TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for August 10, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor ComponentOne & their Doc-To-Help Help Authoring Tool |

Last week I mentioned an old thread from the TechWhirl email discussion list in which I claimed “It’s all Marketing.” This week one of the continuing threads concerns how to label a role/process in which data is analyzed and presented (usually visually). The role Steve Janoff described sounds a lot like Business Intelligence, at least according to how the leading vendors describe it.  Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of discussions that center on what we should call ourselves, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there may never be one overarching term to describe what we do.  And despite the inherent need to categorize and label everything for purposes of findability, this may be a good thing.

So perhaps it’s time to evolve my statement to reflect some of the more recent trends and discussions going on in technical communication. “It’s all communications” or “It’s all integrated communications” seem like better alternatives. It’s high level enough to allow lots of overlapping sub-disciplines, and room for all kinds of wonderfully offbeat job titles (Al is still Head of Janitorial Services and I’m still Chief Cat Herder, in case you’re wondering).

Still, the adversarial nature of the relationship (or lack thereof) between technical communication and marketing is worth exploring, to find common ground that allow us all to work towards goals that benefit the entire organization.  Take a look at the classic article from Brett Peruzzi on Building Bridges Between Marketing and Technical Publications Teams to get a sense of how long the battle and the peacekeeping efforts have raged. Take some time to tell us if in fact you actually create marketing content by voting in this week’s technical communication poll.  If you’re as much of a tool geek as I am, spend some time with Mike McCallister’s –in-depth review of Adobe RoboHelp 10. Then cap it off with Craig Cardimon’s curation of top technical communications and related posts from around the web.

If there’s not yet much common ground between marketing and technical communication (and by extension other areas), then perhaps we can find a new role for technical communication professionals dissatisfied with titles such as Technical Writer or Information Designer.  How about “Organizational Diplomat”?

Have a great weekend!

-The gang at TechWhirl

  Tech Writer This Week for August 9, 2012This week’s commentary from around the web includes some “philosophy” with practical guidance and opinion. Decide for yourself if there’s an intersection between grammar, creativity and technical writing. Then take some time to consider the difference between tasks and procedures, and how User Experience came into vogue. We also found lots of tips and guidance on creating usable help, guiding user navigation with linear presentation, running a user workshop, and practical stuff on managing email. Dive in and enjoy!
  Technical Communication Poll: Creating Marketing ContentDuring August, TechWhirl plans to explore the nearly legendary battle between practitioners of technical communication and marketing communication. Technical writers have been complaining about marketing writers for at least as long as the TechWhirl discussion list has existed. And for marcom folks working in technology industries, it’s likely that just as many complaints get lobbed in the other direction. This week’s technical communication poll is aimed at finding out what kinds of “dark side” content are assigned to us these days.
  RoboHelp 10: Help Authoring for the Modern Era What’s so exciting about RoboHelp 10? Aside from moving away from the X versioning symbolized in Adobe Acrobat and the Apple MacOS, that is? Quite a bit, indeed. RoboHelp 10 offers many new features, but I’m focusing this review on two areas important to technical communicators: producing online help for mobile applications and simplified review workflows with PDF comments enabled for Adobe Reader.
  Classic: Building Bridges Between Marketing and Technical Publications Teams One common myth in the corporate world is that technical publications and marketing departments are fundamentally at odds with each other. Some technical writers believe marketing publications are too adjective-laden and prone to hyperbole, while some marketing writers think technical publications are too dry and factual. Who’s right? It’s all a matter of perspective. Technical writers and marketing writers typically have different audiences and purposes for their publications. But once you get beyond the superficial differences, both writing groups have more in common than is immediately apparent.

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