Hello! Allow me to introduce myself.
After a couple decades of developing software solutions, I turned to technical communication hoping to do good work from a different angle. A few years after that, I ventured into sociology and, more specifically, communication. One thing I've learned is that information and business problems are characterized entirely by how we perceive them. There is no base reality in this domain that we can strive to identify, the physics of underlying technologies notwithstanding. Problems are constructed and deconstructed according to socialized patterns, which influence how problem solvers work, and how so-called solutions are bought and sold. Progress, in modern software development process, is focused largely on efficiency of solution production, which is not so cynical as one might think.
My current day job is about facilitating the inception of IT service requests for Shared Services Canada. I spend my time gathering costs for requested services and organizing them to be useful in creating agreements with customers and arranging for financial management. Just over four years ago, I came off six years of work for an enterprise that engineered electronic health records systems. I started as a technical writer and ended as pusher of knowledge management. I also instructed an undergrad course in Organizational Communication for a few years - wonderful experience. These roles may sound incongruous to some extent, but the underlying communication rubrics (for organizations, groups and individuals) coupled with significant experience in the business of information technology continue to bind my actions to my interests.
Review of Leuchtturm A5 Hardcover Notebooks
May 10, 2016
Updated on December 5, 2016 to reflect my finding of paper quality variance across journal versions
I come from Moleskine notebooks, large (A5ish), with a grid. My little adventure with fountain pens has been conditioned by a search for pen/nib/ink combinations that wouldn't bleed through Moleskine paper. A big part of my motivation for moving to Leuchtturm notebooks was to walk-away from this bleeding problem. More ...
A story about journaling
April 14, 2016
Given the apparently vast interest in journaling, bullet journaling, pens, fountain pens, ink and various aspects of the disappearing art and skill of chirography, I decided that there might be an audience for my thoughts on these powerful matters. So, here is my story of journaling, with plenty of references to the tools and gizmos I have adopted, created, used, settled-on, and come to over the years. Reader beware: if these subjects are not intrinsically interesting to you, reading this may have permanent negative side effects.
Can there be too much banjo
February 15, 2016
This is the biting question for people who aren't professional musicians or don't have 2 or 3 hours each evening to spend sitting on a porch in South Carolina. Among those who know me, it's no secret that I've taken up the banjo. It's been about 20 months now since my family bought me my first one and I've recently taken the leap and bought a somewhat better one. The banjo is probably one of the easiest major instruments to get a pleasing sound from. But, like the other "major" instruments, it takes a lot of work to master. More ...
I'm blogging again and our dog
February 14, 2016
You'd think I'd have had enough of this a long time ago. I think what I was doing wrong was that I tried to tackle a particular subject domain. It may seem reasonable to do just that, but not to someone who has something to say about a lot of different things. So, I'll just write about what comes to mind. More ...
I was regaling my students with hints and ideas about their upcoming course, and I told them that Organizational Communication is something of a sleeper subject. It doesn't seem, at first, to be that crucial or difficult. It turns out, though, that understanding the nature of systems and cultures that are organizations is to see the forest and the trees. And working in this subject draws on a wide range of concepts and influences. There are only a few good texts that address the subject explicitly, although the applicable material found in business, communications, sociology and systems, is boundless.
"What is organizational communication?"
I see four kinds of communication that professional communicators are generally concerned with:
- Business communication
- This is the kind of communication that any business can get excited about. It's about communicating, for any reason, accurately and efficiently. Think about meetings, emails, press releases, etc. The idea is to directly impact the bottom line by doing a good job of using various communication instruments, and active techniques.
- Enterprise communication
- This used to be called public relations. It's about managing communications between an organizational entity and its various (so-called) stakeholders. You do this by establishing and maintaining relevant, well-oiled communication channels with those stakeholders before you need them.
- Technical communication
- This is about transferring knowledge in various forms, using various media and processes, about anything that people need know - so much more than mere documentation. This being one of my specialties, having worked in it for a couple decades, I cover it explicitly in one of the subject boxes (below).
- Organizational Communication
- This is the general subject taught at the university level in applied social science programs. While I can get excited about business communication because it would be a cool way to earn money, it's the prospect of applying research and broadening the world view of business people that really gets me going.
This has become a large, complex concern, way beyond just plain old "documentation", in response to the demands of both sophisticated and (tragically) unsophisticated consumers. We're not pandering to these people, but wielding technology and a sociologically-based understanding of their legitimate needs to obtain and manage information. The technical communicator's responsibility is to deliver complete and accurate information in a medium that promotes consumption by a given audience, and in a timely manner.
Knowledge management (KM) is normally considered to be part of organizational communication, since it largely consists of communication practices. I extract it here as distinct in its practical, formal role in the organizational world. My definition of the KM domain is much broader than you are liable to encounter elsewhere and my approach to promoting it consequently different.
Mad About Media
Pun intended. Most understand "media" to be "news media" - newspapers, television, radio. Computer techies see media as disks and memory sticks. Network engineers think Ethernet, wireless and broadband. Sociologists: anything that can carry a message - so books, billboards, email, photographs, etc. Cognitive science folks see media as extensions of mind, such as tools or our hands. Yes, yes. Point of view is everything.
The Soft Tool Culture
The materials, tools and media with which a culture operates circumscribe the technical, social and intellectual attributes of that culture. In the case of our modern, globalized, capitalist society with personal and business computers everywhere connected to the Internet, almost every aspect of our lives now depends on (and is controlled through) those computers - devices driven by the only artifact that is at once language and industrial tool: software.