Great seeing you at Lavacon!

At Lavacon last month I gave two presentations: one traditional and one…Not. We all know that I like to experiment right? TC Camp, TC Dojo, TC Mastermind groups are my most successful and well known. This time, I decided I would write up three skits and let the stories convey the lessons I wanted to get across in my presentation.

I wrote up three skits:

  1. Bookbrains Anonymous meeting
  2. Richard Simmons inspired DITA Fitness informercial
  3. DITA Cult member induction

I told my story about how I adopted a DITA mindset: How I learned to fight bookbrain and love the topic. And, like all good cult members, I gave tips on how you too can convert to the teachings of Guru D.

It was really fun to do — nerve wracking since it was the first time I’d written skits. But I had some help.

I inducted several members of the audience, including Keith Schengili-Roberts and Tom Magliery to testify at the BA Meeting. (They read from scripts.)

Peppered throughout the presentation, were quotes from actual writers, real people, real situations, that demonstrated the struggle with changing your book-based mindset to topic-based writing. Keys to watch out for if you’re moving to DITA or Topic Based Authoring and have a scared or reluctant staff.

I think the best part was when I listed the 12 Steps to achieving DITA enlightenment. Or maybe it was How to Spot a Bookbrain. We will all have to wait for the reviews to find out.

Everyone who came to my session got a DITA Cult Member button at the end. These were one-of-a-kind buttons that I got requests for all week after they’d been spotted in the wild.

If you’ve never been to LavaCon, it should be on your list to try. LavaCon is the one traditional conference where you can do non-traditional things. Thankfully, Jack Molisani agreed to let me try an unusual presentation style to see how it worked. We had such a great time, I will try it again. After all, I can only get better, right?

We all solve the same problems

We’ve all been in that position where we are trying to work something out and wish we had someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone who knew us, what we were going through, who had expertise that was the same as ours. Only different. Someone we could leverage in real time, right now, to get us through our current predicament.

We all solve the same problems

Only the order changes

Just because you’re doing DITA or XML doesn’t mean your project matches someone else’s.

Every project moves at a different pace. And every business has different needs at different times. We all solve the problems that we need to solve first and put other problems on the Later Stack.

For example, need Translation? For some companies, the answer is “Eventually” but today, they need to get content to the web. Like, yesterday. So they put the Translation project on the stack and deal with getting good web output and making sure the right customers get the right information.

A different company might have translated content as a top priority. Today. They don’t need web content right now (but eventually, sure). Again, one problem gets tackled, the other gets put on the stack. A problem to solve tomorrow.

Each company grows expertise in-house. The problem solvers have good lessons to pass on to others.

To pass on to each other, in fact.

It gave us an idea

And so we’re trying something new

We created a mastermind group for technical communications professionals and invited all of our active customers.

It’s one of the things I love about working for Single-Sourcing Solutions. We’re always trying things. We constantly look for new ways to collaborate and share and to grow the expertise of the professionals around us.

We’ve been privileged enough to see our customers grow into experts, to have real knowledge to share with others.

We limited it to our customers for a year: Monthly meetings where our customers would get together to share their experience with each other. To leverage each other.

It worked–really well

Especially for the small teams

For the small teams, there was no more waiting for an expert to get hired (not that someone was actually going to give us more headcount). No more waiting for the next conference to figure it out (even if someone was actually going to give us budget for a conference). No more waiting for an answer that may never come when we write a vague description of the problem and post it to a mailing list. No more trying to get our deliverables out while still trying to find time to figure it all out. Alone. Fastfastfast!

Instead, they got a team of experts they could leverage. The virtual environment means they can share their screen talk about their real problems, in real time, and get answers.

Access to the mastermind groups made it seem as if they had all effectively grown their teams–without adding to their headcount.

It worked so well, we now have three different masterminds — one for General Technical Communications, one for Arbortext users, and one for Windchill IT Professionals.

You can have it too

Join the TC Mastermind Group

For less than $40/month — less than your cable bill — you get the benefit of having experts at your disposal who can focus on your problems. Right now. Today.

Groups are kept small to preserve the intimate atmosphere and to encourage close relationships. Group members are static — the same people meet week after week, so the close relationships can develop and members don’t have to worry that some stranger is out there listening in.

We don’t share company secrets, we share strategies, expertise, and our networks. We talk candidly about things like working out linking strategies and legacy data management and developing instincts required for good topic based authoring.

Think of it as part support group, part networking group, part discussion group. With the mastermind group at your side, you’ll never be alone again.

Give yourself the support you need and join the Mastermind Group.

Arbortext Version 7.0 Released

Arbortext 7.0 was released last week. We saw a preview of what was coming last month and have been eagerly awaiting the release. There’s some big improvements with this release and some special treats for the early adopters.

What’s in the release? Support for DITA 1.3. A new JavaScript IDE for APP source in both Styler and APP. And a host of other features, including one that our customers requested!

7.0 will require new license generation, but 7.0 licenses are backwards compatible and will support older releases at the same time.  If you have an active maintenance contract, you can download Arbortext 7.0 at no additional cost from the PTC website.

We’re testing 7.0 for our customers right now and we’ll be talking about what we find in the Mastermind session in October. Come to the Mastermind if you want a look at 7.0 before you start testing your environment and getting ready to upgrade.  If you need any help testing your customizations or stylesheets, we can help! Join the Arbortext Mastermind or contact us at

For now, this post will take you through the highlights of the release. Details on each feature and specific bug fixes contained in the release can be found in the release notes on the PTC website.

If you want details about what’s in the release, read on… Continue reading Arbortext Version 7.0 Released