Recording of 'Product overviews vs. getting started tutorials: striking a balance between read-first and try-first user behaviors'
I recently gave a webinar to tekom Europe about product overviews and getting started tutorials. The recording and slides are below.
Review of "Hashtag #TechComm: An Overview of Members, Networks, and Themes from 2016-2019"
In Hashtag #TechComm: An Overview of Members, Networks, and Themes from 2016-2019, published in Technical Communication Journal (68.2 May 2021), Chris Lam identifies trends and themes in the tech comm field by looking 75,000+ tweets that used the hashtag #techcomm from 2016 to 2019. Previously, academics looked at job advertisements to identify trends, so this Twitter analysis for data provides a new approach to identifying trends.
New sections in API doc course exploring causes for poor product overviews and getting started tutorials
I added two new sections in my API doc course exploring reasons for poor product overviews and sometimes absent getting started tutorials. I'm still adding to this section but wanted to share the current content. These are all first drafts that I hope to refine a bit with more imagery, proofreading, examples, and other detail, so if you have feedback, let me know in the comments. I'm trying to explore reasons why these two content types often fail or are weak. It's less of a best practices section and more like an analysis about causes.
Five basketball strategies and how they might apply to tech comm
Because it's NBA championship finals time, I thought it might be fun to write a basketball-themed post focusing on basketball strategies that succeeded or failed, and how any of these strategies might apply to technical writing. Beyond the specifics of any particular strategy, the larger application to tech comm is to simply formulate a strategy, to think strategically about how to "win" at technical writing. With that, let's jump into five basketball strategies.
Balancing product overviews with getting started tutorials
In my experience writing documentation, at least two topics seem to be frequently neglected: product overviews and getting started tutorials. Not all the time — many companies also have great product overviews and excellent getting started tutorials. But I often have the misfortune of arriving at documentation portals and feeling lost, and I don't find much help in the product overview. If there's a getting started tutorial (not usually), my success rate for getting through it is low.
Write the Docs Podcast Episode 34: Adding personality to documentation, with Fabrizio Ferri
In this podcast, Fabrizio Ferri joins us for a discussion about adding both personal identity and personality to documentation. Why are the docs we write so often anonymous, and does that anonymity work against career progression? Are tech writers, typically introverts, averse to publicity, or does our industry not allow for it? And if you want to be a "personality" in the tech communications world, what do you do? How do you add personality constructively to your work without disrupting corporate brand and consistency?
Five project management responsibilities of senior technical writers
Last week I wrote a post about ambiguous content and how one aspect of being a senior tech writer is taking on more ambiguous projects. In this post, I want to continue this thread on what it means to be a senior tech writer, or even a lead technical writer. But rather than exploring ambiguous content, senior/lead tech writers also have a lot more project/program management responsibilities as well. There are at least five key responsibilities I'll explore here: prioritizing work, defining doc strategies, organizing work among multiple writers, reviewing contributions, and reporting upward.
Trying to get back to normal
As the pandemic winds down in the US, I've been trying to get back to normal. I've been especially motivated to find this normal because I made both a job transition and a home relocation during the pandemic, so I don't have the context of what normal even looks and feels like. I can't "return to my workplace" because I'd never seen my new workplace. I don't dread the commute because I'd never made the commute (from my new home). Since moving to Renton, which is 30 minutes below Seattle, my experience has mostly been within the walls of our home and the green woods here. So for the past couple of weeks, I've set about experimenting with several ways to return to normal. In doing so, I've been surprised by how much I've forgotten.
Paligo: Structured Authoring and Component Content Management made easy
Paligo is an online XML-based CCMS for authoring teams that are either looking to level up from help authoring tools to robust structured authoring and component content management, or for teams that want to escape the complexity and cost of their legacy CCMS. Paligo simplifies structured authoring with a visual interface that teams can access through an online portal. In this post, I explain Paligo's context within the CCMS landscape, how it's different from HAT tools, and why it's a documentation solution worth considering for both enterprises and small businesses.
Experiments: Leaving reviews on Google Maps
A few months ago, I decided to start leaving reviews on Google Maps of nearly every place I visited. The result has made me feel more empowered.
10 characteristics of ambiguous content
As a senior technical writer, part of my job description is to focus on tackling "ambiguous" content, as opposed to more straightforward content that is more commonly assigned to non-senior technical writers. At first, I wasn't entirely sure what "ambiguous content" meant (that fuzziness is part of its definition), but this has come into focus more over the past few months. Here I'd like to describe what ambiguous content means, as it helps identify content that has characteristics I've encountered for years.
Experiments: Will reading a physical newspaper improve the way I consume news?
Lately I've been trying trying something that I call life experiments. These are goals that I adopt for about 50 days and then evaluate their impact on my life. With this experiment, I decided to stop reading the news on my phone and to instead read a physical newspaper delivered to my house each day.
Experiments: What would happen if I exercised 2 hours a day?
Lately I've been trying trying something that I call life experiments. These are goals that I adopt for about 50 days and then evaluate their impact on my life. The reason for 50 days is to give the experiment sufficient time to have had an impact. If I keep an experiment for a week or two only, it's hard to see what change it makes. So far, my first life experiment — exercising two hours a day — has been been an interesting one.
Balancing action with narration: Creating product overviews and getting started tutorials to satisfy both try-first and read-first learning modes
This is an abstract for a presentation that I'm thinking about creating. In a nutshell, the presentation focuses on finding the right balance between action-oriented task writing and big picture narrative product overviews — both of which seem to be opposing but complementary content types in technical communication. I'm floating this presentation draft here to gather feedback and refine the direction a bit more.
An in-depth look at MadCap Flare 2021’s New Markdown Import Feature
MadCap Flare’s first major new release of 2021 includes, among other new features, the ability to import Markdown files. There are several workflows where this Markdown import could be useful, most notably in scenarios where tech writers support multiple engineering teams that author READMEs and other how-to content in code repos.