automatic content

Can Computers Write? Advances in Automatic Content Production

In the summer of 1993, I had an enjoyable university summer job. The research interests of the institute that employed me included creating an artificial intelligence system that could produce automatic précis of legal judgments. The idea was that humans like me would create a précis by hand, by selecting enough sentences from the judgment that it provided a reliable summary. My selections were recorded, and the idea then was to use neural network software to learn from the work of the human editors so that the process of creating a précis could be automated. The researchers had uncovered certain linguistic insights. Continue reading ...

Is Technical Communication Art?

Resolved: Technical Communication IS Art

Technical Communication is definitely an art because all forms of art and technology converge together to create documents. Underlying all forms of art, is the core definition of communication; different art forms use different techniques to communicate to an audience. Continue reading ...

Technical Communication Poll: Is Tech Comm Art, Craft, or Science?

Defining technical communication as art, or craft, or science often boils down to philosophical debates, the kind you have first in university classes full of wide-eyed innocents, and later over beers at a favorite pub. Such debate may not seem to have much practical use, but in fact understanding how technical communicators view their profession can go a long way in determining how it will evolve, and where each of us fits in. Continue reading ...

Robot icon for Maker Faire

Makers of the World Unite: Tech Comm, Art, and the Maker Movement

In every age of scientific exploration, there have been stories of the everyman inventor, the humble pioneer who changed the world while working from scratch. The 19th century had Pierre and Marie Curie, while the 20th century had the stories of Alexander Fleming and Bill Gates. The 21st century may well tell the story of the “maker movement”, a subculture of inventors, engineers and scientists who create everything from open source software programs to personal robots in their spare time and with their own materials. This century may be the age of the invention community - ordinary people sharing the simple joy of creating something with their own two hands with a worldwide network of their fellow inventors. Continue reading ...

Is Technical Communication Art?

Resolved: Technical Writing is NOT Art

Since the dawn of time, philosophers have debated many hotly contested issues: what came first the chicken or the egg? Age before beauty or beauty before age? Can God create a rock that he cannot lift? And of course the question that has confounded scholars since the first technical document was written in ancient Rome, should technical writing be considered art? After all, someone had to write the manual on how to construct a colossus, and clearly the author was an artist based on the outcome of that manual, but there are others who disagree, and for some very obvious reasons believe that technical writing is not art and technical writers are not artists. Continue reading ...

technical communication recap

TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for October 12, 2012

Returning to the daily grind after an energizing and thought-provoking event like the LavaCon Conference is challenging (made more so by jet lag). Articles still need to be written, deadlines scheduled, copy proofed, and graphics refined. Having a few moments to decompress and digest great quantities of information and ideas is critical to ensuring you can actually do something with all the new stuff you’ve learned. Continue reading ...

Writer’s Block: Different Causes Have Different Solutions – Part 2

Practicalities are obstacles you can solve by choosing an appropriate strategy and then gritting your teeth and doing the necessary work. Because they aren’t psychological barriers, they’re much easier to get past because all you need to do is force yourself to follow the appropriate steps, possibly with help from friends and colleagues. You don’t always need your muse to be able to write: some aspects of writing, such as developing a timeline or plot outline, are fairly mechanical. Since you’re the only one who will see them, they don’t have to be perfect. Continue reading ...

Writer’s block: Different Causes Have Different Solutions – Part 1

Writing should be exciting and pleasurable, and most of the time it is. But if you’re a dedicated professional who earns your living from writing, writing is also a job, and even the most exciting job sometimes grows boring or frustrating or stressful. When that happens, you may find yourself “blocked”: unable to write, and not sure why. That’s particularly true for technical communicators like me, who also enjoy writing fiction in those rare free moments between paying work. ( Continue reading ...