Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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March 2007

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March 2007: Book Reviews

This is an archive of my shorter book reviews and notes, which historically have been posted over at the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal, but which I’m starting to move over here. I’m posting them with altered date-stamps, but they might show up in my LiveJournal cross-post anyway. Bear with me, please.

Note: Many of these books also have full reviews available in the book review podcast (RSS).

Continue reading March 2007: Book Reviews

Personal(ish) update…

First, I’d like to quickly address the Kathy Sierra fiasco by expressing my support for living in a sane world where women do not feel like it’s perfectly normal to be threatened on a regular basis. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re not reading many blogs, and you’ll probably be a happier person in the long run.

Second, and on the more personal stuff:
Last week I went to Michigan again for another excellent work-related trip. Lots of work was done by many, and as usual, I had a terrific time. Michiganders know how to drink, that’s for sure.

Last night during my Spanish test (the second one I’ve taken this week!) I started getting dizzy. Now, I’d had three cups of coffee at that point, and more sugar than I can normally contain, but still. Dizzy. The dizziness persisted. I drove home very carefully, with John behind me in case of, I don’t know, drunken behavior on the road, I suppose. Last night I awoke in a sweat, so I may have had a mild fever and just didn’t know it. In any case, I am feeling much better now, which is good.

PS: Can someone please stop all the random drahma on the Internet? Seriously. What a bummer!

New Blog Carnival: Carnival of Full-time RV’ing

Hi, all! I’m announcing the creation of a new blog carnival, hosted right here in my own blog: The Carnival of Full-time RV Travel. A blog carnival is a way to gather and distribute to a community several blog articles on a particular subject– in this case, RV travel. I hope that my friends and readers will enjoy it.

The first edition of the carnival will be on April 1 (it’s not an April Fool’s joke), and the deadline for entries is March 28th at midnight. You can submit your article to it here any time until the deadline has passed (and then you can submit articles for the May edition).

Carnival posts will be put in my blog category RV, which you can subscribe to as a feed, if you only want to get posts about RVing.

Businesses: Bad Customer Experiences are Always Your Fault

I would like to ask every company that charges for customer service calls what the hell you think you’re doing. In what universe do you have the moral high ground when you charge users for something that is entirely your fault?

If you get a service call from a customer, and the customer says “It’s broken,” then it is your fault. The vast majority of people do not abuse the things they’ve paid for. They don’t skijump off of them (or onto them), they don’t modify them, they don’t void their warranties. Heck, most people don’t even use them the way they originally intended, because they’re so afraid to break the crappy, Made-in-China results of your manufacturing empire.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say “the customers just don’t know how to use it properly.” That is your fault, too. You think I’m going to blame you for not providing a decent manual, a good online help system, right? I mean, I’m a tech writer– obviously the solution to every problem is documentation, right? Well, no. Frankly, if the user can’t figure out your product, it’s not a documentation problem, but it’s still your problem. It starts before documentation, with design. If you don’t design your product well, customer support calls are entirely your fault.

Documentation should help the user learn how to use the product, but the design should also do that for them. If your documentation is a series of specifications, twenty-five step lists for completing a procedure, blurry photographs instead of well-drawn diagrams, and lacks an index, then you need to pick up the phone and answer your user’s calls, for free and with as much patience as you would show your own grandmother.

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