Selecting the right Technical Author to recruit for your organisation

It’s been a while since we added an article to our Web site (these days we tend to post content to this blog), but we’ve just written one called Selecting the right Technical Author to recruit for your organisation.

The role of the technical author (also known as Technical Writer or Information Developer) is one that many would-be hirers are unfamiliar with.

As it is a specialist profession, it can be difficult for organisations to recruit good technical authors. Firstly, there can be challenges in developing the job description, setting an appropriate salary and finding a suitable recruitment agency. Secondly, there is the challenge of selecting the right candidate from the list of CVs you receive and the people you interview.

Continue reading

I’m a technical author – Dispelling the myth (Redux)

Back by popular demand:

A while back, we invited you all to challenge this by sending us photos showing the technical writer in a different light, doing things that counteract that stereotype. We’ve decided to run this again. So if you are a technical author and you’d like to be included, contact us and send us a photo, together with your name and location.

To join in, see I’m a technical author – Dispelling the myth.

What makes a good writing test for a Technical Author?

We’re currently working on developing some new tests to assist clients who need to assess the writing skills of candidate Technical Authors. Writing test papers is a challenging task – it goes against the grain to make mistakes deliberately!

English is a language where sentences can be written in many different ways. Today, many people would find “to boldly go” to be acceptable, as well as the more traditional “to go boldly”. I was taught to use Oxford commas (but not in lists), whereas many of my colleagues prefer the grammar rules taught to TEFL tutors. It means, often, there can be more than one answer that’s acceptable. The ultimate goal to communicate information to users in an understandable way.

We believe it’s best to create a series of tests. Our tests comprise a proofreading test,  an editing test and an exercise requiring the candidate to write some instructions.

What approach do you take?

Take part in the Cherryleaf user documentation strategy survey 2011

Involved in user documentation? Then please take part in the Cherryleaf user documentation strategy survey 2011.

It aims to take a strategic look at user documentation, looking at aspects such as the purpose and value of (and future trends in) user documentation. By user documentation, we mean user guides, online Help, web based Help, screencasts and other forms of user assistance.

There are 33 short questions in this survey, and it should take about 5 6-7 minutes to complete.

All replies are confidential.

Thank you for taking part.

Cherryleaf user documentation strategy survey 2011.

UAEurope 2011 conference review

UAEurope 2011 was possibly the most enjoyable and interesting conference in its long history.

Sonia Fuga of Northgate explained how they are using DITA, WordPress and Web 2.0 features to streamline the documentation process, simplify the review process and deliver interactive context sensitive Help for one of their larger applications. Delegates were interested in how their new Help included Google-like search results (produced by referencing DITA elements within the topics) and the ability for users to provide feedback and obtain notifications of content updates via RSS feeds.

Leah Guren presented her research into to the cultural dimensions of software Help usage. Her insights into the use of (and opinions towards) Help by beginners and advanced users were fascinating and counter-intuitive.

My presentation on applying games techniques to User Assistance seemed to have been well received.

In a number of presentations, there was the recognition that many users now go to the search engines when they get stuck. For those that can publish their Help on the Web, this poses no great problem. However, for those who are unable to do this (for confidentiality, security, legal or other reasons), they face the challenge of how to guide users away from the search engines and towards their Help. There were a number of approaches presented, and I suspect this issue will be raised and discussed again at future conferences.

On the Cherryleaf stand, located in the exhibition area, we were giving away cherry Sencha leaf tea, leaflets and some stickers. The stickers proved far and away the most popular.

How Microsoft and Oracle are using online Help to improve their SEO

The UAEurope 2011 conference last week comprised many great presentations and a lot of useful information. One interesting piece of news was that both Microsoft and Oracle have been including their online Help content (and other forms of User Assistance) as part of their SEO strategy.

By publishing the Help on the Web and optimising it for the search engines, these Help pages now appear at the top of Bing and Google. This has boosted the overall performance of both companies’ Web sites, and it has meant that users are going to the “official” information when they have searched for answers to their problems.

Help in your line of sight

In an article called “The Future of Advertising will be Integrated“, Mark Suster argues readers’ attention is focussed on text and not the banners around it. This “banner blindness” is leading advertisers to move their messages to “the stream”. An example of this is Twitter’s promoted tweets service, where advertisers can pay for a tweet to be featured on Twitter for a day.

If we’re seeing a move towards “integrated advertising”, does this mean we should also be putting online Help in “the stream” as well? Rather than waiting to be called up via the F1 key or Help button, should User Assistance be placed where readers’ attention lies? Should Help be integrated into the stream, too?