TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for June 29, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor ComponentOne & their Doc-To-Help Help Authoring Tool | http://bit.ly/doc-to-help

One of the busier threads of the last two weeks or soon on the TechWhirl email discussion list was started by Nancy Allison, asking for opinions on the “Most innovative user doc output.” Several Whirlers posted links to the examples they found innovative (it’s always fun to go see what other folks are doing that’s trendy in technical communication). As always there were a variety of opinions on what constituted innovative—tools, technology, output or approach—but the discussions have highlighted a couple of key issues that relate to our June topic on “Skills to survive and thrive” and to the continuing question of what it means to be a technical communicator.

One issue, the tools and technology required to create these innovative outputs, led us to ask this week’s poll question about expected career directions.  Many in the technical communication field plan to stay in and continually master new tools and technology, while others focus on moving up the career ladder or out on their own.  If you haven’t already voted, we encourage you to visit the website and then add your thoughts.

In addition, this week Craig Cardimon reviewed the latest edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style (MMoS), a reference that sits on the shelf of many a technical communicator.   Cheryl Voloshin took a uniquely humorous look at the boss species living the management wilds, and I gathered up some great resources, and a little of my own experience to provide some technical communication guidance on Mastering the Art of the SME Interview. We encourage you to take a look at these timely topics and then drop us a note via a comment on this post, or a direct email, or start a new thread on the email discussion list.

Our US Techwhirlers are heading into what looks to be a very warm but patriotic week of reading the list and the website by the light of fireworks celebrating Independence Day. As a result, next week will be quieter than usual, but definitely not dead.  No matter where in you call home and what season it is there, enjoy your weekend!

-The gang at TechWhirl

  Tech Writer This Week for June 28, 2012
In Technical Communication, Tom Johnson (idratherbewriting.com) tells us about his best days as a technical writer and also wonders how novices can afford to learn expensive tech comm tools. Nikhil Khandekar, a guest writer for technicalcommunicationcenter.com, discusses the importance of perseverance in our careers, and Ivan Walsh (ihearttechnicalwriting.com) tells us how to proof tech docs in just 15 minutes. Content Strategy, User Experience and a link to locks and technical writing.
  Technical Writing Foundations: Mastering the Art of the SME Interview
As much as we’d like to think otherwise, it’s impossible for us to know everything we need to when that new technical writing project comes along. So at some point, we have to ask questions—and that means extracting information from one or more subject matter experts (SME) by means of an interview. If you’re a technical writer easily overcome by stage fright or who clams up in conversations with mere acquaintances, conducting an interview with a SME can seem as intimidating as scaling Mount Everest. Interviewing SMEs is one part art, one part preparation, and one part social science experiment. It’s a soft skill that can pay big dividends well beyond the immediate technical communication project.
  Technical Communication Poll: Expected Career Directions
Of all the cool things about the technical communication profession, one of the coolest is the wide range of directions available to practitioners over the course of their careers. We’ve met highly successful strategists, specialists, developers, designers, writers, analysts and managers who plan, design, create and deliver technical communication content that supports every conceivable business objective. The titles vary and the scope covers an array of related fields, and the debate continues to rage.
  Technical Writing Humor: Technical Writer’s Guide to Surviving Wild Management
You are hardworking, professional, reliable, skilled, generally positive, productive, smart, strategic, and a problem solver. In short, you are the ideal technical writer. In a civilized culture where bosses are sensible, fair, and invested in your success, that should be enough to succeed. If you are a great employee but dealing with some serious office Darwinism, there is a whole different set of rules. You are doing well just surviving each day without becoming another morsel on the food chain. If it’s gotten that bad, you could do with some tips from the animal world.
  A Friendlier, Breezier and Technical Writing Style Reference
One thing caught my eye right away with the Fourth Edition of the “Microsoft Manual of Style: Your everyday guide to usage, terminology, and style for professional technical communications,” (2012) by Microsoft Press. What was it? It was the title—slightly changed from that of the Third Edition. The Third Edition proclaims that it is the “Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications: Your everyday guide to usage, terminology, and style for professional technical communications.”

 

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Connie Giordano

Connie Giordano is a partner in INKtopia Limited and editor of TechWhirl's Tech Writer Today online magazine. She has been a list member and contributor since the days when 14,400 baud was high speed communications, and Windows 95 was state-of-the-art.

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