What's the point of site search?
Lately, I've been researching different options for doc search. I've lived for years with poor search in my docs, and I haven't paid a lot of attention to it. Search is one of those elements that's easy to ignore. Despite how easy it is to ignore search, search is one of the most common user behaviors, and one that most tech writers would consider to be important. So let's examine that paradox a bit more — how can search be so important and unimportant at the same?
Making a comfortable office environment when working from home is harder than it seems
We recently moved about a mile away to a larger house (still renting, not owning), and this house has an office. I was initially excited about working in the office, and I still am, but I've come to realize some challenges in getting a comfortable office environment. It's harder than it looks. When I would go to work each day at my corporate office space, I now see that I took many details provided by facilities for granted. Here are some challenges that I have had to overcome to make my home office comfortable.
API the Docs recording: How Trends in API Documentation Differ from other Tech Comm Trends
I recently presented a session at the API the Docs virtual series on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, as part of the 5th edition. My session covered dev doc trends, and another session covered API design. A recording of my presentation is available below.
WTD Australia event recording — 'Remote discussion: Techcomm in the times of pandemic'
Guest post: Why are technical writers often treated as such an unimportant part of a company?
A reader whose company recently laid off two-thirds of their tech pubs staff asked why technical writers are often seen as unimportant in a company. I asked Jeremy Rosselot-Merritt, an academic at the University of Minnesota who has been doing research into tech comm value in the workplace, to respond to the reader's question.
Results of Pandemic Impact on Tech Comm survey
The results of the Pandemic survey are available here. The survey is still open, but with 230 responses, I'd like to describe a few highlights and thoughts about it.
"Building Great Documentation" -- WAPI FM radio hour
I recently participated in an online radio-style chat about documentation with the folks at Readme.com. In an ambitious undertaking, Readme created a 24-hour streaming radio show (called "WAPI FM"') focused on APIs, from March 26-27, 2020. They are publishing some of the recordings week by week. During this hour, Ryan Openshaw and Greg Koberger chatted with Andrew Baker from Twilio and me about a host of documentation topics.
Short survey about quarantine/pandemic impact on tech comm
I'm curious to know how the quarantine/pandemic is affecting tech comm. I created a short survey to gather some insights about possible trends. It's unclear how tech comm will play out — there could be gains in places and losses in others.
Connecting micro content with search analytics -- notes on the first MadCap Flare and MadCap Central 2020 Release
MadCap Software's 2020 release for MadCap Flare and MadCap Central include significant enhancements to micro content, code syntax highlighting, privatized output, and more. Through search analytics in MadCap Central, if you identify search phrases, and search phrases that return no results, micro content can be created to address these gaps, making your content much more discoverable for your users.
A user manual for your death?
This is a gloomy topic but one that until recently I'd never even considered. When you die, what "user manual" will your family members follow to carry out tasks that need to be done? About two years ago my father passed away, and while it was emotionally difficult, I realized that figuring out the logistics of one's passing was also challenging. In preparing for the worst with the Coronavirus, I started to think about what needs to be done in case I die. (Of course, I hope this doesn't happen, and I'm not sick or anything. I'm just thinking ahead to worst-case scenarios.)
API doc course update: Re-architecting the OpenAPI spec tutorials to start with visual modeling tools first, then code
One of the most challenging aspects of my API documentation course is with the OpenAPI specification. Describing how to code this detailed spec line-by-line is not only tedious but highly prone to error, confusion, and frustration. Recently, I decided to shift the approach in my course to begin first with coding the OpenAPI spec in a visual editor using Stoplight Studio, and then later, if desired, transition to a code-based approach.
My Knowledgebase Ninjas podcast episode -- "Metrics don't work"
I recently appeared on the Knowledgebase Ninjas podcast in an episode titled Metrics Don't Work. In the podcast, I chat with Gowri Ramkumar about documentation processes, why metrics are problematic, advantages and disadvantages of docs-as-code models, why measuring doc traffic falls short, the value of internal documentation, people I've learned from in my career, advice for my younger self, and more.
API The Docs Virtual Series 2020 -- Upcoming presentations and thoughts on the virtual format
I'm giving a presentation on May 27 in the API The Docs Virtual series titled How Trends in API Documentation Differ from Other Tech Comm Trends. You can register for free on EventBrite. API The Docs is typically a one-day conference event but has gone virtual and is experimenting with different formats in interesting ways. In this post, I also share a few thoughts on the first virtual sessions and the challenges of finding the right online format for conferences.
WTD Episode 29: Salary Survey results and WFH tips, with Eric Holscher
In this episode, we chat with Eric Holscher, co-founder of both Read the Docs and Write the Docs, about the recent Salary Survey that the WTD group conducted. This survey was launched in Fall 2019, and the results published were recently published. The salary survey covers details such as types of employment, job titles, roles, length of time in role, work location, annual salary, salary breakdowns by state, additional benefits, satisfaction, reasons for dissastisfaction, organization type, respondent demographics, and more. In addition to exploring the survey, we also chat about tips for working from home, especially given that both Eric and Chris have been working remotely for many years.
Are technical writers increasingly playing non-technical roles? Some thoughts on the evolution of technical writing roles
How is the role of the technical writer evolving? It seems we're moving away from writing and more towards other roles, such as reviewer/convener, user champion, editor, publisher, and promoter. However, it's difficult to gauge change, especially across different job categories. In some scenarios, writing might never have been why we were hired.