Lessons for technical communicators from the telecommunications sector

It’s often useful to look at the economic and technological pressures in other industries, to see if the trends emerging there are relevant to the technical communications/publications sector. In recent Blogs, we’ve covered the issues emerging in education, but the telecommunications industry might also provide some useful insights.

Lee Dryburgh, organiser of the Emerging Communications Conference, has been interviewed by Skype Journal.com  about how he see the future of telecommunication. The key points in this interview are:

  • Widespread deployment of a method of communicating, long cultural embedment, extreme ease of use and very low barriers to usage, means it’s not going away in a big way, at any time least soon.
  • We are seeing software offer a new stronger “Relationships” between people. Distribution is relatively zero-cost and it achieves unprecedented scale.

He’s talking about telephony and Skype, but couldn’t that also be true for paper and Web-based online Help?

Dryburgh sees a new phase emerging that will have deeper impact yet.  He said:

“Phase two is built around an economic model that puts human time and attention at a premium. It’s the opposite of what we experience today with telephony, where human time and attention is wasted.”

“Phase two is about intention-based economics. It’s focused on fulfilling intentions and desires … I’m not saying we need to become psychologists and anthropologists. But what we need to build for is access to ever more personal information, i.e. about the human behind the endpoint. Privacy does not exist looking long-term. Ever more personal information is the new currency, which underlies intention-based economics, and people will increasingly trade it for free access to services. “

“If any of this seems abstract at the moment, think about what makes Google money, Ad Words. Google provides search free to the consumer in order to gain eyeballs (mass attention) and takes the search parameter to try and deduce intention. It then sells that attention and intention data upstream to advertisers.”

Could this also happen in the technical documentation arena? Would seeing technical documentation in the context of new economic ideas, such as  intention-based economics  and the economics of attention, affect how and what was created?  Would it change the nature of conversations with management and marketing?

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