It might sound like an obvious association to make but I doubt many people would connect the terms log files, backlog and login with a chunk of wood despite it being the most likely origin of these words.

To start at the beginning, the root of the word log meaning ‘a bulky mass of wood’ isn’t entirely clear. One theory links it to the Swedish låga meaning ‘a fallen tree lying on the ground’ and phonetically it does sound similar. Another theory is that log and the related clog arose from attempts to evoke the sense of something large and…

Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us have experienced feelings of being an imposter at work. Some days it’s niggling self-doubt or perhaps it’s a feeling that you’re a fraud and that you somehow don’t deserve your current job role. This feeling, which affects up to 70% of us, is known at Impostor Syndrome.

First coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, they described it as the internal experience of “feeling incompetent and of having deceived others about one’s abilities” or feeling as if your accomplishments came about as a result of…

Most programmers don’t like writing documentation, it’s just a fact. In some of the engineering teams I’ve worked in it’s often felt like the annoying but necessary task that is left until the last minute or sometimes forgotten about altogether. However, documentation is important for a number of reasons:

  • If you have poor docs, users have to call or email your customer support team if they get stuck — this costs you money!
  • You risk increasing user frustration and dissatisfaction with your product if they can’t find out how to do something.
  • Good docs enable people to figure out how…

Here is a collection of command line hacks and shortcuts for your Macbook that may save you time and make your life easier… some of the others are just a bit of fun!

Make Touch ID your sudo password

If you own or use a Macbook Pro with a Touch Bar you can make your fingerprint your sudo password. To do this:

  1. Open a terminal and edit /etc/pam.d/sudo
  2. Add the following line at the top of this file:auth sufficient

3. Save the changes.

The next time you need to enter the sudo password you can just use your fingerprint!

One of the first things I was taught as a journalist was to write short sentences. My editor said to imagine you’re talking to someone in a bar; you want to use short sentences and straightforward language if you’re going to keep their attention.

Six years later when I became a technical writer, I was given pretty much the same advice: be short and concise in your instructions, don’t include unnecessary words. It got me thinking, is there an ideal sentence length to aim for? And if so, how long is it?

The goldfish attention span myth

I’m going to try and keep this next…

Generation Z seem to be reading release notes and app-updates. Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

As part of my research into the best ways to write great release notes, I conducted a survey to try and gauge how many people actually read them. The results were really interesting – mainly because I accidentally stumbled upon a young sample set of respondents who were mostly aged 25 or younger.

Finding people to respond to the survey was difficult as most services cost money but in the end I found /r/SampleSize subreddit forum of more than 87,800 people on Reddit who are willing to complete surveys for free. …

One of the first tasks I was given as a technical writer was writing a set of release notes. For the most part it involved pulling together developer notes, removing jargon and rewriting the text in concise English that customers could understand.

More often than not, the release notes felt like a bit of an afterthought, a chore that developers put off until the very last minute. While it might sound fairly simple, writing release notes is an important and yet under-appreciated task that requires more skill, care and attention than it is sometimes given credit for.

Although it is still fairly common to find release notes that simply state “bug fixes and improvements”, companies are investing more and more time and effort in make their release notes stand out. So, what is the purpose of release notes? …

While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Unix command line is incredibly useful to learn. Unix-based operating systems are under the hood of everything from Android phones to Chromebooks, Macbooks and even Playstations so there’s a pretty high chance you have used a *nix-powered device at some point in your life.

Learning Unix command line offers you a quick and powerful way to carry out tasks like file management, troubleshooting and customisation. Plus the next time you watch Mr Robot you might actually be able to understand some of what Elliot is typing!

Inspired by the covers of…

You can use the Twitter API to update your status or send Tweets and media to other users without actually logging into Twitter. You can also pull a list of the latest Tweets about a specific hashtag or from other users in your geographic location.

That might sound pretty complicated but you genuinely don’t need to be a developer to play around with the API and try some of these things out for yourself.

🤔 What is the Twitter API?

An API, short for Application Programming Interface, is basically a list of methods in which two software applications can communicate with one another. …

Error messages are seemingly so innocuous but they’re actually incredibly important in ensuring good UX and keeping your end user happy. A good error message informs your customers what went wrong, why it went wrong and what they can do to resolve it. Microsoft’s Windows developer centre guidelines give the following advice:

“Effective error messages inform users that a problem occurred, explain why it happened, and provide a solution so users can fix the problem. Users should either perform an action or change their behavior as the result of an error message.”

If you get that wrong, it can not…

James Scott

Technical writer. I write about technical writing, documentation tools & trends, API documentation, AI and the etymology of words used in technology.

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