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The results from the Stack Overflow 2016 survey have been announced this week. It identified poor documentation as the second most common workplace gripe for developers.
We asked Technical Authors to complete a survey into the issues and challenges they face in 2016 and beyond. There were four main themes that stood out:
- Issues around working in an Agile environment.
- A need to develop skills in creating training screencasts. This included how to use tools, structuring and presenting content, and the ideal length of each video.
- Improving the status of Technical Authors and the Technical Publications department in the organisation. This topic has come up in previous surveys.
- Developing skills in using DITA.
We’ve looked at Agile recently, and we’ll revisit the other topics in the upcoming months.
Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey.
We received an email today:
Having read your paper titled ‘How many technical writers should we have in our organisation?’, I was wondering if you ever did the follow up the final results from you survey as mentioned in the paper and if they are available?
This refers to an article we wrote in 2003, where we looked at research on ‘standard’ ratios between developers and Technical Authors. We said we’d Cherryleaf would be producing a report on the final results from our survey this summer, but we didn’t obtain any new information that needed to be added to our preliminary report.
Have things changed since 2003?
There are some software tools for automating the creation of some API documentation, and organisations that have moved from Microsoft Word to a component-based content management system are likely to need to spend less time on the “look and feel” and formatting of the published content. However, we doubt these have had a major effect on the productivity of technical communicators.
An alternative way to determine the ratio
There is another way to look at the ratio of technical communicators to programmers – one we didn’t discuss in our original report. You could use the job sites to look at the total number of vacancies for programmers and the total number of technical communicators, and generate a rough-and-ready ratio that way.
It’s a rough estimate, because the job sites contain duplicate vacancies (a job can be advertised by more than one agency) and job titles can vary.
Looking at the reed.co.uk site today, there are currently 134 vacancies for Technical Authors and 761 vacancies for Programmers. That suggests a ratio of 17.6% , or roughly one in six technical communicators to programmers.
What do you think?
Please share your comments below.
We were looking at some of the survey results from the ISTC’s 2015 survey of technical communicators in the UK.
The survey reported:
- 37.5% of the respondents worked as the sole technical communicator in their organisation.
- 76% worked in an organisation with six technical communicators or fewer.
This means, in the UK, it’s harder to justify the ROI of large scale content management systems. With less content being created, the benefits may not outweigh the cost of the software. It also means that UK technical communicators need to rely more on resources outside their company if they want to develop with skills and keep up to date with trends.
The ISTC’s next survey is due for release in February 2016. We suspect we’ll find similar findings in that report.
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.