How important is video to Technical Authors?

Internet Psychologist Graham Jones addressed this question in his most recent weekly email.

He said:

Video is everywhere online. Indeed, YouTube is now the second biggest search engine, according to recent figures. When people can’t find what they want on Google, they turn instead to YouTube to find an answer, before they head off to alternative search engines such as Bing or Yahoo…

As you read this, 2,200 videos are being watched online at this very moment in time. Every day 184m videos are downloaded…

Who, for instance, would have thought that a video showing how electricians can use a tool for wrapping wires would be interesting? Yet, it receives an average of 8 views per day – so far totting up over 7,000 views on YouTube alone. True, this is not viral, but take a look at the statistical graph that YouTube shows for each video like this. In other words, even with comparatively boring topics, video is becoming more and more important online. If video were merely something interesting to add to a website as part of the furniture you would not expect the growth in viewing that videos like this receive.

Graham argues you cannot afford to ignore video. Whilst it is a requirement for your company’s online (i.e Web site) presence, do audiences expect it in the online Help and other forms of support documentation? Possibly not yet, but how long will it be before video is a fundamental part of User Assistance?

I have a great respect for Graham and his expertise, and video is something we’ve been implementing for a while (as an aside, we are both speaking at an event on Social Media later this month).

I’m sure neither of us would argue that video will replace text. Instead, people will expect information to be delivered through a variety of media.

The questions for Technical Authors are:

  • Can they be sure they will be the people creating this type of information?
  • If someone else does the work, will the Technical Author’s relevance and importance take a step down the corporate ladder?
  • If they are expected to do this work, do they have the skills to do a good job of it?
  • Which will come first – the video or the text? Will it be easier to create the video and transcribe the text, or to create a video from the information provided in a user guide?

YouTube was founded as recently as 2005, and the growth of video has been stratospheric since then. The need for Technical Authors to develop their video strategy may come sooner than they think.

Turning a Technical Author’s work on its head

Q. What’s the most popular wiki in the world?
A. Most people know the answer to this: It’s Wikipedia.

Q. What’s the second most popular wiki in the world?
A. It may surprise you to know that it’s WoWWiki, a wiki comprising over 250,000 articles and information. It may also surprise you to know it’s about playing a game – World of Warcraft.

So the second most popular wiki in the world is, to all intents and purposes, a user manual. And the biggest and most popular user manual in the world is (a) a wiki and (b) for a game.

We came across this fact in researching gamification and its potential use in technical documentation. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking on this subject at the UA Europe 11 conference in June, and it’s one of the topics we discuss in an book  on technical documentation trends, which we’ll be publishing shortly.

So where does turning a Technical Author’s work on its head come in to all of this?

Technical Authors spend a lot of time making life easier for users. However, according to games researcher Jane McGonigal, one of the key reasons why games are so hugely popular is because:

Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, making the goal of finding out the answer more challenging might be more rewarding for the user. Perhaps it might even leave a greater imprint on their memory.

Instead of the Technical Author developing and providing a Table of Contents for the user, could we even see a scenario where the user creates his own collection of information and organises it as he sees fit? Could the Technical Author’s role be not to organise and arrange the information, but instead to provide (a) some (but not all) of the information and (b) a platform where the user can store and organise it for themselves? It’s an approach similar to Pokémon (“gotta catch them all”), where children gain immense pleasure from collecting cards and building their own personal battle decks.  It’s also similar to the FLOSS Manuals website’s ability for users to remix their own personal user guides.

Pokemon logo
Let’s reassure you not all the applications of games theory to User Assistance are as unusual as this. What do you think – could the concepts from games theory add value to User Assistance and could they turn the work that Technical Authors do on its head?

Why we’ve had a rebrand today- and why we need dancers

Following our introduction of seashoring this time last year, we’re excited to announce, on this special day, a rebranding of our company. We’re trialling the rebrand on this blog during today, so do let us know your thoughts.

Copying the success of car reseller, we’ve decided to change our name to

This name change is being accompanied by an extensive TV advertising campaign during repeats of Countdown on Dave. Please note, the advert’s lyrics are not representative of our writing:,, – any, any, any any. – any type, any module, any age, any price, from fifty screens to a hundred grand.,, – any, any, any any. – try a newer approach and don’t get vexed, get fewer calls when your Help’s best. – enter your phone number now at

We are currently looking for dancers for the recording of this advert. If you specialise in burlesque, the charleston or the can-can, and you have extensive knowledge of RoboHelp 7 or later, then do let us know.

Now the official Technical Authoring partner to the England Football team

We also delighted to announce this change coincides with us becoming the official Technical Authoring partner to the England Football team. We’ll be providing the technical documentation for programs developed by the England players in their leisure time.

According to the team’s manager Fabio Capello,

The lads find it a good way to exercise the brain after a training session. Once they heard that David Beckham had written some of the code in FarmVille, they all wanted to have a go.

Photo (c) Mark Frauenfelder

This is a first for a technical authoring company, although no doubt others will be following in our footsteps.

As always, we welcome your comments (below) on these developments.