30+ ways I’m using AI in everyday writing life as a technical writer, blogger, and curious human
- Intro notes, including why I wrote this post
- 1. Create a readable version of a YouTube transcript
- 2. Understand difficult passages in a book
- 3. Create a custom-tailored learning course
- 4. Summarize the main point of an academic article
- 4. Get grammar advice
- 5. Write full-length, human-sounding articles
- 6. Increase interest in the world around you
- 7. Troubleshoot using pictures
- 8. Get ideas for what to eat from ingredients in the fridge
- 9. See counterarguments to your position
- 10. Get images for a post
- 11. Troubleshoot technical issues
- 12. Fix a poorly written paragraph
- 13. Find research
- 14. Offload any writing you don’t really care about
- 15. Write code for documentation-related processes
- 16. Distill needed updates from bug threads
- 17. Create article summaries
- 18. Synthesize insights from granular data
- 19. Arrange content into information type patterns
- 20. Format content (HTML, XML, YAML)
- 21. Compare API responses
- 22. Draft glossary definitions
- 23. Get quick answers about Clickbait articles
- 24. Summarize Hacker News threads
- 25. Explain something in a simpler way
- 26. Convert this proto file and engineering doc into something that resembles partner-facing documentation
- 27. Understanding API example code
- 28. Find out whether a book is worth reading
- 29. Find supporting quotes or anecdotes from a book
- 30. Ask curious questions while eating rather than scroll news feeds
- 31. Identify weak parts of a proto file (undocumented fields, weak definitions)
- 32. Solve complex problems related to parenting
- 33. Get the latest weather or news
- Related resources
Intro notes, including why I wrote this post
Recently, I’ve noticed many people around me trying to figure out how to use AI. The hype is extremely high and they’re seeing so much innovation and news, but that hype + innovation isn’t reaching actual transformation of their tech doc work. They look around and try to find an expert who has figured it out, because there must be something wrong if they can’t make use of this transformative new technology that everyone keeps raving about, but which hasn’t seemed to change their own workflows. As a result, there’s a lot of discussion about identifying the right use cases for AI.
What are the best use cases for AI? I think this question is somewhat like asking what are the use cases for the computer or Internet. Nearly everything is a use case. The same question was common when these technologies first surfaced, but they quickly gave way to an enormous variety of applications in nearly every domain. This is an argument Ellis Pratt makes in his latest Cherryleaf podcast (episode 141).
In the following 30+ scenarios, I describe various ways that I’m using AI in everyday life. In this post, I decided to expand outside the realm of technical writer scenarios. As for tools, I’ve mostly used ChatGPT, Claude, and Bard.
The following are rough descriptions of 30+ ways I’m using AI. The sections aren’t in any particular order. I’ve resisted grouping them because I want to show how AI can be used pervasively for many tasks, not just limited to technical writing applications. My central argument is that AI use cases are so ubiquitous they apply to all facets of life.
1. Create a readable version of a YouTube transcript
Scenario: The YouTube video is 40 minutes long and you don’t want to sit patiently watching it to see if the content is relevant to your needs. You want a quick summary of what topics are covered, and whether they mention anything about the topic you’re interested in.
2. Understand difficult passages in a book
Scenario: You’re reading a book with some dense philosophy that you don’t understand. Rather than speed through it, you want to deepen your understanding so that you can more thoroughly enjoy the book.
Tip: Use the audio app for ChatGPT on your phone so you don’t have to type out the passage. This converts your phone into a reading buddy, helping you quickly interpret passages.
3. Create a custom-tailored learning course
Scenario: You want to learn about something technical, maybe from code you’re documenting or based on another need. In this case, you’re having trouble remembering the right syntax for links in Java files for Javadac. You ask an AI tool to create a custom course for you based on this specific topic.
4. Summarize the main point of an academic article
Scenario: You’re trying to make your way through a journal article, which is living up its reputation for tediousness and say-nothingness. Even the abstract isn’t clear or useful. You use AI to create a detailed summary of the author’s argument to see if the article is worth reading.
Tip: If it turns out the article is worth reading, this high-level summary will aid your comprehension as you make your way through the academic jargon.
4. Get grammar advice
Scenario: You’re reviewing some documentation and aren’t sure about the word choices someone has made. You’re tempted to suggest an alternative wording, but you want to avoid marking sentences as incorrect if it’s just personal preference and not an actual grammar rule or style. You ask AI to explain the difference between two sentence structures, and referencing any official grammar or stylistic rules/conventions at stake.
5. Write full-length, human-sounding articles
Scenario: You’re feeling lazy and want to leverage AI to be your writer, while you act more as a director of the ideas. Going paragraph by paragraph, you explain in rough words and ideas what you want the AI to articulate in more refined prose. You don’t try to have AI write the article in one go, as this usually turns out disastrous. Instead, by going slowly, paragraph by paragraph, you keep a fine handle on the reins.
Tip: Use AI to write the summary parts only, such as summaries of an article or plot details from a novel. Don’t have it write about personal experiences. Mix this summary with personal experience in balanced ways.
6. Increase interest in the world around you
Scenario: You see something interesting that catches your eye. In this case, it’s a large fishing vessel with the words “Seafreeze - Dutch Harbor, AK” on the side. You want to understand it better, including some more interesting details about it, so you take a picture of it and ask ChatGPT to provide more details.
7. Troubleshoot using pictures
Scenario: You’re trying to fix something, but you don’t totally understand it. In this case, you’re trying to winterize your sprinklers and you’re not sure what all the valves in the sprinkler box do. You take a picture of the sprinkler valves and ask questions about the purpose of each of the valves.
8. Get ideas for what to eat from ingredients in the fridge
Scenario: You’re hungry and not sure what to eat based on looking at your fridge. You take a picture of your fridge’s contents and ask AI for some suggestions on what to eat. Although you don’t follow any of these suggestions, the AI has offered some possibilities you never imagined with your fridge’s contents.
9. See counterarguments to your position
Scenario: You’re writing a post about a topic, formulating your argument, and you feel pretty confident about your logic. But you want to anticipate objections, so you use AI to better imagine the counterargument to your position.
10. Get images for a post
Scenario: You want to get images to complement the ideas in your post. You paste in a section to ChatGPT and ask it to draw an image reflecting the ideas in the paragraph.
11. Troubleshoot technical issues
Scenario: You’re trying to fix some validation errors in your podcast feed. You’re running your XML feed through a cast validator and it’s indicating you certain errors, but those errors are hard to understand in context of the XML schema’s requirements.
12. Fix a poorly written paragraph
Scenario: You read a paragraph in your article/documentation/blog and know it sounds off. (It’s wordy, hard to read, awkward, has the wrong diction, etc.). You use AI to see if it can create a more readable version of this problematic paragraph.
13. Find research
Scenario: You have an idea for something you want to write about, but you need some solid academic sources to support this idea. You use AI, specifically ChatGPT with Bing, to browse the web and identify some quality sources.
14. Offload any writing you don’t really care about
Scenario: You need to write documentation for a new feature. You aren’t concerned about connotations of plagiarism, cheating, personal authorship, voice, personal authenticity, etc. because this is just a voiceless, plain corporate tech doc, and you want to kick out a first draft.
15. Write code for documentation-related processes
Scenario: You want to write some code to automate some build and publishing tasks related to API documentation. You’re trying to build docs, move them into a specific directory, insert a conditional note, and more. You write some pseudo code for this, indicate the language you want to use (shell scripts), and ask AI to write the actual code.
16. Distill needed updates from bug threads
Scenario: You need to write release notes about a bug issue and resolution. Engineers have filed a bug that references another bug with a long thread about the issue and resolution taken. There are 75+ comments on the thread and other docs referenced, and you need a quick summary about it.
17. Create article summaries
Scenario: You want to create a short summary paragraph describing an article/topics/post/chapter you’ve written. You’ll use this summary at the top of the article.
More info: Summarize long content
18. Synthesize insights from granular data
Scenario: You have lots of little pieces of data and you want to synthesize larger insights from the data. In this case, you’re preparing notes for a book club based on a book you’ve read. You have 100 passages highlighted in the book. From these passages, you want to extrapolate major themes and arguments. You also have 10 book reviews identified.
19. Arrange content into information type patterns
Scenario: You have a lot of information you’ve gathered about a new feature, and you want to sort this information into a first draft of documentation. You specifically want the information to fit a predefined pattern or template.
Rules: Here are the rules for writing tasks: [paste in rules]
Template: Here is the template for writing tasks: [paste in template, such as from the Good Docs project]
Instruction: Make the following content fit into the task template above.
20. Format content (HTML, XML, YAML)
Scenario: You have a long HTML table with some incorrectly coded <tr> tags or some other error, and you want it fixed. You paste the content into an AI tool and ask it to fix the errors.
21. Compare API responses
Scenario: You have an API response for a new API you’re documenting, and you want to see if the response matches all the fields you’re documenting. You take the sample responses and ask AI to compare them against the documentation to identify any discrepancies, taking into consideration optional versus required fields. You also want to identify discrepancies in casing or spelling.
22. Draft glossary definitions
Scenario: You want to build out a glossary for specialized terms. First, you want to identify the terms that might be jargon to readers, and then provide definitions for the terms.
More info: Create glossary definitions
23. Get quick answers about Clickbait articles
Scenario: You’re reading the New York Times and see some op-ed articles with clickbait titles that you can’t seem to pass up. For example, “The Very Good Reason People Like George Santos Lie About Nonsense” (link).
24. Summarize Hacker News threads
Scenario: You see a long Hacker News thread and are curious to know what all the discussion is about, but you don’t want to read through all the thread details.
25. Explain something in a simpler way
Scenario: You’re banging your head trying to understand a complicated concept. In this case, you’re struggling with text someone sent you that seems nonsensical, like “This REST API isn’t a resource-based API.” You aren’t sure what it means, so you paste the sentence into AI for an explanation. You ask AI to explain it like you’re a beginner and to include some examples to clarify the meaning.
26. Convert this proto file and engineering doc into something that resembles partner-facing documentation
Scenario: You need to write documentation for a new feature. There’s a product definition document and some other engineering documents. You use AI to quickly create a first draft of documentation, just to get a better sense of the product. The final doc you publish will likely not resemble anything similar to the AI-generated draft, but that’s okay because this first draft gives you a sense of the general shape and features of the product.
27. Understanding API example code
Scenario: You need a code sample showing how to use an API for a particular scenario. You request some code from engineers, and they give you something without any explanation. You want to better understand what’s going on in the code so you paste it into an AI tool for an explanation. You learn what each piece does and can get a sense of the logic.
28. Find out whether a book is worth reading
Scenario: You’re browsing books on O’Reilly and trying to find something that’s relevant to your interests. The book summaries are too vague to get a real sense of the contents. So you copy the introductory chapter into Claude and ask for a detailed summary. Based on this summary, you get a stronger sense of whether the book is relevant.
29. Find supporting quotes or anecdotes from a book
Scenario: You’re writing an article about a book you’ve read, and you want to pick out some quotes to support a theme you’re writing about. You’re not sure where in the 300 page book the quotes appear, but you managed to get ahold of a PDF of the book and have uploaded it into Claude.ai.
30. Ask curious questions while eating rather than scroll news feeds
Scenario: You’re eating lunch and are tired of scrolling through senseless news feeds while you eat. Instead, you decide to have a conversation with ChatGPT, so you ask it a question. Then based on the response, you ask it another question. You’re using the audio button and it appears to others that you’re having a phone conversation of some kind, though it really doesn’t matter because people are either too focused on their own smartphones or are talking with others. You pass the time in an interesting conversation asking questions that take you down rabbit holes you didn’t know you wanted to explore.
31. Identify weak parts of a proto file (undocumented fields, weak definitions)
Scenario: You’re documenting a new feature that’s pretty much contained in a proto file. You glance through the proto file and wonder what the content quality is for the proto comments. You ask AI to assess the proto for any undocumented fields, weak definitions, confusing areas, etc. This gives you a starting point for how to assess the reference content.
32. Solve complex problems related to parenting
Scenario: You’re trying to solve a complex problem, like how to get your ADHD child to do her homework as well as navigate the right approach between discipline and support. You aren’t sure if disciplinary measures will be interpreted as punitive and backfire for an ADHD mindset, and you also need to find strategies for persuading your spouse about why a punitive approach might backfire. You use AI to express your concerns, talk through solutions, raise objections, explore counterarguments, etc.
33. Get the latest weather or news
Scenario: You want to know what the weather report is for the next week, or maybe what the latest NFL news is for the past couple of days.
Note: As far as I know, this requires ChatGPT with Bing.
Here’s the This Week in Tech (TWIT) podcast episode I mentioned in my video: TWIT episode 956, starting at minute 11:45.
I recently gave an STC webinar on this same topic. See Webinar recording: Experiments and use cases for AI from a tech writer’s perspective for the recording and slides.
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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