Do Get Technical With Me!
If my years at Viisage Technologies/L-1 Identity Solutions and Satcon Technology Corp. have taught me anything: it is a passion for taking technical content and writing about it in such a way that makes the reader fall in love with the product!
Whether I am writing about document authentication, facial recognition, solar power inverters, machine vision systems, or blockchain technology, I can distill the very complicated into the very concise—and make it fun to read.
Without getting overly technical, below are few examples of my best Tech Writing work from data-sheets, product descriptions, blog posts, documentation, to press releases.
Being a professional writer and trying to get jobs in that capacity is not always the easiest thing to do. Frequently, when interviewing for a Mar/Comm, Copywriting, Tech Writing, or other type of writing roles, we writers are given writing assignments to prove that we can do the job.
The following two examples were part of a lengthy interview process with a writing assignment for a Marketing Content Writer role at Cognex Corporation. Just briefly, Cognex is a pretty hip machine vision systems company in Natick, Mass. One of my best friends has been working there for years. So when the aforementioned role opened up, I had him network me into getting my credentials in front of the hiring manager.
This got me a phone screen with her, followed by a writing assignment. The assignment was to revise a data-sheet for an upcoming product release (the In-Sight 7000 G2 Series); as well as, write a press release for it.
Now I’m the type of writer that really goes all out with these kinds of assignments. One of them (that I mention below) got me a face-to-face interview because I knocked the writing assignment out of the park. So I expected this one would do the same for me.
So during a whole weekend, I furiously worked on the assignment.
The first part of that was spent not only revising the copy on the data-sheet but actually revising the data-sheet itself!
I other words, I took the PDF of the original data-sheet (linked here for comparison) and brought it into Adobe Acrobat Pro. I would have used InDesign had I had the original InDesign file (and fonts), but I had to work with what I had. However, I think the results (see below) came out great!
Instead of going into excruciating detail of the changes I made here on this page, I invite you to read the actual Editor’s Notes document here that I sent along with the revised data-sheet; it’s five pages worth of changes!
Next up is the press release for the product (to the left). The way I write press releases differs slightly from the way most people do. I take the classic approach (meaning the formal press release structure: newsworthy title, date/location intro, main body article, a quote from a member of the organization, a quote from an industry expert, a call to action, and a Safe Harbor disclaimer), and add on top of it: hyperlinks, images, meta-data for RSS feeds, keywords and hashtags, social media links, and industry associations and forums.
Press releases these days are more than just a simple announcement. When they are distributed on Xconomy, Business Wire, and PR Leap they need SEO and extensible meta-data features because their reach and metrics are going to be quantified and analyzed.
That’s how you write a press release!
See for yourself.
Note: Did I get the job? Well, no. It turns out that literally a day after I submitted all of the above work, the HR rep informed me that they made a job offer to someone else—the reason being: they were further along in the interview process! Really? Why bother having me start the race if someone was already at the finish line?
I have my suspicions as to why but I’ll keep them to myself.
Consequently, I’ve learned two things from this experience.
- Never do this much amount of unpaid work at all for any reason—especially when there is no guarantee that you will even get a face-to-face interview from it, which I did not. The above work took about 12 hours over my birthday weekend with nothing to show for it but a weak response about how much the hiring manager was impressed with my work. Then she should have at least put the breaks on the other candidate until I could have come in and get caught up to them. But “her hands were tied.”
- Since I did all of this unpaid work, I might as well use it on my portfolio. But from now on if a hiring manager wants a writing assignment then it had better be something reasonable that I can do in under an hour. Anything else would be unethical to ask for, in my opinion, unless they pay for the work. The way writers are treated sometimes in business is shameful. See my Nick Iandolo page to read about my views on the the profession of writing.
Note: As of this writing (April, 2018), If you go to the Cognex website and search for the data-sheet for this product, you’ll find that they are using the same old draft data-sheet (linked above) that they gave me to revise! Also, the current press release they have for the product is so sparsely written that it was probably done quick and dirty by a product manager as opposed to using a professional Mar/Comm & PR writer (like myself). It’s nothing like the full-featured one that I did above. My buddy tells me that it has become generally known in the industry that the quality of the writing at Cognex has degraded considerably. I could have helped them with that but they went with someone else—and it seems that nothing has changed as a result. Oh well.
Bamboo Rose, a retail production software company, was looking for a Marketing Copywriter. Naturally, I applied and through my body of work, and a great phone screen, I got a face-to-face interview. I met with the Director of Marketing and a high-level sales exec.
The interviews went swimmingly and I really thought that I was in the running for the role. So, ironically (as in the opposite of the things that I learned not to do anymore after my Cognex experience), I decided to go all out and create the data-sheet to the left.
During the interview process, I noticed several things that BR could do better. First, their introduction video curiously stops after a minute and a half just before it gets into any kind of discussion as to how the BR Platform solves the retail production-distribution chain problem. I even brought this up to the Director of Marketing and she noted that I wasn’t the first to notice that. Secondly, the website was missing a lot of content, at the time, as to who the software platform really solves the aforementioned problems. It gave a 20,000-foot view but failed to provide any: videos, screenshots, white papers, or data-sheets on the subject—just a few blog posts and testimonials. Those are all well and good; however, any good organization’s marketing department should provide as much info as possible about the technology so as to give the potential customer confidence that they’re investing in the right solution.
I’ve worked with a lot of great companies and the ones that don’t just leave it up to their sales people to convince future clients but also provide lots of product information usually gets the call to action—especially when there’s lots of media-related info!
This was a few years ago, and if you go to the Bamboo Rose website now, they’ve added a ton of new content—but the video is still missing a second half that explains how the software works and why people should use it.
But getting back to my story: I pondered making the rest of the aforementioned video myself, which I have the equipment and resources to do but decided that was too much of a risk to take only having had two interviews with no promise for a second round. I would have totally done that if I knew that doing so would have sealed the deal.
But I opted for the above data-sheet instead. I took all of the relevant content from their website, along with external online sources, and distilled it down into actual stories about how the product works and why it is a great investment. Also, I promoted the mobile-platform component of the software on the first-page sidebar because that’s a huge selling feature that BR didn’t seem (again, at the time) to highlight.
And finally, visibly absent from any of the BR marketing media (primarily on the website, at the time) were case studies. So I decided to make one up (or I would have simply used one of theirs)!
That’s right, I wrote a fictional case study based on what the actual software can really do; only, to show the Dir. of Mar. my marketing copywriting skills. If I got the job, I would have replaced that spec case study with a real one.
Note: For the fictional case study, I created a purely Bostonian retail success story because Bamboo Rose is a Boston-based company. Also, can you guess who the famous actress is; whose image I used for the fictional retail proprietor?
I spent an entire weekend using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign making this convention-ready data-sheet. I also had a bunch of copies professionally printed and then FedEx’ed them to BR for the Dir. of Mar. to have on her desk that Monday morning. I couldn’t have done any more to get that job.
Consequently, I didn’t get the job due to the fact that, according to the HR rep, the job was put on hold indefinitely. About a month later they hired someone a lot younger and less experienced than I (whom I sure they would pay them a lot less) to do pretty much the same job but under a different title. Go figure!
At least I have another great example of my work to prove to potential employers how valuable a writer I can be to them and their organizations.
Lesson Learned Here: the same as the Cognex ones but also don’t oversell yourself in an interview. Not because they might think you’re full of baloney but because if you bring too many skills and options to the table, they might rethink their needs for the role and retool it to something else. I have a feeling I literally talked them out of that job when I put too many ideas in their heads, causing them to downsize the role—leaving me out in the cold (actually it was summer time but you get the idea)!
But I’m sure someone or some organization out there can use me with all of these skills highlighted in this entire portfolio!
L-1 Identity Solutions
My time at Viisage/L-1 Identity Solutions was a great period in my life: I worked for a great company, my wife and I were expecting a baby, and we had just bought a new house! Plus, L-1 sent on a whirlwind business trip to Munich Germany! But that is another story.
Anyway, during my time at L-1 I got to do a crazy amount of writing: everything from case studies, web copy, proposals, data-sheets, marketing collateral, brand positioning and strategic messaging guides, to product descriptions, and more!
I worked with a great bunch of people whom I’ll never forget. I’d still be there if L-1 hadn’t acquired DigiMarc, then became MorphoTrust, then got acquired by Sarfan.
However, on the technical writing side the following data-sheets should give you an idea of the kind of work I did there.
Note: The work I did on these data-sheets varied from revising and copywriting the technical verbiage for the products to editing and revising the original Adobe InDesign files for final print fulfillment.
Document Authentication Family (DAS)
The data-sheet (to the left) discusses the technical and commercial features and benefits of a suite of hardware document reader devices used to verify authenticity (e.g. passports).
The data-sheet (to the left) discusses the technical and commercial features and benefits of a software suite designed to integrate with the above hardware in processing authentic documents.
The data-sheet (to the left) discusses the technical and commercial features and benefits of a dedicated hardware motor vehicle driver’s testing station.
The data-sheet (to the left) discusses the technical and commercial features and benefits for DMV’s who need an online driver’s test scheduling solution.
Tech Specs are subset of Data-sheets. More often than not, a data-sheet will incorporate a tech spec at the end.
Lately though, I’ve been separating out the two. My latest client SeaChange International (as of March/April 2018) has been having me do that for their products. They are in the process of rebranding and I’ve been contracted to help with that as their Digital Copywriter.
The following tech spec is a mockup for their proprietary CMS (i.e. Content Management System), originally called AssetFlow renamed to cContent. When the final version is complete, I’ll post a copy of it here. Until then, here is basically what the content will look like before the final design elements are in place.
The important thing to note here is the formatting of technology standards and acronyms/initialisms, third-party vendors and software developers company and product names, use of trademark symbols (®, ™), specification hierarchies, and succinct product descriptions.
Also visit the Marketing Communications page to see more SeaChange collateral.
Blogs, Online, and Print Articles
Blockchain Programmatic Corporation
Blockchain Programmatic Corporation (BPC) is a Silicon Valley startup that has developed a programmatic advertising platform using Blockchain Technology (think: Bitcoin) for real-time-bidding and advertising—it’s way more complicated than that but you get the idea.
Anyway, the Director of Change Operations found me on LinkedIn after she had gone through several other writers who could not provide BPC with a succinct and effective product announcement—she hadn’t met me yet. Then she met me (through LinkedIn Messaging) and we chatted about the project. I told her I knew exactly what she was looking for. So she sent me two white papers and a host of online content to distill into a readable English product announcement.
Not only did I get it to her within less than 48 hours but I also wrote it in HTML so that it could be CMS-ready. Which means that it could be immediately dropped into any Content Management System (CMS) of their choice (like WordPress) with little to no configuration. Also, the HTML version contained all of the SEO and meta-data that would help make the product announcement even more searchable and more widely distributed.
The result: BPC published it after one draft with only minor, minor tweaks!
Above is a digital reproduction of the published document to Medium.com, which also contains the original HTML code that I wrote.
Note: The actual live post has been removed by the publisher due to the fact that it is now old news. The document is now only preserved here.
Make Tech Easier
Make Tech Easier (MTE) is an online publication that focuses on consumer, web, mobile, and digital content technologies. They produce articles, eBooks, and online courses. As a staff writer, I pitched, wrote, and published articles on the aforementioned topics. I also used my image processing skills to create custom graphics for my articles; as well as, providing SEO, external links, and meta-data for all of my articles.
Though I only wrote for them for a brief period I managed to get a suite of good articles out. I also got to work with a wonderful diverse group of people spread all over the world. My editor was located in Singapore!
Note: The MTE section will also appear on my Journalism page with more details about the role.
PTC (formerly, Parametric Technology Corporation)
As a freelance Mar/Comm writer for Creativedge, I am sometimes asked to ghostwrite articles, blog posts, PR pieces, and other works. For PTC I did just that. Back in 2016 I was asked to write a blog post of a presentation given at the PTC annual LiveWorx Technology Conference. The presentation focused on the new technological trend known as The Internet of Things (IoT for short), featuring several speakers who presented various technologies such as PTC’s ThingWorx Platform and Vuforia’s Augmented Reality Platform (linked to PTC).
Below is a draft version of the document that never made it to publication on the PTC website but was happily read by one of the SVPs at PTC.
Note: The document contains SEO, meta-data, and social media profiles/links on the last page. All images are assumed to have alt-tag meta-data, and all the underlined content are assumed to be hyperlinks (another organic SEO strategy).
L-1 Identity Solutions – Smart Card News
The article (excerpted from the full magazine) to the left was ghostwritten by me for L-1 Identity Solutions (June, 2007). The subject matter was on the value of ePassports. L-1 specialized in secure documents such as ID cards with RIFD tags and phosphorescent inks that show up on special authorized card readers.
The article appeared in Smart Card News. See the Journalism page for more details on this article.
Viisage/L-1 Identity Solutions
While at L-1 (a.k.a. Viisage) I worked on a lot of proposals responding to RFPs for state, government, and international agencies. The RFPs called for technical solutions, products, and services that would meet their needs for identity theft protection and fraud prevention, border security, facial recognition, and secure document authentication such as passports.
Regardless of what the RFP and the ensuing proposal focused on one thing remained a constant: the proposal writing process and team response was an unqualified nightmare. And everyone knew it!
So when I got my experience of this nightmare first hand, I decided to try to do something about it.
I proposed to the Director of Marketing that I could come up with a better way to organize, draft, and produce proposals that would be far more efficient and cost effective.
Though a lot of the recommendations here were not implemented (due to lack of time and resources as we continually scrambled to get the proposals out by the deadlines), some were. Specifically, the implementation of a document and content management system called Privia Platform (I had recommended and CMS such as EMC’s Documentum and Adobe’s Document Center). Other suggestions were also slowly incorporated into the proposal response process such as better use of MS Word’s styles and templates, more centralized editorial control over the final drafts, and better graphics management such as Google’s then Picassa).
The white paper was written in a tech doc format with a revision table—appropriate for a tech company such as L-1. And it also contained tables, images, infographics, and a sample of what the new proposal format could look like.
This was many weeks worth of work (among my other duties) and was well-received by the upper echelons of the company. However, things changed there so quickly that by the time we got Privia up and running, L-1’s competitor DigiMarc was acquired by the company, and of course you know the rest from there (as previously mentioned above).
Neshamkin French Architects
B.C. International Corporation
Irma S. Mann Strategic Marketing (ISM)
User Documentation/User Guides
When you visit my Websites page of this portfolio, you will certainly see a wealth of information that went into the creation and production of the Dedham Television websites and micro-sites (i.e. the VOD channels). It was a massive undertaking to make all of it spectacular, and a labor of love—that Dedham TV seems to have abandoned now in favor of cheap poor quality in the current flagship site’s (i.e. DedhamTV.com) feckless simplicity.
Regardless, had Dedham TV/DVAC had the sense to allow me to complete my work, they could have easily updated and maintained the beautiful flagship website I created for them, long after I was gone. And to help them do that was this document (to the left). It was the Webmaster Manual. And had I been allowed to complete it, it would have been incredibly comprehensive, and an indispensable web-services tool for the organization for years to come. It was even password protected!
By now (after visiting several pages of this portfolio) you have gathered that I write copious documents. This user manual is no exception. It tops out at 15 pages but I had planned on adding a ton of graphics and screenshots, and ton more of instructions and tips. The entire first part of this document was dedicated to detailing the history of the Dedham TV website and the reasons for the changes.
Then I launch into the logins for the WordPress template, the support page for the professional WordPress template that we went with for the new site, and the Google Drive login for all of the cloud-based data and content that I was moving the organization over to.
This document would have also covered administration of the sister site (i.e. DedhamTVLive.com) and the micro-sites VOD channels (i.e. VIDEOSNOW.DedhamTV.com, MeetingVids.DedhamTV.com, and SchoolSpace.DedhamTV.com)—which there appears to no longer be any link from the flagship website! Viewers are now getting redirected via a link on the homepage (and through Facebook) that goes directly to the Vimeo pages for the videos that are completely disorganized and not separated by channel/domain! The micro-sites are beautiful, streamlined, separated, organized, searchable, and easy to use (powered by VimeoPro on the back end). What a waste!
Finally, there is a HUGE SEO component for the website in this document. I have pages of post categories and subcategories with detailed descriptions and slugs to help advance the site’s Search Engine Optimization, along with ensuring a level of professionalism by adding a ton of detail to the back end of the site. When visitors would come to the site, they could search on absolutely every last thing to find what they were looking for from kid’s programs, B2B services, memberships, video production classes, to channel guides, and more!
That is how I roll when I work for an organization that I really care about!
Just take a look at the Post Categories and see for yourself.
I guarantee you that all of this information is missing from the new and not-improved Dedham Television website!
One more thing: I’ve redacted login info on the manual just in case some of it is still valid. I never want it said that I gave out sensitive information. Everything else in the document is non-sensitive and/or publicly available information.