TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for June 1, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor Madcap & their Ultimate Communications Suite, MadPak |

At TechWhirl, we’re well into our second full year of ownership, and when we reflect on how far we come in 14 months, we can honestly say “what a journey it’s been.”  So often what happens on and around TechWhirl parallels what happens in technical communication—implementing new technologies and an evolving content strategy, collaborating with remarkable people around the globe, researching, designing, and, of course, writing.  In all honesty, we’ve made some missteps, particularly on that implementing technology front.  But we’ve gotten a lot right as well, at least judging by the feedback and conversations we have.  These experiences are the kind of stuff you can’t learn in school, undergraduate or graduate.  It’s constant on-the-job training for both Al and me.

And perhaps it’s part of the reason we’re devoting the month of June to “Skills to Survive and Thrive.”  We want to understand and share what it takes beyond “book learning” and tools skills to be successful in the technical communication field in general, and in our organizations in particular.  There’s a flock of new graduates in technical communication eager to soak up what the old pros can offer, and even the old pros have enough sponge in them to gain something from their peers.  We’d love to hear from you as to the kinds of skills you think are necessary in today’s business world and your resources for learning and honing them.  The folks on the Special Writers Unit are ready to go with articles that take a look at these skills, but we encourage you to drop us a note via the email discussion list, a comment on this post, or a direct email, to share what you know…or what you want to know.

Don’t be left out, take this week’s Technical writing poll on the best workspace layouts for technical communicators, and then peruse part 3 of Tony Chung’s series on Crowdsourcing as a Technical Communication Exercise.  Craig Cardimon heartily recommends Krista Van Laan’s new book, The Insider’s Guide to Technical Writing.  Find out why in his review.

Enjoy your weekend!

-The gang at TechWhirl


  Tech Writer This Week for May 31, 2012We try to put a worthy final touch on the STC Summit 2012 with notes and commentary from Sarah Maddox (, Ellis Pratt ( and Val Swisher ( It’s the next best thing to being there yourself. Tom Johnson talks wiki and alternatives, while Gurpreet Singh recommends LinkedIn groups. Content Strategy posts get philosophical, and career advice focuses on refining and formatting the resume.
  Crowdsourcing as a Technical Communication ExerciseIn the last two posts I suggested crowdsourcing as both a pre-existing concept and a means for enlisting the participation of others without their knowing, (and in some cases, without their consent). This post continues with the discussion of active versus passive research techniques, and the power of group think.. There is a significant difference between active research, which is highly controlled, and passive research, which is unpredictable. Wikipedia is the best known example of the power of collective, but controlled, chaos.
  Technical Writing Poll: Office Layout and Technical Communication ProductivityOn May 20, 2012, John Tierney of the New York Times published an article that struck a chord with cubicle dwellers everywhere, so much so that “From Cubicles, Cry for Quiet Pierces Office Buzz” appeared on newspaper sites across the US with hundreds of comments decrying lack of privacy, the “wall of the headphones,” loss of productivity, increased anxiety and more. Speech masking technology such as “pink noise” systems and high-grade acoustical ceiling tiles can make a significant difference, but corporate culture and changing norms of etiquette also greatly impact your productivity and job satisfaction.
  Book Review: Insider’s Guide to Technical WritingThe Insider’s Guide to Technical Writing, by Krista Van Laan, was inspired by The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Technical Writing,” which she co-authored with Catherine Julian and published via Alpha Books in 2001. The Idiot’s Guide drew fire from those who were disenchanted by the phrase “complete idiot” in the title. Several names were up for discussion on the TechWhirl email discussion list last summer. The Insider’s Guide won, and rightly so.


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11 years ago

Thanks for the updates. A quick reminder that paper submissions for the Req ’12 conference in Chicago are June 18th (extended deadline). Follow the link for more info!

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