Technical Communication Recap for June 15, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor Adobe & RoboHelp 9 |

I have begun to wonder recently if it’s time for folks in the technical communications world to let go of a long and commonly held belief that technical writers and subject matter experts (SMEs) are mutually exclusive and always adversarial.  I admit I often resort to jabs at this somewhat nebulous group of people who often appear contrarian in a very Dilbert sort of way.  But I think it’s a stereotype that not only has outlived its usefulness but also holds professionals back in pursuing an active role in the top echelons of a business organization.

One of several recent threads on the email discussion list highlighted this for me. Kevin McLaughlin’s “The magic tool that everyone can use without stepping on toes” is somewhat tangential to the question of what makes a SME, but it did make me realize that as collaboration becomes more of the corporate norm, and cloud tools actually make this easier, that a totally separation between SME and technical communicator is a counterproductive notion.  During the course of my career I have become a SME on a number of different areas (other than communications, mind you), because of my role as the technical communicator on the project.

It’s a matter of debate as to whether becoming a SME as a result of the projects you participate in is actually a good idea.  Once you know the product, how it functions, or how it’s supposed to be used, can you really stand in the user’s shoes effectively?  On the other hand, understanding the role every stakeholder has in product development and delivery presents strategic opportunities that should not be ignored.

If you consider expertise in technical communication practice to be a high priority, then you should take some time to review the transcript of the podcast TechWhirl did in November on the STC Certification program, and if you know any of the first group of CPTC recipients, congratulate them on a remarkable achievement.  Then cruise on by to vote in this week’s technical communication poll on mastering critical thinking skills—after all those skills can make or break a SME.  And then have a good laugh over Jacquie Samuels’ 7 E-Z Steps to Tech Comm Success…and Losing Your Job and Family. This could be another downside to becoming a SME that I hadn’t anticipated!

Please feel free to share your own experiences on the SME or not-to-be-SME issue, or any other technical communication topic: drop us a note via a comment on this post, or a direct email, or start a new thread on the email discussion list.

Enjoy your weekend!

-The gang at TechWhirl

  Tech Writer This Week for June 14, 2012TechWhirl’s weekly roundup of the best technical communications and technical writing posts on the web includes great commentary from tech comm and other blogs with great names like Save the Semicolon, Content Rules, Cherryleaf, Good Experience, RoboColumn, and Career Realism. You may know them equally well by the authors, Robert Levy, Val Swisher, Ellis Pratt, Mark Hurst, and Column McAndrew. Add thoughtful posts from Sharon Burton, Technical Writing Ireland, and more from Tina the Tech Writer, and you have a roundup worth digging into…
  7 E-Z Steps to Tech Comm Success… and Losing your Job and your FamilyA tongue-in-cheek guide to losing your work/life balance… When you’re out with the family, never ignore work emails. Take a moment to read and reply to each message, even if no one’s expecting you to be in the office on a Saturday… Remember, caffeine is an excellent sleep substitute… and more tips to live and work by…
  Technical Communication Poll: Mastering Critical Thinking SkillsAfter we published last week’s poll, we received several comments that indicated we had a few large gaps in the list of “soft skills” technical communication professionals need to “survive and thrive.” Kell C noted that “analytical thinking” is crucial, and encompasses inquisitiveness, skepticism and being business-minded. Indeed, we’ve seen numerous threads on the email discussion list and a number of good blog posts and articles decrying the apparent loss of critical thinking skills, not only in technical communication, but in business generally.
 Logo for Inside TechWhirl Podcast The STC Certification Program: Revisiting the DebateBack in October of 2011, debate raged on the TechWhirl email discussion list concerning the launch of the Society for Technical Communication’s Certification Program. Al Martine and Connie Giordano sat down with Steve Jong, who chairs the STC Certification Commission to discuss the program history, application criteria, costs, and long-term plans. During the STC Summit, the first group of Certified Professional Technical Communicators (CPTC) were recognized. We thought it would be appropriate to publish the transcript of our original conversation.

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