One of the tenets of online content production suggests that
the way you present information is as important as the
quality of the information itself. This applies to how it looks (legible fonts,
nice use of white space, nothing overshadowed by ads or graphics) as well as
how it's packaged—its form factor, as we like to say (over and over) thesedays.
So naturally, the TechRepublic editors are always looking
for the best ways to present particular types of information: glossaries, cheat
sheets, tutorials, "10 things you should know about " lists. And
we've recently started publishing a new type of content, which, in a fit ofunparalleled creative brilliance, we dubbed "How do I ?"
You may have seen a few of these already:
- How do I... Add Macs To A Windows Workgroup?
- How do I... Configure multiple hardware profiles for a laptop?
- How do I... Manage Microsoft's Windows Small Business Server 2003 e-mail accounts?
do I... Set the default folder for saving Outlook 2003 messages andattachments?
- How do I... Add storage to a PC or workgroup network?
(You can view the entire growing collection by clickingthis tag search link.)
The formula is pretty simple: Take a problem or a procedure
and work through it step by step until you reach a solution or produce thedesired results. The tricky thing here is scope.
Just how granular should the focus be in order to be truly
useful? I'm thinking, for example, that something like "How do I Create a
Web page?" or "How do I Use Microsoft Visio?" or "How do I
Make lots of money and have fun working in IT?" might be a little
sweeping. On the other hand, I'm wary of getting too particularized. So, forinstance, I'd steer clear of:
- How do I
Adjust the brightness on my monitor when I'm using
two Philips 100-watt Longlife incandescent light bulbs in a room with a
south-facing Andersen Tilt-Wash Double-Hung window and partially closed
Venetian blinds (color: Mocha Frost) on a day that's 83 percent overcast with nimbostratusclouds whose bases lie at 7,100 feet?
- How do I
Extricate Gerber Tender Harvest Non-Bioengineered Pureed
Corn 'n Peas from my MATSHITA UJDA755yDVD/CDRW DVD/CD-ROM drive, from my
Microsoft Natural PS/2 keyboard, and from the internal components that got a
little soggy, including the Texas Instruments PCI-4520 Cardbus Controller andthe Intel(R) 82801DMB Ultra ATA Storage Controller -24CA?
- How do I
teach Microsoft Word to know what text I want to
enter when I type the beginning of the AutoText entry "thisthatthesethosethem,"
which sometimes should autocomplete the word "this" and sometimes
"that" and sometimes "these" and sometimes"those" and sometimes "them"?
Nope, you probably won't be seeing that stuff in the content lineup anytime soon.
Achieving the right balance between macro and micro is
sometimes tough, but I'm confident that we can do it. We could use a little
help, though. What "How do I ?" topics would you like to see uscover? How narrowly focused do you think they should be?
Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior features editor for Tech Pro Research.