Role of Social Media

A few months ago I was approached to write a piece that would be featured in a special supplement for the ISTC Communicator magazine. The supplement, sponsored by Adobe, was to be titled “The role of social media in technical communication” and after my presentation on blogging at the Technical Communications conference last year, I was asked to expand on my thoughts about blogging. There are three other articles in the supplement, all of which look at different ways we can leverage the advantages of social media within the realm of technical communications. Noz Urbina of Mekon opens with his vision of how we can use social media to help users get the most out of products and services, David …

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Strange Bias

Pulling together my monthly column for the ISTC (I write about blogs, unsurprisingly), I noticed something rather odd. I really, sincerely, hope this isn’t something I’ve been unconsciously doing but it does seem that many of the technical communications blogs I follow, and which I feature in my monthly column, are written by men. Given that, for the bulk of my career, I was usually outnumbered in many a Documentation department, with on one occasion when I was one guy in a team of six, I find this gender balance quite odd. Thinking back to the Technical Communications conference I’d say there is a fairly even split of gender in our profession, but I can’t say I was paying that …

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How I use Twitter

In his closing presentation at the recent Technical Communications Conference, RJ Jacquez outlined how he uses Twitter as a way to communicate with the users of his product, and as a way to share ideas with, and learn from, other technical communication professionals. There were several people at TCUK09 that used Twitter throughout the conference, sharing quotes, thoughts and ideas about various presentations and I eded up having a few conversations about why I use Twitter so I thought I’d capture my thinking here. I have two Twitter accounts, one for personal use and one for professional use. The personal account is used for keeping up with people I know in social terms, and most of the messages are chatty, …

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Notes from Technical Communications Conference

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 …

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Thoughts on TCUK09*

Having had a few days to process my thoughts about the Technical Communications Conference I can confidently say that it is the best professional conference I have ever attended. I’ll post up specific notes tomorrow, but I wanted to touch on some of the themes that seemed to be driven out of most of the presentations I attended. Now at this point I should make a confession, it’s about the presentation I gave on the Thursday morning (the second day) of the conference. My presentation had a theme, a single word that I was focussing on, so throughout the first day, in all the sessions I attended, I was listening out for that word. That word didn’t appear in one …

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I am excited!

This evening I’m flying down to East Midlands airport and from there I’ll be making my way to Mickelover Hotel (near Derby) where I’m attending, and speaking at, the Technical Communications conference. I’ve not done much public speaking with my last outing being a couple of years ago at a similar, smaller, conference and that seemed to go quite well so I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to deliver a reasonably good presentation on my topic of choice which is, as it happens, about blogging. I think I’ll be able to handle that, eh? My slot is first thing on Thursday morning of the second day of the conference (graveyard slot much?) so I’ve time to run through it …

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New Manager: How soon is *not* too soon to start changing things?

I recently received an email which asked: Since my career seems to be following a path broadly similar to yours … I’d love to know what your experience was and any lessons learned. Specifically Mark, who sent the email, asked a few questions: How do you take over as manager for a group of technical writers? How do you get better management buy-in (promise cheaper or faster docs?)? What are the first activities you should do (content audit, benchmarking?)? How soon is *not* too soon to start changing things? I’ll break each question out into a new post, so without further ado, onto question #4. How soon is *not* too soon to start changing things? The compulsion to change or …

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Cherryleaf Survey

Cherryleaf will soon be publishing the results of their recent survey of Documentation Managers* and, having skimmed through a preview, the main thing that leaps out at me is that the field of Technical Communications in the UK remains as diverse as ever in many respects, yet completely the same in others, and none of that is a huge surprise. Whilst we all may use different tools and approaches to our work, we all feel under the same constraints of time and resource. However the results do throw up a couple of issues and, as one of the participants of the survey, I thought I’d expand a little on one of those. The survey hints at two issues: “The documentation …

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Writer River is back!

I dropped Tom an email about Writer River last week, and he alluded to some of the issues he mentions in his post in his reply. Little did I know that Writer River was soon to be hacked! I love the idea behind the website though, so it’s good to see Tom is still keen on pushing things forward. If you previously registered I’d urge you to go back and register on the new version of the website. The premise is the same, a website which will collate the best Technical Communications stories and blog posts. Head over to Writer River, the more people who sign up and join in, the better it will become.

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Consideration Layer Model

As a technical writer, every decision you make is influenced by several discrete things, considerations for either the audience of the information, the process you’ll need to follow to collate and verify the information, and so on. Every decision requires such considerations but is it possible to model these? Some background first; I don’t revisit my old posts nearly as often as I should and, as there are certain topics that I tackle with the vague idea of covering in greater detail at some point later on, it’s handy when someone else gives me a nudge about an old post (namely, The tool is not important). That said, such topics are typically the hardest ones to consider, the big picture …

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