Stop the conversations

In the New Year we are instituting a No Talking rule in my office. If anyone has a question, they have to write it down and pass it to a colleague who will then write down their response. This should cut down on the amount of chatter and conversation that, obviously, is having a huge impact on productivity. There will be no more talking in our office, the conversations will stop! I am, of course, joking. What I’m actually pondering is how to extract the casual knowledge that currently exists in the heads of the development team. The little snippets of information that take seconds to utter when prompted by a nearby colleague, but which remain out of the grasp …

Continue reading »

A New Normal

I’m currently cruising high in the sky above the USA, on my way from San Francisco to Boston. It’s part of a whistle stop tour of two of our offices here which have teams of software engineers, architects and product managers (no technical writers though) that are building part of the product we will be shipping early next year. During a chat with a couple of the product managers there was an interesting revelation. In describing the approach the team takes when it comes to writing documentation, the two product managers both smiled with relief when I said that we didn’t really spend much time on simple procedures, instead we try and concentrate on the why, on decision support information. …

Continue reading »

Everything is too much

For the last few months, the team have been rebuilding and restructure our content. We’ve ditched the idea of ‘guides’ for now (although we will revisit those early next year) and after a lot of hard work we are starting to build out new groupings of content. The process has involved a lot of analysis, and we’ve had a few nice little wins on the way, for example; we started using Mindmaps as a way to visualise the content and will be rolling them out as part of our normal planning in the future. This is the 1000 feet view of what we are building: And that’s not quite everything… It’s been a long journey to get to this point, …

Continue reading »

Stealth Mode

I don’t know about you but I’m getting fed up trying to make everyone realise the value of what we do. Technical Communicators of the world unite! Why is it so darn hard? Isn’t it obvious? We live in a so-called “information age” after all, so why is it such a struggle to get the message across? So, for the meantime, I’ve stopped. My team currently has a separate stream of work looking at how we get better at PR and whilst that runs its course I’ve decided to deploy a different tactic, one which has fallen into my lap. No more will I go cap in hand to department heads, no more will I try to coax, nudge and …

Continue reading »

Say Thank You

As some of you will now be aware, I am no longer writing my monthly Blog News column for the ISTC newsletter, InfoPlus+. It actually started life here on this blog, every week (or so) I used to post a list of interesting posts and blogs and for a while there was an overlap but, eventually, I dropped the feature from the blog as the monthly approach gave me a little more scope to collect the best links and yes, I will admit I enjoyed the writing process that went with the column (believe me, it took me longer than you’d think). Alas life continues to challenge my time so after not managing to submit my column for a couple …

Continue reading »

Information is not a commodity

The modern day technical writer, in fact I think we’ll go with technical communicator for this on, has a myriad of tools at their disposal. Be they authoring tools, publishing formats, or ways to collaborate, we are spoiled for choice. I can write content and make it available to the world in mere minutes if I so choose (and I do, frequently, you are reading it). Of course, there is more to our job than the tools of our trade, so much more that at times I think we can forget that our value lies elsewhere and if we are forgetting that, can we really blame others for losing sight of it too? We are more than our knowledge of …

Continue reading »

Partridges and Pear trees

Here in the UK, there is no escaping the fact that Christmas is approaching. On TV the adverts have started, the store shelves are being stocked, and in the office talk is turning to who might make a fool of themselves at the Christmas party. It’s also about this time of year I start dropping hints in the hope that I don’t end up with yet another reindeer sweater… So, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of giving, and to save you all some time and effort, here’s a few suggestions that you could, perhaps, print out and leave sitting around for a loved one to happen upon, or email to a sibling with a subject line of “Buy me …

Continue reading »

Censored

Have you noticed anything different here? Maybe not, but those of you who have been reading for a while (thank you!) may have noticed that I’ve been managing to post here a couple of times a week recently. Don’t worry if you didn’t notice, there is no test at the end. I’ve been pushing myself to write to try and get my blogging mojo back, partly because I enjoy the process and the fact that it helps me keep in touch with what’s going on in our wider profession, and partly because there is a lot going on and I like to capture some of it. But I can’t capture it all. Looking back at this blog, there are some …

Continue reading »

The Death of Tradition

Job titles are one thing, but what do you actually do? Are you a ‘traditional’ Technical Author or a modern technical communications professional? Is there a difference? I think there is, I think there is a distinction between the two although I’m not quite sure where that line is drawn and, as with most things in this multi-discipline profession of ours, the line is probably blurry and not all that straight. For me the line separates what I consider the old and the new, the line between traditional technical writing and the modern day technical communicator, and I think the¬†distinction¬†is largely around the approaches each type of professional take when it comes to managing content. I realise this may seem …

Continue reading »

Content Strategy is easy

Why are we still banging on about Content Strategy? Is it really that hard? A strategy shouldn’t be that tricky to formulate, especially as it’s concerning an area of expertise for many us, after all it’s only content, right? It’s not like it’s something new that none of us know anything about? So why is it so hard and why do we spend so much time talking about the whys and wherefores and, seemingly, so little time actually doing it? Content Strategy is an area of our profession I’ve taken an increasing interest in. As the value of information rises, making sure you have a sensible strategy that is concerned about getting the best content required, for the right person …

Continue reading »