Archive for the ‘Book recommendations’ Category


Book review: Conversation and Community

August 26, 2009

Anne Gentle, Book Sprint maven, long-time blogger, regular contributor to the technical writing profession, and mother to a couple of young children has somehow found time to write and publish a book. And what a topical book it is.

Her book, Conversation and Community, is almost up-to-the minute (surely a first for a printed publication — some of the references were to blog posts I read just a few weeks ago). She has some really useful, helpful and very practical tips and strategies on how technical communicators can get involved in ‘conversational’ documentation with users, and how they can lead the charge for using social media in their organization. This may be scary territory for those technical writers who don’t even subscribe to email discussion lists, let alone blogs and forums, but Anne’s book is a helping hand to guide you through the maze.


However, her ideas are also very pragmatic — Anne has obviously worked in several organizational cultures, so she rightly advises against jumping in feet first. Her advice is to take it slowly, a little bit at a time, starting with listening to what users are saying about your product, then branching into commenting, before going all out with technologies and tools such as Twitter. And all the way along, getting buy-in from management and setting the ground rules for the interactions.

This is a well-researched book and Anne has provided numerous footnotes with references to books and URLs, as well as sample style guides etc. in the Appendices.

She’s also listed all links and footnote references for each chapter on (see for links to the Chapter lists).

For other reviews of this book, see Sarah Maddox’s blog post where she reviews the book, then links to further reviews at the end.

Related: Learning is Social article about how the Net Generation learn through Web 2.0 technologies and social media:

[Links last checked August 2009]


DITA basics

August 20, 2009

Do you need to come up to speed with DITA (Darwin information Typinmg Architecture) quickly?

Then for just under US$10 you can purchase a downloadable copy of DITA 101: Fundamentals of DITA for Authors and Managers — the latest book by Ann Rockley, Steve Manning and Charles Cooper of The Rockley Group.

You can get your copy from here:

[Links last checked July 2009]


A different perspective on economics

May 27, 2009

One book I’d been meaning to read since I first heard about it a couple of years back is Freakonomics, by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. When I saw it in a bookstore a few weeks ago, I bought it.

It’s an interesting read — and makes you wonder about possible cause/effect relationships for all sorts of apparently dissimilar things.

The most fascinating chapter for me was Chapter 4 where they linked the drop in the crime rate in the 1990s to the legalization of abortion in many US states after the outcome of the Roe v Wade case. Compelling stuff that makes you think.

The other chapter that intrigued me was about how much parental influence affects how a child will turn out. The answer — which has no doubt surprised many people, especially parents — is ‘Not a lot’. Adding further ‘food for thought’ was the effect of a person’s first name on their job and life prospects.

Freakonomics is a light, entertaining read that makes you think, without getting bogged down in the more mathematical and statistical sides of economics.


Great deal — and help bushfire victims too

February 12, 2009

SitePoint, an Australian company that publishes many electronic and printed books on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP etc. has a 5-for-1 deal on until Friday 13 February, where you get PDFs of any five of their books for a total of $29.95 US.

ALL proceeds from this special sale will go to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfires Appeal to help the victims of Australia’s worst ever bush fires.

Details about the deal and the cause are here:

Select and order your books here:

They have already raised over $75,000 US in the first 24 hours and aim to raise $100,000 US by Friday. (By Friday morning, they’d raised $180,000 US — details to come on how much they raised by close of business Friday…)

Having just recently experienced a bushfire that threatened my town, I can only say that the devastation in Victoria is beyond belief. Whole towns have been razed, families have been burned alive while trying to escape, more than 200 people have died, and more than an estimated 1 million native Australian animals (koalas, kangaroos, birds, lizards
etc.) and hundreds of thousands of acres of Australia’s unique flora and farms have been lost.

If you want a great deal on some reference books while contributing in a small way to the heartbreaking job of the Red Cross and other relief agencies, then go to the link above, select your 5 books from SitePoint’s large offering (what you see on the blog page is just a sample of 5), and pay your $29.95 US by PayPal or credit card.

The books on offer are tools of the trade for many of us, and as it is a way you can support the victims of this horrible fire, I figured I should let you know about it.

(For other ways to donate to the human and animal carers, see


Dealing with large documents

January 22, 2009

Late last year I attended the ASTC (NSW) annual conference, where Helen Lewis spoke about the revised edition of a book she co-authored with Hilary Hudson: The Don’t Panic guide to annual report production.

I was very impressed with Helen’s presentation — enough to buy the book! It’s very good. While the authors’ focus and point of reference is producing annual reports for large government departments, the advice they offer applies to ANY large document or report for ANY organization. They cover all the bases from estimating time and project planning, to working with printers, editors, indexers, multiple writers, etc.

It’s only a short book (less than 100 pages), very easy to read, and packed full of essential information. It’s a worthy addition to any writer’s library.

You can buy a copy for AU$27.50 direct from the book’s website:

The Don't Panic Guide to annual report production

The Don't Panic Guide to annual report production


Get more clients without advertising

December 13, 2008

My friend Suzanne and her business partner Bruce have written a terrific e-book—”Client Fishing”—on how to get clients you love and who love you back for little more than the cost of a cup of coffee, a postage stamp, a few phone calls, and 20 minutes of your time—and with no money spent on advertising. It’s a method that works because it’s based entirely on the power of word-of-mouth referrals.

Their e-book is aimed at service providers, especially self-employed professionals, and gives you step-by-step instructions on how to get more clients. This is no fancy marketing program that promises the earth and delivers very little while costing you a lot of money (ever wonder why those scam artists sell their techniques instead of doing the doing? Because there’s more money in sucking people in than in actually providing the service they’re talking about!)

Not with Suzanne and Bruce’s e-book. You get the straight talk (after all, it’s subtitled ‘The freelancer’s no-sh*t guide to finding great clients’), no hype, no on-selling of other products, and it will cost you less than $20, which is probably less than you’d pay for a week’s worth of coffees at Starbucks or similar.

You can purchase the e-book direct from their website at:

Cover page of 'Client fishing'

Cover page of 'Client-fishing'


Amazon’s Black Friday Sale!

November 28, 2008

For some amazing Amazon deals, check out Amazon’s Black Friday Sale—it’s only on for a VERY short time (Friday 28 November 2008 in the US)