After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Notations on Note-Taking

Posted on March 14, 2014
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The value of note-taking can be enhanced if your notes are taken mindfully, rather than merely routinely. That’s to say, annotating technical notes while they’re still fresh and prompting new insights can extend their reach and value.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 12.14.48 PMWe’re glad to see T. R. Girill pick up on the value of mindful note-taking in a post on edutopia. He reminds us that Henry David Thoreau’s artfully taken field notes on the flowering times 0f 500 plants near Concord, MA, in 1851-58 “are still used today for comparison with current climate-change data.”

Even so, as Girill adds, though most notes are made for use by the note-taker only, they can have enhanced value by being promptly perused and expanded on virtually on-the-spot. Don’t do anything, one might add, simply to risk letting it go stale.

Girill’s reference is to Erick Greene’s chaper (Ch. 12) in Michael R. Canfield’s book on Field Notes on Science and Nature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). Greene is a biology professor at the University of Montana, who urges science students, Girill observes, “to widen the scope of their note-taking to extend beyond just observations or numerical data” to include such enhancements as memory and organizational aids, commentary, interpretation and conjecture.

There’s no time like when the pen is “hot” to dash off such additional insights. That’s know as being truly engaged in your work. Jot down your enhancements in the margin of your page, or wherever there’s white space to profit from. – Doug Bedell

How’s Your Freezer Looking (or Sounding) Today?

Posted on March 4, 2014
Filed Under Communication, Technology | Leave a Comment

Gupreet Singh on Technical Writing ToolBox provides an interesting post on adding sounds to technical manuals. That’s right, here’s what a properly functioning home freezer should sound like – and hissing or blubbing sounds, among others, are “pictured”. Pretty creative, was our first impression.

fridgeYet the mind wanders. I thought (briefly) about  how you’d go about depicting the sounds from the equipment in an operating nuclear power plant and realized, from the plants I’ve been in, that the roaring turbine generators, or steam hissing through overhead piping, just about overpowered everything else. On the other hand, though, the control rooms are quiet sanctuaries. But why distract the operators with pictures of normal background sounds they’re quite accustomed to? Documenting directions is one thing, sounds another.

Maybe, indeed, illustrated sounds should be left to consumer product manuals, where the new owners are expecting to hear only a hum from their new freezers or refrigerators. And why should that be an unreasonable expectation?  – Doug Bedell 

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