TechWhirl’s Top 12 Technical Communication Articles of 2012

Another busy year comes to a close here at TechWhirl. The members of our Special Writers Group have a simple job description: write stories that matter to technical communicators, whether they read the email discussion list or are otherwise occupied.

The most popular TechWhirl technical communication articles of the year reveal a readership interested in both the big picture and the more practical. How-to articles, reviews of the Adobe Technical Communications Suite 4 and responses to Connie Giordano’s and Al Martine’s challenging 2011 article, “Integrated Technical Communications: A Strategy for Technical Communicators” dominate the list. We apparently did make you laugh at least once, too.

So here are your TechWhirl Top 12 Technical Communication Articles of 2012:

 top 12 technical communication article 1 It’s Time for a New Doctrine of Technical Communications:

Mark Baker’s response to the Integrated Technical Communications article, he focuses on what it means to be a technical communicator in 2012: The primary medium of technical communications in no longer publications, but conversations.  36 comments (counting Mark’s responses) make for provocative reading too.

Building E-books: A Tool Overview for Technical Writers:

Keith Soltys shows us how to create e-books with your help authoring tool of choice, FrameMaker, Word, and a pair of open-source tools (Calibre and Sigil). Helpful links too.

 top 12 technical communication articles 2
  Adobe FrameMaker 11: The Good, the Bad, and the Structured Author:

No surprise that Jacquie Samuels’ review of the latest version of this tech-comm stalwart tool makes this list. Always mindful of the audience, the review offers advice to both the first-time buyer and the FrameMaker junkie.

Integrated Technical Communications: A Map to Better Understanding:

Anna Parker-Richards offers a “mall map” to help people outside our profession visualize what we do. “The outcome I’m looking for is wiping the blank stare off of the general public’s faces when I bring up the term technical communications.” This one was so good, we featured it again during the summer break.

 top 12 technical communication articles 4
 top 12 technical communication articles 5 The Storyboard: An Outline for Visual Technical Communications:

When planning presentations, training, or other multimedia communication projects, it often helps to use this simple, low-tech organizational tool. Greg Larson shows us how.

Trends for Technical Communicators to Watch in 2012:

Back in January, we saw eight trends coming: Cloud, collaboration, curation, user-generated content, video, DITA, sentiment analysis and integrated tech-comm. How’d we do?

 top 12 technical communication articles 6
 top 12 technical communication articles 7 The Paradox of Tech Comm:

Another Mark Baker contribution. How to solve this problem: “documentation is a common source of consumer unhappiness and complaints, and yet there is no market pressure on products with bad docs, and therefore doc quality does not improve, and companies have little incentive to pay the cost to improve it.”

How to Tell a Technical Writer From a Marketing Writer:

Our August theme on the endless battles between technical communicators and marketing people is boiled down quite nicely by Yehoshua Paul. Also the quickest read of our Dirty Dozen.

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 top 12 technical communication articles 9 Ten Steps to Make Your Technical Translation Project a Success:

Global communications requires localized documentation. In this article, Dorothee Racette, president of the American Translators Association, offers a 10-point plan for preparing your user assistance for translation.

TechWhirl First Look: Adobe RoboHelp 10:

The other key application in the Adobe Tech Comm Suite gets a makeover, focused on user assistance for multiple devices and screen sizes. Mike McCallister offers a brief introduction.

 top 12 technical communication articles 10
 top 12 technical communication articles 11 Pinterest: My Mother, Content Strategy and Technical Communications:

Isn’t Pinterest just another way of wasting time looking at pictures? Jacquie Samuels asks us to “imagine, if you will, a library of content from a set of products that people use in coordination, maybe even from more than one company (oh, to dream). That content is made up of topics, videos, graphics, books, whitepapers, wiki content, and anything else we can dream up.”

TechWhirl First Look: FrameMaker 11:

Jacquie Samuels warms you up for her complete review (see above). “But the best improvements are actually the little things: smart copy/paste into the right elements from HTML, Word, and Excel; an XML code view with its own special tree hierarchy (you might end up working entirely in this view); and the ability to expand the structure widget as far as you want.”

 Adobe Systems


Mike McCallister

Mike McCallister is devoted to the idea that technology need not be feared, and can be mastered by anyone. After all, he grew up in the days when computers filled entire rooms, and spent 13 years as a civil service clerk doing nothing more technical than recording WordPerfect macros. Mike is also devoted to making computing easier for the full spectrum of user levels and experience. You can connect with Mike through his Google+ page.

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