TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for February 10, 2012

This week’s technical communications industry update is supported by Platinum sponsor Adobe & RoboHelp 9 |


From the Desk of the Editor

Congratulations and welcome to Lauren Hart, Ashley Brown, and Julie Grady who are joining SWU member Keith Soltys, Al and me in Memphis to cover the WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance, March 11-14. It’s just a month away, and the whole team is looking forward to diving into content strategy, tools and techniques and emerging skills for technical communications professionals who are immersed in software user assistance.

TechWhirl Top Tip: the discount on the marvelous Peabody Hotel (home of the event) ends this evening so register today if you intend to go to the event.

Am I the only one who thinks February is actually the longest month, no matter what the calendar says?  We’re only into the second week of the month, but it seems like at least three or four weeks already.  Like the duration of a pretty cold month, perception has much more to do with technical writing and technical communications than we realize during the course of a so-called average day.

How do you perceive your documentation and what really makes it useful to a user?  More important, how often are you checking with those users to see if your assumptions and their reality are the same?  We’d love to get your input on the essential qualities of technical communication content—vote in this week’s Technical Writer Poll, and be sure to post a comment about it.

It does seem that technical communications industry moves at light speed during the first quarter of the year, with new releases, tons of seminars and conferences, and lots of issues to discuss (or complain) about.  And fittingly, our Technical Communications News section is quite full this week with news from ComponentOne, Vasont, and Ixiasoft just to name a few.  Our news work is gaining popularity, with TechWhirl becoming a destination for companies looking for press, and for folks interested in learning about the latest and greatest in Tech Comm.  Do you have “news”—if so send us a press release, a little art and we’ll get it out there.  Submit your Technical Communications and Technical Writing news and stories here.

While you’re at it, you really should check out Keith Soltys’ latest in his e-Book series—the list of tools and when to use them is pretty comprehensive.  And speaking of light speed, our industry appears to be moving towards cloud-based solutions pretty quickly as well. Read more about how Author-it plans to lead the way in my interview with Steve Davis.

We don’t care how long this month happens to be, we’re just glad to be here and covering the stuff we love—technical writing and technical communications. In fact, we may even send the entire industry a Valentine’s Day Card.

Have a great weekend … now wouldn’t it be nice if those seemed longer than normal?

– The gang at TechWhirl


In Case You Missed it: This Week  @ TechWhirl

New on

Tech Comm News:

Technical Communications: What You’re Talking About

A quick shout out to our Technical Writers and their discussions in our email discussion group:

  • Joe Weinmunson wondered “Is there a term for this?” for the phenomenon that occurs when users complain about not being able to find an option, then making that option obvious, and having users complain about not being able to find another option. Besides a vicious cycle of UI iterations?  Gene Kim-Eng pointed to some research that shows this as an example of Directed Attention Fatigue or the Stroop Effect, which has some interesting implications for technical writing and UX.
  • Phil Snow Leopard morphed the previous discussion when he opined about “Stupid Users” and Apple’s adoption of the strategy of “protecting incompetent users from their own mistakes,” with OS features that are raising the ire of loyal Mac users. Great debate on power users versus the rest, Mac versus Windows, the security risks as result of not being able to control these features, and differing meanings for the word “autosave.”
  • Monique Semp is looking for a fully automated solution to back up many gigs of files, and asked for recommendations for “cloud backup services, for EXE files ?”  Carbonite, which she is trialing, and other options, Mozy and Junglestick have various limitations and costs associated with subscriptions.

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We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their support.

Platinum: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Gold: Madcap Software, ComponentOne Software

Silver: Vancouver Island University, Society for Technical Communication (STC)

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