From the Desk of the Editor
It seems as if we hear the phrase “technical communications is at a crossroads,” or something similar, in a flurry of activity about once or twice a year. Perhaps it’s the nature of the technical communications profession to always be at some sort of crossroads, since we are the stewards of efforts to socialize and embed the always-changing technology within our cultures. If that’s true, we may need to start thinking of “change agent” as one of our many monikers.
Much of the discussion on our technical writer email discussion list this week focused on two topics that highlight how much change is going on in technical communications. To get some insight for an upcoming article on determining how much documentation is right for a product, SWU member Ryan Minaker posed an initially untitled question to the list, and a flurry of debate on “documentation going away” got started. So we took up the debate with a TechWhirl poll question: If traditional documentation “goes away,” what new tech comm media will take its place? As the debate continues, it’s clear that technical writing delivery mechanisms, and perhaps even the audiences, are evolving rapidly.
More than ever technical communications professionals focus on demonstrating value to the businesses that employ them, which makes the concept of integrated technical communications increasingly relevant. Anna Parker-Richards article, Integrated Technical Communications: A Map to Better Understanding, takes on one aspect of the challenge by proposing the ITC Mall Map to define what we do in a visual way, as part of the effort to brand technical communications as a central part of business strategy. Roger Renteria’s interview with Corey Ganser at MindTouch reminds us that collaborating with other business functions is the surest way to improve customer experience and reach those business goals.
Some basics for technical communications professionals aren’t going change: writing well, editing with a purpose, designing for clarity, evaluating for relevance, and some will. However, the trends of modern-day business show that while our core skills remain the same, how we apply those skills and how we get others to perceive those skills are changing: with or without you.
It’s our hope that you’re on board because the ride should prove to be challenging and ultimately fulfilling, as technical communications professionals finally gain the right reputation and deliver even more value for their companies and users.
– The gang at TechWhirl
In Case You Missed it: This Week @ TechWhirl
New on Tech Writer Today:
- Building the Business Case for Technical Communicators by Leveraging Talent, Skills and Passion, Interview with Corey Ganser, by Roger Renteria
- Integrated Technical Communications: A Map to Better Understanding, by Anna Parker-Richards
- TechWhirl Poll: Replacing Traditional Technical Communications
Technical Communications News:
- Tech Writer This Week for January 19, 2012
- Aptara Launches PXE4.1 Publishing Platform for Technical Content
- DITA: “Crossing the Chasm” Webinars Scheduled
- Lattice Releases XVL Studio 10.1b for Technical Documentation
- Maxwell Hoffman Joins Adobe Technical Communications Group
Technical Communications: What You’re Talking About
A quick shout out to our Technical Writers and their discussions in our email discussion group:
- Nancy Allison started a lively thread when she reported that she’s a “Techno-fuddyduddy getting anxious.” The resulting discussion is full of great advice, including some tips and tricks about learning and using tools for EPUB and acquiring feedback, and some great sites for quick immersion in the latest and greatest technology.
- Anon1 and Anon2 are both concerned about “Burnout, advancement and career changing” issues in a field where gaining respect and dealing with project stress is an ongoing challenge. Whirlers have responded with experiences and advice about how to move into other careers, and in one case, moving out and then moving back into technical communications.
- Monique Semp asked the wordsmiths on the list for opinions whether to use the phrase “lends credibility” or “provides credibility” and got some interesting replies that just go to show the line between technical documentation and other forms of business communication isn’t always as clear cut. More evidence that it pays to know your audience.
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