TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for January 27, 2012

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

From the Desk of the Editor

We’re approaching the end of our January focus on back to basics, and this past week as been chock full of all sorts of related topics on the technical writer discussion list and in the magazine. From Ryan Minaker’s basic conundrum on disappearing technical documentation, and Laura McNeilly’s refresher tips and tricks to tame MS Office, to Cheryl Voloshin’s humorous take on testing technical writing skills, and Mike McCallister’s advice on balancing life, tech comm work, and book writing, we’ve been happy to provide a lot of useful information and spark a few discussions.

Deadlines, juggling, determining how much or if any documentation all factor into how you view quality and how your organization manages it.  That seemed like a good segue to this week’s Technical Writer Poll: Quality Control on Technical Communications Content.  Go vote in the poll, and if you’ve a mind to, post a comment.  Go ahead… we’ll wait.

All done?  Good. We have a few more basics in the queue for next week, before we turn our attention to visual communications in February. Sometimes “more than a 1,000 words” can make a technical writer’s head hurt, especially if a visual can do the job more effectively.  Visual communications can actually cover quite a lot of territory, from deciding on how to represent data, to using video, to designing the output, and fitting words and pictures together.  We’d love to hear your ideas for features you’d like to see—related topics that you want to learn more about, or maybe want to share more about.  You can reach us by going to our submit technical communications news, tips or articles page or send me an email—

One more shameless plug before I let you go about your Friday—we’re planning our latest road trip to cover the upcoming WritersUA Conference for User Assistance in Memphis this March and we’re looking for a few good writers.   Are you interested?

Enter our Meet Us in Memphis Contest to be eligible.  It’s going to be a great time full of bourbon, great BBQ (not as good as Texas BBQ or North Carolina BBQ but we’re a touch biased around here) and some of the best training for technical writers anywhere.

Joe Welinske at the good folks @WritersUA will provide complimentary registration to this year’s conference, in exchange for working with TechWhirl to cover all the angles.  Check out the contest information, and get tweeting… it’s going to be a blast.

The contest runs all of next week so be ready…

Have a great weekend!

– The gang at TechWhirl


In Case You Missed it: This Week  @ TechWhirl

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Technical Communications: What You’re Talking About

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

  • Craig Cardimon started a rapidly morphing thread earlier this week when he asked about “Editing mp4 files.” Whirlers experienced with narration and the challenges of editing audio files responded with ideas for cheap/free tools, and ways to improve recording quality (use your car as an ad hoc recording booth).  At the same time, we’re being treated to a Friday-related journey into the history of drat and other assorted almost curse words.
  • William Sherman found a distressingly low-paid technical writing job on monster and asked “Anyone need a job? Very badly?”  On the other side of the previously repeated argument that such low wages hurt the whole profession, recent college grad Jessica Behles reminded us that for true entry-level folks trying to make a start, the number of experienced technical writers out there looking for work makes it even more challenging to get started.

Social Media and the Chance to Follow TechWhirl:


We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for their support.  They’re the strings on our Stratocaster.


Platinum A: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Platinum B: ComponentOne Software, Madcap Software

Gold: Society for Technical Communication (STC), EC Software, Vancouver Island University


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