Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Creating Custom Skins with Reverb, an adventure!

Posted on: August 16th, 2013

As you may or may not know, I am all about anything pink, so I decided to customize the new WebWorks Reverb skins to add each of them to be pink! Using these instructions, I began my quest to get Hello Kitty-esque themes in my project. The first and perhaps most important step in getting your custom themes created is to create different targets in the project so that the customized CSS will have a place to live:

managing_targets_pink_targets

If you are not familiar with how to add Targets, refer to this documentation on the subject. Here is also a refresher on what I am referring to when we talk about targets (versus output Formats in your project). So once we have these created in ePublisher Designer( in creating customizations like this you will need to use Designer not Express).  You will need to select the desired theme to customize  in the Target Settings, by going to Target -> Target Settings -> WebWorks Reverb -> Skin.  This will bring up a popup window that lets you select the plugin file and for the highlighted Target “WWR – MetroPink”, for example, I am chosing the WebWorks Metro Red, just because it is close to pink, but you can choose anyone you want:

selecting_skin_metro_red

Now at this point, most would start going to the CSS customizations, but for the purposes of this demonstration, we are going to continue to select the different Targets and assign different skins to them. There are 36 different color combinations, but for the purpose of the demonstration I will upload the main 4 different skins: Metro, Classic, Corporate, and Social, which doubles when you consider the compact versions of these.

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LavaCon 2012 Recap

Posted on: October 11th, 2012

LavaCon 2012 has already come and gone, and just like all of the LavaCon conferences before it, this year was fantastic! Hats off to Jack Molisani, who did a wonderful job of organizing this year’s event. It was truly a great success.

This year’s LavaCon ran from Sunday, October 7, through Tuesday, October 9. Though I always attend LavaCon, this year I was going to the conference to serve a dual role. First and foremost, I was there in my usual capacity to represent my company, WebWorks. However, in addition to this role, I was also there as a speaker for one of the LavaCon seminars on how to build profitability into your content workflow. I felt adequately prepared for both of these roles. I have been analyzing strategies and procedures for nearly twenty years now, so talking about how to align them to revenue generation in a TechPub came naturally and was a very exciting opportunity for me. I was looking forward to this conference for a long time, and I would have to say I was very uniquely, totally, absolutely not let down one bit. (Yes, I know that after reading that, you probably have a question mark in your head, but it is a private joke between me and one of my readers—if you check previous comments from past articles, I’ll bet you can figure it out.)

On day one, early Sunday morning, Jack Newman and I headed to the Austin International Airport destined for Portland, Oregon. Now don’t get your Jacks confused; Jack Newman is a WebWorks man who was there to help represent our company, while Jack Molisani is the organizer of the LavaCon event. Both Jacks did an awesome job. Jack Newman and I boarded our plane in Austin and headed west. Going west, we always gain a little time, and with the layover in Salt Lake City, Utah, I felt like I was in a scene from Groundhog Day. It was always nine o’clock in the morning. Eventually, we did manage to arrive in Portland, and what a beautiful city it is. Because of the Portland marathon that same weekend, the city was packed; people were everywhere and involved in some sort of activity. It was an absolutely fantastic way to arrive. To be honest, I was drained from the flight, but seeing so much action really got me charged up, so we set out to set up the booth in the exhibit hall before I took some time to rest and check out the schedule. Jack Molisani always does a good job of bringing topics that are bleeding edge and relevant to his conferences. The five tracks he picked for this year were:

  • Project Metrics and Development Team Management
  • Content Strategy and Content Management
  • Case Studies and Roundtable Discussions
  • User Experience and Multichannel Publishing
  • eBooks, New Media, and Mobile Devices

Jack also started the conference off this year by presenting “The State of the Industry: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” I loved it all. I could really see that everyone can sense the changes going on, and they are eager to see those changes. I think this attitude is a shift from previous years, where change has been met with a lot of resistance. One thing that really encouraged me was how may young people I met at the conference. Most of them were college students that were there on their own dime—smart kids that realize in today’s economy, they are looking to vital, growing industries to give them the edge and a better shot at employment upon graduation. I personally believe that technical communication can be that industry; we just need to change our mindset and realign our procedures to get companies to invest in what we do every day.

Day two, Monday, opened up with a keynote panel discussion: “The Content Revolution.” It was a good panel, and I liked most of the questions, but the more presentations I watched, the more I realized that we were still missing one very important topic. This stirred up my excitement level behind my presentation because I felt my presentation covered this very topic. I was scheduled to present at three o’clock that day. It was the first time I would have a co-presenter at a conference of this type. I know strategy and procedures, and I know how to generate revenue from them, but my background is in sales. I really wanted to connect with the audience, and back in June, I had been introduced to Emmelyn Wang. She writes for Dun Bradstreet, and she is also the president of the Austin STC chapter. I felt with her on my team, we would have the expertise and background to really connect with a technical communication audience. Together, we sat down and refined a message to provoke a change in the industry. We went with a different concept than handing out spreadsheets and charts, as we realized that most people in our industry do not have the mindset to talk about revenue. These conversations are had with senior-level management that result in investing dollars. In fact, the conference confirmed this notion in the sense that there were several conversations centered around ROI, and all measures were tied into cost savings. Emmelyn and I understood how critical it was to have a mindset focused on returning revenue instead of cost savings. It is the only way to get growth and an energized new base coming in. Here is an example: When you build a case study that cuts costs, and you implement it, and when you save your boss $20,000 in expenses, you are a rock star. When the next year comes around, your boss looks at you with a smile and says, “If you invest this much money into TechPubs this year, then you will get a 10% revenue increase.” Again, you execute the task, and once again you are a rock star. The following year, your boss comes to you, smiles, and says “How much do you need this year?” That is what a growth cycle feels like, and that is how we build technical communications into the most pivotal department in a company’s success.

Emmelyn knocked it out of the park! I was and am still extremely glad I was given the opportunity to present with her. I cannot wait until we get the opportunity again. I am certain that as long as we keep spreading the word of revenue, as opposed to that of cost, we can promote the changes this industry needs.

I would like to finish this post with a question that someone asked me after our presentation. They were very well aware that I was a vendor exhibiting at LavaCon, and well aware that in my presentation, I spoke more to the mindset of what we need in this industry instead of pitching my product. They wanted to know why I took this route. Here is the reason: I’m a damn good analyst. In fact, I will tell you that I am the best, and I will back it up. What I see when I look at the current state of the industry is one that is dying because it is not used to change. Yes, I understand that content changes all the time, but we get so caught up in the procedure of that changing content that we often lose sight of the other changes around us. Mobile devices will outnumber PCs 5 to 1 by the year 2014 if not sooner. Yet to this day, most people develop their content with a focus around PDF or printed output. Users are evolving beyond that, and this industry has to keep up. If we do it the right way, TechPubs can become the most profitable, most informative, and most pivotal department in a company. When that happens, you will grow, I will grow, and everyone will prosper. I am here to serve, and I am with a company that chooses to serve technical communications, so why in the hell wouldn’t I be doing this?

Recapping the 2012 Vasont Users’ Group

Posted on: October 2nd, 2012
3 Mile Island

Flew into Harrisburg, PA. on my way to the Vasont Users’ Group. One of my most favorite things about flying into this meet-up is the size of the planes going into this conference. I truly believe I’ve been in larger restrooms, but hey, it makes for an adventure. Outside of feeling every little bump the ride in is really quite remarkable. You circle around Three Mile Island where you can see the nuclear reactors. There are four stacks in all, but only two billow smoke as they produce energy. It definitely makes for a unique experience every time.

From the airport it is off to Hershey, PA. and the Hershey Lodge. We were given a very nice reception upon our arrival Monday evening. I’ve always enjoyed seeing partners and clients face-to-face. The reception provided the perfect forum for us to just relax and talk about what’s going on in the industry; what we’d like to see improved, and what we would like to get out of the conference.

Opening Session

The next morning, breakfast at the hotel and off to the conference. The opening session is always an awesome review of Vasont the company and its solutions. Here they talk about past successes and future possibilities. It’s always an informative session which sets the right tone for a lead in to the presentations and labs.

As noon rolls around everyone gears up for lunch. One of the benefits of having a conference at Hershey, is the desert. If I had a nickel for how many times I heard, “well I have been on a strict diet, but I have to take a break from it while I’m in Hershey,” I would be able to buy this town. However, it is a perfectly sane statement, because you really can’t get better chocolate in so many different ways anywhere else in the world. Even the smell of chocolate in the shampoo and conditioner was so good I had to have a taste to see if they were edible. After the 3rd bottle I determined they were not.

The Vasont User Group sessions were broken up into four different zones. Zone 1 focused on static content and dynamic deliverables. Zone 2 focused on getting the most from your translations. Zone 3 showed users how to measure success in the Vasont CMS, and zone 4 focused on using Vasont across the enterprise. I would have to say that my personal favorite was zone 1. Not just because this was the zone I was presenting to, but because of the topic. Quadralay always has its ear to the ground when it comes to technical communications. We have watched technical communication move from print, to digital, and on to Mobile. Content can now keep up with users and it’s becoming more dynamic every day. I think Vasont did a really good job informing their users about the important of this topic.

Grapevine

The first day of the conference ended with an icebreaker that really entertained the attendees, they called it Grapevine. Basically, the attendees split up into groups. The first player in the group gets a phrase in which they have to draw on a piece of paper. The player sitting next in line looks at the drawing and then writes down what phrase they think the drawing represents. That continues from player to player until everyone in the group has had a chance. It definitely generated a lot of laughter and gave everyone a really good time. By the way, if you’re curious, the phrase was, “if you pour milk on your feet, you will grow taller.” It was a really great way to end the day.

Day two started bright and early, jumping right into presentations and labs. I was slotted to give a 9:30 presentation over ROI out of your TOC. A nice crowd showed up for the presentation and it was well received. Everyone want to impact their business in a positive way, but the comment I received most after I present it, “my company would never let me do that.” It makes me realize why the industry is looked at the way it is today, however I have to respectfully disagree. Your company would let you do that, it’s just a matter of moving out of our comfort zones and presenting the business case. If you would like to see some notes form my presentation, just click here.

All in all, the Vasont Users’ Group was a great success and very informative. I can only hope that my presentation has given at least one person the confidence to start having this ROI conversation with their company. I truly believe it is an integral part of a business’ growth cycle in today’s world of business.

The Reverb Effect

Posted on: May 15th, 2011

I’ve worked at WebWorks for nearly 14 years.  In that time, content delivery costs and methods have changed significantly.  WebWorks Publisher enabled technical writers to escape the joys of hand coded WinHelp files.  Browsers opened up the web and enabled sophisticated HTML help run-times.  Google made it possible to find your heart’s desire in the world wide world.  Today, the Social Web lets you find what you need with the help of people you trust.

So all you have to do is put your content on the web…

Right?

Well…

Perhaps there are a couple of more things to consider.  Lessons learned and validated by what we experienced here at WebWorks: The Reverb Effect.

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Intermittent Issues

Posted on: May 3rd, 2011

These are always a challenge. What can make things occur at one time and not the other, and more importantly yet more confusingly why? There does not seem to be an online guide that can instruct someone on any product how to go about troubleshooting for an issue that happens sporadically.  My guess is that these happen mostly at the software level. (Don’t worry:  Engineering and Development. We still like you).  So, in my role, the process of investigation begins. In researching this subject, I realize that in the world of Software Support, that in addition to taking a mechanic’s role, we often take a bit of an investigative role.  I don’t usually have a specific order of questions, but one could say it is a 4W (minus the “Who”, because it is obviously happening to you) approach.  So, let’s begin with “Where”.  The accompanying question to where would be to be able to isolate it to where it occurs, and does this occur on just one or more systems.

Next we follow up with “When”. Inspecting the log becomes essential at this point. On the log screen you will see various stages of output generation.  Let’s say that you run across issues during the Image pipeline. If your inconsistent errors are consistently happening at the Image pipeline, most likely there is something going on with the graphic generation, which leads into the “What” question. So, in our example we determined that it happens at the graphic pipeline.  So, what aspect of the graphics are we trying to isolate? Is it an issue with the Rasterizer? These are things that can be tested by using by-reference images in your input.  Once you determine what is the cause of the graphic culprit, you can begin to ask the final question, “Why?”.  These can be as simple as needing to close a dialog box, however if you cannot figure out why it occurs, then chances are you will not be able to resolve this.  Sometimes, you might get lucky and the issue goes away, but we want a better success rate than chance.

Ultimately, the goal in Support is being able to reproduce and isolate issues. Given system specific issues, isolating is an absolute must.  How can we fix something that we know nothing about? If you have submitted a case, and it seems like we are asking many questions, there is a reason for it, and the reason is that we are trying to help you as quickly as possible.  Also, feel to share any troubleshooting insights that you have.

Installation Frustrations

Posted on: April 13th, 2011

These can happen any time, whether it is the dreaded “Object reference not set to an instance of an object” or your project encountered a problem and needs to close. They aren’t the greatest and can cause hours of issues.  The first thing that Support personnel usually think of to resolve an issue is to reinstall the software. This, unfortunately rarely works for Mac or Windows programs. I find myself getting into the trap of even trying  cleaning the registry which seems to be in the same camp of doesn’t do much.  I find that taking a scalpel to the unneeded junk in your system is the best way to get rid of the error.  It sounds scarey, but what you are getting rid of is temporary files will do the trick.  Recently, I was having difficulty opening any project due to this error:

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Somewhere between the Riveter and the Bear

Posted on: April 5th, 2011

I have no problems with being compared to sort of a mechanic. I fix things, and if I can’t fix things, chances are they are broken at the Engineering level, so I have to go back to the people who create the parts. Despite usually being outside the Scope of Support, I like to break the rules, and sometimes break the product, and have some fun with XSL projects/customizations.  Ideally, my job would be represented by this image:

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Related Links (DITA)

Posted on: March 25th, 2011

I just put up a wiki page with an example of adding titles to related-links > linkpools (that’s mouthful, and a strange one at that:)) in DITA.  This solution exposes the little known, and perhaps less used, markopen attribute in default.wwconfig. (more…)

Localization Tidbits

Posted on: December 13th, 2010

This is one of the more complicated aspects of support for ePublisher as it in encompasses every part of the process: Input (which version of FrameMaker are you running), Generation (what language and what operating system are you using) and Output (does the format have the proper support of Unicode, for example).  David Shaked, of AlmondWeb, has a great wiki article here on what you should do for localizing information through the process of input -> output. Also, sense we primarily have web-based outputs, we have to take into account the browser that you are using.   Firefox can handle different languages and wingding fonts then Internet Explorer. This can be a challenge, but if you have access to VM’s and the language packs, it will make troubleshooting a little bit easier.

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WebWorks FTP Deployment (Experimental)

Posted on: December 7th, 2010

We just posted an application and wiki entry for a new experimental FTP deployment client for ePublisher. Anyone interested in using FTP(S) for deployment, please give it a go and give us feedback.  Please comment either on the wiki page or this blog post.