Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Can technical authors be "part of the conversation"?

I was reading a post by an acquaintance of mine, William Buist, on how advertising will need to change in the future.

He wrote:

"At a recent conference Mark Zuckerberg, the 23 year old boss of Facebook was talking to 250 or so “middle aged” advertising executives about the news ways that Facebook envisaged advertising developing. His thoughts are indeed interesting. “For the last 100 years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be part of the conversation”. That phrase - 'Part of the conversation’ caught my eye. What does it mean to you?"

Surely technical communicators will face a similar challenge - to be part of "the conversation" in the connected Web 2.0 world that's emerging.

William posed some questions for advertisers that can be also posed to the technical authoring community:

- If we are going to be part of the conversation, will we be let in?
- What would make people do that?
- Once we are in the conversation how can we best add value to that conversation?

Other questions arise:

- Will engaging with a community in a social networking environment create a new and better way of providing user assistance?
- Will social networks create an opportunity for technical communicators to eavesdrop a conversation as well as take part of it?
- Will the rise of streaming websites both for audio and video such as YouTube enable technical communicators to be more viral in their efforts to provide effective user assistance?
- Will technical communicators see snippets of their technical information embedded in other people's Web pages?
- Might the lines between technical support and technical authors start to cross over?

Where do this all go?

William concludes:

"The advertisers who get this right, who deliver to us the right products or service at the right price at the time we need will clean up. The ones who get it wrong could considerably destroy the brands behind the advertising. One thing is certain, the face of advertising is changing. The need for more contextual advertising is clear and the willingness of brands and businesses to engage at the conversation in a social networking environment is becoming more paramount."

If you substitute "technical communicators" for "advertiser", then we could probably say the same thing.

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