One of the best things about the end of the year is the chance to reflect on what happened all throughout it. TechWhirl has published (almost) weekly technical communication polls on questions about the field, its participants, and its idiosyncrasies. Our polls are exactly one question long, so they don’t’ require a huge amount of time (unless you feel the urge to comment at length). Best of all, we decided that instead of closing them, we’ll keep them open for the foreseeable future. So if you haven’t had a chance to vote on the silly or the serious in 2012, this is your chance to participate and help us paint a few pictures of this ever-changing field.
Poll participation reveals an interest in both the philosophical and the day-to-day nuts and bolts of technical communication. Here are the Top 12 TechWhirl Polls of 2012, along with links to the original post, so you can vote and comment.
- With 80 votes, “Is Technical Communication Art, Craft, or Science?” wins as the poll with the highest participation. The overwhelming answer here was “All of the Above.”
- At 64 votes, “Besides writing and editing, what skills are must-haves for technical communicators?” also proved popular. Primary skills are evolving beyond just being handy with words and can also encompass interviewing, research, and storyboarding.
- We leave the big-picture and skills-based questions to ask, “What kind of office floor plan works best for technical communicators?” At 48 votes, people seemed to favor both “Private Offices to Encourage Concentration” (I’d love one) and “Shared Offices with Windows and Some Privacy.”
- Tying with another 48 votes, we have, “What technical communications tool, process, or habit would you be willing to give up, short-term or permanently?” The items we chose to drop the most were “System Upgrades during Deadline Crunches” (Amen to that) and “Daily Caffeine Intake.”
- When we asked, “What are your most reliable sources of answers to grammar and usage questions?” Forty-two people turned out to vote for “My Style Guide of Choice (MMoS, Apple, Chicago, etc.)” and “Websites such as Grammar Girl, Wordnik, and Visual Thesaurus.”
- Voter turnout recorded 41 for “What kinds of visuals do you include in your technical writing content?” to tie with number nine. “Screen shots/product photos” and “Tables” were the favorite items here.
- “What kinds of quality control do you perform on your technical communications content?” had a turnout of 41 people voting mostly for “SME review” and “Internal review and editing.”
- Our top 12 polls of 2012 had yet another tie, for eighth place, with 41 voters participating in “If traditional documentation ‘goes away,’ what new tech comm media will take its place?” In terms of up and coming media, some people believe we will have “Community forums with users giving answers” and “Searchable knowledge base articles,” with a large number going for the strategic combination.
- “For what kinds of technical content, using what delivery methods, are you currently responsible?” also resulted in 41 responses. There appears to be a grand mix of people who are doing user manuals, quick reference materials, topic-based web help, videos, etc.
- “What people skills, if any, do you need to be effective in technical communication?” appealed to 39 voters, the vast majority of whom noted that one-on-one conversational skills and reading between the lines are critical people skills.
- The current holiday poll “What actions or habits warrant coal stuffing of a technical communicator’s stocking?” made the list for 37 Whirlers (so far). This one has us scrambling to check for those notorious extra spaces after a period.
- Last but not least, 36 folks responded to the question “Will you add a management track to your career upgrade plans?” Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, more than a third of respondents are looking not to move up, but rather out, acquiring more skills in related fields.
The TechWhirl technical communication polls are far from scientific, with its primary goal being to generate discussion about various aspects of this widely diverse field. Like the threads on the email discussion list, our polls do demonstrate clearly that we wear many hats and face increasingly complex work challenges. Even if 2013 doesn’t see a question about “technical communicator or technical writer?” we’re looking forward to seeing what peaks the interest of our audience.
Note: have a suggestion for a technical communication poll question? Drop us a line and we’ll look into featuring it.