The Language of Technical Communication book has been released

The Language of Technical Communication book is a collaborative effort with fifty-two contributors defining the terms that form the core of technical communication as it is practiced today. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt was one of the contributors.

Each contributed term has a concise definition, an importance statement, and an essay that describes why technical communicators need to know that term.

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Customers as Advocates Conference 2016

I thought I’d mention a conference I’ll be attending this month – The Customers as Advocates Conference.

“Customers as Advocates” focuses on the challenges of creating successful customer relationships that lead to reference and case study programmes.”

Although it is aimed at professionals that sell and market enterprise technology, I found it very informative, as a great deal of it relates to User Assistance and other forms of technical communication.

I attended this (free) conference last year, and I particularly enjoyed the presentations on developing and nurturing a thriving community of advocates.

“More than 70 percent of the buying journey is complete before a customer looks at your marketing or engages with sales. Who are your prospects and customers speaking to, and what are they sharing about the experience?” Ian Williams, Director, Jericho Consulting

The conference will be held on Thursday 26 May, in London.

Microsoft launches its new documentation site, and it’s very good

Microsoft has announced the preview release of its documentation service, https://docs.microsoft.com, which currently provides content for its Enterprise Mobility products.

“We interviewed and surveyed hundreds of developers and IT Pros and sifted through your website feedback over the years on UserVoice. It was clear we needed to make a change and create a modern web experience for content…For years customers have told us to go beyond walls of text with feature-level content and help them implement solutions to their business problems.” (source)

The key features are:

  • Improved readability
    • “To improve content readability, we changed the site to have a set content width.”
    • “We’ve also increased the font size for the left navigation and the text itself.”
  • Including an estimated reading time
  • Adding a publication date
  • Improved navigation
    • It is now based around sections on evaluating, getting started, planning, deploying, managing and troubleshooting
  • Shortened article length per page
  • Responsive Web Design
  • Community contributions
    • “Every article has an Edit button that takes you to the source Markdown file in GitHub, where you can easily submit a pull request to fix or improve content.”
  • Feedback mechanisms
    • To provide comments and annotations on all of the articles
  • Friendly URLs
  • Website theming
    • You can change between a light and dark theme

Wow – this matches closely with the topics we cover in our Advanced technical writing & new trends in technical communication training course, where we look at the changes made by other organisations.

Although it doesn’t mention it in its announcement, Microsoft has also made changes to the style of its topic headings and content. There’s frequent use of words and phrases such as “protect”, “discover” and “understand and explore”.

We’ve yet to look at the site in detail, but initial impressions are very positive.

What do you think?

Call for trainers: technical communication and content strategy

Are you a top professional in the technical communication or content strategy fields, with a passion to teach and share your knowledge with others? Cherryleaf is extending its range of training courses, which focus on technical communication and content strategy topics, and we are looking for trainers with expertise and excellent teaching skills.

Cherryleaf handles all customer registration, payment processing, administration and any hosting fees, and we work on a straightforward and fair revenue share model. For online course development, you’ll be able to use our video recording studio and our course design tools.

If you are interested, contact Cherryleaf now.

The Internet of Things – creating a user guide for a fridge door

The Internet of Things (IoT) is, according to Wikipedia, the network of physical objects – devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The popular example is the concept of a smart fridge that could warn you when it was out of milk.

Yesterday, we spotted a tweet mentioning SeeNote, a digital version of the sticky notes people use around the house and office.

This got us wondering if it were possible to create a digital user guide that could be:

  • Stuck on the wall (or the fridge door)
  • Have a screen that was always on
  • Automatically update itself
  • Notify you when there was new information
  • Run without mains power for approximately a month between charges.

The SeeNote is a little too small for that purpose, so could another e-ink device, such as an ebook reader, be configured to work in this way?

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Our approach to writing procedures documentation

Yesterday, I went on walk to celebrate the life of Richard White, and I was asked by someone on the walk how we tackle procedures writing projects. They asked two great questions: Do you use templates, and which tools do you use?

I thought it might be useful to describe our approach.
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Creating documentation in a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery environment

Creating user documentation and online Help in a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery environment can be challenging for technical communicators and developers.

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MadWorld 2016 Conference Review – Day Two

Last week, I spoke at, and attended, Madworld 2016, the conference hosted by MadCap Software for its users. Here is a summary of what I saw and heard on the second day. These were mostly for advanced users; I didn’t see any of the presentations aimed at new users of Flare.

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