How common knowledge disappears – customer questions & answers for a turntable

In the olden days, every family had a record player (also known as a “turntable”), and pretty much everyone knew how to use it. However, if you look at the Customer Questions & Answers section for a turntable currently on sale on Amazon, it’s clear that many people today don’t know how a turntable works, or what it does. Common knowledge sometimes isn’t as common as people think.

Conference on Agile documentation

The Gov.uk GDS team is organising a one day, free of charge conference in December, where speakers will discuss techniques for writing documentation in an Agile environment, and how to make your content Agile:

  • Tips to writing continuous documentation, ensuring it stays up to date.
  • Tips to getting the development team to value documentation.
  • Knowledge of the tools available to help you write Agile docs.
  • Understanding of how much documentation to write and when to start writing it.
  • Suggestions of how writers can become part of the product development cycle.
  • Understanding of how to overcome challenges that come with working in Agile environments (where the focus often tends to be on the product and not on the content).

This free event will be held in Victoria, central London. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking at the event.

See:
https://www.meetup.com/Write-The-Docs-London/events/234913157/

Agile the Docs speaker request form

Achieving human parity in conversational speech recognition has further to go

Microsoft is in the news for claiming its artificial intelligence (AI) technology can now recognize conversational speech slightly better than humans who do so professionally. Its technology now has an error rate of 5.9%, which it claims is the same as a trained transcriptionist. That equates to roughly one error every 20 words. So does this mean the typed word is going away?

We have our doubts:

  1. To be qualified as a stenographer, you must be able to transcribe with an error rate of 0.1% or lower. That’s a single mistake every four pages. Microsoft’s error rate of 5.9% isn’t acceptable for live transcription.
  2. Microsoft was working in a controlled environment, with relatively little background noise.
  3. Speaking for long periods of time is more tiring than writing or typing.

So it seems like there’s a lot of work still to be done.

Reviewing and Editing Technical Documents Course – Update

We’ve started work on the next course to be added to the WriteLessons bundle of online training courses – “Reviewing and Editing Technical Documents”. In this situation, we may try an experiment and release each module as it is completed, rather than publish all the modules in one go.

The modules will be: revising, editing, copy editing, proof-reading, getting documents edited, possibly measuring the effectiveness of documents, and managing updates. More news when we have it.

 

 

New classroom-based API documentation training course

Last month, we were asked  by a client to deliver our API documentation course to their team as a classroom course. Following on from that, we are now able to offer this one-day course to other companies, in this manner. The course currently varies from our online API documentation course. It includes more content on information design, and research into the different types of users and their needs.

Contact us to find out more.

Have Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft and Google got their information design wrong?

On an API documentation course we ran for a client yesterday, we showed a number of developer documentation websites, including ones from Amazon, DropboxGoogle and Microsoft. One common theme the delegates noticed was these sites contained a in-page table of contents, or a set of related links, on the right hand set of the screen.

Dropbox API documentation page

You will often hear Information Designers talk about F shaped reading, and that the right edge of the screen is ignored by users. If you put content there, they say, it probably won’t be seen by the readers.

So have Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft all got it wrong, by using the right edge of the screen to provide navigation? Have the improvements in screen technology and the introduction of tablets and smartphones changed which areas of the screen users notice?

What do you think?