"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
                -- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What I Do

I am a technical writer, analyst, and software developer who specializes in email, internet, and web security and privacy. Most recently I have into the field of information architecture as applied to email and other forms of communication over the Internet.

My Background

I worked as a technical writer for Citrix Systems for a decade. Prior to Citrix, I worked for a number of other San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley firms ranging from startup companies to multinational corporations. I have been writing scientific and technical documentation for twenty five years.

How I Write

I am obsessive about writing for the audience. To best serve its readers, technical documentation must be accurate, clear, and concise. It should provide readers with the exact information they need in as few words as possible, but no fewer.

Inaccurate documentation causes users to waste time chasing wrong ideas down virtual rabbit holes. Unclear documentation leaves users with no understanding, or the wrong understanding, of the subject, resulting in mistakes that cost time and effort to correct. Overly lengthy documentation intimidates users, who often won't read it, choosing instead to muddle through complex tasks with the help of friends and Google.

At the same time, today's fashion for extremely brief (and sometimes non-existent) product documentation can leave users scrambling for information. Many users want to understand their device or product, not to simply do a series of tasks blindly.

Good writing finds the correct balance.

How I Think

Although I spent much of my professional life in technical writing, I am at least as much an illustrator as a writer. Perhaps not surprisingly, I love maps: simplified abstractions of complex subjects (such as a landscape) that when properly designed provide exactly the information the user needs while removing detail that serves only to confuse. I usually visualize any new subject as a type of landscape, and create what I call a "mental map" to understand it. This is true even of subjects that are not visual in nature and that most people would not be able to "see" at all. Creating a mental map allows me to organize information as best suits the subject at hand, rather than following a pre-ordained pattern that might not suit the subject.

This process aids me as a writer, as an illustrator, as an analyst, and increasingly as an information architect. I am currently developing methods to manage large quantities of email and communications data, to make the information in that data available to users who are otherwise overwhelmed by the sheer number of details. By "mapping out the territory" first, and then showing the "map" to both subject matter experts and people who want to use the end product, I can ensure that my understanding and presentation are accurate and also make sense to those who don't already know the material.

As an information architect, I work as a member of a team, just as I did as a technical writer. Members of a team must share a common understanding to produce a workable product in an acceptable period of time. I find that a visual representation of a project (a "map"), in addition to informing my own understanding of the project, also is the best tool to build a common understanding of that same project.

Availability

At present, I do not have available time for additional projects.

When I do have time available, I accept writing contracts in the email, network, and web security fields. Even when I do not have time available, I have been known to accept contracts in electrical engineering, physics, and environmental research if the subject of those contracts is interesting enough to me.

If you need a writer with background in one of these fields, or you have an interesting new project that requires a writer who loves to learn new fields, please read my resume before you contact me. My contact information is in the resume if you have a project that you would like to discuss with me.