TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for November 9, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor Adobe & their Technical Communication Suite 4 |

technical communication weekend recapWe happily wave goodbye to the 2012 US election season and fervently hope that we get at least a few weeks of ad-free peace before the next cycle begins.  We also marvel at the ability of such a diverse population to join together in the face of disaster.  A juxtaposition that helps usher in our November theme of Helping Society and Tech Comm. Those in technical communication have role to play, and perhaps an obligation, in bettering society.  Our weekly poll takes a look the challenges in volunteering your expertise, but volunteering isn’t the only way technical communicators help society. The employees and staff of government emergency management and social services, NGOs around the world, educational institutions, all contribute to society in formal (and paid!) roles.  So some of what we want to discuss in November will focus on the trends and impacts in areas outside of what we traditionally think of as technical communication.

TechWhirl welcomes a new member to the Special Writers Unit. Ena Arel debuts with a great tips and tricks piece on going from obvious to valuable content. We also bring you more highlights from LavaCon 2012, and Jacquie Samuels gives us the practical lowdown on setting your rates when moving to freelancing. And as always, the email discussion list continues to bubble along with great discussions on tools, best practices and all things tech comm.

Have a great weekend!

-The gang at TechWhirl

  Tech Writer This Week for November 8, 2012In the U.S. we get a couple of days off before the next election cycle begins. So we’re using it to find really useful commentary about all the things we’d rather spend our waking hours on than flipping channels away from PAC ads. This week features some insightful and relevant posts on useless user manuals, improving those manuals by documenting decisions rather than operations, telecommuting tips, and more practical advice on content strategy.
 freelancing rates Freelancing: Are You Ready to Make the Leap? Part 2Part 2 of deciding whether to make the freelancing rate discusses one of the most challenging areas of freelancing—how to set your rate—and gives some examples to work with. You have two primary ways of charging your clients: by project and by hour. They each have their pros and cons and I actually suggest a combination of the two.
 Rethinking content Rethinking Content from Paper to Tablets, Mobile Screens and ePubsObviously the world has changed for those who engage in content creation, and Maxwell Hoffman believes it’s time technical communicators began rethinking content creation. He devoted his LavaCon 2012 presentation to showing how to break authoring habits associated with traditional computer screens and paper.
  Technical Communication Poll: Volunteering Your ExpertiseVolunteering provides both obvious and less obvious benefits to those doing the volunteering and the recipients. For many in technical communication, it means the chance to hone some professional skills as well as to offer those skills to benefit others. As we take a look at “helping society and tech comm” during November, we wanted to start by looking at the ways technical communicators volunteer their time.
  Tips and Tricks: Getting from Obvious to Valuable Technical ContentUsers complain that they are only getting information they already know—and they’re not particularly interested in consuming this “obvious” content. Unfortunately, in the name of rapid production, much content that is written describes the obvious about features, and doesn’t do justice to content that is truly valuable to those who want to consume it. Getting away from obvious content is at the heart of producing valuable technical content. Here are five tips to getting to valuable technical content.
  LavaCon 2012 KeyNote — Content Strategy: “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”Compared to some other speeches I have heard from Scott, his LavaCon 2012 opening keynote was somewhat subdued, due to at least in part to the head cold he picked up at another recent conference–we know because he apologized on Twitter for being under the influence of sinus meds. However, Scott Abel, in a subdued and medicated state, can still beat just about any speaker for enthusiasm and contagious excitement. I also found this address to be very positively-focused.

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