Frank Gets a Job — Learns Valuable Lessons

Technical WriterWell, dear readers, I have started a new job of sorts. It is freelance writing — technical stuff with no byline. And it seems like it is going to be consistent work. But it has been getting in the way of my constant stream of frankly curious wisdom. Not that you would notice, because I haven’t missed any scheduled articles yet. But right now it is 5:30 pm on Saturday and I am just starting to write the last article for tomorrow. [Update: this was originally scheduled for Sunday evening, but got pushed back. -FM] Normally, I’m a bit further ahead than that. In fact, I prefer to stay two days ahead. And I hope to get another half a day’s writing in by the time I go to sleep. I can do that because I have nothing that anyone would mistake for a life.

None of this means that anything is going to change on Frankly Curious. I like the current publishing schedule, and I’m going to try to stay with it. What else am I going to do? What would I pull out? As it is, I’d rather be publishing eight articles per day — every two hours from 5 am to 7 pm. But if I publish some short articles or miss scheduled article, just assume all is well and I am just making money. (It is my current wish to get enough money ahead so I don’t have to pay for my checking account. Such are the simple pleasures of my life!)

It’s been interesting to do this kind of technical writing. In one way, it isn’t different from what I write here (especially in the Computer/Meta category) or over on Dirt Cheap Computers. But I have to play it straight there. Here I have what is charitably called “Style!” I can be cheeky and opinionated. For example, I’m likely to just authoritatively tell you what to do. If I wrote an article about CMS, I would just tell you to use WordPress because it works really well and there is such a huge base of users that problems are fixed quickly and there are always people around to help you. But in this work, I would have to write something like, 10 Most Popular Content Management Systems Online. (Note: I didn’t write that and it is not from the company I am working for.) That is an excellent and useful article, but not a lot of fun to read or write.

One nice thing about doing this kind of work is that it brings me back to the days when I first was starting on the commercial internet. I created my first website in 1993 — but that was when I had my very own IBM RS/6000 right on the internet and so I ran httpd and created some pages. In early 2000, I was no longer at a college and so I had to sift through endless options in terms of hosting companies and various bits of software to run on it. It was very confusing and it would have been helpful to have some guidance. Today, the technology available is so much greater. But so is the help. It’s nice to be part of that, even though I wish I could write things like, “You’re thinking of serving your own videos?! Are you crazy? Why don’t you just go buy a ball-peen hammer and see how many whacks it takes to crack your skull?” Like I said: “Style!”

Another good thing about this work is that it is very educational. Even when it comes to stuff I already know well, there is nothing like having to explain it to others for making it clear to yourself. Also: I’m being asked to write about things that I don’t know much about. Who knows? It may end up changing the kind of stuff we do here, because most of the work that I am currently doing is for people who have websites like Frankly Curious — with or without the “Style!”

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