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Creating Help in the Web 2.0 Age — Presentation by Neil Perlin

May 10, 2007 • podcasts

Neil PerlinDownload MP3 file
Duration: 125 min.

This is a presentation titled "Creating Help in the Web 2.0 Age" that Neil Perlin gave to the Suncoast Chapter in Tampa, Florida in February 2007. Neil talks about what Web 2.0 is, and how help can be delivered on the fly according to specific user requests. This is a bit of a long file -- perfect to listen to on your way to the STC Conference. By the way, check out Neil's new blog.

Here's a more formal description of the presentation that Neil wrote: For years, technical communicators have created help on a mass industrial model – one finished help system for all users. But two technologies, XML and Web 2.0, offer ways to change that model, letting us create just-in-time help personalized to specific users' needs, with content written by users themselves. How does this work?

In the case of XML, a feature in a specific authoring tool, Flare, lets us automatically create help systems that reflect the needs of specific sets of users, possibly even specific users, when those users request help. In the case of Web 2.0, we get the flexibility to let end users write content themselves, taking some of the load off technical communicators.

This all sounds futuristic and idealistic, but the automatic Flare output has already been done on a test basis, and user-contributed content is all around us – in wikis, for example.

This presentation discusses the philosophy and technologies behind these two new approaches to creating help. It illustrates the specific place in Flare that lets us create automatic, just-in-time output. It then looks at the philosophies, technologies, and implementations of user-contributed content.

About Neil Perlin
From the STC site: “Neil Perlin has twenty-eight years' experience in technical communication, with twenty-two in training, consulting, and development for various types of online formats and tools including WinHelp, HTML Help, CE Help, JavaHelp, RoboHelp, ForeHelp, Flare, and some now largely forgotten. Neil is a columnist and frequent speaker for STC and other professional groups, a member of the Boston Chapter STC, the creator and manager of the Beyond the Bleeding Edge stem at STC's annual conference, and an STC Associate Fellow.

Neil is a Madcap Certified Instructor for Flare, and an Adobe Certified Instructor for RoboHelp and Captivate. He provides training, consulting, and development for online help and documentation, Flare, RoboHelp, Captivate, XML, and single-sourcing through Hyper/Word Services of Tewksbury, Massachusetts. He can be reached at nperlin@concentric.net or via www.hyperword.com.”

About Tech Writer Voices

Tech Writer Voices is a podcast for technical writers, technical communicators, and help authors who may call themselves different names — content managers, information architects, information designers, documentation specialists, or knowledge transfer agents. We play both chapter recordings and interviews on at least a weekly basis. You can listen to these podcasts directly on the website, or download them to your MP3 player, such as an iPod, iRiver, Creative Zen, or other. Tech Writer Voices will be at the STC Conference in Minneapolis — be sure to say hello.


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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.