12 Apr 11: Busy, busy

Much has happened, personally and professionally, since I last had time to post here.


  • I coordinated two doc sprints for Mozilla Developer Network, in January and in April.
  • My husband and I adopted a one-year-old standard poodle, whom we've named Jazz.
    Jazz the poodle
  • I attended South by Southwest Interactive, which was five intense days of meeting and talking to people in the web biz. Mozilla sponsored the Austin JavaScript party, which raised 683 pounds of food for the Capital Area Food Bank. We also got five guys in kilts to wear MDN t-shirts.
  • Mozilla released Firefox 4 for desktop and mobile. Then the company brought all its paid staff members from all over the world together for a week of face-to-face meetings, including a side-trip to Las Vegas.
  • Meanwhile, I'm managing the STC Austin Salary Survey. If you worked as any kind of technical communicator in the Austin or San Antonio areas in 2010, please take the survey, while your income numbers are fresh in your mind from your tax return. This is the only salary survey for technical communicators that focuses specifically on Central Texas, so please help our professional community by participating.
  • I'm speaking at the STC Houston chapter on April 12th (that's today) on Wikis and Community-Contributed Content.


Once, again, please please take the salary survey, if you are in Central Texas!

Update 2011-0413: I forgot to mention that Anne Gentle and I had a FLOSS Manuals table again this year at Texas Linux Fest. (Like I said, a lot has happened lately.) We sold paper copies of Introduction the GNU/Linux Command Line and How to Bypass Internet Censorship. One person that Anne talked to said that he had gotten a Linux-based job after reading the Command Line book after last year's TXLF. Woo!

Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher |

24 Jan 11: Doc sprint for open web standards, January 28-29, 2011

I am organizing a documentation sprint for web standards docs on the Mozilla Developer Network site, taking place this Friday and Saturday, January 28 and 29.

If you've been wanting to find out what a doc sprint is like, this is a great opportunity. It will be a "virtual" sprint, so no travel is involved. You can join in from wherever you are.

We especially need people to write introductory-level material on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. One piece of feedback I hear about the content on MDN is that it's great for intermediate to advanced web developers, but has little for brand new web developers. In contrast, some other tutorial sites have very accessible intro content on web-development topics, but that content may be out of date or misleading (which is not apparent to newbies).

Please help us change that! You don't have to tackle all of HTML, etc. If you can come up with a small but realistic example of a set of features, and then explain how the example works, that would be a significant help.

For details on the sprint, see my post on the Mozilla Hacks blog: Write some docs, get an MDN t-shirt. That post has a link to the wiki planning page where you can sign yourself up to participate.

For "virtual presence" during the sprint, we'll be using IRC for real-time text chat. There are many IRC client programs available. (The protocol actually predates the World Wide Web, so many of them are command-line driven.) If you want to help with the doc sprint and you haven't used IRC before, you might want to take a little time to get familiar with it before the sprint starts. If you need some help getting started, feel free to contact me at my Mozilla e-mail address (jswisher at mozilla dot com).

And finally, even though this is a "virtual" sprint, if you are in Austin, there's nothing to stop us from getting together at a coffeeshop for some local in-person co-sprinting. Drop me an e-mail, and let's work something out.

Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher | 1 Comment

19 Jan 11: Links for "Before You Pick a Wiki"

Update June 21, 2011: The slides from this presentation are now available on Slideshare: (Things to Think About) Before You Pick a Wiki

This post contains resource links for my presentation "Before You Pick a Wiki". I'm giving this presentation a few times:

Since the presentation is likely to evolve, I'm not sharing my slides until after the Summit in May. However, I'm referring audiences to this post to find resources that I reference in the presentation. I'll update this post as I update or change the presentation.



Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher |

06 Oct 10: Off to the Web Standards Doc Sprint

I'm heading to Paris this week for the first Mozilla documentation sprint for open web standards. I've participated in a number of book sprints with FLOSS Manuals, but this is my first time facilitating a sprint for Mozilla. Also, the target output is topics for the Mozilla Developer Network, rather than a book per se, so this sprint is akin to the documentation sprint that Sarah Maddox ran for Atlassian earlier this year.

Part of what I hope that this doc sprint will produce is tutorials for how to use open web standards, such as HTML5, CSS3, and so on. We'll have an opportunity to put these tutorials in front of learners at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona in November, and get feedback. As a technical writer, I've rarely had the chance to watch users interacting with documentation, so this is fantastic.

So, I'm very excited and a good bit nervous about this doc sprint. The vague alert about travel in Europe from the U.S. State department does not help with the nervousness part.

But on the other hand: Paris, Barcelona — did I mention I love my job?

P.S. One detail I let slip until the last minute was t-shirts for the sprinters. Paula Middleton of Redboid Design arranged t-shirt printing with a quick turnaround and great quality. Shirts with the MDN logo are now packed in my carry-on. Thanks again, Paula!
Mozilla Developer Network logo

Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher | 1 Comment

24 Jul 09: New job, shift in focus

This week I started a new job at a different company. As a result, you may see a shift in the topics I find to talk about on this blog. Probably less Python, more DITA. Of course, I'm still involved in FLOSS Manuals, Writing Open Source, and other things related to open source documentation. I will not be, and never have been, speaking officially on behalf of my employer. As ever, this is just me, talking about stuff I find interesting.

Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher | 3 Comments

10 Oct 08: STC seeks feedback on Tech Comm Body of Knowledge

The STC task force that is charged with compiling a "Body of Knowledge" on Technical Communication is seeking feedback on the first phase of their efforts. They have created a draft portal map and 14 personas of people who may be interested in this information. There is a separate feedback survey for the map and the personas. You must be an STC member to participate, as the information is in the members-only area of the website. However, if you are an STC member, I encourage you to set aside some time to review the information and fill out the surveys. This effort needs and deserves serious consideration from STC members to make it a success.

Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher |

24 Sep 07: One laptop per child, two per buyer

The One Laptop Per Child project will start selling the laptops in developed countries in November. More from the BBC. The price of US$399 buys a laptop for you, and one for a child in a developing country.

Give one as a holiday gift to a child you know, and one to a child you don't know.

Category: News | Posted by: jmswisher |