Are you considering investing in telecommunications infrastructure, services, hardware or software?
There is a lot of money to be made and
lost in telecommunications. In the
time available, it is impossible for any investor to fully
all the technical, human, business and regulatory issues which could be
comprehensively researched. Decisions must be made based on as
of knowledge as possible after considering many viewpoints and
estimating the risks and rewards.
Many of the technologies are explained in
the material I write
for Paul Budde Communications.
The reports you can purchase there are intended to give an introduction
and explanation for non-specialists, and to set the technology in a
broader context of likely demand and how it relates to other
technologies. These reports, and of course Google Advanced, are
good ways of learning about telecommunications technologies. But
it can be hard work wading through the material on the Net, determining
which documents are the most authoritative, up-to-date, complete and
assist with researching, explaining and assessing specific
technologies and business proposals regarding projects in Australia or
overseas. I am not able to conduct large projects, but I can
contribute to crucial investment decisions by giving an independent,
critical, analysis of the most novel and potentially promising aspects
of a new product or service.
My work for Paul Budde Communications and
previously for Australian Communications is primarily technical
writing for readers who are not engineers or technicians. These
reports and articles introduce, explain and in some cases critically
evaluate telecommunications technologies for people who do not have a
strong technical background.
I can write in whatever depth and detail
is required for engineers, programmers and sysadmins etc. but my main
experience is explaining the most important aspects of complex
technologies to people who are interested, but who may never have
understood any such technology in detail before.
In order to do this, I try to introduce
the important functional principles, and any underlying technologies
they rely upon, in a way which builds a reasonable understanding in the
mind of someone who initially knew very little about the field.
This can include technical people. For instance, just because
someone is an expert C++ programmer or knows a lot about digital signal
processing doesn't mean they have any understanding or experience of
the principles of MP3 audio compression or WiMax.
The number of technologies continues to
multiply, with only a few fading into obscurity compared to the number
which are becoming important. The new technologies are generally
more complex and interdependent on other technologies.
My speciality with most of the technical
writing I have done so far involves:
- Setting the technology in context with other technologies it competes with, replaces or interoperates with.
- Explaining the main principles of operation, from the ground up.
- Exploring in detail particular parts of the technology which are critical to its success, or which involve principles which are particularly interesting to the reader.
- Enabling a non-technical reader to gain a feel for - and some familiarity with - a technology, whilst providing a technically adept reader with solid information and insights which help them understand and evaluate the technology.
Ideally, the reader will then be able to
imagine how one particular technology can be applied in a novel setting
- how it would work with others and how to choose between competing
approaches when planning a new service.
I find the major challenge in technical writing is reconciling two conflicting priorities within the limits of available space and the reader's time.
- The curiosity about the topic usually comes from "above" - from a higher level of abstraction. For instance, most people want to know about QoS and MPLS, or WiMax, because of what it can do, rather than out of interest with its internal principles. (An exception would be someone who wanted to understand fibre communications and its lasers and modulators because of their interest in physics.)
- Real understanding must be built from the ground up. For example, its not very helpful writing about how WiMax uses OFDM unless the reader knows what this means. They need to understand OFDM and its constituent modulation techniques, such as QPSK and QAM. For this to be meaningful, they need to know about signal-to-noise ratios, forward error correction and to some extent the convolutional coding which makes these modulation techniques more robust, at the cost of bits-per-Hertz. For all these to be meaningful, the reader needs to know something about the propagation of radio waves, reflections with their time-delays etc. and the nature of various kinds of interference. This leads to questions of symbol time and trade-offs between suitability for mobile reception vs increasing the maximum spacing of transmitters in a single-frequency network. With this understanding, which involves basic physics and anticipating the actual situation the system is to be deployed in, the reader can then understand why correctly designed OFDM has many advantages over other approaches, and how parameters such as symbol time can be chosen for a particular application. This is real understanding, and although it doesn't transform the reader into a radio engineer, and while he or she wouldn't want to be examined on the material in 6 months time, the reader does gain a genuine understanding of what OFDM is and how it makes a crucial contribution to the performance of the service.
Sometimes the low-level material is not
something I find exciting or easy to understand. For instance,
all the detail in how MPLS etc. works doesn't fascinate me - but we
understand it because QoS is so important for many emerging
services. More often, the lower level detail of the technologies
is something I find inherently interesting, such as the
subtle physics and technologies in Wavelength Division
Multiplexing. There is a limit to how much I can write about the
many aspects of physics, digital signal processing, electronics etc.
which I find fascinating, but I hope to convey some of my enthusiasm to
I have some experience indexing and in
designing straightforward, elegant, text layouts. I also have
skills with photography, Photoshop and vector graphics with
The best way to improve the final
document is to leave the initial draft for a few weeks while several of
the intended audience read and annotate it. Then, with relatively
fresh eyes, I can return to refine it, overcoming various problems
which could not be seen during the initial writing. When writing
for a magazine, a good sub-editor works collaboratively with the author
to refine and strengthen the text.
A detailed CV of my background in electronics, software, writing, consulting and advocacy is at ../../robin/cv.html .
Please call 03 9459 2889 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how I can assist your organisation.
- Robin Whittle
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