59.4, November 2012

Book Reviews

Books Reviewed in This Issue

Jackie Damrau, Editor

The Language of Metaphors

Andrew Goatly

Combining E-Learning and M-Learning: New Applications of Blended Educational Resources

David Parson, Ed.

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English

Henry Hitchings

Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis

Nader Vossoughian

Smashing Logo Design: The Art of Creating Visual Identities

Gareth Hardy

Symbol

Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman

Head First Mobile Web

Lyza Danger Gardner and Jason Grigsby

Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language

Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann, and Floyd Schulze, Eds.

Writing for the Web: Compelling Web Content Using Words, Pictures and Sound

Lynda Felder

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

The Wrong Word Dictionary: 2,500 Most Commonly Confused Words

Dave Dowling

Introduction to Graphic Design Methodologies and Processes: Understanding Theory and Application

John Bowers

Jolts! Activities to Wake Up and Engage Your Participants

Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan and Tracy Tagliata

Vision in Design: A Guidebook for Innovators

Paul Hekkert and Matthijs van Dijk

Risk and Crisis Communications: Methods and Messages

Pamela (Ferrante) Walaski

Dreamweaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual

David Sawyer McFarland

Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You

Randall Bolten

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative

Stephen Denning

Endangered Phrases: Intriguing Idioms Dangerously Close to Extinction

Steven D. Price

Cross-Cultural Technology Design: Creating Culture-Sensitive Technology for Local Users

Huatong Sun

The Future of Looking Back

Richard Banks

Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law

Joseph Kimble

The Author’s Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book

Mary Embree

Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything

Chris Brogan

Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work

Dan Roam

DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA

Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey, and Jenifer Schlotfeldt

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published

Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander

Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington

Opening Standards: The Global Politics of Interoperability

Laura DeNardis, Ed.

The Language of Metaphors

Andrew Goatly. 2011. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-0-415-58638-2. 378 pages, including index. US$47.95 (softcover).]

Andrew Goatly’s textbook, written primarily for linguistics students, is predictably technical in its analysis of the metaphorical basis of language, but can nonetheless provide useful insights for the technical communicator.

Consider his observations about Root Analogies and the underlying metaphorical structure and origin of language. Goatly argues that language arose from and is structured by metaphor; that “metaphorical and literal language is a continuum”; and that linguistic change stems from the invention of new, “active” metaphors inevitably conventionalized into denotative terms or “inactive” metaphors (p. 147). Metaphors invented to describe new concepts gradually narrow their meaning to a precise, denotative definition. This process of literalizing metaphor serves a cognitive, conceptual function by making the unfamiliar familiar, as in the classroom comparison of electricity to water in a pipe (pp. 154–155). The initial metaphor loses some affective impact, yet gains semantic precision through literalization.

Conversely, juxtaposing familiar, literal terms in new ways introduces “extra ambiguity into the meaning of syntactic structures” (p. 241), as in “literary metaphors [that] often seem designed to bring about a re-conceptualization of experience” (p. 158) by defamiliarizing our habituated, attenuated awareness of reality. Language both literalizes metaphor for greater precision in meaning, and recombines literal meanings to reinvigorate our perception of the world.

Goatly’s concept of Root Analogy is related to Experientialist theories by Lakoff and others claiming that “most abstract concepts arise from … pre-conceptual physical experiences by metaphorical projection” (p. 42). Thus, the pre-conceptual observation that a “HUMAN IS [like a] PLANT” blossoms into many variations (“ripe old age,” “put down roots,” “dead wood,” “personal growth,” etc.) that are gradually deadened into denotation, but whose expressive power can be recovered by novel conjunctions of literal terms, as in Shakespeare’s sonnet 73, where the speaker describes himself as possessing “yellow leaves” and “boughs which shake against the cold” (pp. 43-44); in short, as a “HUMAN PLANT.”

A small, apparently finite number of Root Analogies can be transformed into literalized, nuanced meanings through “morphological changes” that “lexicalize metaphors and incorporate them into the semantic system” (p. 104). Thus, where Experientialism explores how metaphor shapes our basic knowledge of the world, Goatly explains how it ramifies into the many variations of meaning necessary to describe the world in detail. Experientialists show what metaphor means, its epistemological role; Goatly emphasizes how it works, its operational mode.

An understanding of Root Analogies like “PURPOSE IS DIRECTION” and “DEVELOPMENT/SUCCESS IS MOVEMENT FORWARD” helps the technical communicator optimize the cognitive, actionable expectations of the reader who seeks both precise understanding and practical direction from a document. Awareness of these Root Analogies can serve as criteria for determining whether a document satisfies the reader’s fundamental sense of the unity of intellectual flow and physical movement. The foregrounding of Root Analogies in even the subtlest, most nuanced documents retains the precision of denotative detail while engaging the experiential affective aspect of meaning, thereby optimizing communication in a holistic manner.

Donald R. Riccomini

Donald R. Riccomini is a member of STC and a lecturer in English at Santa Clara University, where he specializes in teaching engineering and technical communications. He previously spent twenty-three years in high technology as a technical writer, engineer, and manager in semiconductors, instrumentation, and server development.

Combining E-Learning and M-Learning: New Applications of Blended Educational Resources

David Parson, Ed. 2011. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. [ISBN 978-1-60960-482-0. 400 pages, including index. US$180.00 (ebook).]

For anyone who has ever doubted the international availability of virtual education or mobile communication devices, Combining E-Learning and M-Learning will resolve those doubts. In 19 chapters written by scholars from 15 nations, this book presents discussions of mobile learning and related pedagogy and technology. The potential for collaboration and exploration is examined, evaluation practices are considered, and ethical issues are reviewed. The chapters mentioned here touch on those topics and were selected to demonstrate the variety of nationalities represented by the authors.

“Transforming Pedagogy Using Mobile Web 2.0: 2006–2009” by Thomas Cochrane and Roger Bateman (both of New Zealand) introduces readers to the application of activity theory, participatory action research, social constructivism, and authentic learning environments to educational activities tied to Wireless Mobile devices (WMDs). The chapter recounts the development of a Web 2.0-dependent project for a bachelor’s degree in product design. The project required an array of student deliverables created with Web 2.0 tools and an assortment of interactions using smartphones. The chapter also examines a set of student learning outcomes tied to mobile learning.

“A Design of Collaborative Learning System Based on PDA for Improving Performance of Real-Time Learning” by Cheng-Li Liu and Kuo-Wei Su (both of Taiwan) discusses the planning, execution, and evaluation of learning activities centered on PDAs. The authors’ experiments apply to education delivered by smart phone. Of particular interest is their emphasis on the importance of the graphical and text-based interfaces for enabling students to grasp the lessons delivered and to interact with classmates and their instructor. Also emphasized are screen size and orientation, legibility of type, appropriate use of color, and ease of operation. After evaluating these characteristics, the authors conclude that the experimental lessons delivered by a PDA were successful in achieving the course goal: “improved students’ language learning ability in the m-based classroom” (p. 210).

“Ethical Considerations in Implementing Mobile Learning in the Workplace” by Jocelyn Wishart (UK) presents a matrix that is helpful for analyzing key ethical issues according to four core ethical principles—Do good, Avoid harm, Respect user choice, and Share resources fairly—pertinent to educational (pre-college) and health care settings. The matrix itself suggests a way to consider the ethical issues and core principles in a variety of settings, including colleges and universities, as well as corporations.

“Supporting Awareness in Ubiquitous Learning” by Hiroaki Ogata (Japan) explores the way that mobile technology can support “ubiquitous learning,” a type of lifelong learning enhanced by mobile devices such as PDAs as well as by RFID tags, GPS, environmental sensor devices, and digital videos. In this type of learning, the technology enables learners (inside or outside of an educational setting) to be aware of other learners and to collaborate on common goals. The technology also helps learners become aware of what they know and do not know, and directs them to the kinds of help they need, including peers.

Ann Jennings

Ann Jennings is a senior member of STC, 2009 winner of STC’s Jay R. Gould award, and professor of English at University of Houston-Downtown, where she teaches in the BS and MS degree programs in professional writing. She teaches online regularly using a learning management system that offers a mobile version accessible by iPhone®, iPod touch®, iPad®, Android™, BlackBerry®, and Palm® smartphones.

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English

Henry Hitchings. 2011. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. [ISBN: 978-0-374-18329-5. 408 pages, including index. US$28.00.]

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the English language and its use—or just want to refresh your memory on the subject, The Language Wars: A History of Proper English makes a good reference for you. Besides finding a summary of the history of the development of English from its earliest roots, you will also find Hitchings’ comments on current usage and development, including references to contemporaries such as John MacWhorter, a linguist who argues the interesting idea that “writing … is just a method for engraving on paper what comes out of our mouths” (p. 215).

Why is there a market for what Hitchings calls grammatical law-making? Is it a result of increased social mobility? In part, yes. In addition, the upper-class also wanted rules and guides. Hitchings explains that “an upper-class revulsion at the thought of being contaminated with middle-class vulgarity was a strong motive for the eighteenth-century codification of grammar. There was an intricate relationship between linguistic intolerance and the twin energies of aspiration and insecurity. This remains” (p. 87).

Some readers will enjoy and find it useful to read Hitchings’ thoughts on prescriptive and descriptive grammarians and approaches throughout history and today. Hitchings points out that since the Gregorian age, users of English worry that they could use language incorrectly. He also reminds us that some of the rules about English have strange and illogical roots. For example, a split infinite in English at one time was considered taboo. This is because it is easier to translate from English to Latin. It is also because grammarians at one time thought English should be more like Latin. Are these good reasons to not split an infinitive? The answer according to Hitchings is no. These are not good reasons to the average speaker and not natural or logical in English.

The suppression of certain words in the English language is the topic of one chapter in The Language Wars. Hitchings notes examples that come from books such as Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and of course Huckleberry Finn. He explains how Thomas Bowdler’s The Family Shakespeare is another example of censorship because this version omitted words that had to do with anything sexual. Thus, we have the term “to bowdlerize” in our vocabulary today.

Discussion about the proper use of English can be as Hitchings puts it “cantankerous or petulant … but thinking and talking about what makes good English good and bad English bad can be, and should be, a pleasure” (p. 336).

Jeanette Evans

Jeanette Evans has more than 20 years in the field. An STC Associate Fellow, she is active in the NEO STC chapter where she serves as academic relations co-chair and newsletter co-editor. She has published in Intercom and presented at various STC functions.

Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis

Nader Vossoughian. 2011. Rotterdam: Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. [ISBN 978-90-5662-798-0. 176 pages, including index. US$35.00 (softcover).]

Many years ago my interest in all things visual was piqued by Bill Horton, whom I consider the guru of graphics in technical communication. My studies led me to Nigel Holmes, then art director for Time magazine, who in turn led me to Rudolf Modley and Otto Neurath, who were his mentors. More technical communicators should be familiar with the work of Neurath and now have a chance to do so through Nader Vossoughian’s Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis.

As Vossoughian writes toward the end of the book, “I started out this project with little if any understanding of what I was up to. I was mostly just fascinated by those cool little pictograms that have become incredibly fashionable in art and architecture magazines in recent years” (p. 146). Those cool little pictograms were created by Neurath, who was a technical communicator in Austria in the first half of the twentieth century, before the term was ever coined.

Neurath served as a museum curator for a good part of his life. At one point, he established a “Department of Transformation, which was responsible for distilling scientific fact down to clusters of important information and developing ways of organizing them in a pedagogically effective manner” (p. 59). Doesn’t that sound like a good definition of technical communication?

And the driving force behind Neurath’s ideas was his belief in the power of the visual. As if anticipating the explosion of visual media in our era he says, “Modern man [sic] is very spoiled by cinema and illustrations. He receives his education in the most comfortable of means, partly during his periods of rest, through optical impressions. If one seeks to disseminate socioscientific education generally, one must use similar means of representation” (p. 49). One wonders what Neurath would have made of the Internet and video games, with their heavy reliance on graphics?

Neurath developed the International System of TYpographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE), which tried to rely solely on pictures for communicating across all classes and nationalities. He thought pictograms “could stimulate the intellect and imagination in a way that letters and words alone could not” (p. 61).

This book does an excellent job in placing Neurath in his historical context. Those wishing to understand the history of graphic arts, especially in their European connection, will appreciate Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis. At times the book is pedantic and will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the period. But, if you’re interested in seeing how technical communication came into being, at least on the graphics side of things, you’ll like this book. It is beautifully published and contains many photographs and illustrations of Neurath’s pictographic work.

Charles R. Crawley

Charles R. Crawley is a lead technical writer at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is the public relations manager for the Eastern Iowa Chapter and a member of the Technical Editing SIG. He also teaches as an adjunct at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids.

Smashing Logo Design: The Art of Creating Visual Identities

Gareth Hardy. 2011. Chichester, UK: Wiley. [ISBN 978-1-119-99332-2. 292 pages, including index. US$39.99 (softcover).]

British graphic designer Gareth Hardy’s book on “smashing” logo designs is written with fellow graphic designers in mind. But those who hire or work with graphic designers will also gain valuable insights from this almost 300-page book.

In Part I, Hardy explains the power of logos and includes a brief section about what logos are and aren’t, a necessary section given the common misunderstanding that logos are synonymous with brand. Next he describes the many types of logos: “from pictures to words to abstract symbols” (p. 9) and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Part II—with 11 chapters—covers the steps a designer should take to design a logo for a client. From client communications and research to conceptualizing and committing design ideas to paper (or computer) to type and color, Hardy offers an exhaustive step-by-step process for creating a memorable and distinctive logo.

Chapter 9, which discusses alignment of a graphic element and typography, is a good example of how thorough the book is. In this chapter, Hardy plays with the layout of a stylized hummingbird and type for a fictional company. The bird and the type can each be proportioned differently and aligned in a variety of ways, some more powerful and impactful than others. You can pick your favorite from the six examples on page 117 and turn to page 119 to see Hardy’s final choice.

The book is a visual delight. Besides showcasing his design process with the hummingbird company, Hardy packs the pages throughout the book with countless examples of logos from around the world. And he names the talented designers of each memorable logo. Part III has more than 100 pages of logo examples. The eight-page index is extremely useful as is the nicely detailed table of contents.

Smashing Logo Design is a roadmap for the design process and explains why your chosen designer works as she or he does. For example, if you wonder why your designer is not willing to offer you a few sample logo ideas before hiring, Hardy explains. The chapters on preparing source files and logo usage guidelines should be required reading for clients.

Hardy covers the logo design process from A to Z. His book is a tremendous resource and a valuable addition to any corporate or personal library.

Ginny Hudak-David

Ginny Hudak-David is the senior associate director in the Office for University Relations at the University of Illinois.

Symbol

Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman. 2011. London, UK: Lawrence King Publishing Ltd. [ISBN 978-1-85669-727-9. 334 pages, including index. US$40.00 (softcover).]

I was very excited when I first learned about this book. I thought it would be an update to Henry Dreyfuss’ book Symbol Sourcebook, published in 1972. Dreyfuss was an American industrial designer, and Symbol Sourcebook was an incredibly useful compendium of the typical symbols, organized according to use.

The opening essay by David Gibbs, “See How You Feel,” led me to believe Symbol was the successor to Symbol Sourcebook, with its explanation of the differences between symbols, icons, and logos. Yet when I got into the meat of the book, I was very disappointed. It’s really not about symbols at all, but corporate logotypes. But once I got over this disappointment, I was able to learn some things, just not what I was expecting to learn.

Symbol is divided almost evenly between abstract and representational types of symbols. Abstract includes such designs as circles, chevrons, crosses, and arrows. Representation includes flowers, birds, stars, sports, and hearts, among others.

Each section focuses on well-known logos representing a type of symbol. For example, the abstract circle is typified by The Transport of London’s symbol, or “roundel.” The section on the roundel explains how it came to be and what its merits are. I was surprised when the authors failed to mention here what I think is the most distinctive thing about the roundel: its use of Eric Gill’s Gill Sans typeface.

Another abstract circle, a favorite of mine since high school, is the peace sign, which was the symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. (This is one of the few examples where the authors veer from corporate logotypes.) The peace sign combines the semaphore letters for N and D, which stand for Nuclear Disarmament.

The Nike “Swoosh” is an example of abstract curves, crescents, and arcs. A graduate arts student created that symbol in 1971 for $35 by basing it upon the wings of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. The CEO of Nike later gave the designer a gold ring and an envelope full of Nike stock in appreciation.

The Mac apple is an example of representational fruits and vegetables. The bite in the apple was added because it looked too much like a cherry. It was also a play on the word “byte.”

The penguin of Penguin Publishing is an example of representational birds. It was drawn in 1935 when Penguin Books was founded and redrawn again in 1946 by famed typographer Jan Tschichold.

Each one of these examples is followed by many examples of other corporate logotypes that are similar to the one being explained, so you can see the variations in the design of the abstract or representational category.

So if you’re interested in the design of corporate logotypes, this is a very helpful book. I just wish they hadn’t named it Symbol.

Charles R. Crawley

Charles R. Crawley is a lead technical writer at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is the public relations manager for the Eastern Iowa Chapter and a member of the Technical Editing SIG. He also teaches as an adjunct at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids.

Head First Mobile Web

Lyza Danger Gardner and Jason Grigsby. 2012. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc. [ISBN 978-1-449-30266-5. 450 pages, including index. US$44.99 (softcover).]

With mobile technology, there is much debate as to which is best—a mobile app or a mobile Web site. If you’re considering modifying your existing Web site to look great on mobile devices using responsive Web design, you should read Head First Mobile Web.

This book is not a reference, but it is written for those having previous Web design and development experience. Each chapter gives you many opportunities to apply the skills you learn about as you read providing you with hands-on examples.

What makes Head First Mobile Web different from other books you might consider? It incorporates lots of graphics and pictures. This was the first book where I got very excited about the prefatory matter. Because it is so visual and words are put within or near graphics, I was able to come up with ideas for my company’s existing mobile applications before I began reading the first page of the actual content. As the book states, the publisher “thinks of a ‘Head First’ reader as a learner” (p. xxiv). As the authors point out, “Images are far more memorable than words alone” (p. xxiv) and the learner can have up to 89 percent improvement in recall.

Another plus I noted, even before beginning to read the book, is the code and resources for the chapter examples are available online at http://hf-mw.com. The authors recommend you use a text editor, a browser, a Web server, and the source code for performing the hands-on exercises for each chapter. You’ll find as you read through the book and case studies that the examples become increasingly complex.

Head First Mobile Web begins with an existing Web site design for a fictitious business, The Splendid Walrus, to introduce the concept of responsive Web design. The authors discuss the possibility of a separate mobile Web site and which devices to support.

Other topics, such as what devices to support, how to avoid building for the lowest common denominator in mobile devices, and building mobile Web apps for the real world are also discussed.

You can learn how to structure your mobile Web site to be future friendly by reading about HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and PhoneGap and working through the exercises.

What I like best is the appendix, which covers additional topics not discussed in the individual chapters, such as testing on mobile devices. The authors list great tips, for example, visit your local mobile testing center (carrier store) to test your Web site on multiple devices. In addition, they discuss remote debugging of your mobile Web page using Web INspector REmote (weinre).

The book closes with a description on how to install the Android SDK and tools for debugging Android mobile apps on emulators and devices.

Head First Mobile Web is a great reference if you are considering adapting your Web site for your users’ phones and tablets, creating mobile Web apps that use offline mode and geolocation, and making your sites future friendly.

Rhonda Lunemann

Rhonda Lunemann is an information developer with Siemens PLM Software, a senior member and treasurer of STC’s Twin Cities Chapter, and a member and officer of the Hill Speakers Toastmasters Club (Club 4415).

Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language

Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann, and Floyd Schulze, Eds. 2011 Berlin, Germany: Gestalten. [ISBN 978-3-89955-375-8. 256 pages, including index. US$68.00.]

This book is a beautifully formatted, coffee-table sized (9.75″ x 12″) collection of color images, arranged in two major sections. Part A, “Visual Storyteller,” interviews several influential visual storytellers, followed by examples of their work. Part B, “Visual Stories,” presents examples of visual narrative in categories such as News, Science, Geography, the Modern World, and Sports. European and American designers and examples prevail.

The premise for visual storytelling is that our response to external stimulus is initially determined “by the parasympathetic nervous system,” and only “a few milliseconds afterwards” does our “brain get involved, adding logic and explanation to this instinctive emotional outpouring.” And because over half of the brain “is dedicated to the processing of visual input,” “pure text and numbers simply cannot convey information” as efficiently and memorably as “successful visual-based storytelling” (p. 4).

Unlike visual narratives, text and numbers require a secondary process to convert the signifier (the letters spelling “cat”) into a signified (the mental image of a cat) that is itself derived from a referent (an actual cat). Images and graphics—icons that look like what they mean—bypass the extra cognition required by text and numbers. Seeing an image of a cat with other images before and after, we experience the image directly, in a visual story that creates immediacy in continuity and meaning.

Though “not a how-to manual” (p. 7), the book does identify three stages in creating visual stories: find and verify the truth and quality of the data; “establish a clear narrative from within it”; and find a “succinct and visually engaging method of representation” (p. 6). The book contains hundreds of graphics illustrating these principles, including: a map of the world made out of sponges cut into the shapes of countries, with water added to each country proportional to its usage, thus raising that country’s height relative to the others (p. 106); a 3-dimension cross-sectional map of water captured from a river, processed before and after human consumption, and returned to the same river (p. 158); a survey of sexual activity represented as zippers ranging from completely closed to totally open (p. 223); a history of lesser wars since 1915, with deaths shown as different-sized “glass containers filled with blood, set out on a kitchen table” (pp. 72–73); class differences represented by a silver spoon for the upper class and forks of progressively lower quality for everyone else (p. 74); and a chart illustrating how people get hurt at the Burning Man festival (p. 210).

To get a sense of the creativity and originality of these graphics, readers are urged to visit the publisher’s Web site, http://usshop.gestalten.com/visual-storytelling.html, to browse image samples directly and see interviews with the designers featured in the book. Most likely, the technical communicator, having experienced the Web version of the images, will want the book, and it should provide ongoing inspiration for visualizing data in imaginative, persuasive, and memorable ways. It should be especially helpful in suggesting ways of discovering the visual narrative hidden in the numbers. Very highly recommended.

Donald R. Riccomini

Donald R. Riccomini is a member of STC and a lecturer in English at Santa Clara University, where he specializes in teaching engineering and technical communications. He previously spent twenty-three years in high technology as a technical writer, engineer, and manager in semiconductors, instrumentation, and server development.

Writing for the Web: Compelling Web Content Using Words, Pictures and Sound

Lynda Felder. 2012. Berkeley, CA, New Riders. [ISBN 978-0-321-79443-7. 182 pages, including index. US$24.99 (softcover).]

The author, Lynda Felder, must have written the book she wished was available to teach her Pratt College students. Having been raised in the era of social media, their cry was likely “Don’t make me read print!”

Nowadays, isn’t it all about the message, the audience, and telling a good story? Don’t be fooled. The Web is not just aural, as were the storytellers of bygone days. It is still mostly written. This is clearly indicated by chapter titles in the book: Best Practices for Writing for the Web, Writing Non-linear Interactive Stories, Writing Succinctly, Writing Instructions, and Writing Blogs.

Consider the author’s strategy for including Chapter 10, Refresher on the Rhetorical Modes. Originally inspired by ancient Greek philosophers, rhetorical modes can help organize your thoughts for Web writing. The four traditional modes are: Narration (tells what happened); Description (presents picture of what happened); Explanation (makes what happened understandable); Argument (persuades someone to agree or disagree with what happened). Doesn’t that cover the majority of content on the Web? Likely her college students never suspected that they were being encouraged to use Classical styles—especially when a sidebar in the chapter, one of many in the book, states that Plato wasn’t convinced writing was a good invention. Reverse logic?

Nearer to a technical writer’s heart is Chapter 11. Writing Instructions. The author breaks down the tasks to write steps into sections of Dos and Don’ts. Don’t Teach or Preach (readers will prefer a guide to a sage). Do Write for a Capable Reader (your readers are not likely six years old). Do Consider Multiple Learning Styles (remember all the fun and exciting ways you’ve learned on the Web). Don’t Explain Too Much and Don’t Explain Too Little (readers don’t need great detail but will be frustrated if steps are missing). Do Use Commands and Use Active Voice (enough said). Do Provide Illustrations and Show Motion with Video or Animation (these orient the reader and increase involvement). And do Test, Test, Test (then revise the instructions until you are happy with them).

Why would a technical writer, or anyone for that matter, want to read one more book on writing? Felder gives a couple of her own reasons: 1) it’s a thin book; 2) you can zoom to what you want; 3) it engages you to think and is packed with examples, challenges, and suggestions; 4) it focuses on words, pictures, and sounds as elements for Web content.

Lynda Felder has obviously learned a thing or two about presenting an engaging message to a less-than-motivated audience. Writers of any type could benefit from her expertise.

Donna Ford

Donna Ford is a senior member of STC and has served on her local chapter’s board. She has been a technical writer since 1987 in the hardware, software, and government health care industries.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman. 2011. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. [ISBN 978-0-374-27563-1. 500 pages, including index. US$30.00.]

Stock fund managers perform no better than market averages. Computers predict performance of military officers in training better than psychologists. Lucky Larry Page and Sergey Brin are billionaires today because “a year after founding Google, they were willing to sell their company for less than $1 million, but the buyer said the price was too high” (p. 200). Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman presents example after weird example, analyzing things that don’t initially make sense.

When explaining how the brain works, most books follow a hardware approach: this part of the brain does X, this part does Y. Kahneman, however, sees it as software: the brain works fast on these problems, slow on these others. Defined as System 1 and System 2, the fast and slow parts of the brain collaborate to help us understand the world. System 1 works well for instant judgments, but when we have to multiply 74 by 19, we use the slower, methodical System 2.

Sometimes lazy and easily overloaded, System 2 often lets System 1 do the thinking. Example: Ann approached the bank. You likely imagined a woman walking toward an ATM or building. The numbers preceding that sentence influence System 1 to make a judgment about money. However, as Kahneman points out, “if an earlier sentence had been ‘They were floating gently down the river,’ you would have imagined an altogether different scene” (p. 80). That is, given an ambiguous situation, System 1 jumps to conclusions. System 2, being lazy, lets this happen. Not until other clues appear does System 1adjust.

Kahneman spends part 1 of the book defining the ways the two systems work. Many of the examples, like the following, appeal to language lovers: When test subjects were asked to judge whether two words rhymed, they performed faster when the words were spelled similarly (vote–note) than not (vote–goat). Kahneman calls this response a “mental shotgun” (p. 95) because System 1 is doing much more—making connections—than it needs to.

In part 2, Kahneman moves into the idiosyncrasies of the brain grappling with probability. Unfortunately, this section drags in many places, especially for the reader who hasn’t taken a statistics course. The content might be of more interest to those who know Kahneman’s work in economics (for which he won the Nobel). Part 3 livens up with the examples that began this review. Our intuition and ability to judge take center stage. Kahneman ends by discussing findings around happiness as it relates to two selves—the one that experiences life and the one that remembers it.

Each chapter is short and concludes with samples using the terms defined therein; many chapters work as stand-alone topics. Kahneman cites scores of researchers, and most often, he describes the research and projects he worked on over decades with his deceased research partner, Amos Tversky. So often and so endearing are the discussions that you leave the text knowing how much Kahneman misses his friend.

Kelly A. Harrison

Kelly A. Harrison, MFA, works as a consultant, speaker, and writing instructor in San José, CA. For over 20 years, she has written print and online content for various high-tech computer companies. Currently, she teaches writing at San José State University and prefers short-term and part-time contracts.

The Wrong Word Dictionary: 2,500 Most Commonly Confused Words

Dave Dowling. 2011. 2nd ed. Portland, OR: Marion Street Press. [ISBN: 978-1-933338-92-7. 266 pages, including bibliography. US$14.95 (softcover).]

In an age of auto-correcting smart phones and sometimes incorrect spell check tools, The Wrong Word Dictionary is a great resource for writers in every profession. The book is small enough to carry in a briefcase or store in a desk drawer and the words are conveniently arranged alphabetically as in a standard dictionary, which makes the reference tool easily accessible for users. Dowling explains commonly misused words (discrete versus discreet) and the difference between more unusual terms (pool table versus billiards table) as well. The text also explains the proper way to use common idioms (it’s chock full, thank-you, not chalked full) and the common use spelling of words that have legitimate alternative spellings (adviser and advisor). The text would also be a useful tool for student writers trying to discern which version of a word most suits the context.

Carolyn K. Dunn

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn is an assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems at East Carolina University. She holds a PhD in Technical and Professional Discourse and teaches Technical Writing. Before entering academia, she worked as a journalist, a public information director for a municipality, and a marketing professional.

Introduction to Graphic Design Methodologies and Processes: Understanding Theory and Application

John Bowers. 2011. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. [ISBN 978-0470-50435-2. 121 pages, including index. US$55.00 (softcover).]

It’s refreshing to read a slim book so full of practical ideas. Bowers concisely describes how graphic design methodologies and processes work for both academics and practitioners. Readers can read Introduction to Graphic Design Methodologies and Processes: Understanding Theory and Application when initially delving into graphic design, for reference once they understand the principles, and as they mature through their careers.

The page grid is one of the best features of the book. Bowers divides the page into two sections, with verbal descriptions on the bottom and visual explanations on the top. He uses the bottom left margin to add interesting information, definitions, or other facts about the topic. Usually he leaves the upper left margin blank, occasionally adding visual or verbal information about the visual.

In the Introduction Bowers defines problem solving as “the cognitive process of engaging an issue or set of conditions for the purpose of transforming it” (p. xiv). This chapter introduces his four phases of graphic design: learning, identifying, generating and implementing.

Looking Broadly, the first chapter, explores research methodologies in the Learning phase of a project. Bowers shows how research, methodologies, and processes are interrelated.

Examining “how messages are sent, received, and interpreted” (p. 14) is the focus of Interpreting, the second chapter. In this very rich chapter, Bowers explores the range of theories on communication over the past century and a half. He explains how visual literacy helps people derive meaning from images and graphics.

In chapter three, Targeting, Bowers explains how to target messages to audiences for specific responses. This comprehensive chapter starts from the message strategy stage to gathering information about the audience using personas, flowcharts, and focus groups. He then explores how to audit and test a strategy before implementing and then evaluating a pilot.

By definition, chapter four, Creating, describes ways to produce visual messages. Bowers shows readers various methods to develop a message, including matrices and flow charts.

The final chapter, Looking Closer, describes projects by five designers who have put the methodology and processes into practice.

Back matter includes exercises for each of the four phases.

Throughout, Bowers recommends flexibility when applying each phase. He shows that in real life there may not be a straight path to finding a solution and that a good designer is flexible enough to try another method or process when s/he needs to, and, when needed, going backwards.

I love the format—it’s easy to use as you’re working on a project. I was disappointed, however, that to keep a double-paged spread stay open, I had to push hard on the page. Good that the binding holds up!

I was disappointed in the publisher’s pricing of the book. Read the book, but take it out from a library before investing in your own copy.

Beth Lisberg Najberg

Beth Lisberg Najberg has more than 20 years’ experience as an information and instructional design consultant, documenting systems, developing custom training solutions, and creating technical presentations for large corporations and public entities. She is principal of Beginnings (www.BeginningsDesign.com), an information design consulting firm.

Jolts! Activities to Wake Up and Engage Your Participants

Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan and Tracy Tagliata. 2011. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. [ISBN 978-0-470-90003-1. 258 pages, including index. US$50.00 (softcover).]

They paid to come to your training session and there they are—falling asleep in the front row. Or, even worse, they are checked out and checking their e-mail. You’ve got to jolt them back to life.

An interactive exercise would do the trick, and 50 of them are collected in Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan’s handbook, Jolts! Activities to Wake Up and Engage Your Participants. This manual provides teachable moments that can—at best—shake up comfortable assumptions and habitual practices.

The handbook is a distillation of concepts that Thiagi, who has a PhD in instructional technology, has developed over 45 years. He has published 40 books and more than 200 articles, including the chapter on simulations and games for the International Society for Performance Improvement’s Handbook of Human Performance Technology. Jolts! is co-published by the American Society for Training and Development. You can download handouts and slides from a companion website.

The quickest entry to Thiagi’s training philosophy is to play a game. Each game lasts a minute or two, and is followed by a longer debriefing, which is where the learning starts. These aren’t simple ice breakers, but part of a change management system.

Some participants will enjoy being challenged to see things differently. Others will rebel. Jolts! prepares facilitators for unexpected consequences. This is key because some exercises place participants in awkward or frustrating situations—often in front of peers or superiors. Some exercises might make the supervisors squirm.

One example (“What’s Measured,” page 233) is a familiar word game where players form as many words as possible from a set of letters. Yet, each team receives a different set of instructions: to form as many words as possible, to form as many words of five letters or more, or to form the longest word possible. Even though each category has a winner, some teams may end up feeling the reward system was unfair. In the debriefing, teams can compare this exercise with performance measurements in their own workplace and reflect on the importance of goal setting.

As with all the exercises, participants can come away feeling, “Hey, I learned something” or, conversely, “I hate it when my boss does that.” Or, better yet, the work team may have a dialogue and make lasting changes.

Jolts! is not a learning system in itself, and Thiagi warns against overuse. But its exercises may provide just the jolt a long training session needs.

Katherine J. Hall

Katherine J. Hall, PhD, is a freelance writer and editor. She retired from the University of Washington as editor of the journal Northwest Public Health. She has won Best of Show awards at the chapter and international levels of STC’s publications competition.

Vision in Design: A Guidebook for Innovators

Paul Hekkert and Matthijs van Dijk. 2011. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: BIS Publishers. [ISBN 978-90-6369-205-6. 356 pages, including index. US$59.00.]

Vision in Design: A Guidebook for Innovators, like any guidebook, does not need to be read front to back, a point emphasized by the authors in the introduction. Hekkert and van Dijk think that the average reader will go directly to the second of three sections, which is where readers will find the real meat of the book. In it, the authors explain in detail the method argued for throughout the entire book. In its simplest form, the point is this: every design must have a reason for being that is completely dependent upon the future context or environment (social, political, economic, etc.) into which the design will be implemented.

Hekkert and van Dijk indicate that much of the design that surrounds us is reactionary. Designers or innovators see a problem with a product or service and design something that fixes that problem. The error of thinking this way, as the authors see it, is that it fails to take into consideration the time between the inception of the idea and its implementation. A problem that exists now may not still be a problem by the time a solution that fixes it can be brought to market.

The method Hekkert and van Dijk propose and argue for with Vision in Design, though they hesitate to label it a “method,” asks designers to spend significant time in analysis, considering the product or service, user interaction with it, and the present context in which it is used. Then, designers project the context in which the design solution will exist, consider future user interaction with the solution, and lastly figure out what product or service will best achieve the desired interaction in that future context. This approach ensures that whatever idea gets developed, whether a product or service, will have a reason for existing in the world at that future date.

The authors admit that this approach is counterintuitive and requires practice because in a real sense, it complicates the design process. However, the method does seem to result in solutions that work and are successful. As an aspiring designer, the aspect of the book that I found most useful and important was the idea that design is not just about coming up with an idea and developing it. It is more than doing some simple market research. Good design comes from knowing not only the audience, but the audience’s environment, and being able to produce design solutions that account for both of these. Vision in Design is a must read for designers at all levels, from those like myself, just starting out and trying to understand the many approaches to the design process, to those with more experience looking for a new and fresh alternative to the cycle of reactionary designing.

Spencer Gee

Spencer Gee holds a master’s degree in Composition and Rhetoric and teaches Freshman Composition at the University of Central Oklahoma. He also is working toward a degree in Graphic Design.

Risk and Crisis Communications: Methods and Messages

Pamela (Ferrante) Walaski. 2011. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. [ISBN: 978-0-470-59273-1. 212 pages, including index. US$69.95.]

As I began reading Walaski’s Risk and Crisis Communications: Methods and Messages, I became concerned with its occasional conflation of risk communication and crisis communication, which are distinct entities though they share some characteristics. Both risk communication and crisis communication may address potential health, safety, and environmental hazards. However, risk communication must occur in advance of a hazard becoming an imminent danger, whereas crisis communication must occur as the hazard becomes an imminent danger. This time characteristic changes the communication in small, yet vital, ways, and it’s certainly worth further exploration here. Despite my initial concern, the book does fill a valuable niche for risk and crisis communications professionals.

The book’s 11 chapters is divided into an introduction and overview of risk and crisis communications theories; practical explanations of how to craft messages for particular situations; and case studies and analysis. The first three chapters explore different risk communication theories from a risk perception/risk analysis perspective. Though this perspective means that Walaski bases her work on a Shannon–Weaver/transmission model of communication (which technical communication scholarship has mostly abandoned), it provides insight into how our subject matter expert colleagues view communication, which can be helpful when collaboratively developing messages. Some of the models she includes, particularly the Negative Dominance Model, are quite helpful for communicators: both risk and crisis situations can cause fear and uncertainty in audiences. This model suggests that communicators should “overbalance” negative messages with positive messages (p. 29).

The bulk of the chapters (4–9) provide practice-based explanations for shaping risk and crisis communication messages. These chapters showcase Walaski’s valuable expertise in creating risk and crisis communication messages. Yet, she presents the practices sometimes in a way that may not be immediately reader friendly. In addition, some of the suggestions may look familiar to experienced risk and crisis communications professionals; for example, chapter 6 notes that one of the most common mistakes an organization can make is failing to provide consistency in its messages. However, communicators new to this practice will likely find it useful, while experienced communicators may appreciate the reminder.

The greatest strength of Risk and Crisis Communications lies in the case studies in Chapter 10, which focuses on the 2009–2010 H1N1 pandemic and the 2010 British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The BP Deepwater Horizon case study is especially strong given that the case straddles the risk and crisis communication divide.

There are better, more accessible books on both risk and crisis communication for practitioners. However, given the balance of theory and practical information in Walaski’s book, it is certainly a good addition to the library of risk and crisis communications professionals.

Ashley Patriarca

Ashley Patriarca is a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric and Writing at Virginia Tech. She earned her master’s degree in English (technical and professional writing) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she also worked in the Department of Enrollment Management as a technical writer.

Dreamweaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual

David Sawyer McFarland. 2011. Cambridge, MA: O’Reilly. [ISBN 978-1-449-39797-5. 1186 pages, including index. US$49.99 (softcover).]

I learned word processing with AtariWriter and WordPerfect, which used coding schemes strikingly similar to HTML. Much though I loved the control (and troubleshooting ease), I eagerly adopted visual tools such as Microsoft Word that automated what used to be complex tasks. When I began designing my own Web sites, writing HTML in a text editor worked well, but Dreamweaver made the details so much easier I quickly adopted it. Unfortunately, Dreamweaver grew in complexity to the point that I couldn’t simply blunder through the interface, learning the details by trial and error. Sawyer McFarland’s “missing manual” for Dreamweaver, weighing in at nearly 1200 pages, does what other books in this series do so well: provides guidance the developer neglects.

The first third of the book reviews the workspace, providing simple yet effective examples of using that workspace to create basic Web pages. This and subsequent sections provide everything you need to know to accomplish the basic tasks that lie at the heart of Web design. Sawyer McFarland clearly distinguishes between content and formatting, a key concept many Web designers seem incapable of grasping. The remainder of the book covers the bells and whistles that go beyond “basic,” such as design for mobile devices, interactivity, generating database-driven pages, and site management. The CSS sections include an effective introduction, supplemented by three chapters that delve into the details, including a crucial chapter on troubleshooting CSS problems. There are many external links, including one to Adobe’s BrowserLab, which lets you test your designs with a range of Web browsers. The 27-page index is both useful and accurate, a formidable challenge for such a large book.

Jaded pros who just want the facts may find the writing chatty, but that verbosity mitigates the “scare” factor many of us experience when facing complex new software. In any event, good technical communication solves that “problem”: key steps are numbered and boldfaced for those who only want the overview, but descriptions, details, and commentary follow for those who need more. The writing is clear and effective both at an overall structural level and at a sentence level. Abundant and helpful sidebars, text boxes, and screenshots support the descriptions. McFarland even explains a few Dreamweaver puzzles, such as glitches in coding database queries and why the Insert panel sometimes malfunctions and stops Dreamweaver from cleaning up messy tags in Design View. Though there’s no chapter on accessibility, the topic merits a sidebar with a link to the Web Accessibility Initiative. There are occasional reminders as well about accessibility issues, such as distinguishing between and tags to support screen reader software, a reminder to use Alt tags, and using the Summary property for complex tables.

No one book can cover every detail of Web design, but Sawyer McFarland does a nice job of covering what you need to know about Dreamweaver.

Geoff Hart

Geoff Hart has been creating and editing Web sites for nearly 15 years, and still finds it easier to fix problems using a text editor.

Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You

Randall Bolten. 2012. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. [ISBN 978-1-118-17257-5. 322 pages, including index. US$39.95.]

Have you ever looked at a quantitative chart or table where the numbers seemed accurate enough, but where their meaning was confusing? Did you have difficulty finding the information you needed, understanding how the numbers related to each other, or identifying which might be the most important? If so, you experienced what Randall Bolten calls poor “quantation.” Derived from “quantity” and “communication,” “Quantation” is Bolten’s coinage for “the act of presenting numbers, such as financial results, electronically or in written form for the purpose of informing an audience.” (p. xix) (Far too often, it is done poorly.)

Bolten has spent more than thirty years as a financial executive for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, where he has both produced and consumed quantitative information. In Painting with Numbers he passes on what he has learned.

Bolten stresses that quantation is a communications skill that can be learned. He covers the rules and principles that one must master to effectively design, format, and present quantitative information to maximize its readability, effectiveness, and suitability for specific audiences.

Bolten says that small changes in the way numbers are presented can make a huge difference in how well they are understood, whether an audience finds them convincing, and even the conclusion they draw about you and your personal credibility.

Organized in four major sections, the book covers rules, tools, real mastery, and a wrap up. Rules covers the “nuts and bolts” of designing and laying out numerical tables, and, to a lesser extent, visual charts and graphs. It covers such things as selecting headings, units of measure, degree of precision, alignment, and a myriad other matters that can make or break quantitative presentations.

Throughout, Bolten presents alternative layouts to illustrate how each change impacts communication. To make the most important points easy to grasp and remember, he categorizes them as laws, deadly sins, and pieces of strong advice. For example, “Deadly sins” includes using “unclear, imprecise, or (worst of all) incorrect row or column captions,” (p. 52) and “using visual effects for any reason other than clarifying, distinguishing, or adding meaning to information” (p. 38). For Bolton, it is all about communication, never about adding unneeded visual sizzle. Bolten also covers production issues, and includes tips on leveraging tools like Excel to improve your work.

True mastery covers issues related to content and audience, including selecting what to present, and delivering it to maximize its usefulness to a specific audience. The board of directors may need a different set of numbers or level of detail than managers setting production targets.

The wrap up brings it all together with a review, and discusses such things as ethical issues and the rare situations in which a true master might find it appropriate to break specific rules.

Painting with Numbers is an important guide to an aspect of technical communication that is too often overlooked. Anyone who must present quantitative information would benefit from reading it, probably more than once.

Patrick Lufkin

Patrick Lufkin is an STC Associate Fellow with experience in computer documentation, newsletter production, and public relations. He reads widely in science, history, and current affairs, as well as on writing and editing. He chairs the Gordon Scholarship for technical communication and co-chairs the Northern California technical communication competition.

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative

Stephen Denning. 2011. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. [ISBN 978-0-470-54867-7. 348 pages, including index. US$27.95.]

Communication trends come and go. Some have stronger legs than others do. I attended the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) global conference recently and can tell you storytelling is still going strong. Taking advantage of the trend, or perhaps fueling the trend, is Stephen Denning. In 2005, Denning published the seminal The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative. In March 2011, he published the second edition with revised and updated content.

I’ll get to the question most pragmatic technical communicators will have in mind—and a question that Denning poses himself in the book. Is there a measurable impact to business performance that can be attributed directly to the practice of storytelling? Denning’s answer is good and honest. “The effectiveness of storytelling,” he writes, “is related to the nature and constancy of the leadership involved” (p. 39). Sometimes it adds; sometimes it detracts—it all depends on how leadership uses the tool.

The book’s best part focuses on storytelling narratives. Here, Denning provides easy-to-understand and easy-to-follow templates for eight different narrative patterns. He carefully details when they should be used, how they should be used, and for what purposes. He also includes tables for quick reference. My favorite narrative model presented by Denning addresses how to neutralize gossip and rumor in the workplace. That could be a book unto itself—and a really entertaining one at that! Other topical narratives Denning explores are motivating others to action, building trust, and getting teams to work together.

The opening two chapters and the closing two chapters are mildly interesting, but far less useful. A plus is the thorough bibliography Denning has put together. Those interested in further research on storytelling in leadership will have a good start.

I do have to say the index, though lengthy enough, is oddly cobbled. For instance, return on investment, which seems like an important topic and, in fact, commands several pages of discussion, is not listed in the index at all. Minor point, but for those still wedded to paper books as opposed to searchable electronic books, it may prove a little irritating.

Here’s what’s not so good about the book. Like most business books, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling is overwritten by at least 100 pages. Every point is elaborated to the nth degree; every obvious notion tediously explained. Apparently, someone likes this style, as it’s pretty much the norm in business books today. The narrative models, the bibliography, and some of the less theoretical discussions, however, are well worth the extra verbiage.

The bottom line is The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling is a good, practical book. It’s current and relevant. If anyone seriously wanted to begin using storytelling in the workplace, there isn’t a better set of roadmaps to use than what Denning provides in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling.

Gary Hernandez

Gary Hernandez is a communications director for BP. He received his English literature MA from George Mason University and received his technical writing MS from Utah State University. Gary belongs to STC and IABC.

Endangered Phrases: Intriguing Idioms Dangerously Close to Extinction

Steven D. Price. 2011. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. [ISBN 978-1-61608-247-5. 224 pages, including index. US$12.95 (softcover).]

Author Steven D. Price might still say that the expressions in this book are going to pot (becoming useless) or playing second fiddle to (playing a less important role than) newer phrases. But he maintains that English language speakers aren’t using these expressions very much anymore. Nor are they using many of the more than 500 others he has collected in Endangered Phrases: Intriguing Idioms Dangerously Close to Extinction. His book is focused on phrases and expressions that are “on their way out” (p. 5).

As a former dictionary editor, Price has the background to understand what causes words to enter and exit a language, creating a need to revise dictionaries. He has not conducted the kind of intensive survey of language users that editors complete to codify changes needed in a dictionary. Instead, to assemble a “less erudite, more nostalgic and sociological book” (p. 5), Price tested phrases on “younger friends and colleagues” (p. 6). He presents them here in an alphabetical listing, giving a pithy, informal definition of each and a fuller explanation of its origin.

Phrases become endangered for many reasons; Price provides a few of them. Some expressions, such as bee’s knees (something that’s excellent), were merely faddish and died out when no longer popular. Others, such as now you’re on the trolley (now you catch on) or like a broken record (to repeat and repeat), fade away when the underlying technology becomes unfamiliar. In addition, ethnic and gender sensitivities drive expressions such as Indian giver (someone who gives a gift and wants it returned) and stew zoo (apartment house for female flight attendants) out of the language.

I don’t agree with the author that all the phrases are close to extinction. I encounter many of them in conversation or in the media: read between the lines, beg the question (although Price contends it’s not used correctly), wild goose chase, at bay, Bronx cheer. Other expressions are not part of my experience: Procrustean solution, bar sinister, Adam’s off ox. How extinct they seem to any one person may depend on that person’s knowledge of literature, movies, the Bible, and regions of the country. As communicators, we can take advantage of Price’s research, and the knowledge that these expressions are not universally understood, and use them accordingly, depending on our audience.

The information supplied by Price on the origins of the expressions in Endangered Phrases is fascinating to anyone who loves language. Finding out that the phrase pulling up stakes originated with the Jamestown settlers, or that white elephants refers to albino Siamese pachyderms, broadened my understanding of the development of the English language. This, added to the author’s informal and humorous writing style, makes Endangered Phrases an informative, readable, and entertaining book.

Linda M. Davis

Linda M. Davis is an independent communications practitioner in the Los Angeles area. She holds an MS in Communication Management and has specialized in strategic communication planning, publication management, writing, and editing for more than 20 years. Linda is active in the STC Los Angeles chapter.

Cross-Cultural Technology Design: Creating Culture-Sensitive Technology for Local Users

Huatong Sun. 2012. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc. [ISBN 978-0-19-974476-3. 320 pages, including index. US$79.99.]

Dr. Huatong Sun’s book, Cross-Cultural Technology Design: Creating Culture-Sensitive Technology for Local Users, integrates and builds on the cultural dimension models introduced by Hofstede with the design theories of activity, affordance, and genre in the proposed design framework called Culturally Localized User Experience (CLUE).

The primary audiences are academics, graduate students, and others who are interested in the theory of design, especially as it relates to participative user design, localization, and usability. The book focuses primarily on the WHAT and the WHY aspects of the model, and is densely packed with discussions about design theory as it relates to culture, specifically the adoption of text messaging.

Chapters 1–3 provide the theoretical underpinnings for CLUE, and contain an extensive literature review. Chapter 4 describes the research methodology used to study text messaging behaviors in the context of localized use and how that usage is dictated by the constraints of the technology and the socio-cultural context of the user.

For practitioners, the case studies in Chapters 5–9 are the book’s most interesting part. Here, Sun describes the text messaging habits of several study participants from China and the US. The uses and gratifications for each user are different, due to social factors, such as age, gender, status, life experience, and due to the way the technology is marketed and supported.

For example, text messaging in China became immediately popular partly because the phone plan included it in the pricing, and many people went from few communication options to an always available one. In the US, adoption took longer partly because phone plans charged extra for it, and people had many communication options.

Scattered throughout the book are examples of both successful and failed localization in design. These examples provide opportunities for discussion and cautionary tales for those of us who work in multicultural environments. Such stories are helpful in showing the importance of considering the needs and context of all your users.

Dr. Sun outlines on pages 233–234 the “seven defining features of the CLUE framework:

  1. The CLUE approach highlights the praxis of use.
  2. Local culture constitutes the dynamic nexus of contextual interactions and manifests numerous articulations of practices and meaning.
  3. User experience is both situated and constructed.
  4. Technology use is a dual mediation process.
  5. Structured affordance comes from dialogic interactions.
  6. Culturally localized user experience respects use practices of individual local users and values their efforts at user localization.
  7. Design is both problem solving and engaged conversation.”

As a book describing research in the area of user-participative design and localization, the book succeeds, and adds important ideas for advancing a design model that is culturally sensitive. However, practitioners might be disappointed by the lack of HOW information that lets them immediately apply this model in a corporate environment where budgets are limited and schedules are tight.

Katherine (Kit) Brown-Hoekstra

Katherine Brown-Hoekstra, of Comgenesis, LLC, is an Associate Fellow for STC, speaks at conferences worldwide, and has authored many articles on various topics related to technical communication and internationalization. She has a background in life sciences and more than 20 years of experience. She also coauthored a book on managing virtual teams.

The Future of Looking Back

Richard Banks. 2011. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press. [ISBN 978-0-7356-5806-6. 162 pages, including index. US$24.99 (softcover).]

How will your family and friends remember you after you’re gone? Will your family be able to (or should they be able to) access thoughts that you posted and sites that you frequented online? How is our increasingly digital presence likely to change our future experience of life? Richard Banks and his colleagues at Microsoft Research Cambridge study these questions of heritage, history, inheritance, and reminiscence daily.

Increasingly, our personal collections of stuff include digital as well as physical things, and these two classes of objects have very different properties. Both can become family heirlooms that aid the process of inheritance and storytelling. However, where “Physical things…can play on all the senses through their material attributes,….Digital things, by contrast, are experienced to a great extent through the visual sense, primarily through the screen” (p. 21).

Digital and physical qualities are both valuable. Where digital photos are normally clear and infinitely reproducible, “The Digital Harinezumi camera, available in Japan…takes digital images and through a combination of software and hardware creates photos that are grainy and overexposed” (p. 101). Its makers even plan to make their product’s quality unpredictable by periodically introducing different lenses. On the other hand, digital recording through devices like Microsoft’s Kinect may let us perfectly recreate three-dimensional scenes of people (loved ones, friends) or places (home, work) that we want to remember.

Is it possible to combine the physical and digital? Banks notes, “Digital and physical things are merging as we create more technological objects and as we embed digital properties into physical things that were inert before” (p. 33). Microsoft Research has created such items as a Digital Slide Viewer and a Playlist Player, items that mimic their ancestors—the simple slide viewer and the LP record player—while employing digital storage and display technology. Tales of Things (http://www.talesofthings.com/) lets users create a unique Quick Response (QR) code to print and apply to any object, leading anyone with a smartphone to a Web site about the tagged object. Similarly, BookCrossing (http://www.bookcrossing.com/) generates a unique identifier with which a user can label a book that is then “released into the wild” (p. 42). Readers add their own remarks to a book’s online history.

The Future of Looking Back is short, yet extremely readable. In three sections: “Stuff and Sentimentality,” “A Digital Life,” and “New Sentimental Things,” Banks explores a lifestyle in which the new and immediate seem to be prized above the old and sentimental. Realizing that our futures will comprise both digital and physical elements, Banks wonders, “How much could the capacity for digital technology to record [objects in our lives] loosen our obligations to keep [those objects] as physical things?” (p. 96).

Mike McGraw

Mike McGraw is an STC senior member and a senior staff technical writer for Qualcomm, Inc. in San Diego, California. His team helps Qualcomm engineers with information management systems such as SharePoint, Jive, and wikis.

Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law

Joseph Kimble. 2012. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. [ISBN: 978-1-61163-191-3. 167 pages. US$23.00.]

While some may not be familiar with the grass-roots “plain language” movement, recent developments are bringing the movement more attention. Thus, Joseph Kimble’s book is timely.

Plain language is making headway in the United States. The Plain Writing Act signed in 2010 requires executive agencies to write and revise documents using plain language, and the Plain Regulations Act introduced in 2012 requires agencies to write regulations in plain language. The plain language movement has supporters in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden, among others.

Kimble is a law professor, who has supported clear legal writing over more than three decades. This book compiles and expands upon material he published in previous articles. As the book’s subtitle suggests, Kimble goes beyond the legal sphere to provide a well-rounded account of plain language applications.

Part One is a brief story about how Kimble became interested in plain language. As a young Michigan Supreme Court lawyer, he had to draft new and updated court rules. Two handbooks influenced his work greatly: Reed Dickerson’s Fundamentals of Legal Drafting, and Wilson Follett and Jacques Barzun’s Modern American Usage.

Part Two summarizes the tenets of plain language. Kimble’s categories for these include general elements, design, organization, sentences, and words. The tenets he provides are succinct. Kimble encourages readers to consult the plain-language literature to understand the guidelines deeply. Unfortunately, the bibliography he references is not in this book, but in his 2006 book, Lifting the Fog of Legalese.

Part Three dispels ten myths about plain language. Kimble cites published studies and historical examples to effectively refute the myths. Among the myths: plain language is anti-intellectual; plain language focuses on textual features at the expense of readers; plain language is just using short words and sentences; and plain language is imprecise.

In part Four, Kimble identifies forty highlights in the history of plain language since the 1960s, in and beyond the US. These include influential publications, laws and rules, projects and activities, and organizations. Kimble writes that he hopes the highlights will provide a sense of accomplishment to plain-language veterans and an inspiration to newcomers.

Part Five reflects the book’s title. It discusses benefits of plain language for organizations (writing for dollars) and for their audiences (writing to please). Kimble cites fifty studies here. Some come from journals; others from newsletters, presentations, and personal communications. Several come from countries abroad.

Readers will move quickly through this compact volume. Kimble’s footnotes provide access to his sources, although a bibliography would be more usable. If you want a sense of the plain language movement’s history and of the benefits plain language provides readers, Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please will benefit you.

Russell Willerton

Russell Willerton is an STC senior member and an associate professor at Boise State University.

The Author’s Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book

Mary Embree. 2010. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Allworth Press. [ISBN 978-1-58115-747-5. 214 pages, including index. US$19.95 (softcover).]

At every cocktail party there’s someone who bores the other guests by going on and on about plans for writing a book, but somehow the book never gets written. In The Author’s Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book, Mary Embree throws a monkey wrench into the would-be writer’s excuses for talking rather than writing.

Embree covers the entire process of writing a book from conceiving the idea through researching, writing, and editing, to approaching agents and reading book contracts and collaboration agreements. Chapters on “The Rules of Writing,” “Writing Fiction,” and “Writing Nonfiction” give basic advice. Others tell how to find or form a writers group and the pros and cons of doing so, how to write a book proposal, and how to prepare a manuscript for submission. Finally, Embree discusses copyright and other legal issues. The book closes with a list of helpful publications and organizations including a glossary that defines terms such as “active voice,” (p. 201) “LCCN,” (p. 205) and “query letter” (p. 206) that might be unfamiliar to new writers. The chapters are brief but solid, and the information contained in each is well chunked and usable.

Embree’s tone is positive. “You may feel that you are not a good enough writer to write a book,” she says. “But the principles of writing are the same no matter what you are writing. If you have ever written anything—business proposals, technical manuals, doctoral dissertations, articles, essays, poetry, or even a daily journal—you can learn to write a book” (p. 1). Encouragement also comes from the quotations from famous writers and writing coaches sprinkled through the text. Embree uses her own previous book as an example to show how a writer can succeed in transforming an idea into a book.

The audience for Author’s Toolkit is clearly first-time writers, but anyone new to publishing will find the sections on working with agents and publishers useful. Some of the material, such as the list of commonly misused words, is easily available in other places, but it does make the book a handy all-in-one reference.

If the “toolkit” nature of this book is a strength—it provides introductory information on any topics readers are not familiar with—it’s also a weakness in that it doesn’t go into depth on any one topic. In particular, the discussion of self-publishing could be expanded, especially given that self-publishing is an important tool that first-time authors can use to break in.

Embree’s Author’s Toolkit may contain just what you need to get started on your book, and you might want to take it along the next time you’re invited to a cocktail party. Even if your own author’s toolkit is complete, you’ll probably meet someone there who needs this one.

Marilyn R.P. Morgan

Marilyn R. P. Morgan is an STC senior member and has an MA in English from the University of Tennessee. After serving as a technical writer and editor in academic and government research organizations, she now works as a freelance writer and teaches English at the college level.

Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything

Chris Brogan. 2012. Indianapolis, IN: Que Publishing. [ISBN 978-0-7897-4914-7. 180 pages, including index. US$24.99 (softcover).]

Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything provides an excellent jumping off point for embracing Google+, Google’s newest attempt at social media. The book’s author, Chris Brogan, is a person who seems to be on the bleeding edge of all things social media since the bulletin board services of the 1980s. And, because he published this book so soon after Google+ launched, you’re not going to find step-by-step directions for how you should set up and use the platform for business. Rather than being a weakness of the book, it is its strength as well as the excellent examples that Brogan shares of how others are being successful with Google+.

As with other social media platforms, there’s no one-size-fits all approach to Google+. If you’re still under the impression that this platform is Google’s answer to Facebook, you’ll learn that there is more to it than the familiar aspects. Brogan explains, “Google+ is a social network…that Google uses to better understand the human aspects of sharing information (like pointing people toward specific links) and as such, Google uses information gathered in Google+ to improve search rankings and findability of information. Being that Google is the #1 search engine in the world, you might now have another reason to consider picking up this book” (p.1).

Besides while Brogan doesn’t provide a specific roadmap for how to best use this newish platform, he does give you pointers for getting started, including getting organized, building out-bound circles, sharing links, building use of the platform in your schedule, and using hangouts.

Throughout the book, Brogan delves into detail and shares examples of companies who had embraced Google+ well in the early days. If you’re a small business, part of a marketing department, or even charged with promoting your own department within your organization, you’ll have a veritable smorgasbord of things from which to choose.

As I’ve already said, Google+ for Business hit the shelves when most people were confusedly saying, “Google-what?”, so you may be asking what of value is there beyond a high-level discussion of the social media platform. When I received my review copy my thoughts were, “It’s too new; there’s not going to be much more than the usual high-level usage stuff; etc.”

I found, however, that I was highlighting and noting excellent strategic ideas, and learning of several tools that let me use Google+ beyond keeping up with those around me. You see, there’s this whole aspect of Google Hangouts that, when used effectively, can mean the difference between a mediocre client/customer/co-worker experience and a stellar one. Chapters 11 and 12 alone are worth the purchase price.

Brogan’s writing style makes for a quick and interesting read; something many can do in a few hours. I would definitely add Google+ for Business to your list of books to read.

Louellen S. Coker

Louellen S. Coker has over 15 years in public relations, marketing, Web and instructional design, and technical writing/editing. She has an MA in Technical Communications, is founder of Content Solutions, STC Associate Fellow, and past Lone Star Community president. She conducts workshops about effective use of social media and portfolios.

Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work

Dan Roam. 2011. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. [ISBN 978-1-59184-459-4. 350 pages, including index. US$29.95.]

Dan Roam’s newest book, Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work, is a tale of how to communicate more effectively using words and visuals. The richness of the book is the complex way he integrates text, visuals, two animal characters, acronyms, and your imagination to show how to do this.

Blah Blah Blah, according to Roam, is what happens when someone gives a boring presentation. He describes four levels of clarity for presentations, from clear, the best, to boring to foggy to misleading in his Blahmeter.

This leads to Part 2, an introduction to VIVID (Visual Verbal Interdependent) thinking. Roam explains how our society needs to have balance between visual and verbal components. He introduces us to his metaphor, the fox and the hummingbird. The fox sees the world linearly and is analytic; the hummingbird’s view is spatial and is synthetic. The point is “only by combining both views do we see the big picture” (p. 89). The hummingbird, always shown as a blue outline picture, and the fox, always depicted in black, are the basis for Roam’s Vivid grammar.

The Vivid grammar uses six elemental pictures plus words to compose and present ideas visually. He posits these pictures as equivalent to parts of speech to help you use the correct visual tool to tell a story.

Are you starting to see the picture?

Part 3 introduces the seven essentials of a Vivid idea, in which Roam explains and shows how to include the forest and the trees in any communication. The forest is the core idea, and the six supporting attributes surround the forest. He veers into fascinating examples in this section, from the Newtonian to Einsteinian views of the universe to game theory to 36 visual metaphors to branding business books. These fascinating examples show Roam’s understanding of visual thinking and creating.

Roam uses colors consistently to show the visual (blue) and verbal (black) ways of thinking and expressing ideas. He ties this together with the fox and the hummingbird so that the readers are constantly aware of which way the hummingbird thinks and can also understand how the fox counterpart thinks. He designed the page format so that the text column is subtly distinguishable from the visuals that are accompanied by captions in the margin so you can read the book’s text only or visuals only. Obviously, it’s richer to read both parts.

The appendices contain checklists that summarize the book and are useful job aids.

Yes, these are “clever” ideas. Roam, however, carries them through the entire book so completely that readers can automatically recall both the fox and hummingbird points of view to change their own behavior.

Highly recommended for those curious about how the other half lives.

Beth Lisberg Najberg

Beth Lisberg Najberg has more than 20 years’ experience as an information and instructional design consultant, documenting systems, developing custom training solutions, and creating technical presentations for large corporations and public entities. She is principal of Beginnings (www.BeginningsDesign.com), an information design consulting firm.

DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA

Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey, and Jenifer Schlotfeldt. 2011. Upper Saddle River, NJ: IBM Press. [ISBN 978-0-13-248052-9. 284 pages, including index. US$42.99 (softcover).]

Moving to Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) can be a daunting undertaking for organizations and individuals. In DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA, the authors combine their experience and expertise to provide practical information for those who are planning a move to DITA.

The book is comprised of three parts. The first part includes an introduction to topic-based writing, which is the foundation for organizing information in DITA. For each of three main topic types (tasks, concepts, and references), the authors list guidelines, best practices, and examples of proper element usage and transformed output. Writers might find the task analysis example useful for planning tasks and supporting concepts and references. Short descriptions can be one of the more challenging elements to write, and the authors note that they are more than just the topic’s first paragraph. Short descriptions are also useful as abstracts for search engine results and link previews for related topic links. The provided tips help ensure that the short description content is consistent and useful in multiple situations.

The second part covers content architecture. The authors describe how to organize information using maps and submaps. There are several types of links available in DITA, and the authors describe each type and provide code and output examples. They discourage excessive use of inline links, but show examples of appropriate times to use them. For example, you can create an inline link to repeated steps that directs the user to the correct step regardless of any changes you make to the number of steps in the task. Relationship tables and collection types can be confusing concepts, but the authors explain them well. The authors recommend having a strategy for using metadata in your topics, including strong keywords and index entries that can make your information easier to search.

The third part includes information about content conversion, DITA code editing, and content editing. For those considering moving to DITA, the authors advise defining conversion goals, creating a pilot team, and choosing which conversion process (pilot or full production) works best for your team. One of the most critical decisions is whether to convert content in-house or hire a vendor to do the conversion. Another is whether to convert existing content to DITA and then clean it up, or reorganize existing content into topics and then convert to DITA. The authors are advocates of code reviews and describe how to implement them with your team. They also suggest that editors edit the DITA source files directly, so that they can review both the content and the markup.

DITA is a powerful and extensible architecture, and after you make the conversion to DITA, it truly is difficult to return to the “old ways” of authoring content. Moving to DITA is an arduous process that requires planning, learning, and patience, but DITA Best Practices provides a detailed blueprint for implementing DITA successfully.

Mary C. Turpin

Mary C. Turpin is a senior technical writer with F5 Networks, where she writes hardware documentation. She belongs to Sigma Tau Chi and received a Professional and Technical Writing MA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published

Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander. 2011. 5th ed. New York, NY: Alpha. [ISBN 978-1-61564-127-7. 378 pages, including index. US$19.95 (softcover).]

This book is not one you pick up and read from cover to cover in one sitting or even in several. This is a book (to paraphrase A Child’s Christmas in Wales) “that tells you everything about getting a book published, except the why.”

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published is a cookbook, a schoolbook, and something of a reference. Split into five parts, each matching a stage in the book creation and publishing process, it walks you through all the steps involved in getting a book published, whether that be as a self-published e-book or a more traditional book done by a big publishing house. While remaining positive and encouraging, Bykofsky and Sander clearly present the many challenges involved in getting a book published, and the ways to meet them.

Part 1: As You Begin to Write includes chapters on why to write, what to write, and how to find topic ideas. Part 2: Submitting to Publishers contains chapters on writing queries for both fiction and non-fiction, and what to submit that editors and readers will want to read. Part 3: Getting a Book Contract has information on finding and choosing an agent, what an agent can and can’t do for you, and a brief section on understanding a typical book contract. Part 4: Working with a Publisher covers what happens after you have a contract, including working with editors, realizing that you’ve given up control of your book, and (the larger section) the multitude of ways to get your book publicized. (People don’t buy what they don’t know about.) Part 5: Continuing Your Career as an Author provides guidance on what to do after you’re a published author and how to work on your subsequent books.

As reference material, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published contains a glossary, lists of additional books and blogs for writers, and a few sample book proposals. A caveat, though, is that the sample contracts the authors provide are strongly slanted in favor of the publisher. For example, authors give away things like rights to publication in other forms (e-book, audio book, etc.), subsidiary rights, and such. Look at them as worst-case contracts, and get a good publishing-savvy lawyer who works for you (not your agent, not the publisher) to review and comment on whatever contract you are offered. Remember, that in this world, everything is negotiable and has a price. Oral promises are not worth the paper they are written on.

In summary, this is a good book for anyone wanting to get started (or who has started and is now stuck) with the process of writing a book and getting it published. It provides an honest look at what is required and the steps required to get “on the shelf.”

Grant Hogarth

Grant Hogarth has been writing, editing, and designing books for over 15 years, producing both digital and paper documentation for numerous companies. An STC senior member and a former STC chapter president, he is active in the Lone Writer SIG. His STC conference presentation topics have included new technologies and project management.

Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington. 2012. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers. [ISBN 978-1-59253-756-3. 208 pages, including index. US$40).]

Books like this are notoriously difficult to review. Yet I have to say that I have a surprising number of them. 365 Ways to Cook Chicken; The Universal Principles of Design (also from Rockport Publishers, 2003); 1000 Vegetarian Recipes (many are cookbooks, I think).

On the other hand, what may be difficult to review is a pleasure to own. Universal Methods of Design is not the kind of book you sit down to read. However, when you want to figure out what research technique might be the right one, this may be the first book you grab off of the shelf.

Martin and Hanington pulled this book together with the goal of the “simple intention of aggregating 100 different ways to collect user-centered research data” (p. 6). They realized in that process that “integral to the methods and techniques are the conversations that they facilitate—conversations with stakeholders, team members, clients, and most importantly, with the people who will ultimately use designed products, systems, and services” (p. 6).

That intention is the key to the success of Universal Methods of Design as a reference. The authors list the 100 methods alphabetically. Additionally, they designate each of the methods/techniques with a phase (1-5) that is typically associated with a design project: 1) Planning, Scoping, and Definition; 2) Exploration, Synthesis, and Design Implications; 3) Concept Generation and Early Prototype Iteration; 4) Evaluation, Refinement, and Production; and 5) Launch and Monitor (p. 7). The authors provide another key for selecting your method through use of a note at the bottom of each method that defines the method’s facet: behavioral/attitudinal; quantitative/qualitative; innovative/adapted/traditional; exploratory/generative/evaluative; and participatory/observational/self-reporting/expert review/design process (p. 6).

The last helpful tool is a set of see also suggestions. For example, if I am considering 12 Cognitive Mapping, I might also want to consider 17 Content Analysis, 48 Interviews, or 39 Exploratory Research.

So what about these conversations? I find that the book provides many ways to start the conversation with whichever group you are involving. Each technique is defined at the top of the page followed by examples of how to implement each method/technique and references for further research.

The success of any design researcher is understanding what it is they want to know. The second step is identifying the audience who can provide the information. Third is figuring out which technique is the one most likely to provide the best answer to the questions, which is where this book shines! The graphics, photos, charts, and examples shown on the right page of each two-page spread are clear and used to provide examples or make a point.

This is the second book from Rockport Publishing that I find to be an excellent reference. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about is the title. It might sell better if it were called: Universal Methods of Design Research.

Elisa Miller

Elisa Miller, an STC Associate Fellow, is a senior user experience engineer for GE Healthcare. She is a past president of the Lone Star Community and is an active member of the STC Usability & User Experience SIG.

Opening Standards: The Global Politics of Interoperability

Laura DeNardis, Ed. 2011. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. [ISBN 978-0-262-01602-5, 254 pages, including index. US$32.00.]

In this collection of fourteen essays, Laura DeNardis brings together the brightest minds in the area of Internet governance and policy to discuss the hard questions about how standards affect each of us, as well as how open standards can encourage trade and innovation, and enhance user satisfaction.

Arranged in four parts, these essays discuss the politics of interoperability; standards, innovation, and development economics; standards-based intellectual property debates; and interoperability and openness. Each essay demystifies a portion of the standards-setting process.

Most of us know casually about what standards are and how they limit us. We understand that different countries might use different electrical standards (for example, 110-volt versus 220-volt outlets). Adapters can help you recharge your electronic devices while traveling. Now that the European Union (EU) is changing to 230 volts, the adapters you have might be useless. While you may encounter a temporary inconvenience or disruption during your travels in powering certain devices, imagine the inconvenience and disruption that incompatible standards for document and interface interoperability could bring to a global community.

DeNardis provides the backdrop for the real social impact of the standards battles. In describing the Open Document Format versus Open Office eXtensible Markup Language (OOXML) dispute, DeNardis places the reader squarely in the middle of Bangalore, India, where a candlelight vigil was held to protest the adoption of OOXML (a Microsoft proprietary format adopted as an ISO standard). The vigil included not only software engineers, but also local vendors who realized how proprietary standards that require vendor-specific software for use, could affect developing nations and less-advantaged citizens.

While some essays are geared toward an Internet governance or academic audience, other essays, such as Updegrove’s “ICT Standards Setting Today: A System Under Stress” that addresses a number of outdated notions that have contributed to problems establishing a level playing field for all users, are accessible to most readers. In one passage, Updegrove says:

Our new, networked world holds unprecedented opportunities for individuals who have hitherto been denied access to modern education, information, and opportunities…resulting in a world where ICT [Information and Communications Technology] access is becoming a prerequisite to enjoying the full rights and opportunities of society, democracy, and the economy. That access is only feasible, however, if standards exist to address local character sets, languages, and physical disabilities. (p. 195)

The idea of the Internet and its bounty being for everyone, regardless of location, income level, or ability, is not new. However, these essays address the changes that must take place to make that idea a reality. Opening Standards is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in knowing more about standards setting and the real causes behind the digital divide.

Doris E. Pavlichek

Doris Pavlichek is a student member of STC who has a BA in Communications and is working on her MS in Technical Communication Management at Mercer University. With a background in network engineering, Doris published two engineering books before joining OPNET Technologies as a senior technical writer.