What is technical communication, actually?

As a technical communicator, sometimes it can be hard to explain to others what it is you do. In the olden days, it was simpler: you could say you wrote manuals. Then, in more recent times, you could say you wrote online Help and manuals.

Today, there can be uncertainty of what is and isn’t technical communication. It can be unclear if certain deliverables should be created by a technical communicator or by someone else. For example, if content moves from a Help page to an onboarding screen, is it still technical communication? If the text moves into the interface, should the technical communicator create it? Are walkthrough videos a function of training or technical communication?
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A day in the life of a technical communicator – interviews on YouTube

For the ISTC’s YouTube Channel, Ellis Pratt (Cherryleaf) is interviewing a number of technical communicators.

Here is Adrian Warman (IBM Cloudant):

Here is Brian Harris (Red Gate Software):

There’ll be more interviews in the coming weeks.

What it’s like to be a Technical Author

We’re planning to carry out a number of videoed interviews with a range of Technical Authors this week. This is to help promote the profession. We’ll be asking questions such as what their role is inside their companies, and how they became a Technical Author.

The videos will be uploaded to the YouTube Channel for the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, once we’ve edited and published them.

 

Wanted: API documentation writers

The demand for API documentation writers continues to increase, and we have a new vacancy for a contract API documentation writer on our books. In this case, you need to have a background in/a good understanding of the C programming language.

We may have another requirement for a similar person, again working from home, coming up very soon. If you’d like to be informed of this and other similar vacancies, simply register with Cherryleaf’s Recruitment team.

New Technical Author vacancy – Cambridge, £28K-£40K DOE

One of the most successful software companies in Cambridge is looking to recruit a Technical Author to join its team. The company has grown rapidly over recent years, based on a philosophy of hiring great people, providing an enjoyable working culture and environment, and building great products.

For more information, see #4137 Technical Author, Cambridge, £28K-£40K DOE

Writers shouldn’t code… or should they?

Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Dr. Tony Self of HyperWrite. Tony will delivering DITA training during October at Cherryleaf’s training centre in London. 

Code ninja tshirt flickr creative commons image by juhansoninIn the field of technical communication, an argument crops up from time to time saying that technical communicators shouldn’t have to know anything about XML, because writing is writing, and XML is coding, and never the twain should meet. Dissecting the argument, it appears that the underlying claim is “language first; technology and tools later”.

In many cases, it seems the logic gets a little lost. I have heard statements along the line of “if you can’t string a sentence together, knowing about XML elements and attributes won’t make you a technical writer”, as if those skills are mutually exclusive.

My first observation is that the debate is often poorly framed. XML is not precise enough a term; what does “knowing about XML” mean? XML is an enormous field, covering programming, writing, archeology, journalism, eLearning, spacecraft design, mathematics, chemistry, audio recording, banking, gambling, engine management, and pretty much every field of human endeavour. So in a discussion about the role of XML in technical communication, we need to define what we mean by XML. Bearing in mind that XML is principally a standard for creating XML languages, the XML languages (or applications, in XML terminology) of interest to technical communicators are probably DITA, DocBook, XHTML, SVG, MathML, and XLIFF.

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How many Technical Authors are in the UK? Here’s the answer

woman reading bookIt’s quite difficult to know how many Technical Authors there are in the United Kingdom. The profession doesn’t have its own Standard Occupational Classification code, so there are no official statistics.

We can estimate the number of Technical Authors in the IT sector. One way to do this is by looking at the total number people working in the IT and the percentage of permanent IT job vacancies that are advertising for a Technical Author.
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