Archive for December, 2009


Recent surveys from WritersUA

December 21, 2009

In the past few days, WritersUA has:

[Links last checked December 2009]


You want a picture with that stick figure?

December 20, 2009

Wow! Is this the future of picture compositing and photo montage? Will you be able to trust ANY picture any more? Sure, high-end graphics manipulation applications can do some pretty amazing things with photos, but this goes quite a few steps further.

Watch this 4 minute concept video of Sketch2Photo, which was presented at the Siggraph Asia conference earlier this year (2009):

[Link last checked December 2009]


Great communication — NOT

December 19, 2009

I renewed my STC membership the other day, and got an email letting me know that my official receipt and membership card would be available from their website in a few days. (As an aside, STC is no longer sending out printed membership cards; instead, we get a PDF we can print ourselves. I have no problem with that as I suspect printed membership cards were an expense that had little benefit — I wouldn’t think that many places or events required you to hand over your membership card; I’ve certainly never been asked for it in Australia or when I attended the STC Conferences in the US from 2001 to 2004.)

Anyhow, I log in to the STC website today to get my receipt and membership card, and this is what greets me:

The thing is that the subsequent pages have my correct name, but not this ‘Welcome’ page, where I am just a number! And it already knows enough about me to know that I’m already logged in.

This is NOT good communication from a society that is focused on communication, usability, and the like. And a society that prides itself on being personable to its membership — the receipt even says ‘We are committed to serving you…’ But in my opinion it’s not good service or good public relations to greet me by my membership number! I have a name and STC knows what it is, as evidenced on the subsequent pages.

[Link last checked December 2009]


Wow! Great advice for new college/uni students

December 18, 2009

If you have a son or daughter about to start college or university, point them in the direction of Derek Sivers’ advice to newly enrolled Berklee College of Music students. His blog post details his speech, and he includes a 10-minute video of his ‘6 things I wish I knew the day I started at Berklee’.

In summary, his advice is to:

  • Be one of the few that is clever enough to make money making music instead of pretending it doesn’t matter.
  • Be one of the few that has the guts to do something shocking.
  • Be one of the few that takes your lessons here as a starting point, and pushes yourself to do more with what you learn.
  • Be one of the few that knows how to help yourself, instead of expecting for others to do it for you.
  • Be one of the few that does much more than is required.
  • And most importantly, be one of the few that stays in the shed to practice, while everyone else is surfing the net, flirting on MySpace, and watching TV.

[Link last checked December 2009; thanks to @KathySierra whose Tweet led me to this article]


Round-up of useful usability resources

December 17, 2009

Some people collect stamps; I collect URLs of interesting sites, products, etc., some of which are related to usability and accessibility. Here’s the latest batch garnered from Twitter tweets and some technical writing discussion lists I monitor:

Finally, an EXTENSIVE listing of resources on “Recommended Usability, UCD, UX Links and Tools” here:

[Links last checked November 2009]


Examples of all sorts of diagrams

December 16, 2009

You’re in a meeting with the new client or company who’s just employed you, and the boffins are dropping phrases like ‘swimlane diagram’, ‘scatterplot’, ‘entity relationship diagram’ and the like. You’re lost. So, where do you go to find examples of each of these? Well, you could try Wikipedia, or you could search Google for the various terms. However, that’s a fair bit of searching you have to do, and many sites you have to visit.

Alternatively, you can get ‘the lot’ on the Periodic Table for Visualization web page: All you have to do is hover over the type of diagram to see its example.

Here’s a sample showing a Venn diagram:

[Link last checked December 2009; Thanks to Sarah M who Tweeted about this cool site!]


Donations in lieu of Seasons Greetings

December 15, 2009

In February 2009, the Australian state of Victoria suffered the worst bush fires in its history, and the worst natural disaster in Australia — ever.

On behalf of CyberText Consulting, I donated money to the Red Cross, who were coordinating the humanitarian relief effort and the donations, and to Wildlife Victoria, who were attempting to care for some of the thousands of native animals caught up in this awful tragedy.

I figured that these organizations had more pressing needs for my company dollar than did purchasing and mailing out Christmas cards for my clients, friends, and colleagues.

I trust you will understand.

[Links last checked December 2009]


Word: Cursor is tiny

December 14, 2009

Something weird happened to the document I was working on the other day — the cursor was really tiny. Instead of being like a sans serif lower case ‘l’ (for Larry), it looked like a full stop (‘period’ for the North Americans).

I couldn’t find any setting to change it. And it was definitely something I’ve never seen before in all the documents I’ve edited for my client, all based on the same template. I also can’t recall seeing anything like it in all the years I’ve been working with Microsoft Word (since Word 2.x, in case you’re interested…).

Off to the internet to find the answer. Well, not so much an answer as a workaround. It seems no-one knows what causes it, but there’s a way to fix it — at least temporarily (no-one seems to guarantee it won’t happen again).

Here’s the fix:

  1. Zoom in the document to 500%.
  2. Zoom it back out again to 100%.

Your normal cursor comes back again! Quick and easy — when you know how.


You want what?

December 13, 2009 hosted blogs (like this one) are monitored for spam by something called Akismet. Blog owners can check the spam captured by Akismet to see if any legitimate comments need to be approved. It’s a great service and captures 95+% of spam comments — perhaps more.

I usually just skim through the spam and delete it all once a day. But a few days ago one of the spam comments caught my eye…


Only in Australia

December 12, 2009

How’s this for a safety incident notification:

Watch out for those pesky bandicoots!

And for the non-Australians, this is a bandicoot:


It’s a small marsupial, which looks a bit like a rat — similar size, similar coloring, similar tail…

Cute, huh?




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