then searched for some of his classic performances on YouTube. Once you start with Frank Sinatra, you cannot avoid meeting the great Dean Martin - a fellow member of the Rat Pack and a top-class entertainer in his own right. According to his "pally" and long-time stage partner, Jerry Lewis, Dean was not just a magnificent singer; Dean possessed a natural gift for comedy. His comic timing was impeccable and Jerry claims that even when he went completely off-script, Dean never skipped a beat. A hard drinker, he once quipped to an audience, "You know, I feel sorry for you