Spring is in the air

Well, I’m back from my week in Florida and my week in Memphis and spent the last 2 weeks playing catch-up at work, at home, in my social life, etc.  I had a complete blast during my vacation and the conference.  It’s always so hard to come back to work and “the real world” after such a great time away.  I’m already trying to plan my next vacation and use the free flight vouchers that we got for switching our flight.  I’m thinking Vegas perhaps?  Any recommendations are welcome.

Since I’ve been back from the conference, I have been writing session summaries for Tech Writer Today Magazine, so I apologize, but I haven’t been blogging as much.  Things have been pretty crazy.  We just launched a new software release at work and we are in the beginning stages of development in a new application.  So much to do!

Since I am new to software, I am really enjoying seeing the entire product development life cycle.  This project is the first one that I will see start-to-finish.  I’m learning a lot about writing requirements and use cases, as well as doing wireframing (mockups) and designing the User Interface.  I love that since I work for such a small company, I am an integral member of the UI design team and get to have a say and an impact on what the application will do and how it will look.

I started using the program Balsamiq to do the mockups of the UI.  I’m finding the program to be incredibly easy and fun to use.  It’s a simple interface with a ribbon at the top that contains all of the UI elements and you just drag and drop.  It’s perfect for UI design because it isn’t so specific that developers will get hung up on the details of every little thing.

Aside from the fun new things I get to do at work, my husband and I have enjoyed some nice, unseasonably warm weather in Boston.  We had a few days in the 70’s and even 80’s (gasp!) before things cooled back down to the 40’s.  It’s given me hope that this Spring and Summer will be quite enjoyable here and will feel more like home to us.

Day 3 at the WritersUA Conference

Day 3 was the longest day of the conference with sessions starting at 8:30 am and running until 4:00 pm.  I attended 6 sessions:

  • Getting Started with UA for Mobile Applications
  • Best Practices for Working with Video and Compression
  • Influencing Product Direction
  • Needs Analysis for UA Professionals
  • Using Iterative Design and Usability to Create Intuitive Applications
  • Integrating Help, Technical Support, and Training Content

Some of the other really popular and “tweet-worthy” sessions were the one on Neuroscience Research, eBooks, and gamification and comics topics.  If I could’ve attended more sessions, I would’ve, but you can only attend 1 out the 3 that take place in the same time block.  I attended the ones that were most relevant to the work I’m doing now, but would’ve liked to check out those other ones as well (luckily they gave each of us a flash drive that has all of the presentation slides on it!).

The best session I attended yesterday was the one on Integrating Help, Technical Support, and Training Content.  I really liked his strategy for using a landing page like a “Help Center” where all of the help content and training material, tutorial/training videos are all in one place.  This makes it so much easier for both us and the user.  The mobile session was great, but unfortunately I don’t see myself working with mobile devices in the near future at my current job – our customers are government employees.  The video session was REALLY informative.  I learned so much about video file formats, compression, screen resolution ratios, audio quality, etc.

We had another great networking lunch with topic tables.  I sat at the Blog/Podcast table (naturally), and had great conversations with fellow bloggers.  Then it was on to more sessions and finally we headed out to the famous Beale Street for dinner and some people went on a Pub Crawl.

We went to Silky O’Sullivans, which was an outdoor bar/restaurant with a live goat pen with a sign that read “Beware of the Irish Diving Goats.”

I had a great time there because I met a lot of interesting people and had great conversations.

I met several people from Microsoft and Dell and found out some insider perspective on working for a software powerhouse.  The common thread:  they are surprisingly more restrictive and closed-minded that you would think.  You hear stories about Google and Facebook’s free and fun work environment and assume that all major technology companies are like-minded, but that is not the case.

Day 1 at the WritersUA Conference

I arrived in Memphis today (after a 6 hour flight delay and 2 time changes) and checked in at the Peabody Hotel for the Writers UA Conference. From the minute my taxi pulled up to the golden front doors (held open for me by doormen in bright red uniforms), I knew I was about to enter a historic and opulent landmark.  The main lobby has the charm of the south mixed with the grandeur of a historical museum.

Twice daily, the famous Peabody ducks parade from the rooftop to the main fountain.  These ducks set the tone and theme for the entire hotel.  Almost everything inside my room has a duck on it (including duck-shaped soaps in the bathroom).

After getting settled into my beautiful room, I met the Tech Whirl (Tech Writer Today Magazine) team face-to-face for the first time (I am covering the event for them with a team of other writers, as you will have learned in my previous post).  Having video chatted with them a couple of times online via skype and google+ hangout, it was really easy to tell them apart from the crowd. We went to a local bar, called “Local,” for a drink and to get to know each other a bit. Then we went to Central Barbeque for delicious pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, and life-changing banana pudding.  It was a nice way to end a long day of traveling.

I’m really looking forward to the sessions tomorrow! Good night!

Preparing for the Writers UA Conference

This week I am preparing my trip to Memphis for the Writers UA Conference.  I leave tomorrow for a week in Florida for a friend’s wedding and to visit family.  Since we didn’t get to come home for the holidays, we decided to extend our trip for the wedding so that we could sneak in some time with them.  At the very end of our trip to FL, I will be leaving for my trip to Memphis.  Packing for this trip is quite the challenge.  I will be going to the beach, theme parks, a wedding, and a professional conference (and I’m trying to do it all in 2 small carry on bags).

I have planned which seminars I am going to attend and cover for the magazine, researched some local restaurants and bars in Memphis, and even found out about the famous Peabody Hotel duck parade.  I’ve never been to a conference like this before, so I am very excited and nervous.  I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I think it will be an incredible learning experience.  My goal is to someday present at a conference like this, so I’m sure I will also get a lot of inspiration on this trip.

I will be blogging about the conference here as well as writing session summaries for Tech Writer Today Magazine. So stay tuned for the latest and greatest insider info on what’s happening in Memphis!

The Benefits of Google +

Last week I attended my first google + hangout and found it to be a really interesting networking and collaboration tool.  Myself and about 6 other writers from Tech Writer Today Magazine (Tech Whirl) met for a video conference call to discuss the upcoming Writers UA conference and March story ideas. Some of the main features that will benefit users both personally and professionally are as follows:

Video Chatting: The video chatting feature is very similar to skype.  It displays all of the user’s webcam video windows at the bottom of the page and each time a person speaks, it automatically moves their video window up to the top front-and-center.  It then automatically switches back and forth between people’s videos as they talk.

Simultaneous Document Sharing/Editing: During the meeting, we shared a text document and were able to simultaneously edit it. Each person’s cursor and edits were color-coded, had their name above it, and were displaying in real-time.  Very cool.

Integration with Google+ Circles:All of the google applications are fully integrated with one another.  Google+, Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, etc are all connected.  You can send a google+ hangout invite to someone’s gmail, they can accept, put it on their google calendar, attend the hangout, and connect with all the participants in google+ and add them to their circles.  Circles are the best part about Google+, and largely the main appeal of the site.  We already naturally compartmentalize the various social groups and aspects of our lives, so why not do it in our web interactions as well?  Circles allow you to filter what you post to different circles of people (work colleagues, friends, family, etc).  It also allows you to view the news feed of the circles individually or all at once.

Google is quickly emerging as the one-stop-shop in communication and collaboration tools (and it’s free too!).  Between gotomeeting, skype, and google+ hangouts, people can communicate, collaborate, and share ideas easily and seamlessly.  Each of the writers in the hangout were spread out all over the country and were able to sit and chat as if we were all sitting in the same room.

Google+ was originally a posh, invitation-only social network that thought it was better than everyone else, but now it has come off of its high horse and accepts all users with open arms.  A lot of people were skeptical of it when it first came out, saying “I already have a Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, I don’t need another social networking site,” but now I think more people and companies have seen the benefits of using it.