In this podcast, I talk with Ed Marsh about podcasting. You may have listened to Ed Marsh's Content Content podcast previously. As an experienced podcaster, Ed has a lot of insights and thoughts about podcasting. We discuss what initially drew him to start podcasting, why podcasters often go on hiatus, the equipment and logistics involved in podcasting, different formats that engage listeners (from co-hosts to single person podcasts, and more), incorporating AI tools, the ongoing appeal of podcasting, and more.
I'm participating in a webinar called Let's Talk API Docs with Scott Abel, Mark Wentowski, and Kartik Balasubramanian on December 13 at 8am PST. The panel discussion will cover a wide array of topics, such as limitations of autogenerated API documentation, security in API docs, tailoring documentation to user needs. We also might discuss challenges like standardizing API documentation as well as opportunities for improving the developer experience.
In this episode, I chat with Dan Grabski, a senior content developer based in Portland, both about his recent WTD talk titled 'Zen and the Art of Manually Creating API Documentation' and Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.' Dan explains the importance of focusing not just on technical details of implementations but also on integrating the people side — on understanding the perspectives of different users and stakeholders involved. Dan provides examples from his engineering background to illustrate how intuition develops from experience, how to avoid spectator mode through hands-on exploration of APIs, on carving out time to devote to continual learning, and the value of incremental progress. Overall, it's a great conversation about engaging more deeply with technology to write better documentation.
I'm giving a webinar titled 'Experiments and use cases for AI from a tech writer’s perspective' on December 8, 2023. The webinar is sponsored by the STC Washington, DC - Baltimore Chapter. In this presentation, I’ll share some personal experiences in using AI for different writing-related use cases, explaining what I’ve found helpful. These use cases and takeaways are all experiential, based on my experiments with using AI both in the workplace for documentation-related scenarios and writing on my blog.
Speakeasy is a platform aimed at simplifying the creation and consumption of APIs. Its primary product is the creation of SDKs (client libraries), but its new offering (and most relevant to technical writers) is the 'Code as Docs' product. Their Code as Docs product embeds SDKs into the traditional API reference, providing users with code snippets in 8+ languages and bridging the gap between documentation and real-world applications. This post is a Q&A with Sagar Batchu, CEO and co-founder of Speakeasy.
In this short podcast, I explore using AI tools to do research, the potential for fake URLs, and how to deal with the fabrication. I started by using Claude to summarize a podcast and provide a list of salient points, including the potential counterargument. What I didn't expect was for Claude to fabricate a list of imagined research and then summarize the fictitious research to conclude that it lended support for the counterargument. I took Claude's list of research and pasted it into ChatGPT with Bing to browse the real-time web to validate the sources. Using Claude and ChatGPT in combination worked pretty well, but overall this is a tale of caution. You have to be suspicious of research provided by AIs and know how to use each tool according to its strengths.
In Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett describe how the Dutch achieved so much cycling success, and how other cities might do the same. The authors bring up a variety of techniques and approaches the Dutch have used, such as seamlessly integrating cycling with public transit, pursuing customized strategies based on each city's unique landscape and culture, taking an iterative approach to infrastructure, using tactical urbanism and prototyping, and more.
The Movemate board fits into the genre of work-focused standing boards designed to reduce fatigue while standing at a computer. This Movemate review is a bit different from the normal tech comm content on my blog, but I believe it's just as relevant. If you're sitting right now, does your back hurt a bit? Do your legs feel like they've been shut off and are atrophying? Are you tired of sitting all day every day in front of a screen? It doesn't have to be like that.
You can use AI tools like Claude to help you write full-length content. By going paragraph-by-paragraph, you can direct the AI while seemingly maintaining your own voice and ideas. However, despite my attempts to use AI with writing, I've found that it's harder to pull off than I thought. I can get close, but due to the way AI tools are trained, they inevitably steer into explanation more than argument. This can remove much of the interest from a personal essay.
In this podcast, I chat with Fabrizio Ferri Benedetti, a tech writer in Barcelona who blogs at passo.uno and works for Splunk, about various AI news topics. We talk about the Forrester AI jobs impact forecast, the community element in documentation, the way the profession is changing with AI, content design roles with LLMs, how complex processes and interactions can't be automated, whether the word 'content' is problematic, and more.
The Diátaxis approach to documentation organizes technical documentation into four types — tutorials, how-tos, reference, and explanation. In this post, I compare Diátaxis to DITA, Information Mapping, and the Good Docs Project, explaining similarities and differences. I also point out why identifying information patterns can be so worthwhile as a technical writer, and how identifying these patterns not only grounds our practice in the larger practice of rhetoric but also gives us useful patterns to use with AI tools.
In conversations about AI, a lot of tech writers are asking what kind of scenarios is AI good for? What works, what doesn’t? In which scenarios? You may have read my responses to these questions before in previous posts, but this time I recorded a podcast with slides. In the podcast, I try to pull together these ideas into more of a narrative shape and flow. This podcast focuses on clarifying those scenarios where AI excels and where it doesn’t, particularly for technical writers creating documentation. I also argue for the inevitability of AI integration through an argument referred to as the 'obsolescence regime.'
The following are links from around the web for October 10, 2023. Forrester predicts a major AI impact on U.S. jobs in 2023. A CEO faces backlash for replacing and criticizing human staff with ChatGPT. Zeb Larson assures coders that ChatGPT isn't a job threat, while Rex Woodbury explores the rise of hyper-personalization. Finally, sales execs welcome AI's role in their industry.
I experimented with using AI tools to help with planning and prioritizing my documentation work. However, I found that the AI tools weren't very helpful for this complex, analytical task. This suggests that content strategy roles, which require higher-level thinking like strategic analysis and decision-making, could be a promising area for technical writers to specialize in as AI starts automating more routine writing.
The following are summaries of interesting articles from around the web, as well as my commentary. Daniel Beck debunks myths surrounding open-source documentation portfolios. Silicon Valley's top AI firms are intriguingly recruiting poets. Jason Bailey supports Emma Thompson's stance on the term 'content' being disrespectful. The potential of A.I. is examined beyond the hype, emphasizing its aid for human writers and editors. Ivan Walsh provides insights on optimizing ChatGPT prompts for technical summaries, while Ellis Pratt discusses how AI agents can be a time-saver for technical writers.
About Tom Johnson
I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.
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