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Newsletter: GPT-4 tutors,, Dark user manuals, interfaces for reading docs, automation scripts, and bball

by Tom Johnson on Apr 17, 2023
categories: technical-writing ainews

Here are links for my April 17, 2023 newsletter.

Sal Khan explains why GPT-4 is ready to be a tutor

For all the anxiety educators feel about AI tools upending educational curriculums and allowing students to cheat, Sal Khan from Khan Academy says AI chatbots can provide a tutoring assistant that help students understand their classes and homework. Khan Academy developed an “AI-assisted tutor” called Khanmigo with a special training in math. “In a math problem, for example, Khanmigo can detect not just whether a student got an answer right or wrong, but also where they may have gone astray in their reasoning.”

If every student has a personalized tutor who can help them with their homework, this could relieve parents of those stressful homework nights and allow students the individualized instruction they need to understand and excel in school. Imagine a world where your children no longer complain that their math teacher does a terrible job explaining things, and therefore they can’t do the homework (forcing you to crack open their math textbook). It might no longer matter matter how good the teacher is. Read more > (“find”) is a new ChatGPT-powered search that caters to technical information for developers. The chat provides options for how detailed, concise, or creative you want the responses to be. The group behind Phind introduced Phind as follows: “Today we’re launching GPT-4 answers on, a developer-focused search engine that uses generative AI to browse the web and answer technical questions, complete with code examples and detailed explanations. Unlike vanilla GPT-4, Phind feeds in relevant websites and technical documentation, reducing the model’s hallucination and keeping it up-to-date. To use it, simply enable the ‘Expert’ toggle before doing a search.”

Seeing the sources powering Phind’s answers makes it clear that AI-powered search needs a healthy supply of documentation to power the AI. What’s different, though, is that in the future, documentation might be written for AI consumption rather than end-user consumption. The AI chat interface could serve as the primary user interface for reading documentation and learning about code. One commenter says, “This is exactly what I want the future of search to be – give me some AI generated summaries / snippets / guides but also the sources that were used to come up with that response.” Learn more >

Strange Machines: An Anthology of Dark User Manuals

Apex Magazine has a call for submissions for “dark user manuals.” The description for the submissions is as follows: “We are looking for your darkest, strangest microfiction in the form of user manuals, FAQs, and how-to guides for the use of (or by) robots! / Tell us a story while guiding humans through the use of a strange machine, or guiding sentient robots through human activities they may not understand. Reveal deep yearnings and dark secrets between the lines, show us fascinating futures or weird horrors, and don’t be afraid to mix biology with machine. Let your imaginations go wild to create beautiful, surreal, and dark user-guides for strange machines!”

I’ve never thought of user manuals in this light, but the genre looks fun. This effort truly combines creative writing with technical writing. The word count is a mere 250 words, so just enough to provide a taste of the manual. If you’re looking to have fun during a coffee break, consider writing a dark user manual. We’ve probably all got a dark user manual inside of us. Learn more >

AI chat interfaces could become the primary user interface to read documentation

AI topics have saturated online posts ad nauseam, and I wouldn’t add yet another post to the endless list of speculative theorizing unless I truly believed I had a genuine light bulb moment. In this post, here’s what I argue:

  • AI chat interfaces could become the primary user interface that people use to read documentation, not documentation websites themselves.
  • ​​AI chats will enable novices to tackle more advanced tasks, leading to an explosion of technical innovation.
  • Documentation will provide the information source that AI chat engines need to respond to queries.
  • Both tech writers and machines will write the information source.

Read more >

DevDocs: Your do-it-all documentation project partner (Sponsor)

DevDocs provides comprehensive consulting services to help organizations streamline all of their technical writing needs. They go beyond simply writing and consulting, offering a full suite of services, including design, tool implementation, and custom development. Their team of experts understand that clear and concise documentation is crucial to the success of any SaaS project; therefore DevDocs take a holistic approach to ensure that every aspect of the documentation process is handled with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Whether you need assistance with API documentation, SDKs, content writing, or any other documentation needs, they have the expertise and resources to get the job done. DevDocs empowers you to focus on your core business while they take care of your documentation needs. With a proven track record of guiding companies to success, DevDocs can help take your organization’s documentation to the next level. Learn more >

A script that creates a new Jekyll post and populates it with YAML frontmatter, and also makes a curl call to add a Rebrandly shortlink

I wanted to make it easier to create new blog post files in Jekyll, so I made a script that automates some of this functionality. (This is also an example of how AI tools can help you write code.) Read more >

From the archives: Five basketball strategies and how they might apply to tech comm

This post, which I wrote in 2021 during the NBA playoffs, explains how various basketball strategies might apply to tech comm. The 5 strategies include (1) The shooting bigs, (2) The mismatch, (3) Small ball, (4) Dribble penetration, and (5). Hero ball. The post is a little dated, but if you’re a basketball fan, you might get a kick out of it. Read more >

About Tom Johnson

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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