One of the requirements of being a Technical Author is capturing information provided by others. This means you’re often taking notes, scribbling madly into a notebook as the other person speaks. So can technology help? Recently, we’ve been looking at some of the technology that might be able to help with taking notes. Continue reading
The Institute of Technical Communicators has kindly provided us with additional data for our Location of Technical Authors map. They’ve supplied us with an anonymised list of the location of ISTC members. These are indicated by the peach coloured pins on the map.
It confirms the locations where there are shortages of Technical Authors, with the exception of two areas: Birmingham and Glasgow. It also suggests new clusters: one around Colchester and Ipswich, and another around Cardiff.
BBC News is reporting the OKCupid Website has revealed that it experimented on its users. It decided to reveal the tests after the discovery that Facebook had been manipulating the feeds of its users.
It’s possible for anyone to run experiments on web pages, including technical communicators. You can display one page for 50% of your audience and a different page for the other 50%. Organisations carry out these tests to see if there is any change in user behaviour as a result of making a change to the site.
According to Christian Rudder of OKCupid:
“It’s not like people have been building these things for very long, or you can go look up a blueprint or something. Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”
So is it ok for Technical Authors to experiment on users? If it results in the creation of better, more effective, Web pages would you, as a user, object? Clearly, most of us would object to a website manipulating us or causing potential harm – could that ever apply to the type of experimentation a Technical Author might carry out?
Since I wrote the post on Technical communication as a brand, we’ve been working on an idea we had for promoting the profession. The end result is another story, another free graphic novel you can download, called The CEO and the technical communicator.
It’s published under a Creative Commons licence, so anyone can forward it on, as long as they don’t modify it or sell it.
There’s a lot of factual evidence about the value of technical communicators to an organisation (such as the ROI calculators on our website), so we thought we’d see if we could appeal to the heart as well as the head by using a story-based approach.
Technical communication comes in many forms, so there were some challenges in coming up with something that was representative of the whole profession. Partly to get around this, the document shows people’s reactions to the content created, rather than showing the content itself. It also uses the word “content’ as a catch-all for document, manual, book, Help file, Web page, illustration, and so on.
We’ve also developed an ISTC-branded version that the Institute for Technical Communicators could use itself to promote the profession. We’ve sent it to to the ISTC Council for their consideration and comments. The document might be modified if they ask for any changes to be made; for example, we’re wondering if there should be greater emphasis on the writing aspect of the role.
You can download the Cherryleaf version from our website. Let us know what you think, using the comments below or by email.
We’re just starting to record the video inserts for a new online training course we’re developing. As I’ll presenting at the TCUK 2014 conference on on this topic, I thought I’d take a few photos in case they come in handy during my TCUK presentation.
We record the presenter actually presenting the slides, as this results in a more natural presentation style. The presenter sees the slides on the laptop, and we use the laptop’s camera for recording the video.
Previously, we’ve recorded to a white background, but for this course, we’re going to be using a green screen. We record the audio using a USB microphone and a digital voice recorder. This means we have two audio recordings of the presentation.
The presenter sees a copy of the slides on the laptop screen, which he can progress through using a remote control. He also sees the script via a teleprompter on a tablet.
The green screen (we use chroma-key to remove the background) is giving us more consistent results than having a white background.
It’s a comparatively low budget setup, and it seems to work.
Wierd Weird Al” Yankovic’s song about English grammar is actually quite good, and it will appeal to many Technical Authors.
It’s important that someone’s message is communicated clearly, and grammar can help achieve that goal. However, the English language is always evolving. Rules change over time, and people should never be too pedantic.
What do you think?
Mike Atherton, Lead Instructor at General Assembly London, tweeted a link to a 2011interview with Ted Nelson on the future of text, document abstraction and transclusion.
Ted Nelson is one of the pioneers of information technology. He has been credited as being the first person to use the words hypertext and hypermedia (although he denies this), transclusion and virtuality.
It’s an interesting description of how content should be independent of format and media, so it can be portable, re-usable and presented in ways that best suit a reader’s needs.
The Cherryleaf website and our email system were down this morning (14 July 14), due to an ICANN/DNS renewal issue. Apologies if you sent us an email and it bounced back.