TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for February 24, 2012

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


From the Desk of the Editor

Happy Spring!  Or, at least happy that it’s a little warmer somewhere on the map that you look at each day (like us folks in Dallas and Charlotte enjoying 75 degrees yesterday).  The springtime brings giant parties (Mardi Gras) and sacrifices (for some Lent), and the chance not only to finally be caught up from our holiday time off, but also to get out and meet a few people.  The birds, the bees, the sound of clicking of mobile phones with Twitterific quotes – from wherever you technical communications world travelers happen to be.

We can only be referring to Conference Season – Part Spring [insert appropriate movie sequel references here].

For many it is quickly approaching while for others it’s already here—like those attending the Intelligent Content Conference 2012 or Technical Communications World India 2012.  We’re already prepping for our coverage of WritersUA, lining up an ace team of SWU members, and figuring out the most hopping places to hang before and after those amazing sessions of technical communications goodness in Memphis. There’s a whole swath of regional STC events, vendor roadshows, and focused workshops and conferences on all aspects of technical communications all over the world (even where it’s not Spring)… you can post any and all of them on the TechWhirl Events Calendar, totally free of charge.

We always have some interesting news to pass along to you (check the list below), and this week also includes a feature that is a good introduction to using storyboards in technical communications by Greg Larsen. You have plenty of time to drop by and take our weekly technical communications poll on what you would be willing to sacrifice, and post a comment about why.  And, you can look forward to some really interesting articles next week to finish out our month on visual technical communications.

So as you’re following the happenings at conferences, completing a short work week, or doing your usual 40+ hours, take a break and cruise around TechWhirl for timely tidbits and longer-lasting features and how-to’s. Let us know what you think, and what the season is bringing into your corner of the technical communications universe.  On the list or on the magazine, we love hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

– The gang at TechWhirl


In Case You Missed it: This Week  @ TechWhirl

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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:

  • Daniel Feiglen wants recommendations on “Tools for Producing Datasheets,” and provided some specifications and requirements, such as XML roundtripping, format preservation, and affordability.  Whirlers responded with ways to better utilize his existing tool (Microsoft Word) and going to an open source alternative.
  • Carla Martinek’s “Question for writers in New Zealand and Australia” prompted a lengthy discussion, both about cultural sensitivities in combining countries for purposes of configuring settings, and about the necessity of determining a recommendation absent complete information from the client.  Once clarified, Australian and New Zealander Whirlers were able to offer an appropriate context.
  • Doughty Tech Writer is in the somewhat enviable position of first full-time tech writer with management support for an effort with “Bloated Docs: Identifying What’s Useful.” Surveys OK, local client visits OK, travel to countries where 14 language versions in use not OK. List members made excellent suggestions about whether and how to develop a survey, using web analytics to get hard data, and taking a mind-mapping approach to analyzing the existing documentation.

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

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Gold: ComponentOne Software, Madcap Software

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