May 5

Information Developer or Content Developer?


Paul Noth's Duck Gods vs Rabbit Gods war
“Okay folks, it’s purple vs green again ….”

Once upon a time, I was a technical writer. My friends were technical writers. My bosses were (usually) technical writers, or, had been, once upon a time.

I was pretty busy honing my trade, so I didn’t give much thought to what we wrote versus, say, what the Education folks wrote. Or the Marketing department put together. Those sell sheets came from somewhere, sure. We’d check for technical accuracy and contribute as SMEs for certification classes and exams, but other than that, our paths rarely crossed.

My boss at the time was quite adamant that Education and Technical Writing should be distinctly separate. I was new, I was learning the industry, and I took her word for it and filed the information away for later. I get it, now, but I didn’t then.

Later on, my colleagues at Citrix started calling us Tech Writers something else — Information Developers. There were many things going on then, so I didn’t give it much notice. After all, our employee records still said Technical Writer. I’ve recently noticed Citrix finally officially fixed that, and they’re all Information Developers now (yay!).

But over a decade on from those first discussions of the term Information Developer, I’m seeing movement towards calling Technical Writers by a new name … Content Developers.

The big BUT is … content isn’t always information and information isn’t always content. And this further on into my career, with exposure to much more than Read Mes and technical dictionaries, I can really see that.

I wonder if my colleagues heading down the Content Developer path aren’t headed in the wrong direction? Focusing less on the information aspect of writing?

From working with them, I know they aren’t actually working less with information. Many of them still wrangle direct, specific, technical information that users and administrators and software developers need. They aren’t focusing any less than Information Developers on architecting information properly, or organizing it in a way that makes sense for users. And we’re all doubling down on “touch once” and content management systems, and producing presentation-independent documentation.

But in branding with “Content Developer” rather than “Information Developer”, I think they’re treading on a fuzzier path. Maybe it’s my perception alone that “information” is something you use, and “content” is closer to entertainment and lighter on information. A more casual way of communicating.

And, from my recent reading, the term Content Developer is being used more and more heavily in marketing by copywriters to expand their explanations of what they do in an expanding environment of available work. So I’m not saying the term Content Developer is a bad thing, just that someone else got there first.

Maybe I’m just worried that Content Developer vs Information Developer devalues what Technical Writers do. Especially with the whole Epic lawsuit going on.

Maybe it’s just ducks vs rabbits … and there shouldn’t even be a ‘war’.

Category: Data Architecture, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Information Developer or Content Developer?
May 2

What a drag it is getting old

I’ve been yapping about the new Apple TV lately; mostly because I’ve been the one using the remote. Usually I just watch everyone else struggle with it and complain. And we aren’t all that old! Though we’re getting there.

It’s not that we fear change

Yeah, I hate it when things change. I was a diehard Windows 98 user. For a while you were not getting me away from WindowsXP. I still have Office 2003 installed on this very Windows 7 laptop. It really took a lot of being annoyed to recently request I have Office 2013 installed on my work computer if we ran out of other ways to fix the problem. And I got annoyed enough at “live photos” that I deactivated it as soon as I realized why my pictures were all “screwed up”.

But we aren’t all exactly like whomever is beta testing the hardware over at Apple’s main nerve center.

I realized this because I actually had to dig up and use the Apple TV remote to test my last couple of posts on this subject. “Dig up” because I don’t actually use it. We programmed the Apple TV to accept commands from my “dumb” IR TV remote.

Then I lost my “dumb” remote. Maybe with practice and no other options, I can learn to use the slick new Apple TV remote, but I really dislike the design and current use enough that I really don’t want to.

Annoying! The Apple TV remote is annoying.

Honestly, if I hadn’t been able to program the Apple TV to accept data from my “dumb” remote, I probably would never use the Apple TV at all. I’d watch things on my phone or read a book.

But if Apple follows my suggestions (or takes them and turns them into something even amazingly more funderful), we also have to remember the dumb remotes.

Just like one can set the click speed on a mouse or the touch sensitivity/help on an iPhone, do it on the Apple TV, too. For all kinds of remotes.

Siri, help me set up my remote

So you’ve done a few things to let us customize our experience, Apple, because you read my first two posts and shifted your agile teams into high gear to get right on it. Like one in fifty nerdly geeks have programmed in our favorite shortcuts and you have lots of data. Take that data, and use it to build onramp protocols for Siri to use.

Guide a user through a friendly questionnaire at first, to set up the most basic functions. If they want to “expand it”, walk through setting up long clicks or assistive clicks. Then, no matter what remote they use, (annoying Apple TV one, “dumb” IR remote, or their iPhone/iPod) they have a non annoying experience.

Don’t let Siri guess too hard

But don’t push it too far. Don’t let the “AI” style programming make all the decisions. Feel out what your users want, and ease them into it. It’s been about twenty years since someone taught me how to dial a cell phone (type in the number, press the green “send” button). I don’t like being told “this is the only way to do this”, but I also know we can’t fall into the trap of infinite customization. In that way lies madness … and I spent enough years trying to wrangle the madness of infinite customization into mere user guides for mere mortals.

Category: Apple, Free Beta Testers, hardware, User eXperience | Comments Off on What a drag it is getting old
April 28

Next on my list, Apple … UNDO! UNDO!

The night after I wrote up the post about looping us nerdy geeks into customizing our Apple TV software and doing all kinds of beta testing for your UX team, I fell asleep to a movie. Not too unusual; my days have been long as we get more sun and a great movie can help me wind down after a particularly productive day.

The next time I opened Apple TV ….

It wanted to show me my movie again. Which can be cool. I’m the kinda nerdling that can watch the same movie a couple times in a row. But getting out of the movie screen was …


Many many clicks, many many things. I could enumerate the steps but it’d require me falling asleep to Interstellar tonight. And remembering to amend this post in the morning. No thanks.

How about this?

  1. Click to wake up the Apple TV.
  2. Long-click the menu (reverse last order) button to pop all the way out back to the home screen.

Or double-click. Or triple click! Or whatever else I customize and record.

Just like last time, it would make this user happy. And it would make the process designer in me ecstatic. All those Apple TVs out there, and one in what, fifty super user geeks like me making their own design decisions? I can imagine getting my hands on that kind of data as a UX person: How the super user geek uses the Apple TV to improve the design for all users.

Come on, Apple. Give us some code! Beta nerds, beta testers, rah, rah, rah!


*I know that a lot of the architecture is very response based — so a lot of my ideas may not even be implementable. I’d have to crack open an SDK (if there is one) to even see if there’s an appropriate call and response or way to queue up commands so they aren’t “lost” as the Apple TV box takes its time loading up the right screen via the internet ….

Category: Apple, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on Next on my list, Apple … UNDO! UNDO!
April 25

The JawboneUP doesn’t wake me any more

I bought the original JawboneUP. And held onto it while they retooled it, and made it last until the second generation of sturdier stuff became available (trading back my old one).

Then came UP24. Neat! Bluetooth! Kind of annoying at times, but otherwise neat. Until it died.

I wasn’t going to buy another one; I went back to the second UP, waiting for UP2 and UP3.

I bought the UP3 and returned it immediately when I heard it wasn’t quite all baked. Not that I needed to know my heart rate, but still … why not wait until it was better?

And last month, I bought an UP2. I gave it a week, but ultimately returned it.

I do like that each generation is more sensitive to my sleep patterns (and I like to track my numbers and see if things I do improve it). But the UP2 doesn’t work for my heavy sleeping.

It’s too easy to turn off and fall right back asleep. What am I going to do when all the “old” UP hardware is too far gone and I don’t have the lovely “shake awake” feature that wakes me and not my bed partners anymore?

Category: hardware, User eXperience | Comments Off on The JawboneUP doesn’t wake me any more
April 22

Waze should have laughed at me.

The privacy-aware side of me was a bit freaked out the first time my phone decided to let me know that if I left for work right now I’d probably be on time.

Information my phone gives me
“Shouldn’t you be heading out soon?”

It knew, though it didn’t know why, that I tended to do a weird morning routine. Loop through the school parking lot at 7:10, drive to the grocery store at 7:15 and park, do a loop-de-loop around the school parking lot again at 8:10, before finally heading into work by 9:00. Fuh-reak-y.

But carrying around a cell phone is a walking, talking, data-collecting elephant to begin with. What’s a little more data? That useful part of it makes the data and usability nerd in me happy.

Hyper-Realtime Traffic Info

I got to thinking about the head to head race I had this Easter Sunday. I was thinking about it as I was running errands at lunch, my usual use of that hour. Did I have time, I asked Waze, to skedaddle west eight miles and south ten miles to pick up paperwork from a medical office?

Waze assured me in it’s non-judgemental way that I’d be held up by rail crossing closures and heavy lunch time traffic. And, oh yeah, a huge festival (one of what, 50 this year?) that had a major arterial road blocked off for at least half a mile. I might make it ….

What it didn’t tell me, but I remembered in time, is that the office closes every day for lunch. I put that errand off for another day.

But what if Waze was hooked into NAP data, too?

I gave Waze the address of the place I wanted to go by sending it information I dug by hand from my contacts list. But what if I were able to send that info automatically? And put hours into my contact information for someone? Say, that the office opens at 9am and closes from 12:30 to 1:45 for lunch? We could Waze could read that, too, and then laugh at me tell me I was attempting a fool’s errand.

Or even better; if Waze was hooked into Google’s NAP data, with open and shut times? I wonder if it even supports “siesta” times? It’d be darn helpful if it did.

Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Google, User eXperience | Comments Off on Waze should have laughed at me.
April 19

Organic Bouquet, why can’t I quit you?

This email was sent by: Organic Bouquet
555 Winderley Place Suite 129 Maitland, FL, 32751, USA

You were sent this message because you previously expressed interest in Organic Bouquet or Organic Style. If you no longer wish to receive our e-mail advertisements, simply unsubscribe.

Please do not reply to this e-mail as we are not able to respond to messages sent to this address. For further questions, please email

I’ve got about 300 emails not yet deleted, dating back to 2011. Every few months I click “unsubscribe” and it tells me I’ve unsubscribed and how sorry they are to see me go.

And then a few days later, I get another email ….

I’ve called. I’ve emailed. I’ve clicked to unsubscribe.

Organic Bouquet, why can’t I quit you?

Image of a long list of emails from Organic Bouquet.
National Smoke & Mirrors day, you say?
April 15

What’s in a name? A Bluetooth by any other name would be so much sweeter.

I like having lots of Bluetooth devices. When I bought my Prius ten years ago, I figured I’d never need Bluetooth phone connection, so I didn’t upgrade to that package. Big mistake. Now Bluetooth rules my life and my devices.

Image of iPhone Bluetooth options screen.
Even my backups have backups.

As you can see by the screenshot, I have BlueDotSound speakers. They’re pretty neat; they allow me to be LazyMom and wake the kids remotely. Click to connect to BDS, start streaming roosters and cool music to wake them up. Stream fog horns and The Itsy Bitsy Spider when they are moving too slow.

The P311s are pretty nice, too. Cute headphones (though I’ve worn the fake leather off of the ears). But I can’t tell which pair is the green and which pair is the black. Clicking to pick one on this screen is a crapshoot. Often times I’ll just delete them both, and go through pairing just to pick the “right” one.

I only have one BDS “discovered” at the moment. One is upstairs in the hall, and one is in one kid’s room. Keeping it “undiscovered” is a handy way to pick the right one every time at dark o’clock.

I’d rather, Apple, ahem, be able to name them.  But heck. My phone has a camera! What if you let me take pictures of the speakers, or something? Then I have a little teeny image to know which device to pick! If you don’t want to go that hog-wild, at least give us some image options that we can click to change …

Image of iPhone Bluetooth options screen with added icons.
Now I can tell the twins apart.
Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers | Comments Off on What’s in a name? A Bluetooth by any other name would be so much sweeter.
April 12

20-20-24 hours a day … I wanna be in beta …

I suppose the UX folks finally were allowed to fix the “I own every episode” problem on the new Apple TV. Scrolling through eight or nine seasons of a show to find the newest episode was driving me insane.

I’d scratched together a post about it, then they went and dadgum fixed it. Yay, Apple!

But there are a few other things they can fix.

For example, take advantage of the touch technology on the remote and in the software:

  • Long clicks. It’s part of the newer iPhones, and the Apple TV remote.
  • Customizable actions.
  • Recordable actions.

Put them all together and you can fix something that annoys me … play movies without six zillion clicks.

  1. Click to select movies. Fine.
  2. Drag to move over to Purchased movies. Fine.
  3. Click to get to the point to look at the movies you own. FINE.
  4. Drag and click to select a movie to watch. Fine.
  5. Get shown the  splash screen of the movie. Play is highlighted.
  6. Click Play.
  7. THE MOVIE DOESN’T PLAY. You usually get taken to an ‘extras” interactive screen where you can click Play, or start thumbing through extras.
  8. Click Play.
  9. Half the time we are asked if we want to pick up the movie where we left off instead of actually playing the movie. Another Click.

Things are no longer fine.

How about this?

  1. Click to select movies.
  2. Drag to get over to Purchased movies.
  3. Click to get to the point you look at movies you own.
  4. Drag and long-click to select the move you want to watch and start playing it from the beginning.

Four steps instead of seven to nine. If I want to watch extras, I could double-click to get to the “extras” interactive screen. Or to play the movie where we left off. Or whatever else I customize and record. Or triple click to switch back to the Apple TV homescreen.

It would make this user happy. And it would make the process designer in me ecstatic. All those Apple TVs out there, and one in what, fifty super user geeks like me making their own design decisions? I can imagine getting my hands on that kind of data: How the super user geek uses the Apple TV to improve the design for all users.

Come on, Apple. Give us some code!

Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on 20-20-24 hours a day … I wanna be in beta …
April 10

We can be a bit … competitive around here

I’m a little bit of a usability and data architecture nerd. I hate it when an interface doesn’t work well, or there’s information stuck some place that can’t get some place else. When it all comes together, it’s a joy.

But that interest is secondary to my ingrained competitive spirit.

Anything you can do, I can do better …

Picture a quiet Easter Sunday afternoon. I’m in the car with a friend and we’ve got our near-matching iPhones at the ready. The goal? Find out what stores are open that carry the perfect water shoes for knee-deep island landings. The real goal? Beat the other guy at finding out what stores are open.

One of us used an Apple app, the other a Google app. Both of us got the same basic information … Name of the store, distance, time to drive, address, website, phone number, hours …

But the Google app’r had superior NAP data. This is something Google very very recently expanded, and is very very useful. While the Apple app’r was still making phone calls, the Google app’r was ready to go, armed with some pretty awesome local and holiday-specific info.

I’m glad this is something businesses can use, and big national businesses are using well (or poorly) …

It saved the Google app’r a lot of dialing to businesses that were not open, driving to businesses that were not open, and aggravation. We went straight to the store we wanted — and yes, dear reader, we did find the perfect water shoes.

Note: All images are simulated because we were too busy squaring off forgot to take screenshots right then.

image of map and data shots from navigation apps
When two apps want to share data very very much …
Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Google, User eXperience | Comments Off on We can be a bit … competitive around here
April 7

Infinite Customization is Infinite

One problem I’ve run into over the years is the fact that are six thousand ways to do things. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it sucks. Lately it’s been LinkedIn driving me crazy. So many ways to like and unlike things.

Which is fine, if you aren’t trying to do drive-by social media engagement. Click to “like” something you shouldn’t and you may need to scramble to figure out how to fix it.

Today I found another one. There’s a lot of suggestions out there to never ever use the “generic” LinkedIn message to make a connection, but I blew it.

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

And what did I do? I accidentally sent two colleagues the generic LinkedIn request … because I used LinkedIn’s app instead of their website.

If I had one teeny little request for the LinkedIn UX team, it would be to add in the ability to change that generic message on the app … or at least stop the request from going out until you can get to a real browser.

Category: User eXperience | Comments Off on Infinite Customization is Infinite