Tag Archives: writing

punk guitar

Weekly picks March 23-29

Here’s what I’m reading and listening to this past week:


Not Telling, by Alice Mattison

I wish I could say I am writing 2,000 words per day on my first novel while I’m between work assignments, but I’m not yet in that habit. Instead, I’m reading about writing and calling it creative procrastination. Truth is, if I ever am writing something big, I will probably tell no one until it’s done, not even my partner. That’s why I was pleased to come across this article about writing as a private activity: “I secretly do research, buy books and never say why, and don’t ask for information I need unless I can disguise the reason. I once went to an exhibit in a nearby city about trolley cars (I was writing a novel about them) and never told my husband I had left town that day. It is like having an affair.”

N.B. I read the New York Times a lot . So much so that I usually use up my ten free article per month. It’s probably worth subscribing. After all, I would love to get paid for writing, which means someone has to buy it, right?

I (re)learned one thing from writing 212 blog posts in 2014, by Jonathan Anthony

I saw Anthony @ThisMuchWeKnow speak at a holiday IABC event last December, and was mightily impressed. I’ve been devouring all This Much We Know posts I missed, mainly because from December – end of February I neglected my personal projects (including this site), to my own detriment. As this post concludes: “Here’s to more messing around and showing up in 2015.”

Moral Disorder, by Margaret Atwood

An actual, physical book, that I signed out physically from the public library. Don’t that beat all?  When I wandered into the central branch (AKA “Caprica City Hall” ) last week, I didn’t find any of the books actually on my list, so I put a couple of holds and went with a previously unread book by a reliable standby author. My motto is: there are so many good books I haven’t read, I don’t waste time on something that doesn’t grab me. Atwood always grabs me.


Reply All

On the recommendation of one of the other podcasts I listen to regularly, I’m catching up on Reply All, a new podcast about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. I’ve listened to the first four episodes and I’m a fan.

Los Frikis, Radiolab

punk guitarThis is an episode I would have expected from This American Life, as it is somewhat of a departure for RadioLab. I won’t give it all away, because it’s a compelling story that unfolds as you listen, but I will say it’s about the punk movement in Cuba (“frikis” is pronounced like the English”freakies”) and you should go listen to it right away.

The Journey Within, The Dirtbag Diaries

I hold onto my days spent climbing cliffs outdoors via the occasional DirtBag Diaries podcast. In this episode, Chris Kalman, a true “dirtbag,” who lives simply in order to climb more, faces a difficult choice after he commits to going to Patagonia on the climbing trip of a lifetime.

It occurs to me, after the post where I interviewed some friends about their sports injuries requiring surgery, that I could make some of my posts into podcasts. After all, Ken has a great mic around here that he uses in his teaching, and I did start out my communications career as a broadcaster …


Three tricks to writing a tech story for non-developers

NonTechAt BCcampus, we’re all about technology. Our boilerplate is: “We are an educational technology organization ensuring B.C. learners, educators, and administrators get the best, most effective technologies and services for their learning and teaching needs.”

Nevertheless, the main audience for the corporate web site consists of educators, administrators, instructional designers, librarians, and ministry officials. Not necessarily technologists, and certainly they all are people who don’t have the time to delve into the finer points of software development in a blog post. In-depth articles are therefore not normally part of our content marketing strategy.

For that reason, Pressbooks Textbooks plugin story for the corporate blog was a tricky one to write, especially as a non-developer. Here are three tricks that got me from near-complete ignorance to published article:

1. Find a great subject matter expert

Brad, my colleague who developed the plug-in, has great communication skills. He was patient and enthusiastic, not only in explaining his work to me, but in conveying the relevance of his work to the end user. He asked me after the final draft was done if I thought anyone who is not a developer would care about the plugin he developed. I assured him – although the audience for the post is probably small, it does indeed extend beyond a coder community. If I hadn’t been able to glean the story from Brad, I would have sought out someone else in the organization able to bridge the worlds of “software developer” and “the rest of us” to make the article relevant.

Because it is a really cool plug in, after all.

2. Give yourself lots of lead time

This wasn’t an article I could put together in a morning. I met with Brad, and got access to the plug-in. After he demonstrated it for me, I played around with the technology myself, then started writing. I sent that first draft to Brad, who was able to clarify some mistakes and misperceptions. What an eye opener for me to find there are some subjects I can’t grasp on the first go-round! I learned to pump up my humility levels and keep asking for clarification, rather than pretend I understood everything.

3. Focus on the benefits for the end users

I’ve touched on this in #1, but here’s the thing: we were able to answer the question “Why would people use this technology? Why is it important to our corporate goals?” If I can’t get an answer to that question, there’s no sense writing about the subject. Brad started with the end goals before he even wrote the code. This makes him not only a good communicator, but a great developer too. More of them need to practice this skill.

In the end I think we were able to come to a blog entry containing a good mix of technical detail and every day language. It’s very important to answer the “Why does this matter? Why is this relevant?” question. It extends the conversation to educators and open access advocates who are interested in exploring the ways technology supports open educational resources.


Writeaway: online tutoring support coming soon for B.C. higher education

Students at B.C. colleges and universities will soon be able to get help with their academic writing from online tutors. The service, called WriteAway, is scheduled to launch at four institutions at end of May or early June 2012.Writing graphic

“Academic writing skills are the key to success in higher education,” said Elaine Fairey, Associate University Librarian at Simon Fraser University. She explained that writing was chosen as the first provincial online tutoring subject for higher education because “the immediate bang for the buck is in writing support. There are consistent standards across institutions and good commonality among all the partners.”

College of the Rockies, Douglas College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Simon Fraser University are the first institutions to join the service, which is modeled on the province-wide online reference service AskAway. Expansion to other universities and colleges could happen as early as this fall.

Learning to write effectively and at an appropriate academic level is one of the most important skills a post-secondary learner must acquire, and one of the most challenging and in-demand. It’s a complex skill that needs to be learned and reinforced in many contexts, but the B.C. higher education system is up for the task.

“B.C.’s strength in offering a province-wide service like this is that we work together to deploy different areas of expertise to the various services – the partnership is gold,” said Ms. Fairey. The WriteAway partnership includes the participating institutions, the BC Council of Senior Student Affairs Leaders (CSSAL), the BC Electronic Library Network and BCcampus.

BCcampus will provide the software and information technology architecture that will allow tutors to staff the service, much like it does currently with the AskAway service.

“Our involvement with AskAway makes perfect sense,” said Lawrence Parisotto, BCcampus Director of Shared Services and Collaborative Programs. “It brings together institutions and partners to provide a province-wide service that no one university or college could do on its own. Many universities already have writing support and learning centres, but WriteAway will be an ‘anywhere’ service available many more hours than a single institution can offer.”

“WriteAway will be an ideal companion service to AskAway,” said Elaine Fairey. “It has the potential to be a lifesaver for many students, helping them develop a vital skill for academic and career success.”


Photo by Tony Hall, used under Creative Commons license.

Written for BCcampus, republished under Creative Commons license