The Red Lines Page

December 12, 2017

Dual career path

Filed under: Another Life,Blake's 7,drwho,IBM,Torchwood,twitter,writing — Peter A @ 11:51 pm

IBMangledlogo

On 4th  January 2018, I will have worked at IBM for 30 years. That’s not something I anticipated when I joined.

It’s been a terrific three decades, during which I feel I’ve been able to make a difference by working in many interesting roles with wonderful people all round the world.

 

Another Life

twFor a lot of my time at IBM, my colleagues didn’t know I had a parallel career as a writer of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Blake’s 7 tie-in fiction. It’s not the sort of thing I’d typically discuss at work.

Nevertheless, I have been writing that sort of stuff even longer than I’ve been at IBM – certainly since primary school, and then in fanzines at school and university. I’ve been professionally published since 1996 (a mere 21 years) –  so a private joke was to call my first Torchwood novel Another Life.

In later years, my work colleagues became more aware of my “second career” because other IBMers would tell them. Though it rarely works the other way round – people who know me from my books and audios tend to be unaware of my IBM career.

I don’t hide it, as you’ll see in my LinkedIn profile, which lists my fiction writing alongside my IBM intellectual property publications. And my Twitter feed talks about IBM stuff, my writing, and lots of other nonsense besides.

 

Wiki leaks

WikiGoneFor a number of years, there was a Wikipedia entry about me, and of course that gratifyingly flattered my ego. Like the entries for all the other Doctor Who novelists, it was written by a fan enthusiast with a completist attitude to documenting the TV show and its spinoffs.

The Wikipedia article described all my fiction writing, with links to my blog, the BBC website, and so on. But it said nothing at all about IBM.

One result of this was being introduced at an event as an invited IBM speaker like this: “I looked him up online, but the only information I could find was about this other Peter Anghelides who writes Doctor Who books, and that obviously can’t be him.” There are so many people called Peter Anghelides that I could understand her confusion

Not that this is a problem any more. Earlier this year, one of the Wikipedia content moderators decided that the article wasn’t well enough written, and it has therefore been deleted. You’re not allowed to write Wikipedia articles about yourself, so at least I can blame someone else for this (while, obviously, sulking in my office).

 

Celebrating in style

BadgeIBM recognises employees at various career landmarks. For example, on reaching 25 years you’re enrolled in the Quarter Century Club. I got a nice meal, a certificate from the IBM Chairman, and a pile of gift vouchers.

I was also able to add the Quarter Century Shield to my ID badge, and that’s a nice conversation starter when meeting new colleagues or clients or business partners.

 

The 30 Years Words

For someone like me now reaching 30 years, IBM makes a “personalised congratulatory page” available for a month beforehand. This is the online Recognition Centre, where people are invited to post messages and photos, and see what everyone else has written. The celebrant sees the final thing on the anniversary date.

30YearsMessages can be posted by anyone who gets an invitation to do so, IBMers or otherwise. Participation very much depends on whether the IBM internal social media, or the employee’s manager, sends invitations to anyone. And whoever is invited to contribute can themselves invite others to participate.

I suppose it’s like a benign Ponzi scheme, where everyone has a bit of fun and no-one joins Bernie Madoff in jail.

 

Open invitation

But here’s something I didn’t know until last week: the celebrant is also able to invite people.

And because I like to test these things out, I went ahead and invited… myself. So not only can I now add comments, I can already see some of the nice things that people are saying.

This prompted a naughty thought. What if I invited not just people who I know from IBM… what if I invited people I know through my other writing work?

This is not an effort to fish for compliments! What would greatly amuse me, and enliven proceedings, is if my Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Blake’s 7 pals each posted something in the Recognition Centre about their favourite TV story or memory, and I will respond with a corresponding story or anecdote about IBM.

 

Want to play?

QuestionMarksIf you fancy giving it a go, and you know me from my non-IBM life, contact me at the usual address and I will send you a personal invitation to contribute.

Remember that whatever you write will be visible to all other contributors and associated with your name, because each invitation needs to be unique.

The closing date is Wednesday January 3rd 2018.

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October 15, 2017

Know your frenemy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 6:13 pm

Coming in February 2018: The Missy Chronicles. 

‘I’ve had adventures too. My whole life doesn’t revolve around you, you know.’

When she’s not busy amassing armies of Cybermen, or manipulating the Doctor and his companions, Missy has plenty of time to kill (literally). In this all new collection of stories about the renegade Time Lord we all love to hate, you’ll discover just some of the mad and malevolent activities Missy gets up to while she isn’t distracted by the Doctor.

So please try to keep up.

MissyChroniclesAuthors: Cavan Scott, Jacqueline Rayner, Paul Magrs, James Goss, Peter Anghelides, and Richard Dinnick.

Preorder: on Amazon in print and eBook formats.

Crossword answers

Filed under: drwho,IBM — Peter A @ 5:52 pm

Previously I published a crossword frame and a set of clues. I thought it would be a good idea to publish the answers, too. Here they are.

Crossword answers

July 15, 2017

Crossword clues

Filed under: drwho,IBM — Peter A @ 8:16 pm

CrosswordImage.jpgThese are the clues for the crossword frame that I published previously.

There are two themed elements, each with 12 answers. One set has associations with traditional Christmas, indicated in italic and with [X]. The other set has connections with Doctor Who, indicated in bold and with [D].

Many clues are cryptic, containing a variety of anagrams, homophones, containers, substitutions, double definitions, and so on. All answers except one are single words.

Download a printable version in a PDF document from here: RED LINES PAGE – Giant Crossword

December 10, 2016

Doctor Who crossword 2016

Filed under: drwho,IBM,rednoseday,Uncategorized — Peter A @ 5:27 pm

Crossword grid 2016.pngEach year, the IBM Hursley Club publishes a giant crossword in its festive newsletter. The Club is onsite at the location where I work.
This year, their crossword setter is “Omega.” He or she has included 12 Doctor Who related answers, and the grid features four question marks. What fun!

December 5, 2016

A few comments on recognition

Filed under: Articles,IBM,ISTC,writing — Peter A @ 11:59 pm

istcThis year I was honoured by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), which is the industry body for information development. They awarded me their Horace Hockley Award for 2016. And then they elected me as an Honorary Fellow, in recognition of outstanding service to the profession.

I was pleased to accept both, make an acceptance speech at this year’s conference, and write an article for their journal Communicator.

Here’s what I said in the article.

 

A few comments on recognition

Horace Hockley Award 2016 honoree Peter Anghelides says “thanks for the feedback”


How splendid to receive this year’s Horace Hockley Award. Major Hockley established standards for the technical communication profession, and was himself recognised with an OBE in the 1968 New Year Honours list.

We should welcome feedback about our work that’s timely, evidence-based, constructive. It’s a culture shift in our industry: to seek professional feedback instead of mere evaluation.

That’s important to us at IBM, where our mission is to deliver the right content, to the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

The feedback firehose

Communicator.jpgFeedback can be overwhelming. It may be from our peers, our editors, our engineers, our clients. And the explosion of feedback is a consequence of how we’ve slashed hardcopy entitlement, increased softcopy, integrated online information, and incorporated documentation in development environments and platforms like Eclipse or IBM Bluemix.

We get comments from IBM support, in the IBM Knowledge Center, in forums and collaborative environments like Stack Overflow, or repositories like GitHub. Not to mention the freeform firehose of Twitter and YouTube.

More than half of visitors to ibm.com go there for technical information, and a third of them use IBM Knowledge Center (millions of unique visitors, every week). IDC research (Technology Marketing Blog, October 19, 2012) revealed that vendor information is the second biggest pre-sales influence for technology buyers.

Delighted clients are advocates for our company. And our technical content reveals our company to our clients. That’s why we welcome feedback. We crave it.

Take a page out of my book

But when I first joined IBM in 1988, feedback came via the Reader’s Comment Form (RCF). This was back in the days when you might get your IBM machine delivered on one pallet and your documentation on the next two. Each of those big hardcopy manuals might have hundreds of pages, with one RCF at the back of it. We invited our clients to fill these in, with a request for assessment on Clarity, Accuracy, Completeness, Organization, Retrieval, and Readability.

What optimism! Our hope was our reader would tear this page from the back of the manual, complete it in detail, fold it neatly, and return it by pre-paid post to IBM in Mechanicsburg, PA where our product documentation was printed. IBM Mechanicsburg would then bundle up the RCFs and post them to the appropriate development lab – in my case, IBM Warwick Lab.

For years in Warwick, one client kept sending us RCFs that were completely blank. Nothing on Clarity. No insights into Accuracy or Organisation. We knew they came from one person, because each had the same postmark.

Was our mystery correspondent shy? Using invisible ink? Or a really furious client trying to bankrupt a multibillion dollar corporation one pre-paid envelope at a time?

Then the blank RCFs stopped. For months, we wondered what had happened, until they suddenly began arriving once more.

“What a relief,” said my manager, Roger Amis, “I was beginning to worry that something had happened to him.”

Roles and responsibilities

Roger is the man who hired me into IBM. Over the following three decades, I’ve been a technical author, project lead, talent manager, globalisation expert, and accessibility advisor. I’ve line managed information developers, human factors engineers, designers.

At one point, I even acted as IBM’s Translation Service Centre Manager for UK English (we never had a busy week).

I completed two worldwide assignments for the three IBM Corporate Directors of Documentation, Globalization, and Design. Those were wonderful opportunities to support strategy, process, and tooling for the biggest tech comms population in the world, through times of great transformation in IBM’s core businesses, and therefore great change in how we delivered product  documentation in dozens of languages.

I’ve helped my company change from IBM-specific tools and technology, like BookMaster, to establishing and sharing open standards, such as DITA. I’ve seen a company-wide renaissance in design thinking that puts user outcomes at the heart of what we do.

Technical communication is now an institutional competency within IBM. As an upline manager, the latest transformation I led was to integrate information development into the engineering squads, instead of being a separate organisation.

Multi-disciplinary teams mean that design and technical writing are no longer “add-ons,” but integrated with engineering from the outset – essential ingredients in a mix of skills for successful software development.

Staying the course

HoraceHockleyAward.pngThere have been many colleagues, managers, and mentors in the UK and around the world. But I reflect it was the IBM manager who hired me in the first place who made this all possible.

You sometimes hear it said that “people join companies, but leave managers.” Well, Roger Amis is a big reason why I stayed the course.

By happy coincidence, he also introduced me to my wife.

I’d like to recognise Roger as a role model for what it means to be a technical communicator, a manager, a collaborative colleague, and a mentor. He made it possible for me to set off on this path.

And I thank the ISTC for this much-appreciated recognition of my subsequent journey over the years.

Peter Anghelides is Outreach and Publicity Officer, IBM UK Lab Campus

E: peter_anghelides@uk.ibm.com  W: ibm.biz/knowledgecenter  T: @anghelides 

This article was originally published in ISTC Communicator, Winter 2016.

October 24, 2016

I woke up to unconscious bias

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 4:56 pm

twitterYou know what they say: every generation has an odd family member that the other relatives talk about behind their back. And if you say that your family doesn’t do that, well, the bad news is that it’s you they’re talking about.

The joke is that you don’t know what you don’t know. We all make assumptions, and assumptions have biases.

Say that again

Outside of my day job, I like to tweet stuff. It’s not a work blog, and more of an odd combo of lame jokes (see above), news items I find noteworthy, and exchanges between me and others. Those other tweeps (yeah, that’s the term, get over it) are a variety of friends and colleagues in IT, technical communication, and various media fandoms that I enjoy. And a whole crowd of others who like to listen in; I’m not all that choosy.

If I see something that amuses or interests me, I will share it on Twitter. Or if it’s already on Twitter, I may forward it (adding my own comment) or retweet it unchanged as I first saw it. If I do the former, it appears with my Twitter name on the tweet when it pops up in other people’s timeline; if I do the latter, the original person’s name appears.

The other month, my wife pointed out to me: “You don’t often just retweet women.” And she was right. It wasn’t something I’d done consciously, but a combination of:

  1. What I’d chosen to share
  2. How I’d chosen to share it
  3. Who I’d chosen to follow

The third one was a bit of an eye-opener. Because if I don’t follow a diverse range of people, it’s less likely that I’ll spot and retweet their stuff. Like any social media, and social sharing, Twitter can be a bit of an echo chamber of people Just Like You.

Obviously I want my Twitter experience to be more like a convivial gathering at my local, rather than a bar-clearing brawl. But I hadn’t thought, before my wife pointed it out to me, that I’d been so selective about who I followed… or perhaps I mean, not selective enough.

wocintechAlly up

This came to mind again when I read this terrific post on Etsy’s Code as Craft blog by Toria Gibbs and Ian Malpass. It’s an eight-minute read full of interesting stuff, including:

  • How software engineers communicate to themselves, and others, about craftsmanship
  • Diversity in recruitment, retention, and role models
  • Unconscious bias

The post is called Being an Effective Ally to Women and Non-Binary People. I like it because it’s written like a human being, not like an Open University lecture. And it contains some “no excuses” resources about (for example) photos of women in IT that you can use, for free, in your business presentations rather than perhaps perpetuating the stock set of picture of men we may have been using previously.

Worth a read now. Or if you’re busy, worth bookmarking. Consider this my social sharing.

Photo credit: #WOCinTech Chat

June 12, 2016

Coming out as an LGBT ally 2016

Filed under: Articles — Peter A @ 5:09 pm
Tags:

I wrote last year about this, and said: 

I expect I’ll need to come out again in the future when I meet new colleagues, clients, suppliers, and stakeholders.

It was my intention to reblog that this year, during Pride month. The horrific events at Pulse in Orlando this morning mean this cannot be the celebratory piece I hoped it would be.

But it emphasises, more than ever, the importance for each of us to be visible allies.


Photo by Joshua C. Cruey, Orlando Sentinel

May 22, 2016

Frontier Worlds

Filed under: drwho,Frontier Worlds,Novels,Uncategorized,writing — Peter A @ 4:24 pm

Winner! Best Eighth Doctor novel in the annual Doctor Who Magazine reader’s poll.

First published by BBC Worldwide in November 1999, ISBN: 0-563-55589-0

fwAfter writing Kursaal, I kept in contact with the other writers of the BBC Eighth Doctor range via e-mail. We would discuss forthcoming books, offer support and advice to each other, and encourage better continuity and continuing development of the series – especially the characters of the Doctor and his companions.

BBC Books editor Steve Cole let us in on a big secret—the idea of a story arc kicked off by Lawrence Miles’ book Interference, and which would centre around a new companion introduced in that book, called Compassion. The rough outline of how Compassion would develop was established over an initial five-book plan, and authors were invited to pitch for the five available slots.

As part of these discussions, I provided a very candid assessment of why I thought Compassion would be extremely difficult to write for, and that as a character she introduced lots of problems for writers.

However, after some nagging from Steve (who also provided a somewhat pained defence of Compassion against some pushback from the writers), I rashly provided a proposal for the third book in the arc, and found I then had to write for the character!

Rather than ignore what I saw were problems (by sidelining her), I decided to give her a central role in my novel. And, by the end of it, I decided I quite liked her as a character after all. (I’m so fickle.)

You can see from draft 2 of my proposal to the BBC that I wanted readers to join the story mid-way through the action; so the Doctor and his companions have been there for a while before we join them. Have a look also at Chapter 2 to see some of this in the published version.

At the proposal stage, Steve and I judged that some of the stuff about Compassion was too obvious, and so I played that down a little. In the outline, the subplot of Reddenblak is not so much to the fore, and two characters from earlier books (Alien Bodies and The Taking of Planet Five) make a cameo appearance – which I subsequently removed from the finished book. Other stuff was introduced into the novel while I was writing it, as usual.

I was more involved in the design of the cover of this book than for any of my other published novels.

The book received very positive reviews, and won the Doctor Who Magazine 1999 poll for Best Eighth Doctor novel. I also did a short interview for that magazine.

In-jokes: Fitz adopts the persona of Frank Sinatra, and all the chapter titles are songs that Sinatra sang. In the acknowledgements I name “Francis Albert” – which are Sinatra’s christian names. And “Frontier Worlds” was the name of a fan magazine I devised in 1979 with my friends Peter Lovelady and Tony Murray. They came up with the name of the fanzine—I had wanted, foolishly, to call it “Darkling Zone”—so Peter and Tony get an acknowledgement in the novel, too, for bringing me to my senses two decades previously.

 

Frontier Worlds: Blurb

Filed under: drwho,Frontier Worlds,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 4:22 pm

A big hand for this bookThis page is one of several on this site about my novel Frontier Worlds. They are all linked from this main blog post here.


What strange attraction lures people to the planet Drebnar? When the TARDIS is dragged there, the Doctor determines to find out why.

He discovers that scientists from the mysterious Frontier Worlds Corporation have set up a base on the planet, and are trying to blur the distinction between people and plants. The TARDIS crew plan to prevent a biological catastrophe – but their plan goes wrong all too soon.

Compassion finds her undercover work so engrossing she risks losing her detachment. Fitz seems too distracted by the local population to keep his eye on Compassion. So when the Doctor gets trapped in a freezing wilderness, who can stop him falling victim to a lethal experiment in genetic modification?

For something else has been lured to Drebnar, something that Frontier Worlds Corporation will ruthlessly exploit without care for the consequences – an ancient alien organism which threatens to snuff out Drebnar’s solar system.

This is another in the series of original adventures for the Eighth Doctor.

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