Thank a Vet on Veterans Day

Veterans Day makes me think about my friend John. He’s a Vietnam    veteran who spent 14 months in Saigon working on an air base. I met John at a Community Resource Exchange at Quest field in Seattle some years back. The community resource exchange is where dozens of nonprofits band together to connect homeless people with essential hygiene items and services, like haircuts, warm clothing, housing help, resumes mammograms, etc.

I helped John find some shoes, socks, and a wool cap. He didn’t really have any place to go so we hung out for a while over a cup of coffee and he told me his story. John can be a little intimidating if you don’t know him. He is about 6’ 2” with long flowing gray hair and a scraggly black beard. He chain smokes, when he has cigarettes, and he’s an alcoholic who was drunk most of the times I saw him. He has a loud scraggly voice and a distinctively sinister kind of laugh.

John lived under an overpass on I5. He wasn’t welcome in any of the mainstream shelters because they don’t allow drinkers and smokers and he wasn’t about to give up smoking or drinking for a hot shower and a cot. John is unemployable because he can’t control his anger. He lost his temper twice at work and beat up his employers. He’s had other run-ins with managers and coworkers so he’s used up all of his second chances.

John told me where he lived and the corner where he panhandled. So, I would swing by his corner to say hi if I had time whenever I was in the area. One Veterans Day I made a special trip down to Seattle to see John and thank him for his service. I didn’t see him on his corner so I went to where he camped to see if he was taking the day off. When I finally found John, he was in rough shape. A couple of other homeless men had rolled him a couple of days before. They roughed him up pretty good and took off with most of his possessions. Knowing John, he probably started the fight and had been too drunk to finish it.

It was a cold, wet November that year and they had taken his coat and shoes so he was conspicuously shivering, almost to the point of shaking. His face had blood caked down one side and one of his eyes was swollen shut. His hair was so matted it was hard to see the huge wound on the back of his head. As he told me the story of what happened he started crying a little and had to stop and compose himself a couple of times before he finished.

I helped him back to my truck and convinced him to go to the emergency room to get patched up. I called up some friends of mine at the United Way and they provided John with some used boots and a coat, along with a brand-new sleeping bag. When we finished up at the hospital I tried to get him to go to one of the shelters but he asked me to take him back to his camp. So, I dropped him off, gave him the money I had in my wallet, and wished him good luck.

That Veterans Day was the last time I saw John. I went down to his corner several times and ventured up to his camp a couple of times but he wasn’t to be found. I asked a couple of homeless campers that lived near John and they said he might have moved to Portland. John told them he had family down there.

Anyway, kind of a long story, I guess I should get to the point. There are a lot of scammers out there trying to prey on your emotions for a buck. But there are a lot of homeless veterans out there as well. I feel terrible for people who are homeless through no fault of their own; children, teens, victims of domestic abuse, etc. I think we all do. After meeting John, I also found compassion for people who have no options for getting back into society’s mainstream, regardless of who is to blame.

A great way to honor veterans is to pull one up from the depths of despair. Please volunteer or give to shelters in your area that take in homeless veterans and will provide them with a shower, a hot meal, and a dry place to sleep.

On this Veterans Day, I’d like to thank all my fellow Veterans for serving. – Tom

Measuring ROI for User Assistance Content Over the Lifecycle of a Product

The fiscal year is coming to an end, it is budget setting time again, and you are being asked to justify the expense of developing content. Proving to upper management the investment they are making in documentation is money well spent, is a problem faced by many Technical Communication Managers every year. One idea that might help you communicate the value your team adds is measuring the return on investment for user assistance content over the product lifecycle.

Here are three value propositions we can use to help measure the benefits of delivering user assistance:

  1. Increasing Sales: How much does content contribute toward increasing product adoption? How many product sales and new customers can be attributed to content?
  2. Increasing Customer Satisfaction: How much it contributes to customer satisfaction. How many customers would purchase the product again or recommend it to a friend because the documentation made it easy to install, deploy, migrate, and operate?
  3. Reducing Costs: How much it contributes to reducing support and development costs. How many support calls can be avoided because customers can solve their own issues using product documentation?

And here are some of the roles different types of content play at different points along the product lifecycle:

Pre-Sale: Evaluation content delivered before the product ships designed to describe the product to potential customers. Examples include:

  • Marketing Content
  • Reviewers Guides

Post-Sale: How-To to content delivered with the product designed to explain how to use the product. Examples include:

  • Product Help
  • Deployment Guides
  • Operation Guides

Sustained Engineering: Support content available over the life of the products use designed to tell people how to maintain their product. Examples include:

  • Trouble Shooters
  • FAQ’s
  • KBs

Finally, here’s a chart that puts it all together. It displays the value propositions across the product lifecycle. It contains questions you can ask yourself that apply the metrics we defined above to different types of documentation and the roles they play at different points in the product lifecycle: UA ROI Chart

Interview Tips and Tricks

Having the technical skills required to get the interview is only half the battle. Employers are seeking candidates that have certain qualities they believe will make them great employees. Your ability to convey your life experiences and how those experiences will translate into filling the company’s needs during the interview is the key to landing the job.

Before you interview, you should prepare responses to queries such as:

  • Describe work or life experiences that prepared you for this position.
  • Tell me about your most significant career accomplishment.
  • What can you bring to this job that no one else can?
  • What do you hope to get out of this job?
  • Describe a time when you had difficulty dealing with a coworker. What actions did you take and what was the outcome?
  • Why did you leave your last position?
  • What is your most significant strength/weakness? What have you done to address the weakness or leverage the strength?

Craft answers to these questions that focus on achievements you’ve made that are relevant to the position you are applying for. Use examples that highlight how your skills and experiences make you a good fit the job. Concentrate on describing the aspects of your career that make you a desirable employee for the company. Have your facts straight and be ready with specific information that backs up your claims.

Practice answering these types of questions until you can articulate your thoughts clearly and concisely. Your answers should be seem well thought out yet unrehearsed. Most of all, keep your statements positive and constructive and you will impress any prospective employer.

Five Tips for Powering Through Rough Patches on the Felt

Ready to take a break from poker or give it up altogether? Had it up to here with bad beats, getting counterfeited, and suck outs on the river? Have you been card dead since Pluto was a planet? Do you feel like no matter how dominating your hand is when you get your chips in, that somehow you are going to come out behind? Don’t despair! Even the best players experience slumps. Remember, tough luck doesn’t last, but tough players do.

Dealing with adversity is a part of poker. How you respond to tough challenges is one measure of who you are as a player. Learning to deal constructively with obstacles that confront you on the poker table will strengthen your game skills and confidence. If you are on an extended cooler and poker is starting to get you down, here are 5 tips you can use to help you power through hard times:

  1. Take a look in the mirror; it might be bad play not bad luck that has you in a slump. There is always room for improving you game. Most good players reevaluate their play continuously to determine whether they have holes in their game. You may have changed your style of play slightly without realizing it or you may have started using certain game strategies more often than you used to. Whether you win or lose, if you want to improve, you should critically evaluate your play after every session at the poker table.
  2. Accept luck, good or bad, it’s part of the game. Poker is a game of strategy and decision making, but luck will always play a huge part in winning or losing. Energy spent cursing bad luck is wasted energy. What happened last hand, last game, or last week has no bearing on future results. You can’t change your luck, but you can change the way you think about it. Because of the role luck plays in poker, unless you have the nuts, you can’t control over the outcome of any one specific hand. However, you do have total control of the way you react when things don’t go your way. It may take practice to learn how to accept bad beats with grace and not let setbacks affect your game negatively.
  3. Stay positive and be optimistic. Scientific studies have proven that people who imagine a positive future are more likely to experience positive results. By inducing optimism you prepare your brain for a positive outcomes. A pessimistic attitude can make you gun-shy about getting into pots where you have good odds because you have the “feeling” you are always coming out behind. Additionally, if you are resigned to defeat you may be tempted to get too many chips in the pot the first time you see a decent hand. Keeping a positive attitude promotes positive play.
  4. Stay focused and determined. Prolonged losing streaks can cause players to get distracted and bored, and players who are distracted and bored make poor decisions. Working toward specific goals and having a plan to reach your goals can help you stay focused and disciplined. Stay committed and don’t allow distractions to interfere with achieving your objectives. Reaching milestones along the way to accomplishing your goals will boost your confidence and staying determined to attain your goals will keep you focused on the moment.
  5. Be patient. Impatient people often make snap decisions before thinking through all of their options. Making a conscious effort to be patient and showing restraint in frustrating situations takes practice. It can take a major change in your mindset to learn patience but over time it becomes habit. Bear in mind that good things will not always happen on your schedule. There are times during a poker game when fortune will favor the bold, but having the patience to wait for those times is one key to winning poker.

Struggling through tough times at the poker table can be frustrating, but it is not an indication of failure. Playing poker should be fun and profitable but grinding through a rough patch can seem like running a marathon in deep sand. However, tough times always come to an end. Believe in yourself. Don’t let dry spells at the table discourage you.

Use these tips to help you power through tough times. If your game is solid your luck will always equal out… eventually.