Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Possible DITA specializations for research reports

In a recent blog post Michael Priestly of IBM mentioned an informal meeting he attended while at the STC Conference in Minneapolis earlier this month about the possibility of developing DITA specializations for research reports.

Michael Priestly blogging about DITA isn't remarkable of course, as he is one of the people who invented it. The remarkable thing is that the meeting he mentions was initiated by my friend Ant Davey, who is one of my colleagues on the board of the STC UK Chapter.

I am looking forward to catching up with Michael Priestly at the X-Pubs 2007 conference in Reading in about two weeks time.

I look forward to catching up with Ant as well. If he's not at the Reading conference, I am sure he'll be at the STC UK Chapter Conference on Visual Communications, which is taking place in Cambridge on 23rd and 24th June 2007.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Google changes policy on essay-writing adverts

A few weeks ago I wrote about the problem of cheating and plagiarism.

Now I learn from the BBC that Google has changed its policy on adverts for essay-writing services.

According to the BBC article, managers of some essay-writing companies say they ar running legitimate businesses, and that they always tell purchasers that essays are to be used for research purposes only. However,

[the] university organisation, Universities UK, rejected as "absurd" the claim that students would pay "hundreds of pounds for model answers" and then not "submit them as their own work".

I must say that I am delighted by Google's change of heart. I'd like to se it as another example of consumer power, like the vegetarian revolt against Mars on animal products in their chocolate bars.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Prescott's English

Deputy Prime Minister and former merchant navy steward John Prescott is to step down when Tony Blair resigns. Writing in the Independent on 16th May 2007 Andy McSmith reflected on 10 years of idiosyncratic usage in "Who needs verbs? Prescott in his own words"

Is "VE" the real threat to "TW"?

I noticed that the BBC's economics editor, Evan Davis, had a blog today about "VE" - "Value Engineering". Evans writes:
at its narrowest, value engineering is about paring costs. And that probably remains its most common everyday application: thinking about every aspect of a process and a product to deliver an objective as cost-effectively as possible

I think that's what happens quite often to my profession of technical writing ("TW" to its intimates). Once managers decide that "no-one reads the manual" - an assertion generally made without any objective evidence - then it's easy to say "we don't need to bother to write the manual" as well.
It's a huge and ongoing challenge for technical writers to demonstrate the value they do add in everything they do.