TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for June 8, 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 |

Those of us who have been around the email discussion list long enough often find ourselves reminiscing about the “first time” we heard debate or flame war on one subject or another.  In the midst of all the news that made it to the list (and a lot that doesn’t, just because we can’t twist a topic quite that far), Brian Henderson made note of Wednesday’s Dilbert comic strip in which Tina the Brittle Tech Writer does battle with Dilbert.  Some of the truly veteran Techwhirlers reminded us that Tina came to be a named character and semi-permanent fixture in Dilbert’s world because of the email list, back in the last century -1995 to be exact.  Eric Ray was good enough to forward Scott Adams’ reply to the list when the topic came up again in 1998.  It’s fun to think of TechWhirl as the genesis of a cultural icon.

Well-trained but seriously disrespected… it’s a feeling that many of us have shared, and commiserated on over the years.  So what can we do to overcome? As June proceeds we hope to have some answers, or at least some lively debate, around the soft skills we need in technical communication to “survive and thrive.”  We started with our weekly poll, which has already generated some discussion, and has identified a key skill that we overlooked – the ability to interview.

Leah Guren sat down for a chat with TechWhirl’s Julie Grady, and we recap the outstanding thought leadership event presented by Adobe just before the opening of the STC Summit.  Both articles are full of all sorts of tech comm goodness, and they remind us that those skills we need to thrive in our careers and organizations are in abundance and willingly shared throughout the technical communication community.

Please feel free to share your own experiences: drop us a note via the email discussion list, a comment on this post, or a direct emai

Enjoy your weekend!

-The gang at TechWhirl


  Tech Writer This Week for June 7, 2012Tech Writer This Week reminds that everyone gets their first new job at some point with great advice from Gretyl Kinsey. Then check out two posts from Ugur Akinci, on writing using the “inverted pyramid” and the most basic and indispensable parts of a user manual. Column McAndrew provides a perspective on technical communication beyond North America, and then it’s time dive into user testing for documentation; the exciting world of EULAs; and user -centered approaches to mobile design.
  Technical Communication Poll: Skills to Survive and ThriveWith so much discussion in the technical communication profession centering on making tech comm more strategic and “demonstrating the value of tech communication,” we decided to spend some time and pixels on discovering how to do just that. TechWhirl’s focus for June is “Skills to Survive and Thrive.” Other professions and their practitioners seem to always be at the center of what happens in the organization, so simply having great ideas for new products or services, or ways to deliver them more efficiently just isn’t enough. Otherwise we’d all be CEOs right? What are those folks doing–what skills do they have–that we need to acquire to ensure that our voices are heard, our ideas are acted upon and our contributions recognized?
  Technical Communication in the Next Decade: Think “Adaptive” and Deliver “Multi-” (Adobe STC Pre-Conference Session Summary)Somehow, I never really thought of a pre-conference session as one of those can’t-miss, full house events. I am happy to rework my thinking after attending Adobe’s Thought Leadership & Content Strategy event that took place prior to the start of the STC Summit 2012 in Chicago. The well-known leaders Adobe brought together spoke to a standing room only crowd (really!) on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for technical communicators in the next decade. It was facilitated by Tom Aldous, Director of Business Development and Product Evangelism for Adobe Technical Communication. While there were some differences of opinion and prediction, consensus revolved around one key phrase—”Adaptive Content”—and one prefix that can be attached to much of the technical communication strategy and tactics that will emerge over the next decade—”Multi-.”
  A (Re)Fresh Perspective on Practicing Technical Communication: an Interview with Leah GurenBefore I sat down to talk to Leah Guren, I knew her name and reputation because of her history and recognition in the technical communication industry and with the Society for Technical Communication (STC). I thought she was a pioneer in technical communication, having started in the field in 1980 at a software company. However, Guren stated that the profession is actually more than a hundred years old, and had foundations in academia in the 1970s.


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