A Day in the Life of a Chocoholic….

OK, so lets step back from technical writing for a moment, and talk about chocolate.


I am a self confessed chocoholic. I know I’m not alone in this, and for those of you who don’t understand, I thought I would offer a glimpse into the mind of one.


A long time ago, it didn’t matter what type of chocolate I ate – I really didn’t know any better. Until one day, a friend suggested that in order to control my cravings, I only should eat the “good quality chocolate”. You know, like the kind you can only get from those little chocolate shops in the mall.


After a while, you can really start to tell the difference! To me, chocolate of poor quality tastes the same as eating a sugar cube with perhaps a layer of some synthetic brown material over top of it. Good quality chocolate isn’t quite as sweet, and the consistency is different. It’s smoother and melts in your mouth better.

The suggestion really did work wonders for me. In fact, I’d even say I’m a bit of a chocolate snob these days. And because of the price of all that good quality chocolate, I don’t end up eating bags and bags of it. Well except for that one time, when I ate an entire bag of chocolate covered almonds in one sitting, and got really sick, but I won’t talk about that here.

Find me on Twitter: jacbird

Various Uses of XML

It’s 11:00 pm, on a Friday night…….so why not write an article about the various uses of XML? You’ve probably heard that term before, and I’m sure you will hear it again. In my mind, it’s a way to make the information displayed on the internet more concise, searchable, and organized.

I first became interested in XML when I found out that it’s something technical writers should know, and that it had something to do with RSS feeds.

RSS Feeds:

RSS aggregator programs read RSS feeds on news sites and blog sites to allow you, the reader, to become aware of new and recent information without having to do it yourself. The RSS aggregator reads the RSS feed which is written in XML. The funny thing, is that the RSS aggregator program reads the feed in XML, but you could too, since XML is human-readable! Of course though, you’re not a robot, and so I’m sure you don’t want to be the one to scan all those feeds and see which ones are new, and then display them to the internet.


Anything about math is cool, right? Well, now they’ve figured out how to use XML to describe math formulas and bring them to the World Wide Web. And you thought you were done with math after first year calculus.

I’m pleased to tell you that the XML not only describes how math formulas should be displayed (presentation) but even what the different formula components mean (content). Read more about it at http://www.w3.org/Mathand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MathML


You can use XML to define the type of information contained in a document, and thus make that information easier to search. That is because unlike HTML, XML describes the information rather than just presents it. So for instance, you could use XML to denote that Chrysanthemum is a book title rather than a plant by using a book title tag <book_title>Chrysanthemum</book_title>.

Now a web robot would know that in this instance, Chrysanthemum is a book title and not a flower.

Other Uses:

Now what I will do, is list a few other uses of XML and send you off to learn more about them on your own. I know I’ve made XML sound so exciting, so you won’t be able to wait any longer will you?

DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture); SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics); Databases; AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML).

Find me on Twitter: jacbird

Three years of technical writing……

have been working as a technical writer for three years now. I have worked in various industries including telecommunications and environmental, but my focus and area of expertise remains with scientific, medical and health care information technology.

So, to give you a glimpse into my life as a high tech writer, here are some of my initial observations:

  • There appears to be a “technical writer personality” – talks a lot, full of ideas, somewhat extroverted.
  • Tech writers usually come from a wide variety of different work experience and educational backgrounds (i.e. no two technical writers are alike!).
  • People’s usual first response when they hear that I am a technical writer, is that it must be a boring job, which it most certainly is not!
  • Half the job involves project management and people skills.
  • If you can’t work with all sorts of people with varying backgrounds then this isn’t the job for you!
  • Old adage: Q. Who is a technical writer’s worst enemy? A. Another technical writer working in your same department / office / company.
  • No one likes the stuffy, always right tech writer who lives to correct your grammar.
  • A tech writer does a whole lot more than just writing, in fact even edging on web development, training, layout, graphic design, and interactive learning.
  • Rule of thumb: simple and clear works best (i.e. if the tech writer can understand how a program works, then you can too!).