Create something simple for non-technical people to use.
Have a collection of re-usable chunks of content that could be embedded into the document (no more cutting and pasting). If a chunk needed to be changed, then the documents where it is embedded would reflect that change automatically.
Be able to generate the completed report as a .docx (Microsoft Word) file.
Separate the content from the “look and feel”.
Enable different people to work on different sections of the document simultaneously.
Store the content in an open format, so there was potential to use some of the content in other places (such as on a website).
“Lately we’ve been asking ourselves “what else could we do to improve developers’ lives on the internet?”. Jeff’s original announcement of Stack Overflow said this:
There’s far too much great programming information trapped in forums, buried in online help, or hidden away in books that nobody buys any more. We’d like to unlock all that. Let’s create something that makes it easy to participate, and put it online in a form that is trivially easy to find.
Stack Overflow has made all of that a lot better, but there’s one area that is still hanging around: Documentation. Just like Q&A in 2008, Documentation in 2015 is something every developer needs regularly, and something that by most appearances stopped improving in 1996. We think, together, we can make it a lot better….
…We’re hoping we can improve documentation, not just move it under the stackoverflow.com domain.”
It will be fascinating to see how this project progresses – what issues they encounter, how they tackle these, and if the solutions work.
We’ve also run this course a number of times during the summer as an “onsite” course for clients, using WebEx and Lync (soon to be called Skype for Business). Using online meeting technologies like these means we can deliver training to authoring teams throughout the world.
We have been asked if individual delegates overseas could use these platforms to participate in our public, classroom, course. I’m afraid we don’t offer this. The “online meeting” courses involve using special lighting and audio equipment that isn’t available in the training rooms we use for the public courses. Also, it would be very difficult for the trainer to manage two different delivery methods simultaneously.
Writing in the business world can be difficult. We have to write Web pages, proposals, emails, policies and procedures and, perhaps, adverts. It can be hard to get going, and create something that’s clear and to the point. Here are some tips to help you get over these difficulties.
It’s not your fault
Let’s start by saying it’s not your fault if you find business writing difficult, because most of us are not taught how to do it at school. At school, we learn how to write stories and how to argue a case. That usually involves building to a big conclusion at the end.
“Everyone is taught to write at school, so surely everyone can write in business?”
Although the quotation above would seem to make sense, the reality is that many people find it hard to write in a business context. They struggle to write clearly, and it can take them ages to produce a piece of content.
It’s not their fault. What we’re taught at school is how to write narratives, that is stories or articles. We’re also taught to argue a case – to use rhetoric to build to a conclusion. We’re taught writing to persuade and writing to entertain.
In the world of business, we often need different forms of writing. We’re often writing to inform or writing to instruct.
In these situations, people want to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and get on with their jobs. They want the important information at the beginning, rather than the end. They want to scan and hunt for the information relevant to them, rather than always having to read everything from beginning to end.
Many people haven’t been taught how to write to inform or to instruct, and that’s why many people find business writing so difficult.
It might seem like we’ve been quiet recently, but that’s partly because we’ve been working on an academic project that we hope to be announcing towards the end of the year.
As a spin-off from this project, we’re developing new training courses in technical communication. These courses are at a more advanced level than our basic/intermediate courses, and they include more references to academic research.
If you are considering any on-site training for your technical communications team, we can now offer these topics:
What is technical communication?
The business case for technical communication
History of technical writing standards
Usability and user centred design
Project planning and its effect on writing documentation
Researching and scoping documentation
Information design and content organisation
Writing the topics – overview
Presenting different types of information
Index, search and metadata
Single sourcing and reusing content
Researching technical communication – where to go
Governance and maintenance
What skills does a technical communicator need?
Content strategy and technical communication
Trends in technical communication
Publishing and delivering information
Managing the documentation project
We may develop online courses for some of these topics in the future as well.
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:
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.