If writing is no longer a marketable skill, what is?
When we try to sell our tech comm skills, promoting our writing skills doesn't seem to impress people anymore, as writing is considered more of a presumed skill everyone has. To give a sense of value, we need to hyphenate our job titles, becoming more of a hybrid professional.
My conflicted thoughts about the decentralized web (while taking the Census of Technical Communicators survey)
Seeing my name in the Census of Technical Communicators survey as a possible source for professional development made me think about the impact of blogs as a learning resource. Advertising encourages bloggers to create rapid-fire, lightweight content in order to increase page views and other attention on the advertised product or service. The proliferation of blog content turns the wheels of social media, creating micro-bursts of attention for companies. The negative impact, however, is that more traditional forms of learning, such as scholarly journal articles and books, take a hit. The web's architecture and monetization model around content is optimized for blog content, so unless other mediums can find a way to become more visible and engaging within the architecture of the web, they will continue their slide into invisibility (at least to mainstream users).
The right story for tech writers to tell in a corporate blog post
When contributing to a corporate blog, the stories that get the most traction and approval are how-to stories about overcoming technology challenges. These stories are much the same ones that we tell in documentation.
Articulating stories that influence product adoption (new article in Simplifying Complexity series)
I added a new article in my ongoing series about simplifying complexity. The article is called Articulating the invisible stories that influence product adoption or rejection and explores why adoption of our products among users doesn't often live up to our expectations. I argue that we need to articulate the story we're telling about the product as well as the story users tell, and identify whether the two are in alignment. Note that you can both read and listen to this article, since I created an audio recording for it.
Reciprocal knowledge networks and the iFixit Technical Writing Project -- Conversation with Guiseppe Getto
In this conversation post, I chat with Guiseppe Getto about the reciprocal influences within networks that contribute towards better knowledge creation. We talk about the iFixit's Technical Writing project, Latour's Actor-Network Theory, the revolution of the spudger in circumventing corporate non-repair agendas, why students learned to triple-check their work and begin tinkering deeply with broken devices, and more.
Looking at the theoretical foundations for tech comm -- Conversation with Lisa Melonçon
In this conversation post, I chat with Lisa Melonçon about the theoretical underpinnings of tech comm, mainly its connection to rhetoric that allows tech comm to get a seat at the English table within academia. We chat about what rhetoric is, why it is or isn't important to tech comm today, and why constant participation and involvement is critical for inclusion within either academia or the workplace.
Adventures of a Techie Academic with Lightweight DITA (LwDITA): Conversation with Carlos Evia
In this conversation with Carlos Evia, we focus mostly on lightweight DITA, exploring what led to his initial interest in DITA, what it means to focus on technology in the context of academia, why more general academic research hasn't focused on DITA (but has investigated single-sourcing and content re-use), why DITA can be so polarizing, his participation in OASIS on the DITA committee and how the standards process works, and more.
Write the Docs Podcast episode 15: User research, tech writer stereotypes, and conversations
After a short summer break, we've returned to the WTD podcast and taken up our mics again to talk about important doc issues. In this episode, we first chat about assumptions we have regarding our users and the value of doing user research. Basing the discussion on Jen Lambourne's talk at WTD Portland 2018, we talk about ways to capture the user perspective and limitations/workarounds for user research within the corporate domain. Next, we chat about an article by Emily January Petersen on the Make-It-Pretty Philosophy, where the roles of tech writers are reduced to grammar and style editing only, without more substantive updates and revisions to content. Finally, we talk about Tom's research project on healing the academic/practitioner divide and how he hopes his conversation posts will bring both sides more closely together.
Teaching Technological Adaptability to Bridge the Gap (Guest post by Melonie McMichael)
The following is a guest post by Melonie McMichael, a senior instructor at the University of Colorado and the proprietor of Technodaptability. In this post, she explores the challenge of teaching technology to students in tech comm programs, arguing that perhaps the chief challenge of teaching adaptability is the need to be adaptable ourselves.
Combatting the "Make-It-Pretty" Philosophy: Technical Writers Fight Back (Guest post by Emily January Petersen)
In this guest post, Emily January Petersen, an assistant professor at Weber State University in the Professional and Technical Writing Program, talks about stereotypes in the workplace that devalues the work of technical and professional communicators. These myths perpetuate the idea that technical communication work is cosmetic, secretarial, unknown, and unnecessary.
Results from my Academic/Practitioner Attitudes surveys now available
The results of my Academic/Practitioner Attitudes surveys are now available. The most interesting response (for the practitioner survey) was regarding the statement that academics understand issues that practitioners face in the workplace. Most (42%) were undecided while 36% disagreed or strongly disagreed. For the academic survey, the most interesting response was regarding the statement that practitioners (rather than other academics) are the primary audience for academic research. About 50% of the academic participants either disagreed or strongly disagreed. Overall, 407 practitioners and 65 academics completed the surveys. The results will fuel phase II of my project, which involves creating academic/practitioner conversation posts.
The relationship between academics and practitioners -- Podcast with Kirk St. Amant
In this podcast, I chat with Professor Kirk St. Amant about the relationship between practitioners and academics. Kirk recently co-authored an article about research as a unifying focus to bring academics and practitioners together. Using this article as the basis for discussion, we dive into origins of the divide, why both practitioners and academics of the same field need each other, potential solutions, and more.
Reducing the complexity of technical language (new article in Simplifying Complexity series)
I added a new article in my ongoing series about simplifying complexity. The article is called Reducing the complexity of technical language and explores reasons why the language in technical documentation tends become so full of jargon and other unfamiliar terms, and a few solutions for simplifying the language. I emphasize the need to read the competitor's documentation and other articles in the industry to get a sense of the right terms and contexts that users likely expect. I also decided to read the article for those who prefer podcasts.
Random reflections on the throwaway mentality in our culture
When should you fix a broken process and when should you simply throw it away? Sometimes we continue on within broken processes for years; it might make sense to systematically try to fix broken processes — to a point.
Thoughts on docs-as-code after 3 years -- it works!
I've been quite happy with our current docs-as-code implementation. It's worthwhile to periodically reflect why the docs-as-code approach tends to work so well.