In technical writing (as well as other areas of life), having a smartphone on me has saved my butt on more than one occasion, and not just for looking up directions to a client site or doing some quick on-the-spot research on some byzantine technical topic that I need to understand.
- Smartphone cameras are a great way to record information quickly and conveniently. I recently attended a practice where I was supposed to learn a full set’s worth of songs in less than a half hour so I could sit in with a friend’s band the following night. I could’ve chosen to spend 20 minutes handwriting the chord charts, but thanks to my smartphone, I was able to take home my very own copy of the set list. Although there are limitations on quality, most smartphone cameras are perfectly acceptable substitutes for a scanner when the situation calls for it.
- Once I showed up for a meeting with a client where we the creation of a video demo of a suite of web-based systems and a sales presentation on the same topic. Based on previous experience, I expected that I’d show up, we’d talk, I’d gather contact info for some resources to work with, and leave to work up a rough draft to begin the collaborative process. Of course I was wrong… as soon as I show up, the client picks up a dry erase marker and launches into an hour of highly technical information on system architecture, server clusters, back-end components, and mirroring and backup schemes. Fortunately my iPhone was there to save the day by documenting the entire presentation with audio, video, and pictures of dry-erase board diagrams. Later it turned out that was all I would be given to work with. All content used in the final product was generated based on audio and video of that one meeting. Which of course, made the client very happy – he only lost a single hour of his life, and I was able to turn around a quality marketing presentation based on an hour and a half’s worth of technobabble.
So remember – turn it to silent, but keep your tricorder… er… smartphone with you at all times. You never know when it’ll save your butt.