Panel discussion: Assisting the Millennial User – challenges and opportunities in the decade ahead

Cherryleaf’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Ellis Pratt will moderating the panel discussion “Assisting the Millennial User – Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead“, which is part of the free Adobe Day at the UAEurope Conference 2013. On the panel will be Chris Despopoulos, Craig Clark, Dave Gash, David Farbey, Matthew Ellison, Paula Stern and Willam van Weelden. This free event will be held Wednesday, 12th June, 12:00pm to 5:00pm

New case study – Helping HCC deal with the size and complexity of embedded systems documentation

You’ll find a new case study on the Cherryleaf Web site: Helping HCC deal with the size and complexity of embedded systems documentation.

HCC Embedded is a high tech software corporation that develops specialist software for deeply embedded systems, such as file systems, USB and networking software.


Dave Hughes, CEO of HCC, realised that with over 100 different modules to be documented, often with inter-dependent content and frequent updates, managing the documents in Microsoft Word had become unmanageable and untraceable.

HCC’s documentation assists users developing with the products, and it plays an important role in the marketing of HCC’s products to developers. This means keeping a consistent format and brand across all this material is critical to the organization.

For the rest of the case study, see Helping HCC deal with the size and complexity of embedded systems documentation.

Webinar – Planning user documentation when you’re a startup business

We’re currently working on 40 minute webinar on:

  • Planning user documentation when you’re a startup business

If you have any questions on this topic, you can email these to us prior to the event. We’ll do our best to make sure we address them in the webinar.

Send us an email with your question

Details on the date for this webinar will be published in the Events section of the Cherryleaf Web site.


“Engaging your readers in the documentation. How and why social media?”

Sarah Maddox (Technical Writer, Atlassian) is another champion of engaging readers through technical documentation.

Here is a video of her presentation to the Atlassian User Group Wiesbaden. It’s called “Engaging your readers in the documentation. How and why social media?”

See also

Measuring the value of Help in desktop applications

One of the challenges for Technical Authors is quantifying the value of what they produce. For example, how can you tell how many people are reading online Help when the software is installed on someone’s desktop computer? One application mentioned in passing as last week’s UAEurope conference, ApplicationMetrics, might be able to provide the answer.

ApplicationMetrics collects usage and platform data, behind the scenes. It’s a product that is no longer being developed any more, but you can still download it. It may enable you to collect “operational funnel” data that’s similar marketing funnel data – test and track whether users are going to the help and resolving their issues.


Come and speak at our “Trends in Technical Documentation” talks

Cherryleaf is curating and hosting a programme of talks on trends in technical documentation. At these sessions, there’s a presentation from a respected member of the Technical Communication profession, plus the opportunity to network with your peers.

We’re looking for people who would like to present a case study or share their view of the future trends in technical communication with their peers. It’s a great place to practice a presentation you’re preparing for a conference later in the year.

Each talk is hosted by Cherryleaf in central London, and lasts approximately two hours. Spaces are limited to 12 delegates.

The first talk was held on 24/1/2012: on What will be the future for Technical Communicators if everything ‘just works’?

The second talk is likely to be on technical authoring in The Cloud (if we can find an additional speaker).

If you’d like to explore the idea of speaking at one of these talks, then contact us and we’d be happy to discuss it with you.


London’s “boris bikes” lack a certain something

I decided to try out London’s Barclays Cycle Hire, known colloqually as “Boris bikes”, yesterday. There are 6,000 bicycles distributed across central London that you can hire on an ad-hoc basis.

While the scheme is a great concept, for the casual user it lacks something – information on using the bikes! Where user information is provided (on the Transport for London web site and on the payment ticket, for example), it’s pretty good:

However, I couldn’t find any information on how to book and return a bike on the docking station terminals themselves. The terminals are where the casual user pays for the hiring of a bike and receives the code for releasing a bike from its clamp:

A little bit of information at the docking station terminal itself would, I’m sure, encourage even more people to use this valuable and worthy service.

Turning a Technical Author’s work on its head

Q. What’s the most popular wiki in the world?
A. Most people know the answer to this: It’s Wikipedia.

Q. What’s the second most popular wiki in the world?
A. It may surprise you to know that it’s WoWWiki, a wiki comprising over 250,000 articles and information. It may also surprise you to know it’s about playing a game – World of Warcraft.

So the second most popular wiki in the world is, to all intents and purposes, a user manual. And the biggest and most popular user manual in the world is (a) a wiki and (b) for a game.

We came across this fact in researching gamification and its potential use in technical documentation. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking on this subject at the UA Europe 11 conference in June, and it’s one of the topics we discuss in an book  on technical documentation trends, which we’ll be publishing shortly.

So where does turning a Technical Author’s work on its head come in to all of this?

Technical Authors spend a lot of time making life easier for users. However, according to games researcher Jane McGonigal, one of the key reasons why games are so hugely popular is because:

Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, making the goal of finding out the answer more challenging might be more rewarding for the user. Perhaps it might even leave a greater imprint on their memory.

Instead of the Technical Author developing and providing a Table of Contents for the user, could we even see a scenario where the user creates his own collection of information and organises it as he sees fit? Could the Technical Author’s role be not to organise and arrange the information, but instead to provide (a) some (but not all) of the information and (b) a platform where the user can store and organise it for themselves? It’s an approach similar to Pokémon (“gotta catch them all”), where children gain immense pleasure from collecting cards and building their own personal battle decks.  It’s also similar to the FLOSS Manuals website’s ability for users to remix their own personal user guides.

Pokemon logo
Let’s reassure you not all the applications of games theory to User Assistance are as unusual as this. What do you think – could the concepts from games theory add value to User Assistance and could they turn the work that Technical Authors do on its head?