MadCap Flare: pain points and solutions

I work with the MadCap Flare tool on a regular basis. Namely, with two targets – the HTML 5 Help system and the PDF file. That presupposes that I deal with two outputs, two style sheets, and all my troubles are usually multiplied by two :). In this article, I want to share my pain points as well as possible solutions for them. So, here we go!

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How to outsmart a creative block

I was going to write this post much earlier. However, each time I got down to it, I was either distracted by whatever I saw in my timelines or just seemed not to have enough inspiration to kick-start the process.

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Some people call it a creative block, some – a lack of inspiration, others blame laziness or a habit to procrastinate till the very last night before the deadline. No matter what it is, for an information developer such a non-creative state may sound like a nightmare, as we need bright ideas and resourcefulness like a breath of fresh air. But if you happen to feel unproductive at times, there are some tricks which may help you to find your muse again.

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Color theory: the mystery unveiled

Today I want to share with you a brilliant post covering all the basics that an Information Developer should know about how colors work, brought to you by Dave Gash, a Technical Writer at Google.

In a nutshell, it’s a great read—both fun and educational—that explains how colors work. It’s all there – physics, optics, additive and subtractive color systems, hexadecimal arithmetic (!) and, most importantly, demonstration of how it all works together in real life (I mean, in a real-life CSS).

Believe it or not, CSS color codes really are intuitive. You’ll be surprised to see how obvious it is that “#000000 can’t be anything but black“, and “#ff0000 cannot possibly be anything but bright red“. On top of that, there’s a quiz, real-life CSS examples, and links to useful resources and tools, which all adds immensely to the post’s educational value.

Thanks to the author for gathering all this information and presenting it in such a fun and easy way! That’s rock’n’roll, folks.

View story at Medium.com

Content journey: from technical to marketing and social media

Most technical communicators I know can be divided into 2 types.

There are the ones who love creating general About/Welcome sections in their docs and get off on illustrating workflows, business value, etc.

And then, the ones who need a whole cake and then some to coax themselves into writing overviews and designing diagrams. It’s much easier for this type to write instructions about tangible, down-to-earth, even techy stuff.

My friend Viktoria Bezsmolna is the definitive type 1. Still, this free-spirited girl landed in our InfoDev department. But soon enough, she eloped to marketing. And then to PR. Now, she is a freelance writer and has her own blog – yay!

I finally decided to get to the bottom of how this journey worked out for her.

Our 1,5-hour interview was very thought-provoking, and here’s how it all summed up in my head.

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Diagram Series: Pitfalls of interviews with SMEs

Look at the following broken-line graph (Figure #1). How much time do you need to create one? 5 – 10 minutes? How about two days?

Figure #1 (Click to enlarge)

Now, if I provide an estimate of two days for creating a graph, my Customer will expect to receive a 3D visualization, in color. Then, where is the problem? Why creating a graph with a few broken lines might take that much time?

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Effectiveness as a habit

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Book Review.

In the last decades, motivation literature has flourished to an unprecedented extent. This is a cultural phenomenon that cannot be missed: people have become interested in self-development, constant improvement, and success. “Ah, yes, success…”— you may sneer skeptically just as I did when I first saw the name of the book. Yet, behind the mainstream title, I found deep thoughts that are applicable in my life journey.

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Hero in you, or how to make your text easier to read

Most of us think that movies and comics are the only places where real heroes dwell. We believe that these mysterious guys just come from nowhere to save the day, and then disappear till the next time when everything goes completely wrong.

But that is not how it actually works. Real heroes surround us, and we meet them every day while commuting, working, or even drinking tea at the nearby restaurant.

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