Entering week #3: It’s a self isolation marathon, not a sprint edition

Photo by sporlab on Unsplash

It’s Monday of the third week of my self isolation because of the coronavirus.  I’m at peace that the coronavirus will be a marathon, not a sprint, and have adjusted my expectations. I’m continue to try to further refine my schedule to keep myself busy.

Here’s how my day went:

  • Spent some time on my Bosu ball this morning and need to stop dragging my feet on a home exercise habit.
  • The usual work calls during the day.
  • Finished up some contributions for opensource.com so I can send them in.
  • Working towards a deadline this Friday for TechTarget.

The Governor of Virginia also delivered a stay at home in order for residents until June 10th. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that date.

How is your remote work going?

Using Trello for managing editorial projects

My work as a technical writer sometimes means having to manage my own projects yet communicate about them in a way that programmers and engineers can understand without having flashbacks to college freshman English. I’ve come to use Trello for managing document projects. Technical people are comfortable with the tool and I can speak to project status in terms they can understand.

Here’s how I use Trello to manage writing projects:

  • Set up a Trello board split into all of the phases (using columns) of content development including conceptualization, writing, editing, review, layout, and final publishing. I also include a project backlog columns to help me track project ideas that come out of meetings or I want to capture in anticipation of future requirements.
  • Create a card template (conveniently stashed in the Backlog column) that I use the checklists feature to map out an editing checklist I groom govern editorial quality and style. I also use the checklist to help remedy any of my usual writing mistakes.
  • Revise the project cards over time to keep my editorial checklist sharp such as when I make a stylistic decision that I don’t want to forget.
  • Use labels so I can slice and dice views over the documents I have in progress. For example, I use tags to specify audience, document type, and corporate group.
  • Display Trello on meeting room projection screens when I want to talk about writing projects that are currently in progress
  • Use the Trello iOS app on my iPhone 8 or iPad Pro when I’m at home and want to review progress on a document.

Trello helps me stay on course especially when I’m working on smaller documents in a work environment with ever shifting priorities. I use it to create a visual picture of my progress especially when I get blocked on a document because of team availability.

You don’t have to be faithful to agile project management or Kanban either when using Trello to manage projects

Another benefit of Trello is that I’ve found it easy enough for even non-technical users to understand. For example, let’s say you need to share a Trello board with your marketing department. They’ll have a minimal learning curve if at all. One of my concerns when Atlassian acquired Trello that it would be subsumed into the Jira mothership, I’m glad to see that Atlassian realizes that there’s room for an entry level tool that won’t siphon users from Jira. I’ve tried using Jira to manage writing projects on a past contract. I found it too hard to use. Then again the client in question was trying to use Jira out of the box with no customizations or extensions.

My experience with Power Ups has been mixed mostly because I’ve been using the free version of Trello. I’m happy to see that Trello’s focus on integrations continues after the acquisitions. After all, no development team or in my case solo technical writer is an island so integration with other systems is key when managing content development projects.

Are you a technical writer that uses Trello? Share your experience in the comments.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist living and working in the Washington, DC area. My current focus is thought leadership and technical marketing content. I got my start writing user guides, administrator documentation, online help, and later moved into SDLC documentation. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other technology topics have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

A few words about Microsoft Word and Track Changes

Review toolbar

One of the most useful – yet potentially embarrassing – features of Microsoft Word is Track Changes. Using the Track Changes feature lets you electronically markup your Word documents with edits, additions, and revisions. Think of it as an electronic red pen so to speak.

The potential embarrassment of the feature comes in when you don’t accept the Track Changes. Comments, edits, and revisions not fit for public consumption can leak out. Even if none of the comments are critical, it is just plain sloppy to have a recipient open up a document that still contains markups.

Continue reading “A few words about Microsoft Word and Track Changes”

Random and recent thoughts about revisions

Unlike some writers, I’m OK with being asked for revisions whether it be an article, blog post, or technical documentation I’m writing. Writing and publishing is a team effort.
I’ve had the blessing of working with some amazing editors in the course of my writing career. Unfortunately, I’ve also worked with some organizations that could never factor in the importance of reviews into their document cycle.

Continue reading “Random and recent thoughts about revisions”