Top 11 Tech Writer Today Articles of 2011

2011 was a great year for the TechWhirl gang.  We dusted off our typewriters, organized a rugged band of Alpha TechWhirlers – Special Writers Unit – to cover the ends of the technical communications world, and lit a few cigars as we published more than a few articles this year.

Whether it be podcasts on STC’s new certification program or helping people with their Tech Writer Christmas Wishes we’re pleased that the original tech writer list (ahem – Techwr-l) is back and we hope better than ever.  We published over 100 articles from mid-May to today and plan on doubling that in 2012.  But before we jump to that baby, let’s review some of the old man’s top articles.

And now, without further ado, here’s our top 11 of 2011:

What to Consider When Building Help for Mobile Devices for Field Workers What does the age of mobility mean for technical communications professionals focused on user assistance? How do you plan and implement help on smart devices that field personnel can and will use?

So Easy a Child Could Do It: Can We Make an Interface Too Usable? When most of us think about usability, we probably think about websites, web applications, computer software, and more recently, tablets and mobile devices. Video game consoles usually do not come to mind, but they should.

Integrated Technical Communications: A Strategy for Technical Communicators It’s time for us to apply a more integrated thinking to our views and the resulting activities so not only can we be more effective, but also provide a better experience for the users of our information.  In this article we propose the strategic idea of Integrated Technical Communications.

Tech Writer Tips & Tricks—DITA Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is a sweeping revolution in technical writing and training. Consider carefully, and if you choose to make the switch to DITA, it’s already time to start planning.  And it’s no simple task. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the forest and lose sight of the trees. DITA implementation is a big undertaking, but doable if you stay focused on some salient points it becomes a lot easier.

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Building an NDA-Compliant Portfolio At some point in your technical communications career (and probably at most of them), you will be asked to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before beginning work for an employer or client. How do you sign that NDA but also use the work in the future?

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Mid-year Checkpoint: Top Five Trends in Technical Writing Techwr-l’s email discussion list is the oldest and one of the most vibrant in the world.   Our mid-year report looked at the trends on our list.
  Tips & Tricks for Small Technical Communication Teams A user interface can change as quickly as the sand that shifts under your feet when you’re on a beach close to the shoreline and a strong wave rolls in.  For technical writers on a small team, those quick changes can do more than move some sand, it can move the entire beach.

Computer Grave Yard (1 + 2) Tech Writer Halloween Horrors: When I awoke that morning and stumbled past my office door, the 420XL was gone and in its place sat a new 520.  But, I didn’t order a new computer …

 

Why User Documentation Falls Short Jacquie Samuels sat down with Andrea Ames of IBM for a serious chat about content strategy at the Lavacon Conference 2011 to discuss DITA, XML and content strategy.

 

All About E-Readers The publishing world is experiencing the same momentous change that hit the record industry a few years ago – the switch from physical to digital media.  Technical writers are in a good position to take advantage of this revolution in publishing technology. E-book formats are very similar to online help formats, and the tools and techniques that they’ve learned over the years in producing online help and web-based documentation are easily adapted to working with e-books.

 

Uprooting Entrenched Processes: Process Improvement Using the Kaizen Method At some point, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself following a procedure that didn’t seem to make sense, or that made sense but was hideously inefficient. But contexts evolve, and procedures gradually drift out of synch with the daily reality employees face. Sadly, most organizations have no formal process for updating their procedures to account for this drift.  Here, I’ll boil down my Intercom article on the Kaizen method and chapters from my book into their essential elements, namely the conditions required for successful organizational change and how you, as a technical communicator, can participate in those changes.