Atlassian no longer lets users comment on its documentation – good or bad news?

Last week, Atlassian sent out this message on Twitter:

This was a surprise, as Atlassian has been a strong advocate for having user comments appended to user documentation. Sarah Maddox, when she was working at Atlassian, posted the reasons why the company encouraged comments on her personal blog:

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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 2015 book list for Technical Communicators

Two years ago, we asked which books should Technical Authors read, and we received some great responses. It’s always worth revisiting this topic, so please let us know what we should add to this list:

  • Author Experience: Bridging the gap between people and technology in content management; Rick Yagodich
  • Best Practices for Technical Writers and Editors (IBM Press 3 book collection): DITA, Quality, and Style; Francis DeRespinis, Peter Hayward, Jana Jenkins, Amy Laird, Leslie McDonald and Eric Radzinski
  • Central Works in Technical Communication; Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart Selber
  • Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content; Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  • Content Strategy for Mobile; Karen McGrane
  • Content Strategy for the Web; Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
  • Conversation and Community; Anne Gentle
  • DITA for Practitioners Volume 1: Architecture and Technology; Eliot Kimber
  • Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Text for Readers; Karen Schriver
  • Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide; Ann Rockley and Kevin Nichols
  • Information Space; Max Boisot
  • Letting Go of the Words; Ginny Redish
  • Managing Your Documentation Projects; JoAnn Hackos
  • Microsoft Manual of Style; Microsoft
  • Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation; Kurt Ament
  • Technical Communication; Mike Markel
  • Technical Editing; Judith Taritz
  • The Insider’s Guide to Technical Writing; Krista Van Laan
  • The Language of Content Strategy; Scott Abel and Rahel Bailie
  • The Nurnberg Funnel: Designing Minimalist Instruction for Practical Computer Skill; John Carroll

Webinar recording of the changing nature of technical content

STC France-TCeurope has published a recording of Ellis’ webinar presentation on the changing nature of technical content. The presentation lasted 50 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers:

What should be on our roadmap for training courses in technical communications?

We thought it would be useful to reflect on our plans for topics and courses in technical communications. In the past, some of the best suggestions have come from customers and prospects; it’s great to pick up useful ideas from others.

Today, you’ll find classroom or elearning training courses in:

We have a separate roadmap for business writing courses, which is where our policies and procedures training course (and again, Introduction to content strategy) fits in.

Our current thinking is to offer more topics around managing and planning technical documentation projects. In the past, we’ve offered an course on estimating projects. We also know managing project time is another important topic. Perhaps there are other topics that would fit under this category?

There’s also the issue of which courses should be online (recorded) courses, and which ones should be classroom-based (live) courses. Delegates say really like the two training venues we use in central London (we struck gold there), but online courses enable people to take a course pretty much anywhere and at any time.

If you have any thoughts, you can email us your thoughts, or you can use the comment box below.

The sad case of GDS and the tax manuals

The UK’s Government Digital Service has been doing great work in putting users’ needs before the needs of government, so it was a shock to see the revised tax manuals the GDS and HMRC published recently.

In the GDS blog post, First HMRC manual on GOV.UK – give us your feedback, Till Worth explained:

“HMRC has built a new publishing system which makes it easier for its tax experts to update and maintain the content of the manuals. Tax agents, accountants and specialists need to be able to see the tax manuals exactly how HMRC publishes them internally, so the GDS team knew we couldn’t touch the content. We did create a new design for the manuals to make them more user-friendly and bring them in line with GDS design principles.”

From what I can see, there’s been two changes:

  1. New look and feel
  2. Changes to the navigation and search

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TCeurope webinar: The changing nature of User Assistance content​

Next week, Ellis will be presenting an updated version of his presentation on the changing nature of User Assistance content​. This webinar is part of the TCeurope 2015 Colloquium. TCeurope is a European society bringing together six technical communication societies.

We’ll explore whether the common technical communication practices, which were established and have remained essentially unchanged since the late 1980s, are still valid today.

This free webinar will be presented on 26th March 2015 between 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm CET (6:30pm-7:30 GMT).

We’re updating our technical writing induction course in the next few days

In the next few days, people taking Cherryleaf’s technical writing induction course will be able to access an updated version of it.

As part of the course’s accreditation by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, we received their feedback on the course content. We decided to update the course to incorporate the suggestions they made when the course was re-accredited last year. We also amended the course so that some of the modules could be used in other courses.

You’ll find new video recordings and some new exercises. Approximately 10% of the learning content has been changed. The final steps are for us to publish the new course notes, upload all the new content to our shopping cart, and update the relevant page on our website. We’ll make the old and the new versions available to any existing students, so no-one misses out.