Notes from Technical Communications Conference

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These are transcribed from my hastily written scrawls throughout the day.

Smart Authoring for a Smarter Planet
The keynote presentation by Peter Angelhides

Set the tone well for bigger thinking about our profession, broadening the scope to the world wide consumption of information and how it can be processed intelligently.

Information for your products is useful both for existing users and for future customers. Don’t lock it away, let Google find it and then follow the links back, find other sources, other places where conversations about your product are happening. Information allows this, product usage doesn’t.

Everybody’s (not) doing it: is it really OK to keep ignoring document users?
by David Farbey

“Documentation is an asynchronous conversation” – Ginny Redish (from her book)

Training are usually separate from Docs, suggest either moving Training (we have!) or requesting debriefs after training sessions.

“Developer Mirror” is all too common – aka The Curse of Knowledge (you forget how much you didn’t know, so presume everyone knows things you know).

“The conversation needs to be focussed on what both parties want to improve”.

If you can write an article, you can write anything
by Kim Schrantz-Berquist

Applying Journalism techniques to writing
Using “5Ws & 1H” (Who what when where why and how) forces specifics and may end up change the subject of what you are writing about.

Inverted Pyramid – get the 5Ws and 1H into the first paragraph, top loading the information.

Use the “Stop reading test” to determine if it is working. How far down the page can you stop and feel comfortable you know the 5Ws and 1H?

Google Earth help manual uses hourglass technique, toploads information, then has area for user to choose what to do next, then has more detail/facts.

Good way to present Support Notes?

www.how-to-write.org

Paths to success: Networking and Contributing
by Linda Urban

Build your network and Make a contribution – these are the strings and glue of being successful.

Connection with people, conversations are where it all happens.

Visual Attention: A psychologist’s perspective
by Dr Chris Atherton

Attentionomics. Gestalt.

Extraneous cognitive load so less is more (see Nurnberg Funnel on minimalism in documentation)

Magic number is 4 (recent studies show), not 7 plus/minus 2!

We have two parts to the brain, one deals with audio processing, one deals with visuals. Both work at the same time (which is why we enjoy videos/webcasts so much), but quickly max out when we are only processing one type of information (which is why reading is tiring).

Without Hot Air
by Niall Mansfield

Discussed how information was presented in the book (which outlines real solutions for combatting global warming).

Book is available through Creative Commons to download.
Drafts were posted to blog to drive discussion. Aim was to share the information as it was public spirited content.

The secrets of Telepathy
by Justin Collinge

A double session covering ways to to communicate better by understanding how other people process information.

Filtering in effect – aural vs visual – McGurk effect, video on YouTube.

Looked at a variey of filters (aka meta-programming) including Direction (away from vs towards), Relationship (similarities vs difficulties) and Frame of Reference (internal vs external).

Audience of documentation will cover all types, yet we usually only write for one. Taking a set of instructions; it’s usually aimed at completing something successfully, but what of the people who like comparisons, or who want to make sure that something DOESN’T happen (troubleshooting info?)

Similarites – 70% of people start with these, emphasise these first then cover differences

Can write opening sentences which cover differences & similiarities, and ‘towards’ and ‘away from’ views – this matches the inverted pyramid writing style.

Future Vision of Technical Communicators
by RJ Jacquez

“Social media has redefined communication”

What makes an experience engaging? Accessible, Collaborative, Compelling, Easy to use, Personalised, Responsive.

Build experiences that engage your audience

Digital users are here (Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott)

Socialnomics by Erik Qualman

Social networks have overtaken pron as the number 1 industry online.

SideWiki – comment on ANY website, no opt out. The conversation is happening now, whether you like it or not.