It’s always over too soon! Today was the final day of the WritersUA Conference. There were four time slots for sessions, plus the Peer Showcase, and the closing session (which I moderated). As for the other days, breakfast was provided, but because of the long time slot for the Peer Showcase we had to find our own lunch.
I attended some great sessions today, and although my computer decided to ‘do a Char’ and my mouth was dry, I think I got through the closing session OK — I’ve never moderated a panel discussion before, so it was a new experience for me.
eBook Conversions: A Tutorial for UA Professionals
Joshua Tallent, from eBook Architects, ran this very informative session on how to create ePub and Kindle eBooks from sources such as Word, InDesign, and PDF. He went through some of the traps and pitfalls when saving these doc formats to HTML (all the major eBooks use HTML or XHTML as their basis [Kindle uses a basic form of HTML 3; ePub uses XHTML 1.1]), and highlighted some of the areas that need to get cleaned up (manually or via scripting). ePub is the industry standard and it uses Dublin Core for the metadata (see www.idpf.org for complete specs on the standard). ePub also supports scalable vector graphics (SVG), but not all devices support SVG yet. No file within an ePub collection of files can be larger than 300 KB. You can test an ePub using Adobe Digital Editions, free from Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions).
The Kindle has a minimal set of CSS styles that can be used, and there are some rules that have to be followed for the HTML (e.g. cannot nest a P tag inside a BLOCKQUOTE tag). Indenting is hardly supported, and may have to be achieved by using non-breaking spaces. Ordered lists only do Arabic numerals and unordered lists only convert to solid bullets. Tables have minimal support, and Joshua’s advice was to convert them to test or to an image. Kindle has an individual file size limit of only 64 KB, so larger images (in JPEG and GIF formats only; PNG and BMPs are converted) have to be downsized/downsampled before including them in a Kindle eBook.
Finally, Joshua had some advice for us on ‘When to hire a professional’:
- When your eyes start to cross at the idea of understanding the ePub spec
- When your boss says “I want this converted to ePub and Kindle in two days
- When you are starting to work on an automation project
- When you figure out that learning this eBook stuff will take you longer that reading the stimulus Bill and be just as difficult to follow.
Wireframing Tools and Techniques
What a terrific speaker Mike Hughes is! I usually try to get to one of his sessions if I can, even if I’m not particularly interested in the topic. However, I got a bonus today — I got to hear Mike speak and it was on a topic that I *was* interested in!
He went through the various low, medium and high fidelity methods of wireframing, listing their pros and cons, then demonstrated a few tools — who knew that PowerPoint could be such a useful wireframing tool? And, unlike bar napkins, PowerPoint slides don’t get soggy from your beer glass!
He also showed us the trick to get Pencil (a downloadable plug-in for Firefox) to work — after installing it, you go to Tools > Pencil Settings on the Firefox menu and it should open, ready for you to start using it (it seems that everyone has trouble trying to figure out this step!).
Writing for Mobile Devices: An End User Approach
After the Peer Showcase, I went along to Teresa Goertz’s session on how the team at Windows phone (yes, there’s a Windows 7 phone coming…) have dealt with UI text and user assistance. This was an interesting case study, though Teresa was limited in what she could say as the Windows phone is still in development. What she did say (based on a question from me) was that there will be a publicly available Microsoft style manual coming out AFTER the release of Windows phone. What I couldn’t figure out was if it would be a complete replacement for the 2003 edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, or just a style guide for use with mobile devices. We shall wait and see…
Techniques for Using Acrobat More Effectively
The last session I attended was delivered by Alan Houser and it focused on more advanced Acrobat techniques. However, I already knew about many of the tips he showed us, so I didn’t get as much out of this session as I had expected.
I hosted this panel, so I didn’t take notes! I also don’t feel I’m in a position to comment on my own performance, but if someone who was at that session wishes to comment on it, feel free. The panelists were all women (we finally got the last word in!): Nicky Bleiel, Teresa Goertz, Leah Guren, and Linda Urban. Which Sarah O’Keeffe pointed out was appropriate on Ada Lovelace Day (Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer).
Update: Sarah O’Keefe has written her summary of the panel session here: http://www.scriptorium.com/blog/2010/03/writersua-user-assistance-trends-panel.html (for the record, it was me that mentioned Clippy’s bedroom eyes!).