tcworld interview: Technical Communication and social media

tcworld maagxine 2013The July 2013 edition of tcworld magazine contains an interview with Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt on technical communication and social media.

The magazine also includes an article by Sarah Maddox (now at Google) on how technical communicators can use Twitter in technical communication.

We’re not certain when/if the online version will be uploaded to the tcworld site, but we’ll add a link to the article as soon as we can.

Update: You can view it online.

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.

Will “Context is King” apply to user assistance?

Ashkan Karbasfrooshan has written an article called “Context is King: How Videos Are Found And Consumed Online“, in which he argues:

Times have changed. In fact, less and less often do consumers even seek out content by actually going to a given site.

To paraphrase Jeff Jarvis, if something is important, it will find me, be it via newsletter, Facebook, Twitter or a shared link in an email…

The context – Facebook, Twitter, email – in which people are introduced to media and consume it is becoming more important than the content itself. Content is no longer king, context is…

This is why you need both lots of content and a diversity of it.

Karbasfrooshan is talking about videos, but will the same be said about user assistance?

Today, we assume users will seek out Help and other forms of technical documentation, but will that change? Will technical communicators need to disseminate their content via an increasing number of  channels?

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.

BBC’s Rory “Read the manual? Never!” Cellan-Jones discovers the need for manuals

I wonder if the BBC’s Technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, is regretting posting an article in August called “Read the manual? Never!” . In it, he said:

It may be sad that we no longer seem to have that thirst for knowledge about how things work. But I’m afraid I’m just not going to start reading the manual.

I say this, because in his recent Blog post about Google Wave, he complained about the lack of user guides for the application:

We saw a lot of bugs that still need fixing, and no very clear guide as to how to do so.

Rory’s experiences with Google Wave – unfamiliar concepts, uncertainty between features and bugs, unfamiliar tasks – illustrate why it’s not always possible to do away with the need for user documentation and user assistance.

To his credit, when I pointed this inconsistency out to Rory, via Twitter, he said “it’s a fair cop!!!”.

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.

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.