The big questions in technical communication

David Farbey wrote a semi-existentialist post on the challenges for technical communicators yesterday. I’d like to look at the issue in a different way, by looking at the big questions in technical communication today. The answers to these questions (which may be decided by people outside of the profession) are likely to affect the future direction for technical communicators.

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2014′s Top 50 most influential Techcomm experts

Mindtouch has published its latest (2014) list of most influential Techcomm experts, and, once again, Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf is ranked as the highest ranked technical communications professional outside of the USA.

Little Bird measures  the popularity and frequency of people’s blog posts, tweets and activities on sites like Facebook and YouTube, so this is a list of of influencers across the social web:

MindTouch has been publishing these reports since 2009 by using data generated from Little Bird to amplify success, create new relationships, and spark discussions.

Who influences you, and how do they influence you? Does the social web have any influence on your role as a technical communicator? Please share your thoughts.

Destination San Diego

madworld banner

Ellis will be in San Diego next week, speaking at Madcap Software’s MadWorld 2014 conference. If you’re going to the conference, be sure to say hello.

Madcap makes a big thing about the conference cookies, so any questions in Ellis’ conference sessions will be rewarded with biscuits or British sweets.

You can follow the conference on Twitter via the #madworld2014 hashtag.

Issues for developers moving from on-premises software to Software as a Service.

On Monday, I spoke at the Visma Developer Days conference in Riga, Latvia, about some issues software companies have to address when migrating from developing on-premises software to Software as a Service.

One of the of the biggest changes is that the revenues are spread over the lifetime of customer – they pay on a monthly basis rather than an initial up-front payment. It becomes vital customers don’t give up on using the software after only a short while, because you won’t have earnt much income from that customer. If the software is difficult to use, and if users cannot find the answers to questions when they need them, there’s a good chance they will stop using the software, and stop paying their subscription fees.

We’re seeing a number of software companies changing their approach to providing user assistance (user documentation). More companies are thinking about it at the start of the project, so they can do a better job of delivering user documentation than they’ve done for on-premises software. They’re seeing documentation as part of the customer journey, and part of the design process.

This is welcome news, although it requires development teams to combine product design with information design. I wonder if there’ll be similar trends emerging at the next conference I’ll be attending – MadWorld 2014.

Lars-Po Faydöl: The man you see in every Ikea installation guide

ikea man

Lars-Po Faydöl is a person you’ve probably seen hundreds of time, yet it’s unlikely any of you know who he is. Lars-Po works for Ikea, and the reason why you’re likely to have seen his face is that he appears in pretty much every installation guide that Ikea supplies.

You might not recognise him from his photograph, as he is represented in the guides as a two dimensional, line-drawn character, such as this:

ikea man

I bumped into him recently at a Solo Pal Friday networking event, and I asked how he ended up becoming one of the few “instruction life models” in the world. He said:

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