I was one of the presenters at last week’s Technical Communication UK 2015 (TCUK) conference. TCUK is the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators’ (ISTC’s) annual conference for everyone involved in writing, editing, illustrating, delivering and publishing technical information. It’s an opportunity for Technical Communicators from the UK and mainland Europe to meet up and mingle, learn and present.
It was fun and challenging, going through the questions.
ContentHug’s Vinish Garg is interviewing a number of consultants involved in technical communication and content strategy, and asking them essentially the same questions. By reading the interviews, you can see where there are areas of agreement and where there are a variety of opinions. In general, there is a fair bit of consensus. They are worth reading.
Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking again at MadCap Software’s conference on technical communication and content strategy conference. MadWorld 2016 will be held between the 10th and 12th April 2016 at the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa, in San Diego, California.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an increasingly popular technique used in the construction industry. It involves creating XML digital models of buildings and tunnels during each stage of a project. However, these are more than just 3D animated models, as they also embed information about physical objects in the building. According to Wikipedia:
“A building owner may find evidence of a leak in his building. Rather than exploring the physical building, he may turn to the model and see that water valve is located in the suspect location. He could also have in the model the specific valve size, manufacturer, part number, and any other information ever researched in the past, pending adequate computing power. “
It means architects and engineers can “see” behind walls and discover if there are any pipes or cables that might be affected by any planned works.
This concept of an intelligent model that can be shared between stakeholders throughout the whole lifecycle is also the future for content. Organisations want the ability to know how different items of content are related, what is the structural and metadata information behind the presentation layer and how content has developed chronologically. They want the ability to use a model to plan and modify before they start the more costly work of implementation.
BIM could perhaps provide a useful analogy for Technical Authors, procedures writers, and others developing text-based content, when they are explaining the purpose and value of structured content, single sourcing and Component Content Management Systems.
“It often frustrated as none of the options would quite capture what he wanted to say about a child and the end product was never satisfactory.”
It states, as an alternative, some teachers have a comment bank, which they use to cut and past into school reports. One teacher said
“I’ve got a bank of literary comments, maths comments and general comments. You can pick one that sounds about right, whip it out and plonk it in.”
A better solution might be a content management system that could contain a single-sourced comment bank, templates and some advice of what to write where.
As the spokesman for the National Association for Head Teachers said:
“Headteachers invest a lot of time and effort into making sure this happens. Technology can help that process but it should never get in the way of a truly personal report for each and every child in the school.”
Approximately 50% of a Technical Author’s day is spent writing. However, when Technical Publications teams look for efficiencies, they tend to focus on the 50% of time spent on non-writing activities, such as researching, reviewing and planning. They assume the content itself cannot be written more quickly. To an extent, they are right, as the querty qwerty keyboard is not an optimal layout.
We’ve been going through a process of transcribing our early e-learning modules, in order to have scripts upon which we can base future course updates. As part of this project, we’ve been using a free application called Plover to help us write the content. With Plover, you have the potential to create content (in Word, RoboHelp, Flare, Oxygen XML etc) at up to 225 words per minute (wpm).
Plover is based on chorded typing. You press more than one key at a time to create words. Chorded typing isn’t new – for example, it was demonstrated in Douglas Engelbart’s famous “The mother of all demos“.
Below is a five minute lightning talk on Plover and some of the emerging hardware:
So far, in my case, I’ve been able to double my typing speed. Realistically, those of us participating in this project at Cherryleaf aim to get to 180 words per minute. The reason for this is that most people speak at 160-180 wpm. At that speed, you are able to transcribe subject matter experts in real time – which means there’s no need to record an interview and then type it up at a later date.
There is a learning curve to this method, but it is based on over 100 years of theory and practice. It is tremendous fun – a bit like learning to use a querty qwerty keyboard for the first time.
Mike Atherton, Lead Instructor at General Assembly London, tweeted a link to a 2011interview with Ted Nelson on the future of text, document abstraction and transclusion.
Ted Nelson is one of the pioneers of information technology. He has been credited as being the first person to use the words hypertext and hypermedia (although he denies this), transclusion and virtuality.
In this webinar, we’ll look at how technical communicators can get more involved in corporate content strategy. We’ll look at why they might want to do that, the differences between technical communication and content strategy, as well as looking at how they might re-position themselves. We’ll also look at what tools and skills technical communicators can bring across from the technical communications field.
It was a popular session at the conference, standing room only in fact, with 20 minutes of questions from the audience at the end.
This webinar will be held on the 12th August at 4.00pm BST (8:00 am Pacific Time), and it’s a free event.
I’m afraid there was some confusion over which presentation from MadWorld 2014 we would be repeating, and I mistakenly stated the webinar would be on metrics. That was my mistake. We’ve also had to move the webinar from its original date on the 13th August to the 12th August. Sorry for any confusion caused by these changes.