I’ve finally hit a tipping point. I was reading the headlines in PlanetLotus.org this morning and the content immediately set off alarms.
Having been on both sides of the fence so to speak – both as a customer who wasn’t connected to the “yellowverse” per se and as someone who now has a network of peers who are business partners and leaders in the Lotus community, I can see how the average customer may be totally confused by what they read here.
There are headlines posted here prior to product release date that allude to features or entitlements. And these postings are such that the tone implies the author is privy to information that hasn’t been posted publicly yet and that they speak as an expert.
This is exactly what concerns me. What is the point of signing a non-disclosure agreement and agreeing to be a business partner or a beta participant if you’re going to disclose confidential material? Yes, I understand that at a point during a beta program, participants are encouraged to blog about their experience with the product. But this goes beyond that. How is the average customer supposed to discern what is fact and what is fiction?
Perhaps it comes down to ethics. What is the motivation for blogging? Do we as bloggers on Planet Lotus post to draw attention to our ourselves, our companies or services? Or do we blog to relay what we consider to be important information? Or are we blogging for the “betterment of the community”?
And if you’ve been paying attention to the latest announcements by Amazon regarding their new Kindle Tablet, it seems this same sort of behavior happens in other “communities” other than just this one. Bloomberg scooped info on the Kindle prior to the announcement. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-28/amazon-unveils-199-kindle-fire-tablet.html
At one point I blogged about what headlines would make blog post go “hot” on PlanetLotus. And perhaps my headline got your attention as well! Some of those same suggestions still seem to be true. As readers we’re naturally drawn to a sensational heading or title. We can’t help it!
Perhaps my point in writing this is just a call out for bloggers to remember that what we write is public, searchable and printable. And that we should fact check before we hit publish.
Tom ‘Duffbert’ Duff and I put together a BOF at Lotusphere 2011 about technical writing. I’ve recently been asked again – how does one get started with writing a technical article or book and I thought I’d share some of our bullet points from that session.
When you’re writing for a technical audience, be it a white paper, article, or book, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Know your audience – senior management or users?
- Know your material – and give credit where credit is due. If you’re presenting your own material be sure to say so, but also if your writing includes information from someone else be sure to give that person recognition.
- Be specific and minimize use of acronyms – not everyone knows them.
- If you blog (and you should), treat it as a constant advertisement for your skills in writing. That may be how you receive your first writing assignment.
- Make liberal use of your spelling and grammar checker.
- Focus on positive ideas.
- Don’t try to be overly funny in your writing. It may not transfer over well to other cultures.
- Read! Pay attention to trends, content, writing styles. You’ll learn a lot from other writers!
- Pick up and read some basic books on writing:
- The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
- The Elements of International English Style by Edmond H. Weiss
- Rules for Writers by Diana Hacker
- Practice some of the basic errors that catch writers: its/it’s, their/they’re/there, theirs/there’s.
- Start writing and contributing NOW:
- Blogs (yours or guest authoring)
- Lotus wikis
- Technical newsletters (DeveloperWorks, LotusUserGroup.org, technical publications)
- Contact industry publications and ask about freelance policies
- Start small and work your way up. Don’t expect your first writing effort to result in a book.
If you’re thinking about submitting a proposal for a technical book or article some items to include are:
- Topic Summary
- A “sell line” – why would someone want to buy this book?
- Sales features – would you include code or additional download?
- Chapter outline – probably one of the most important steps, this should be very detailed!
- Page counts – Yes page counts – publishers like to have an idea as to how long the book will be to gauge their publishing costs.
- Schedule – how long do you think it will take you to write?
- Related titles – what other titles are available that may compete?
- Target audience
- Market information – are you writing about a specific product, if so what is the market for the product and is a book necessary.
- Author information – include your credentials! What makes you the expert to write the book!
- Promotion – some ideas for promoting the book.
- Reviewers – suggest some names for the publisher. Don’t assume they have a pool of reviewers, especially for niche products.
Writing is not easy, but it is one of the most fulfilling things you can do! So start scribbling and who knows where it might take you!
My third article in the series of three: “Chasing the Cloud: Part 3: Migrating Your Users and Data” has just been published online in THE VIEW. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here: “Chasing the Cloud: Part 2: Plan and Prepare for Moving your Domino Environment to the Cloud” “Chasing the Cloud Part 1: What Domino Administrators and Managers Need to Know.” This site does require a subscription. If you’re new to THE VIEW – this is one of the leading resources for technical content for all IBM/Lotus products.