AI and chatbots in technical communication – A primer

It seems likely artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-driven chatbots will play a key role in helping users in the future. So what does this mean for technical communicators and for User Assistance?

This podcast is based on an article we’ll be posting to tekom’s Intelligent Information blog. The article is currently out for review, and it should be published in the next two weeks.

The podcast has three chapters, or parts:

  1. What are chatbots?
  2. Making a chatbot
  3. What does this mean for technical communicators and for User Assistance?

See the Cherryleaf Podcast for podcasts on similar topics.

Book – Current Practices and Trends in Technical and Professional Communication

This week, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators published a book, called Current Practices and Trends in Technical and Professional Communication. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt is one of its co-authors.

book cover - Current Practices and Trends in Technical and Professional Communication

“Technical and professional communicators are experts in making complex systems and worlds understandable to those who need to access them. However, both the concepts we are communicating about and the tools we are communicating with are changing at a rapid pace. To communicate effectively, we need our own knowledge and understanding to remain current, identifying best practice and learning from the experience of others.

Current Practices and Trends in Technical and Professional Communication is a valuable source of collective knowledge from our community of practice. Experienced practitioners and innovators (from the UK and international) are sharing what they know for the benefit of both the communicator and the end user.

The topics in the book cover important issues affecting the work we do (including globalization, localization and accessibility), and the tools and processes we can use to resolve some of the issues we encounter. Changes in technology are described, and ways of harnessing that technology are identified, including both current and future possibilities.

Whether you work in relative isolation, as the sole technical or professional communicator in a multidisciplinary team, or with other technical or professional communicators, you will find plenty in this book that is thought-provoking, interesting and useful.”

 

Is your documentation AI and chatbot ready?

It seems likely Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots will play a key role in helping users, in the future. Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft, as well as smaller technology companies, are all developing platforms for simulating an intelligent conversation with human users.

This raises a question:

Will chatbots mean we’ll write a how-to task in the chatbot app, again in the Help, and again in the tutorials?

It’s not very productive to write the same content three times, in three different places. It makes even less sense if you need to update the content on a regular basis, or translate that repeated content into multiple languages.

One solution is to store different types of data in its native format until it is needed, and then serve that information to the AI or chatbot system. You write the content once, and “serve” it to the chatbot, the online Help, the tutorial, and so on.

This requires that content to map accurately to the chatbot’s information structure  –  the use cases; the user’s intent, role and sentiment; and the entity (i.e. the problem and product) that relates to the user’s question.

As a technical communicator, this means you can start by making sure your content is in a structured format. For example, it has metadata (and uses a taxonomy) that will help the AI system or chatbot know which piece of information to serve the user. This includes common metadata such as product, symptom, problem, version, user role and operating system. It may also include new metadata relating to responses based on the user’s current mood (“sentiment”),  and the context in which the question is made to the chatbot.

This approach makes it more likely that your documentation will AI and chatbot ready, at the time when it’s needed.


Tryo Labs has published a useful summary of the different approaches and technologies you can use for creating chatbots. See: Building a Chatbot: analysis & limitations of modern platforms.

See also:

Towards content lakes

Cherryleaf’s technical writing services

Every Page is Page One – Interview with Mark Baker at UAEurope 2017

Here is an interview we carried out with Mark Baker, author of Every Page is Page One. The interview is interspersed with audio snippets from Day 1 of the UAEurope 2017 conference.

Presentations:

  • Caroline Loverage (Thermo Fisher Scientific). Teaching by Example: Worked Examples in the Documentation of Complex Systems
  • Kelly O’Brien (Kayako). Practical Information Architecture: Building Templates For Better Content.
  • Helena Pichler (Nominet). AsciiDoc to Responsive Webhelp: Agile documentation for small teams/

With thanks to Matthew Ellison and Mark Baker.

The new marketing funnel for software and other technology products

Prospective customers today know more about products than they have ever done. Many people tend to search for the solution to their problem on the Web and through Social Media before they buy a product or service, and many of them never even touch the product before buying it. This means the “marketing funnel” has changed into a loop. At different points in that customer journey loop, User Assistance can help people move from being prospects to be customers and advocates:

The new customer journey loop