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.

Purdue’s Online Lab: A Good Place to Approach Technical Writing

Posted on October 26, 2015
Filed Under Communication, The Writing Life | Leave a Comment


Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides virtually an online course in technical writing, free of any “charge” except for rapt attention. “These OWL resources,” says the site, “will help you conduct research and compose documents for the workplace, such as memoranda and business letters. This section also includes resources for writing report and scientific abstracts – pretty close to the definition of technical writing.

This isn’t to say, of course, that simply by scanning Purdue’s online materials you’ll become a practiced technical writer. Practice itself, preceded by an aim and sense of purpose and audience, is virtually the key to effective technical writing. But since technical writing is also orderly writing, Purdue’s Writing Lab, it appears, can be of great start-up help.

Founded as a land-grant college, Purdue evolved into a collegiate powerhouse, and not just in football.  In 1891, it “acquired a working railroad engine to mount in a newly established locomotive laboratory. It was one more step in the development of Purdue as one of the world’s leaders in engineering teaching and research.”

So spend some time at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab. There’s a proud academic tradition behind it, a polished working-level, technically astute view of the world. On Boilermakers! – Doug Bedell

Information (Most of It Anyway) Is For Sharing

Posted on October 8, 2015
Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

This needn’t be long and won’t be. But there’s a post on a blog called “Customers and Content, Ideas and opinions about customer-focused documentation” that deserves both comment and assent. The blogger, Neal Kaplan, a San Francisco Bay area technologist, is bothered by employees who hoard information, thereby withholding it from colleagues. Unintentionally and unwittingly, maybe, but they do it, and it’s wrong.

images“Information gets locked in the heads of professional services, customer support, QA, sales…” when it may have much wider organizational pertinence.When it’s not shared, what ought to be a common effort is hobbled, sometimes drastically so.

“Customer support will have a knowledge base in their support tool, professional services will have a wiki, marketing will use Slack, but there’s no central repository of corporate knowledge,” Kaplan writes. “Every team has their own knowledge base, but they might not be shared with other teams. They might not know that the other knowledge bases exist, which is why they created one in the first place.”

Teams? These aren’t teams, they’re groups of “athletes” who don’t share what ought to be common signals. Organizationally, do you think they’re scoring as effectively as they could be?

Somehow, what should be obvious, isn’t always so in organizations. Technical writers are apt to recognize information impasses sooner than others because they often poke around among departments looking for threads of a common problem.

Some material with personal or proprietary significance, of course, may not be appropriate for sharing, but that’s not what were’s talking about here. Information of enterprise-wide operational significance is what we’re concerned about.

So, share, guys share! Your organization, which represents, doesn’t it, your own future, requires it. And by the way, Neal Kaplan ought to give himself a byline on his own site. He’s got a photo posted, but you have to go to “About Me,” and then “How to contact me” and find that his email address is “” or his Twitter handle, “nealkaplan”, to find him out. Not that he’s hiding his identity, presumably. – Doug Bedell 

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