Podcast: How do design, length, and relevance affect how people use API reference docs -- interview with Bob Watson
Bob Watson recently finished a PhD with research that examined how the design and content of API reference docs affects the user's performance. In this podcast, I talk with Bob about his findings and his other research interests, primarily around goal testing to measure documentation's effectiveness.
LearningDITA.com: A new online learning resource for DITA by Scriptorium
Learningdita.com is a free online educational resource created by Scriptorium for learning DITA. The initial course on their site, "Introduction to DITA," lasts about an hour and will introduce you to core DITA concepts and techniques.
How do you test content that's beyond your skill level?
Sometimes with developer documentation, some of the content may be beyond your skill level to set up and test. In these cases, you can ask developers for help in setting up your system so that you can run the necessary tests. Alternatively, you can test the instructions with users and gather feedback indirectly.
Should you add your testing scenarios into your documentation?
When you test a product, you usually put together simple test scenarios that include actual values and other specific details. You can repackage these test scenarios into documentation-based tutorials that help users understand how to use the product. By including specific values and instruction with a defined end, new users can better understand how to use the product for different use cases and scenarios.
Peter Gruenbaum has released part 2 of his Udemy course on API technical writing
If you want to learn how to document REST APIs, consider taking Peter Gruenbaum's courses on Udemy. He recently released part 2 of his REST API tech writing course. Part 2 gets into the meat of writing reference documentation for REST APIs.
Survey results about the possible REST API workshop
Here are the survey results from my survey I conducted about a possible REST API workshop. Although a workshop would have a lot of appeal, many people are interested in online options since they aren't located in the area where I would give the workshop.
Is it inefficient to frequently switch contexts among multiple projects?
Although the ability to juggle multiple projects is common to the technical writer role, switching contexts can hurt your momentum with projects because each time you switch, you have to re-prime your memory pump with a hundred details about the project. At the same time, this mental reset can help you see the product fresh, like a new user. In that respect, context-switching can be helpful.
Survey about possible REST API workshop — your feedback would be helpful
These survey questions will help me better prepare for a possible workshop on API documentation.
Getting mobile friendly display and responsive design just right, especially with ads
Not having a mobile friendly display for your site not only strains readers on mobile devices, it can hurt your SEO. Making your site mobile friendly also poses some unique challenges with advertising slots, because the slots shift around when you switch from desktop to mobile.
Reader question: How do I move forward out of a stagnant tech writing career?
To move out of a stagnant career, immerse yourself in learning on your own. You can learn programming online, for example, or specialize in a knowledge domain or tools.
Should technical writers care about more than documentation?
As a technical writer, your holistic understanding of the total customer journey allows you to extend beyond your doc-writing role to wear other hats with usability, quality assurance, product management, training, support, and more. But the more time you spend in these other roles, the less time you have to spend on documentation, which results in a weaker doc product.
Build a technical writing portfolio by writing documentation for startups
People looking to break into technical writing are often looking for open source projects they can document in order to build their technical writing portfolio. Instead of looking for open source projects, check out linksv.com to find startups that might need help with documentation.
Communicating feedback from testing documentation
After testing your documentation, you should communicate the feedback with your project teams. As much as possible, try to communicate the information through issue tracking systems because this makes the information more permanent, visible, and actionable.
Guest post: 10 New Things to Love and Hate About Flare
In this guest review about the latest version of Madcap Flare, Karen Rempel reviews an older post I wrote about Flare 7 years ago and re-evaluates the points I loved or hated with the new version of Flare in mind.
Should QA test documentation?
The past few years, I've allowed doc to be treated as an external product, separate from the software engineering code. In reality, doc would probably benefit tremendously from a more strict integration with the engineering code review cycles, with the review split between QA and product management.
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