A fun day of writing something boring

Yesterday was rather interesting. My son was home sick with the same thing that knocked me out for most of last week. He’s not as wiped out as I was 1, but we’re giving some medicine so I decided I work at home and stick with him. This gave me enough quiet space to sit down and work on some documentation I’ve been needing to write. The office would have had too many distractions for me to sit down and just go.

ABCNJ, the regional entity for which I work part-time, is in the process of migrating from Constant Contact to Mail Chimp 2 and, as I’m the one who pushed for the move, I need to get something together to help our users jump into the new workflow. It’s not that Mail Chimp is all that different from Constant Contact in terms of concepts 3 but the way people are trained to use computers is just plain wrong. People 4 train themselves to be fixated on to one product, service, or program for a particular task – and tend to instinctively panic when they are asked to use something different. It’s akin to a carpenter using a hammer for many years, and then suddenly having a panic attack when asked to use a different hammer. Sure, we get comfortable with our own tools  5 but that doesn’t mean all other tools of the same type are alien – we know how to use them.

This is what I attempted to help people understand as I wrote my documentation yesterday. I wanted to depict the way the interface flows in Mail Chimp – stepping our users through the process of creating a basic email campaign. I didn’t cover every aspect of the interface, but I gave enough 6 of a walk-through to get our users through from beginning to end. It’s my hope as folks move through the process they will make their own connections to their previous skills in Constant Contact. It’s a balancing act.

For me, the real fun of the project is seeing it come together. I outlined the chapters in Scrivener, got my screenshots imported into my project, and wrote. I currently have a decent eBook version created 7, though I still want to shrink images some more. I’ll eventually make it available in other formats as well.

Next week, perhaps, I’ll create a nice video to go along with the ebook. Today, it’s time to put on my “full-time pastor” hat.

  1. If you can yell at a video game I don’t care what your fever is, you’re not that sick. 
  2. Yup, only one of those is a link. 
  3. There are some differences, certain things are named differently and the order of the process is changed, but not enough that the two are alien to one another. 
  4. By “people” I mean, “Everyone I’ve ever trained to use a computers.” The ABCNJ folks have, by and large, been among the most pleasant students I’ve ever had. 
  5. When I go out on a support call I always bring my own computers, always. 
  6. That is, I hope I have enough. 
  7. I have to say, ebooks are probably the best way to create user documentation at present. They are searchable, easily annotated, images can be enlarged (on tablets and desktops, at least), and the font can be enlarged or reduced to each user’s comfort. PDF’s are so 20th Century. You know what? This will make a good blog entry.