I met up with a Technical Author at the Technical Communications UK 2013 conference whom I’ve been talking to on the phone over recent months. She’s been trying to convince her bosses that they should take a less chaotic approach to producing user documentation.
I’d previously suggested she look at how much it was costing them to translate their user documentation, so they could build a business case around that. She thought they were translating the user documentation into eight languages, but, at the conference, she told me that she’d discovered it was actually 24.
With that amount of localisation, there’s an opportunity for some significant savings if they could re-use content from one Help system in another.
Gloria Swanson and Maxwell Hoffmann at TCUK 2013. Maxwell is the one on the right.
I got back from the Technical Communications UK 2013 conference (TCUK) late last night. It was a very enjoyable and well run conference (again), where I often wished I could attend all three of the parallel sessions running each hour.
Here is a slightly disorganised reflection on the conference.
Google Glass, a wearable computer with a screen above the right eye, goes on sale in 2014. Glass is almost certainly going to be used to support maintenance and repair calls, providing technicians (and other types of user) with the ability to access manuals and discuss situations with remote colleagues.
So are your user manuals, and the other content users might need to access, compatible with Google Glass?
In a recent post on StackExchange, Dr. Chris Atherton mentioned some of the challenges email creates for organisations looking to develop an effective content or intranet strategy:
“You’re living out of your inbox and the company’s intranet. And now people are asking you whether you read that thing that they emailed you and posted on the intranet, because there’s no clearly-defined policy regarding which communiqués belong in which medium — and besides, lots of the people who’ve worked here for years still send emails and attachments, because it’s easier than figuring out the new system, even though they’ve supposedly been on the training course. (Of course, if you do have an intranet if you really want people to live there, you could ban email.)”
Email serves many functions: it’s a medium for one-to-one and one-to-many conversations (replacing the spoken word); it’s a way of communicating policy and procedures (replacing printed documents); it’s a way of sending files; it’s a way of communicating news; and so on. It does most of these inefficiently, resulting in information overload, redundancy and poor information governance. So what can we do about it?
One of the most common questions we’re asked is how to become a Technical Author. We have an ebook on becoming a Technical Author that addresses this in detail, but let’s provide some general advice by looking at what you should consider when writing your CV.