Tim Elhajj

Off the Microsoft stack!

“Short is the New Free” and Other Delicious Bon Mots from the 2011 Writers UA Conference in Long Beach

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Last week I got to spend a few days at the 2011 Writers UA Conference in Long Beach. Great weather, good sessions. I was originally interested in the conference to understand better how to use rich media for instruction, but I found a wide variety of sessions on different topics that caught my interest.

My colleague Harry Miller is responsible for coining the phrase “Short is the new free” in his session on what the Office folks are doing around video instruction. Instead of identifying a particular length of time as short, he described “short” as being more about developing focused, relevant content that takes as long as it needs to describe any particular topic. So, for example, an eight minute video on how to install SQL Server for TFS might not necessarily be considered too long, as long as those entire eight minutes never stray too far from the topic at hand. I loved his clever turn of phrase. It wasn’t just me, either. I heard his “short is the new free” line referenced in a subsequent session by one of the fine writers from Google.

I am always a little amazed at how much interest there is in tools for producing technical writing, especially since the software industry as a whole seems to be moving away from the printed word and relying on some sort of markup language. Nevertheless, there were half-dozen vendors, from all the major tool players. For the last seven years here at Microsoft I have used internal tools for writing, but the market for technical writing tools has not changed much in my absence.

I’m sure I’ll post more thoughts about the different sessions that impressed me most in the coming days, but I wanted to get something up. One of the better sessions I attended was “Blogging for Business” by Michelle Lentz, a self-described social media trainer who maintains a nationally recognized blog on wine tasting. I don’t know anything about wine, but I would love to figure out how to develop a vibrant community around this blog. So I listened with interest as she shared her secrets for bringing  a successful blog to life. Mostly it involves work. Write a little every day. Try to offer useful content. Look for information that isn’t available anywhere else and provide that information. Sounds simple enough. Here is what I have to offer today!

This, plus a few more pictures of Long Beach that I took with my phone.

Author: Tim Elhajj

Tim is probably walking his dog.

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