Parrot Revenge

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Question: How can I use innocent gadgets to needle people in my open office without getting caught?

Answer:
My original idea was to get a live parrot, and just train it to insult people by name in a large open office. This will be traced back to you pretty quickly, though, so add stealth to your strategy. There are many devices, and probably apps as well, which can record conversations for later playback, possibly remotely, when your target walks past your empty desk.

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5 Things Not to Say in Your Exit Interview

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Question: My petty tyrant of a boss has finally downsized me. I should be crushed, but I’m so elated that I feel like dancing on his desk. Now I can tell him the truth about how I feel, right?

Answer:
Ahaha, very funny. Try to work out your angst with cartoons or laughing amongst your friends. Even there, though, be careful – emails have a way of going to the wrong recipient.

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Going to Mars is Easier

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Question: I’m bewildered by our healthcare situation. And yet we have tech companies who are so smart they can solve almost any problem using machine learning and other advanced data techniques. Why don’t they tackle healthcare instead of funding vanity projects?

Answer:
Nobody has yet created a computer model or used machine learning to successfully predict or simulate the behavior of our national legislature. Also, have you ever READ an actual piece of legislation? It’s worse than regulatory language, which also doesn’t make much sense.

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Evil Twin Likes Trouble

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Question: My evil twin likes trouble, but then I have to deal with it later on.

Answer:
Trouble is a tool, like a hammer. The tool itself has no morals of its own, and “trouble” per se is not always a bad thing, if it frees up things that are stuck. The problem is the amount of rationalization involved, because stirring the pot has a thrill akin to arson, and while arson might get rid of a nasty old building that should be torn down anyway, is it REALLY the best way to go about it?

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House of Cards

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Question: I’ve finally got everyone here convinced that tech writers have magick powers. But now it’s kinda backfired, they’re asking me for impossible stuff that’s hard to fake.

Answer:
You’ve started down a slippery slope. The best choice is to just keep going, like former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Think of it as an exercise in both creativity and personal chutzpah.

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Managing Translation Projects

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Question:
I have to translate my latest docs and we don’t have any process in place. How have you done this in the past?

Answer:
If you have no budget at all, try to find someone at your company who’s a native speaker and who knows your industry’s jargon – in that language. Then, convince them to spend months of their time working on your translation project for free.

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Remote Teams

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Question: I’m developing the docs for a new product where all the engineers are in the U.K. with another whole team in Russia. Nobody’s responding to any of my emails, and there’s no code or product to look at.

Answer:
The only thing that’s ever worked for me is being there in person. Otherwise it will take 3 times longer to do anything at all. It’s not just you. People have a natural resistance to working with anonymous strangers that they had no hand in picking. On an unconscious level, they don’t believe the other team members actually exist and therefore it’s a waste of time to deal with these foreign ghosts.

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Grow a Pair

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Question: I’ve got this new contract client who desperately needs new manuals for their industrial equipment, but they don’t have a budget for more than a week’s worth of work. They somehow seem to think they can still get their manuals.

Answer:
Clients who can’t make decisions will nickel and dime you at every turn, second-guess everything, and spend so much time dithering that it will drive all of you straight to the grave. Wish them good luck and move on.

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