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The People Behind the Software: Melanie Drake

This interview is part of a series of Q&As with the JMP development team. Earlier interviews have been with Xan Gregg, Chung-Wei Ng and Laura Lancaster and Bob Hickey and John Sall.

photo of Melanie Drake of JMPToday, we meet Melanie Drake. She is one of a team of four writers who write the JMP books, help, tips and other documentation materials as needed. Melanie has been at JMP for nearly nine years.

Arati: How did you get into technical writing, and what do you like about it?

Melanie: My first career was in newspaper pre-press: typesetting, four-color stripping, shooting page negatives and so on. I tired of the nights-weekends-holidays work schedule, and I also found myself documenting how to do tasks for my co-workers.

I loved working with computers, I knew several technical writers, and I decided I’d really enjoy that kind of career. So I went back to college and talked my way into a technical writing internship. When I graduated, my internship turned into a full technical writer position.

Arati: What do you like about JMP?

Melanie: I like the versatility of JMP. Our customers use JMP in amazingly diverse ways. JMP provides tools that can be used in any way needed, from quickly discovering patterns in graphs to in-depth statistical studies of data.

Arati: Do you use JMP in your job or for personal projects? If so, how?

Melanie: I have used JMP data tables to discover which developers, testers, and writers work on which pieces of JMP. I use JMP to create sample data tables and sample scripts that are used in the books and which we deliver with JMP. I’ve even written small applications in JSL.

Arati: What’s new in JMP 9 in your area of focus?

Melanie: Some of the most interesting innovations that I focused on writing about for JMP 9 is the R interface in JMP Scripting Language (JSL), and new scoping and namespace tools in JSL.

Discovering JMP book coverIf you look at the books on the Help menu (Help > Books), we’ve made some changes in JMP 9. We have retired the venerable Introductory Guide and replaced it with Discovering JMP. The Statistics and Graphics Guide had grown into a book that was simply too large to use easily. For JMP 9, we separated this single book into three: Basic Analysis and Graphing, Modeling and Multivariate Methods, and Quality and Reliability Methods.

Arati: What was the reason for doing this? How will it be helpful to customers?

Melanie: The R interface lets people extend JMP into new areas. Scoping and namespaces lets scripters produce better applications and lets people run multiple scripts without interfering with each other.

The splitting of the Statistics and Graphics Guide into three more focused books should make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Arati: What book are you reading right now?

Melanie: I'm reading The Republic of Pirates, a non-fiction book about Caribbean pirates in the early 1700s.

Arati: What do you like to do in your free time?

Melanie: Read science fiction and history, ride my motorcycle in the mountains, and crochet.

Arati: Pick two (or more if you like) of the following to identify: your favorite programming language, favorite algorithm, favorite formula, favorite theorem or favorite software tool.

Melanie: I’m not a programmer, but I enjoy writing scripts in JSL and in Perl.

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What’s New in JMP 9 Documentation - JMP Blog wrote:

[...] came with JMP 9, I noticed interesting changes, which the JMP documentation team (Susan Conaghan, Melanie Drake, Jonathan Gatlin and Sheila Loring) explained to me. The changes are part of their ongoing project [...]