Archive for Web Writing

My Writing: What’s the most common grammar error? – (July 9 – 23)

It’s been a couple of weeks without an update, but the writing goes on (along with lots of copy editing of others’ works not mentioned here). This gives me an excuse to use a unit of measure almost unknown in North American English: the fortnight, British English for two weeks (fourteen days).

I recently heard that English doesn’t suffer from a lack of a clear second person plural, but in fact from a lack of second person singular. The classic greasy-diner waitress who asks, “Okay, what do yous guys want?” is not inventing a second person plural to distinguish from its identical singular form, but is in fact doubling an already second person plural form. “You” is plural; the singular form is “thou”. So, next time you’re dining alone, an informed waitress could ask you, “What dost thou want?” Or, maybe not.

Below are my corporate blog post for the last two weeks:

What Do Lawyers Cost? is overview of what you need to know before you decide to hire a lawyer to represent your claim. You want one who acts solely in your best interests, advises you to protect your rights, positions your claim to obtain a fair settlement from your perspective, and decides what compensation you deserve for your case.

 

Disabled, “Yes”; Unemployable, “No” describes the Government of Canada’s 2012 Economic Action Plan. By investing an additional $30 million over three years into the Opportunities Fund,  more Canadians with disabilities have the opportunity to become gainfully employed.

 

ICBC and Drunk Drivingdescribes ICBC’s aims in preventing drunk driving, which includes convincing drivers (demographically young men) that making excuses and rationales for why it’s “okay” to have a few before getting behind the wheel is part of the problem of drunk driving itself.

My Writing: Getting published and corporate blogging (July 1 to 8)

There must be some form of critical mass that, when reached in corporate writing at any rate, causes others to start publishing your work even without you knowing it (not that I mind). On opening the June issue of BC Tech Magazine (page 60), what confronted me was, well, myself. I could also see that a new and unseen hand had left his or her mark on my work, particularly around stylistic sensibilities such as changing our corporate branding (I would never do that). On the use of verbs, though, it still carries my thumb print. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to using verbs for maximum punch, and to that end have classed some as ‘weak’ or ‘vague’ while others as ‘strong’ or ‘descriptive’. I was pleased to see them unmolested by the phantom new editor.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. That was the case for me this week as I discovered my article based on an interview with Troyer Ventures for a Webtech Wireless award application has appeared (in print) in the BC Tech magazine. How did I not know that?

 

Distracted Driving: Legislate or Implement? reveals the connection between the recent settlement by Coca-Cola to a Texas woman injured when struck by a Coca-Cola truck driver who was on the phone while driving. I created a new image for this because we agreed that, on a scale of one to ten for suitability, my “Telematics: It’s the Real-Time Thing” probably rated a nine.

 

Is Your Favourite Summer Sport Covered? advises you to, before undertaking a dangerous summer sport, consider whether or not your extended coverage includes extreme sports.

 

Summer Driving Tips describes some tips provided by ICBC to help keep the roads safer this summer for both drivers and cyclists. It’s a good news story.

 

A Week of Writing, June 24 to 30

There have been some interestingly overlapping stories this week, which made me wonder which client I’m writing for. Take for example, the news of disability claims denied causing a near 30% increase in complaints to the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office. Along with that, the story mentioned a man suing the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for contamination to his water supply due to excess road salt usage. Wait a second. That’s a good story for my Webtech Wireless/InterFleet client. This must be what multi-tasking looks like.

Below are my blog posts for this week:

Ontario Ombudsman Sees 30% Increase In Complaints describes the increase of complaints including denied disability claims. With Ombudsman, André Marin and his staff beseiged, getting resolution may prove more difficult than usual.

 

Know Your Insurance Policy describes an interview with Adam Etchart, insurance policy agent at Talbot Insurance Services on the Sunshine Coast. He described the various horrific and unnecessary scenarios people can create for themselves by not understanding what auto insurance they’re buying, or worse, misrepresenting their needs when buying it.

 

Leaner, Greener Operations Saves Costs for Fleets is a collection of snapshots of how different companies are saving both the environment around them and fuel wastage using AVL and telematics solutions for their trucking fleets. It doesn’t green wash trucking; it just states some greener practices that are emerging.

A Week of Writing – June 18 – 23

This week, my work has chiefly been in the area of copy editing content for our corporate brochures at Webtech Wireless. I finally discovered why so much of our writing comes off sounding like marketing bumbf, instead of the targetted technical content that it’s intended to be.

Curiously, I found the answer in our case studies, which read beautifully because they’re written in a narrative style (i.e., they tell a story). The simple answer is to employ a narrative style throughout and to chain sentences in a way that tells a good story. Something to think about.

Here’s my corporate blog writing for the week:

Disability and the Law describes how by contrast, your life may seem less complicated than the above three strange and horrifying tales from Quebec of murder, extradition, and disabilities. It’s written to those who’ve had their disability claim denied and are looking for qualified legal representation.

 

What are Injured Homemakers Worth in ICBC’s Eyes? describes ICBC regulations that apply to mothers and homemakers who are injured in MVAs (motor vehicle accidents).

 

A Week of Writing, June 3 – 10

One of the beauties of corporate blogging of course, is to be able to do it from anywhere. As I’ve been quick to irritate my friends and co-workers by saying, “If I can work from home, I can work from the South of France”, which is exactly what I did last winter. This week, however, I’m writing from Toronto where I’m holed up researching and writing for Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet division (headquartered in ultra trendy west King street area). Once again, much of my work is research and less finished projects, so get ready for the deluge when all this stuff goes to print.

How Voluntary Disability Insurance Works describes the recent story of how the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada has introduced a flexible set of voluntary group disability insurance options.

 

 

Could You Live on 25% of Your Wages? describes the sad tale of Pat Tillapaugh of Burnaby who was in an MVA (motor vehicle accident) and found that her loss-of-work coverage from ICBC amounted to only 25% of her wages.

 

This week, I interviewed a client at LA County Transit about the InterFleet GPS devices they use to track the whereabouts of their 38 mini vans and buses. They approached me to write the story although their isn’t yet much content. There isn’t really a story, but I’ll probably write a little slice-of-life blog post about how their using this technology.

 

I also drove up from Toronto to the City of Vaughan (a satellite/service town of Toronto) to interview the senior engineering assistance for their Public Works department about how their GPS winter fleet management solution is equally effective in summer (on grass mowers instead of snow plows). I asked a few questions about business intelligence (the buzz in the industry) and non rolling asset watcher devices, piquing their interest in technology InterFleet is also now offering. Maybe I helped make an additional sale.

A Week of Writing, May 21 – 31

Okay, it’s a long week (ten days). There’s been a lot of research going on in the background (not ready for release), but the following corporate web-based posts provide the overview. Of note, I finally finished managing the French translation of the InterFleet brochure. The company I’ve hired, Anglocom, is a joy to work with. To me they should form the template for how other companies manage communications and customer service. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to put together a first class brochure confidently in French.

Spinal Care Available from ICBC considers how spinal injuries affect British Columbians. Many spinal injuries result from motor vehicle accidents and every MVA means a trip to ICBC with the risk of your claim not being settled in your best interests.

Canada’s Top-Five Employers for People with Disabilities surveys partnerships large companies have developed with disability societies. This cross-country survey of best employers for people with disabilities describes initiatives taken by five employers.

Webtech WirelessNextBus to Provide Real-Time Passenger Information to CyRide is a news release I wrote that among other things, (posting to the Webtech Wireless website and wider circulation), seems to have resulted in an article with Business in Vancouver. Nelson Bennett, writer for BIV, wrote his article liberally borrowing the quote I obtained over the phone from Project Manager, Barbara Neal in Iowa.

A Week of Writing, April 9 – 14

I should preface this post with “why I love my job” to describe the diversity of things I do. Apart from writing on a diversity of subjects (see below), I’m also busy designing graphics, designing web pages, interviewing interesting people, collaborating, doing some project management, and generally being a techy good time charlie. When I hear people complain about their jobs, I am torn between sympathy and the desire to say, “then quit”.

Long-Term Planning for Long-Term Disabilities describes changes to RDSPs (Registered Disability Savings Plans) in the 2012 Federal Budget. It’s mostly good news for those with long-term disabiliteis, but otherwise off the radar of the Media.

Investment in Lean Technology Powers CP’s Success picks up on the news of the day–CP Rail is posting record profits, despite harsh winter conditions (in the West) and a low stock evaluation. Its adoption of lean technologies such as Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution is credited with this success.

How Provincial Budgets Affect Those with Long-term Disabilities is a simple cross-country tour describing changes to provincial budgets that affect those with long-term disabilities. I slightly favoured western provinces (because that’s where the traffic is coming from), and I’m sorry I could find nothing for Quebec.

ICBC Conflict of InterestHow Could Your MVA Claim Be Compromised By ICBC’s Conflicts of Interest? describes some of the ways British Columbians are at the mercy of the Province’s auto insurer, ICBC. This is my kick-off blog post for this site.

Using Dropbox on the iPhone

Travel is always fraught with unexpected challenges and my experience is that a small oversight can cartwheel into a major breakdown when in a different country trying to use unfamiliar technologies. Take for example, the train in France.

I reserved my train passage on the TGV from Paris to Antibes with little difficulty, and it was only at the last step—literally—that everything suddenly went very, very wrong.

I had become comfortable with the manual doors on the Paris Metro, but the doors on the TGV were a new adventure. And while I’m on the subject of the Paris Metro, the iPhone app for it is called, “Le Metro Parisien”, and it’s one of the best apps around (if you’re comfortable with directions in French), particularly because it works as well offline as on. You simply enter your start and finish station and it walks you through the steps to get there.

When the train stopped at Antibes—a whistle mere stop—I pressed the button to open the door and nothing happened. In my halting French, I asked several old French ladies on the train trying to open the door, but we couldn’t open it. Two minutes later, then train departed Antibes with me still on it bound for Nice.

In Nice, I was able to catch a train back to Antibes, but I’d missed my pickup. This is when another small problem became a large one. I’m missed my pickup in Antibes by this time, so I opened Dropbox on my iPhone to check the hotel information and, to my horror, the confirmation files weren’t viewable.

I was using Dropbox on my iPhone to read PDF versions of bookings and other travel information. I’d never checked, but files only open in Dropbox offline, if they’re been viewed online. I hadn’t bothered to get roaming wifi or a European phone account, so I found I couldn’t even read my hotel information. Fortunately, I could boot  up my laptop in the train station and read the files there offline. It’s always good to have multiple failsafes and lots of redundancy.

I told myself not to panic—even when I thought I’d have to book into another hotel for my first night in Antibes—and in the end, panic wouldn’t have helped. The entire ordeal lasted no more than 1 1/2 hours, including the little trip to Nice and back.

Braving Paris—by Bicycle (Part II)

In Part I, I described some of the catches with Velib’ that makes it difficult and how to get around them. Now I’ll describe how to return your bike and some good routes in Paris.

Returning Your Velib’ Bicycle

The beauty of Velib’ is that you don’t have to return the bicycle where you picked it up. You can park it at any of the Velib’ stations—if there’s an opening. Here are a few tips about returning the bicycle:

  • You’ll learn to keep your eye out for the line of green lights that identify the stations.
  • Be aware that sometimes the stations are full and you’ll have to cycle to another to drop off the bicycle. Each station has a map of the vicinity showing the proximity of other stations.
  • If your destination is time sensitive, plan extra time in case you aren’t able to park right away. I had little trouble with this, but it is a potential concern if you need to be somewhere on time.
  • When you return the bike, slide it into its slot. A yellow light appears for about ten seconds while it registers your return. It then turns green. Don’t leave until you see the green light; otherwise, you’ll be charged for indefinite use. If the light is flashing or you here a buzzer, there’s a problem with the connection. Try reparking the bicycle or move it to a different stand and try again.

What You Can See

The advantages of cycling in Paris are huge. Velib’ is a jump-on/jump-off transportation solution, and unlike the Metro (which is underground), you can experience the incredible excitement of Paris as you go. Also, many of Paris’ great monuments are close to each other—well within the 30-minute free grace period.

Here are some of my itineraries and approximate travel times (all my trips started in the Marais near Place de la Revolution)

  • Pont Sully / Ile Saint-Louis / Bertillon ice cream (famous in Paris) (20 minutes). Caught a beautiful sunset silhouetting Notre Dame by the Seine.
  • Ile de la Cite / Notre Dame / Pantheon (45 minutes) – Night right around these monuments. Each monument has its own distinctive lighting style.
  • Rue St. Germaine backstreets to La Tour Eiffel – (20 minutes). There’s a warren of backstreets with fascinating shops. Lots of Velib’ stations if you want to park and walk for a bit too. I got caught in an insane traffic jam on the Champs D’Elysée with repercussions all the way to Avenue de l’Opéra and Tivoli. Nothing was moving, not even bicycles.
  • Musée Gustave Moreau / Ile de la Musique (45 minutes between the two) – Moreau was an influential romantic painter. His studio and living quarters have been preserved. From there I cycled to the other end of town to Ile de la Musique to see the museum of rare and antique musical instruments.
  • Chateau de Vincennes / Palais du Louvre (45 minutes each way) – this was an epic journey out to the medieval chateau in Vincennes (take in some of the Bois de Vincennes park if you can) and then downtown to the Louvre. Yes, I did this in one day. The cycling was easy compared to all the history and culture I took in. I was exhausted.

Braving Paris—by Bicycle (Part I)

Ever since George Gershwin penned his rhapsody to Paris, An American in Paris, with its car horns and street chaos vividly set to music, we’ve believed that Paris would not be the place for a non-Parisian to drive, much less cycle. Fast forward to the 21st century with the environment and the economy spinning out of control, and cycling here looks much more attractive. Gone is the traffic chaos—wrong. It’s still there, perhaps more so, but now there are many more advantages to the drawbacks for experienced urban cyclists.

Cycling in Paris – Are You Ready?

If you find Vancouver cycling harrowing, this article is not for you. This article is for the intrepid cyclist who’d like to experience the City of Lights using the lightest for of transport—the bicycle. Here, I’ll describe how to use Velib’, the city-wide bicycle service that is easy to use (with a few tips I learned) and very, very cheap.

Velib’ introduced a municipal service a few years ago that has become popular with Parisians. You’ll see the distinctive solid-built cyclists used by everyone—business men, shoppers, students, lovers, and intrepid tourists like me.

Velib’s Usability Challenges

Setting up a pass at the Velib’ stop near my hotel turned out to be very difficult, and it wasn’t a language difficulty. After several attempts to understand its lexicon, I finally asked a very helpful Parisian who, not understanding it himself, called Velib’ headquarters and we finally got it working. There are several design flaws that make it hard to use. This is what I found:

  • Velib’ is designed for local users who buy year-long passes. One can buy a one-day or six-day pass, but it’s very difficult—even locals can’t figure it out.
  • The self-serve kiosk by the bikes has input on one side and a screen with directions on the other. This means you have to jump around to follow its logic.
  • The other language options don’t carry through, so even when I started in English, the machine seems to forget my language choice and part way through, revert to French. In the end, I gave up on English and used the French. At least it’s consistent.
  • The procedure times out too quickly. After keying my way through five screens, I’m presented with a policy screen to read (in French), which times out before I through it. I have to start again.
  • Occasionally, it just doesn’t work for any apparent reason. I learned a lot about patience with this machine.

Taking a Bicycle

My suggestion is that you buy your pass on their web site. It’s easy to use. You can buy a six-day or one-day pass and it provides you with the code you’ll need to sign out a bicycle. Armed with a code, the kiosk is very easy to use (really):

  1. Enter the code it provided.
  2. Enter the four-character passcode you set up on the web site.
  3. Accept responsibility for the bicycle. Press V which stands of valider, not voila! as I’d imagined.
  4. Enter the number of the bicycle you want (I always start by checking a bicycle’s tires and brakes and memorizing the number of the one I prefer. In Velib’ parlance, a broken bicycle is identified by turning the seat backwards).
  5. Press the button at the stand of the selected bicycle and pull it back—hard. Sometimes they’re sticky.
  6. Allez! Remember, your first half hour is free so off you go.

Getting around Paris

As I stated earlier, cycling in Paris is not for the faint of heart, but take heart, it is very doable. Here are some tips that I learned to stay safe.

  • The first time you take a bicycle, make navigation and cycling your first priority. Save sightseeing until you get more comfortable. For me, it took a couple of days.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Don’t run red lights and so forth. In Paris, you don’t know what direction traffic comes from (scooters out of alleyways, trucks parked on the bike path—it’s madness.
  • Some one-way streets (but not all) allow cyclist to cycle against the traffic (watch for sauf cyclists – except cyclists) on the one-way signs.
  • Parisians tend to follow the spirit of the law, rather than us who follow the letter of the law. This is why you’ll sometimes see motorcyclists on sidewalks and trucks parked on the cycle routes. Other than going a half block up a one-way street that doesn’t permit cyclists to do so, I was pretty strict with the laws.
  • Part of the chaos of Paris streets comes from motor cycles and scooters. They fly around you and force their way in at any opportunity. As a cyclist, you need to be almost as aggressive if you want to get anywhere. This doesn’t contradict my previous obey-all-laws commandment. Paris drivers are a lot more aggressive—it’s expected. If you’re too timid, you’ll be out of flow with the traffic and Paris traffic is all about flow—that’s what the spirit of the law is about.

The bells on the Velib’ bicycles are a joke—nobody could possibly hear you. Be prepared to call out in French. Here’s my cycling vocabulary:

  • Pardon – please make room for me or sorry for what I just did.
  • Attendez! – Wait! I’m coming through
  • Attention! – Watch out!
  • Merci – Thanks

Next post…Velib’ in Paris II