Technical authoring tips on Twitter, from Cherryleaf

@cherryleaf_tips is a new Twitter account from Cherryleaf that provides technical writing tips and articles relating to technical communication.

When you follow @cherryleaf_tips on Twitter, you’ll see a new tip tweeted at 11am GMT each day, over a period of 31 days. The messages then repeat, starting again from the beginning.

How many cuddles are you putting into your user guides?

From Fast Company:

“Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has discovered, for the first time, that social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains.

The essence of affection. The cuddle chemical. In other words, oxytocin. If these changes apply in the world of social media, the implications for business — for every brand, company, and marketer trying to understand the now intimately networked world — could be significant.”

So, how much oxytocin are you putting into your user guides?

Reducing IT support call times

At the Documentation Managers peer group meeting we hosted earlier this week, one manager commented his organisation was aiming to increase the average time for each support call. This was because it believed it could eliminate all the short duration calls – through redesigning the software and better user documentation. What would be left would be the more complex problems that take longer to solve.

Having worked on a support line when I left college, I can appreciate the benefits of this approach. There’s nothing worse than spending your time repeating the same solution over and over again. So a consequence may be that they’ll also see a reduction in support staff turnover.

Allied to this approach may also be the adoption of micro-blogging communication channels. Yesterday, Yammer announced it will be launching its Communities feature on 1st March. This means organisations will be able to create their own private network channel to communicate with its customers and partners.

Your future as a republisher

Visualisation Magazine has created a diagram showing how you can use Web 2.0 tools to increase the number of readers of your content – “building an online presence”. It shows the extent to which content can be republished today, through free sites, Web feeds and embedded content. It also shows how you can monitor and receive statistical information on its progress.

So why keep your content tucked away in a Help file, when it can be republished in some many other places as well?

Link to an explanation of the diagram.

Why are there so few UK technical authors on Twitter?

At a rough guess, there no more than 20 UK  technical authors using Twitter on a regular basis. Given the Social Web is going to play an increasing role in User Assistance and Customer Support, that’s a surprise.

What’s stopping them, I wonder?

It may be they don’t understand how to use Twitter, they might not have the time or they may not be convinced of the value of using Twitter. As I said, it’s a surprise.

Training course on Twitter and the Social Web: Developing a strategy for technical authors

We’ve just relased a new training course that explains where the Social Web, and Twitter in particular, can fit into the world of the technical author/writer.

Originally delivered as a presentation for the prestigious User Assistance Europe Conference 2009, it has been extended and converted into a training course, containing videos and demonstrations of software applications, to help it all make sense.

You also get access to the full 37 minute, transatlantic video interview we recently conducted with Anne Gentle, author of “Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation”, where we talked about The Social Web for Documentation.

Transatlantic video interview with Anne Gentle on the Social Web for Documentation

We’ve just uploaded a 15 minute extract from a transatlantic video interview I recently conducted with Anne Gentle, where we talked about The Social Web for Documentation

The sound is a little patchy on the first slide, but it improves afterwards.

A longer, 37 minute, version will be available to anyone who purchases the Cherryleaf Learning Zone service.

Twitter and the Social Web: Developing a strategy for technical authors

Cherryleaf’s presentation at the UA Conference Europe 09 will be on “Twitter and the Social Web: Developing a strategy for technical authors”.

UA Conference

UA Conference

In this session, we’ll look at some of the research into how people use Twitter and social networking sites, and investigate the different communication strategies you can adopt.

We’ll address key questions, such as:

  • What’s the point of Technical Authors using Twitter and the Social Web?
  • How can it help fulfil your personal goals, as well as the goals of the Technical Publications department and the organisation?
  • Where does it fit in alongside everything else?
  • What are its limitations and where are the “bear traps”?

This session is an excerpt from an online training module on this topic that Cherryleaf is developing. This module will be available via Cherryleaf’s online shop in the near future.