Question: What qualities should technical writers have to work at startups?
To excel in a startup environment, technical writers need to have a strong technical aptitude, the ability to both lead and be independent, the capacity to evaluate content strategy decisions instead of just documentation, versatility to write in a variety of situations, and stability to weather the roller-coaster ride of startup finances.
Podcast: The divide between academics and practitioners -- Interview with Lisa Meloncon
In this podcast, I talk with Lisa Meloncon, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnatti, about the academic-practitioner divide.
Why is there a divide between academics and practitioners in tech comm?
Although the work of practitioners and academics should inform each other in mutually beneficial ways, these groups tend to be somewhat isolated and separate. Some reasons for the divide include lack of focus on tools, paywalls set up with publications, and the topics in journal articles.
When are wikis ever successful?
It's hard to make wikis successful because the wiki platform doesn't instill contributors with a sense of ownership with the content they create. As a result, wikis often become full of redundant, outdated, and trivial content. I'll share my lessons learned with wikis during a roundtable discussion with the North Bay Communicators group on August 11.
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Podcast: How do design, length, and relevance affect how people use API reference docs -- interview with Bob Watson
Bob Watson recently finished a PhD with research that examined how the design and content of API reference docs affects the user's performance. In this podcast, I talk with Bob about his findings and his other research interests, primarily around goal testing to measure documentation's effectiveness.
LearningDITA.com: A new online learning resource for DITA by Scriptorium
Learningdita.com is a free online educational resource created by Scriptorium for learning DITA. The initial course on their site, "Introduction to DITA," lasts about an hour and will introduce you to core DITA concepts and techniques.
How do you test content that's beyond your skill level?
Sometimes with developer documentation, some of the content may be beyond your skill level to set up and test. In these cases, you can ask developers for help in setting up your system so that you can run the necessary tests. Alternatively, you can test the instructions with users and gather feedback indirectly.
Should you add your testing scenarios into your documentation?
When you test a product, you usually put together simple test scenarios that include actual values and other specific details. You can repackage these test scenarios into documentation-based tutorials that help users understand how to use the product. By including specific values and instruction with a defined end, new users can better understand how to use the product for different use cases and scenarios.
Peter Gruenbaum has released part 2 of his Udemy course on API technical writing
If you want to learn how to document REST APIs, consider taking Peter Gruenbaum's courses on Udemy. He recently released part 2 of his REST API tech writing course. Part 2 gets into the meat of writing reference documentation for REST APIs.
Survey results about the possible REST API workshop
Here are the survey results from my survey I conducted about a possible REST API workshop. Although a workshop would have a lot of appeal, many people are interested in online options since they aren't located in the area where I would give the workshop.
Is it inefficient to frequently switch contexts among multiple projects?
Although the ability to juggle multiple projects is common to the technical writer role, switching contexts can hurt your momentum with projects because each time you switch, you have to re-prime your memory pump with a hundred details about the project. At the same time, this mental reset can help you see the product fresh, like a new user. In that respect, context-switching can be helpful.
Survey about possible REST API workshop — your feedback would be helpful
These survey questions will help me better prepare for a possible workshop on API documentation.
Getting mobile friendly display and responsive design just right, especially with ads
Not having a mobile friendly display for your site not only strains readers on mobile devices, it can hurt your SEO. Making your site mobile friendly also poses some unique challenges with advertising slots, because the slots shift around when you switch from desktop to mobile.
Reader question: How do I move forward out of a stagnant tech writing career?
To move out of a stagnant career, immerse yourself in learning on your own. You can learn programming online, for example, or specialize in a knowledge domain or tools.
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