“Bad information is Marketing’s fault problem. Good information is Tech Comms’ specialty. Let’s do the maths.”

inbound marketing and technical communicationsThe quotation in the title is from Roger Hart’s presentation at last week’s TCUK14 conference. Roger is a product marketing manager who spent a few years as a Technical Author. In his presentation, Collateral damage: do marketing and tech comms have to fight when users get informed?, he explained some of the most powerful marketing content today is high quality user information – especially the content that Technical Authors produce.

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Your policy and procedures manual as software

Jared Spool tweeted this morning:

HyperCard was a hypertext program that came with Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. It allowed you to create “stacks” of online cards, which organsiations used to create some of the first online guides. It also contained a scripting language called HyperTalk that a non-programmer could easily learn. This meant HyperCard could do more than just display content: it could be used to create books, games (such as Myst), develop oil-spill models, and even dial the telephone.

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Location of Technical Authors – new data added to the map

location of technical authors August 2014

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.

 

Is it ok for technical communicators to experiment on users?

Experiment sign Flickr CC image by jurvetsonBBC 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?

Creating a map showing the location of Technical Authors

Sarah Maddox’s post on how she has added “techcomm titbits” onto an interactive map, prompted me to look at whether we could create a map showing the location of Technical Authors around the UK. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years, and Sarah’s post suggested it was much easier to do these days, thanks to Google’s applications.

The map needs data, so if you are a Technical Author, please add your details to the map:

We will not include your name or email address on the map. However we do need your name and email address in order to check the integrity of the data and to update you of any developments. You can use the postcode of a neighbouring street, if you wish.

We currently have an intermittent problem with our website. If you see an Error Establishing Database connection message, please refresh the page and it should appear.

RoboHelp 11 review (finally)

robohelp logoAdobe released its latest version of RoboHelp Version 11 (and Technical Communications Suite 5), a while back and asked if we could write a review. There have been a number of excellent reviews, so we’ve been wondering what extra we can say. We’ve decided to address some of the questions we’re often asked by organisations when they’re deciding which Help Authoring Tool to choose.

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What would a Technical Author ask from Santa?

Santa Claus - WikipediaSaint Nicholas’s day has passed, which means Christmas is getting close. So what would a Technical Author ask from Santa Claus?

One thing we could request is the ability to embed one Google document inside another. That would mean that Google Docs could support some basic content reuse.

Another would be to request Madcap Flare’s DITA support to be extended, so that you could create edit native DITA files.

We could ask him to provide a standard technology format for providing Help for mobile applications.

We could also ask him for a way to use Siri and Google Voice Search to interact with our user guides.

So what would you ask Santa to bring? Please share your thoughts and ideas below.

The business benefits of DITA – in graphic novel form

DITA graphic novel - page 4We’ve put together a free illustrated guide that explains the business benefits of the DITA authoring and publishing standard.

It’s suitable for Technical Authors and non-Technical Authors.

You’ll find this guide is in graphic novel (or comic) format, comprising 18 colour pages.

You can download the guide from the Cherryleaf website in EPUB, PDF and MOBI formats.

 

Shortly, we’ll be adding new details on DITA training courses, to the Cherryleaf website: one for beginners and one for advanced users. This will include dates in the autumn for classroom courses. These courses will be held in Westminster.

Contact us if you’re interested in online DITA courses. We may have some details to reveal shortly.

See: Free illustrated guide to the business benefits of DITA

See also: DITA training courses in London and online