TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for April 20, 2012

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

On TechWhirl this week, we found ourselves deep into discussions about community–or lack thereof.  Over on the email discussion list, whirlers are debating the usual assortment of word usage, punctuation, and tool issues. But they’re also talking documentation in agile environments; the value of student interviews of professionals to get a handle on breaking into this community; and what constitutes great swag at conferences.

Here on Tech Writer Today, we brought you a classic humor piece from Lisa Higgins, on the risks and rewards of telecommuting–a sort of tribute to the “anti-community,” an interesting poll question on the other professional communities we engage in to help us accomplish our goals, and a helpful review of ways to deal with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in our organizational communities.

Part of what makes the TechWhirl community special is the depth and breadth of feedback.  We want to hear from you, so please feel free to post a comment or start a thread on the discussion list.  Or, if you’re thinking about continuing contributions to the community, the Special Writers Unit (SWU) will welcome you with open arms (virtually, at least), to research and write articles, curate content, develop graphics, or assist with editing. Feel free to write us directly if that appeals to you, or if you have a compliment or complaint.

Above all, enjoy your weekend.

-The gang at TechWhirl


Technical Writing Humor: The Sidelines View of Telecommuting

by Lisa Higgins
I’ve done two stretches of full-time telecommuting–the first for about six months, and the second for about three months. My home office is impossibly glamorous. I have one of those executive oak desks from the 1950’s with a little shelf thingy on the front to hold my trophies. I have a ceiling fixture I made out of chicken wire and plastic beads, a series of turn-of-the-century tobacco card pictures of boxers, and rotary dial telephones in a veritable rainbow of colors. I can burn incense and drink beer and wear glow-in-the-dark boxer shorts and listen to Guitarwolf without headphones if I feel like it. And yeah, sometimes I feel like it. Read more of this technical writing article


Technical Communications Poll: Are You Active in Other Professional Communities?

In the course of any given work week, many of us read dozens of blogs, follow hundreds of tweets, and keep up with threads and messages in a wide range of discussion lists and community forums. Not to mention those who work together with other technical writers and practitioners of in related fields on a daily basis (and the accompanying meetings, IMs and phone calls). Chances are pretty good that not all the blogs, or hash tags, or discussion threads focus specifically on technical communications. And chances are that the knowledge you gain from those other communities impacts how you do your job. Read more of this technical writing article


Dealing with SMEs in Technical Communications and User Assistance

By Julie Grady
Dr. Kevin C. Moore, the Chief Learning Officer at Tier1 Performance Solutions, presented at WritersUA on the neuroscience of knowledge transfer, and Dealing with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the Design Process using the same approach, a basis of understanding the mind. Dr. Moore started his SME discussion with four letters—A, O, K and B—Attitude, Opinion, Knowledge and Behavior. Whatever you learned from his session, he said that those are the four critical things to take away. AOKB of you, your SMEs and your users. Read more of this technical writing article

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