Push vs. Pull on the Internet

A long time ago, I don’t think people gave push vs. pull systems too much thought when it came to the internet.  You searched for information via a search engine, visited web sites and checked your email.  Now, however, it seems that we are presented with two overall systems for accessing the information we want.

Push vs. Pull (as defined by me):

Push: The internet or program pushes the information to YOU.

Pull: YOU go and search for the information you want or need.

If you are interested to know how Wikipedia defines it (as marketing or supply chain terms) visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/push-pull_strategy

So based on the definitions given above, let’s look at a few examples:

– RSS Feeds
– SharePoint intranet portal (with or without alerts)
– FaceBook
– Email
– Internet Searching

Internet Technology Push / Pull Reason
RSS Feeds Push You sign up for which RSS feeds you want to receive, by using your favourite aggregator (such as the built-in Latest Headlines aggregator of Firefox, or a job search aggregator, or Bloglines, FeedDemon, or Google Reader ).
SharePoint Intranet Portal Push or Pull depending on whether or not you use alerts If you are using SharePoint for your company intranet or knowledgebase portal, this is basically a pull system, unless you are using alerts to alert you of new content added – then it becomes a push system.
FaceBook Push In my opinion, FaceBook is a push system, because of the frequency in which people update their status updates and add content.
Email Push Email is a push system, especially if you receive newsletters or articles via email, and it also depends on the frequency in which you check it.
Internet Searching Pull Google and Internet Searching is pull, since you are entering in a sequence of search terms, and pulling in the information you requested.

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An Overview of Document Types….

I thought it would be helpful to write about the different document types I have encountered while working as a technical writer in various industries (environmental, telecommunications, medical software, medical communications, etc.).

I have made an attempt to define the documents based on my own ideas about them. The text in red was added in after googling the search term define: [document type].

White Paper: almost like a marketing piece / proposal type of document. Its purpose is to outline in great detail new technologies or existing technologies in order to present the information to some third party who usually has a stake in funding for that project. “Used to educate readers and help people make decisions.” “A purpose to educate industry customers.”

End-User Manual: aimed towards end-users of a software program or other piece of technology. The audience can vary in technical aptitude from absolute beginner to advanced.

Release Notes: outlines all new features of an updated version of software. Usually with a table of contents and brief paraphrase of all new features. From Wikipedia: “A release note is usually a terse summary or recent changes, enhancements and bug fixes in a particular software release.” “Not a substitute for user guides.”

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions. A compilation of questions about a piece of software or a system in a question & answer format. Best if based on real life questions asked by customers / clients.

Data Sheet: OK, this one I haven’t actually ever had to do before……but it seems to keep popping up. So from Wikipedia: “A document summarizing the performance and other characteristics of a component (i.e. an electronic component), a sub system (i.e. a power supply) or software in sufficient detail to be used by a design engineer to design the component into a system.”

Online Video: These, I absolutely just love! A short segment, usually running from 3 to 6 minutes in length with a purpose to demonstrate / visually show how something works. This could be how to use a component of the software, how to carry out some kind of procedure or function, or really anything under the sun where the user could get a better idea by watching rather than reading about it.

Find me on Twitter: @jacbird and @masitblog

How to work well with others (as a technical writer)….

In my three years of working as a technical writer, surprisingly, I have learned a few things about working well with others. I didn’t think that would be such a huge part of the job, but it has proven itself to be time and time again. So, I present you with a few tips and tricks that I have learned.

  • Listen well and good to what the other person is saying
  • Try to not make assumptions about what they are saying
  • Don’t judge people based on what you think you might know about them. Basically, try to treat everyone the same way.
  • Try to offer prompt, good quality and cheerful service that people can rely on
  • You will find yourself working with people from all walks of life and cultures. It’s sometimes hard not to make judgments, but it’s the worst thing you can do
  • Chill out and don’t be a stress case when working with people. It’s not rocket science (unless of course, it is)
  • Be patient with people and respect their time; plan around them if you have to
  • I heard this on the radio once, but I’ll repeat it here: you can’t go wrong with tact, diplomacy and respect

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