Trends in Publishing E-Books: Impressions from Four LavaCon Sessions

E-books are not a new, or even recent, phenomenon. I encountered my first e-book no later than 1994 (although it might have been earlier) with Project Gutenberg, which was started by Michael Hart in 1971 when he started typing classic texts into his mainframe computer terminal. But the role of e-books has changed drastically in the past few years, and now more e-books are sold than hardcover books. Continue reading ...

Five Ways to Make Executives Love Content Development

Alan J. Porter's LavaCon Conference 2012 presentation, "Five Ways to Make Executives Love Content Development", provided a set of tools for promoting the value and importance of various forms of content development, including technical communication and technical illustration. Technical communicators must understand what the actual purpose of their company is, which is not the same knowing as what the company produces or does. A company might make drill bits for mining equipment, for example, but its real purpose is to help miners mine minerals effectively. With this understanding, technical communicators can better focus their messages, and also understand the importance of content development to the company's real purpose. Continue reading ...

Information Architecture: Goals, Empathy, Projects & Brown Dirt

Adam Polansky, recognized as a founding pioneer in the field of information architecture (IA), is an unusual mix of eclectic tactician and IA visionary. Before he entered the IT world, Adam had variously been a member of the military, an illustrator for an advertising agency, and a retail manager, among other roles. Lois Patterson sat down with Adam Polansky at LavaCon to talk information architecture, empathy, user experience & goals for technical communications projects. Continue reading ...

LavaCon Session Summary: Dr. Johnette Hassell on Document Retention and eDiscovery

Dr. Johnette Haskell, a distinguished computer forensics expert, discusses the impacts of eDiscovery on technical communications. With the use of sophisticated forensic techniques that take advantage of the technology used in hardware and software, it is possible to uncover more electronic evidence than you would ever think possible. She notes that with a set of good policies and procedures, you can mitigate the potential harm and disruption that an eDiscovery request might do to your business. A subpoena to search all of your company and personal computers can be unbelievably disruptive, and many parties settle a case rather than have to deal with this outcome. Continue reading ...

Metrics, Goals, and Thinking Quantitatively

Traditionally, some technical communicators and other content creators shy away from an engineering approach, sometimes arguing they are artists who should be untroubled by quantitative concerns. But several speakers that I've heard at LavaCon have focused specifically on the importance of thinking objectively and quantitatively. Continue reading ...

LavaCon Session Summary: Designing a UCD-Based Online and Mobile User Experience

As the Online Services Manager at Security Service Federal Credit Union, Jay Tkachuk oversaw the creation of an entirely revamped company website, for both traditional online as well as mobile use, using a UCD (user-centered design) approach. Effective design begins with the emotional context. You must satisfy the emotional needs of the user. But effective design also includes a rational context in terms of the sales cycle Continue reading ...

LavaCon Session Summary: Alan J. Porter on Developing a Global Language

Localization is important to capture markets, but translation is very expensive. Thus, if we can create universal content that does requires little or no translation, the benefits are obvious. Images often have a much greater longevity than words do. For example, if we look at the cave paintings from 32,000 years ago, we understand them and feel an instant connection. Yet, if the average reader looks at an Old English book from 1200 years ago, it is almost incomprehensible. Our current text-based focus has been around for only a short time compared to visual representations. Continue reading ...