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A Social Media Primer for Technical Communicators

By Meredith Singleton | Member, and Lisa Meloncon | Senior Member Humans have been intrigued by the shallowness of the network pools for quite some time. Whether through in-depth genealogy searches tracking family trees or the strange, yet fascinating, game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” we want to know how quickly we can be connected with each other. Social media—forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content—has provided an opportunity to connect humans more quickly and easily than ever before. Social media is more than social networking sites like… Read the rest

You May Be an Instructional Designer

By Keith Hopper and Wei Sun Pretend that you have been hired by the military to design instruction to train thousands of recruits to safely, effectively use hand grenades. According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, U.S. employers spend about $110 billion each year for about 40 hours of training per employee. Corporate employers tend to see little distinction between what technical communicators and instructional designers do, and adding instructional design to your skill set and track record will make you stand out as a bargain in a field of applicants and possibly open an exciting new career… Read the rest

The Future of Technical Communication Is Socially Enabled: Understanding the Help 2.0 Revolution

By Scott Abel | Senior Member The field of technical communication has come a long way in a short time. We’ve been impacted in positive ways by all sorts of technological advances. We’ve moved from authoring content on typewriters to personal computers, from creating printed documentation to digital files, and from authoring content in proprietary formats to creating content that adheres to open, international standards. We’ve learned new approaches, adopted lessons learned from other disciplines, and discovered the secret to creating multiple deliverables from a single source of content. We’ve challenged ourselves to reduce jargon, to standardize terminology, and to… Read the rest

DITA 1.2: What's in It for Writers?

By Kristen James Eberlein | Senior Member “After working on this release for (can it be?) almost three years, I am delighted that the baby has left the nest…“ OASIS approved DITA 1.2 on 1 December 2010. After working on this release for (can it be?) almost three years, I am delighted that the baby has left the nest, and I think that its new features offer a lot of potential for making technical communicators’ lives simpler. In particular, I think that the robust extensions to the conref (content reference) mechanism will save writers time and enable them to produce… Read the rest

Universal Design for Digital Media

By Kel Smith About a year ago, I was working with a small internal team on the architecture and conceptual design of a software product. Our goal was a workplace solution to improve upon the inadequacies and burdens of common “e-room” applications with greater collaboration and efficiency. During discussions around the visual design of the application, accessibility for users with disabilities was raised (the specific instance in this example being color blindness). A colleague made the comment that “we should not design for the lowest common denominator.” He went on to insist that such features are only of benefit to… Read the rest

The Global Language: Using Symbols and Icons When Delivering Technical Content

By Alan J. Porter | Senior Member Perhaps the greatest advantage offered by the Internet and the World Wide Web today is the fact that it is truly “world wide” and opens up an unprecedented international marketplace for the delivery of goods and services. Small companies can now sell into marketplaces never dreamed of before, while large multinational companies can streamline their internal communications, and cross-border and cross-cultural cooperation has become a reality. However, the global marketplace also raises a fundamental issue—that of global communication. Global communication suggests a common language that is understood by all who use the information… Read the rest

Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators

By Ben Woelk | Member What do technical communicators need to know about information security? How do they protect both their private information and professional assets, including work they may be doing for a client? How can they leverage and use social media safely and effectively? This article discusses key security measures you as a technical communicator and computer user can take to protect yourself and others, and it offers best practices for safe use of social media. I’ll also provide examples of how we’ve addressed similar user security awareness issues at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I’ve been… Read the rest

Measuring Productivity

By Pam Swanwick | Member & Juliet Wells Leckenby | Member Every manager struggles to balance writer workload and project capacity. A simple spreadsheet-based system can help you objectively evaluate assigned tasks, task time and complexity, special projects, and even writer experience levels to more accurately assess individual workload and capacity. The result is a simple but useful representational graph. In addition to measuring current team capacity and productivity, this method also provides objective metrics to better estimate future project capacity and to support performance evaluations for individual writers. Productivity Is Relative Metrics are a necessary part of a manager’s… Read the rest

Editing in English for East Asia: What Technical Communicators Need to Know About Writing for New Markets

By Susan Holdaway Some of us may never speak Japanese or Korean or travel to China, but as technical communicators we will potentially influence East Asian audiences, particularly if we collaborate on documents that support products or services marketed for East Asia. While our documents may never be translated or localized, many technical communicators will write or edit documents that will be made available to this vast audience in large part because of the growth of English language education (ELE) in East Asia. We have the opportunity to prepare English documents to include potential readers in East Asia, particularly China,… Read the rest

Is Social Networking for You?

By Jack Molisani | Fellow Is social networking a passing fad, or here to stay? It is a “must” for business owners and consultants, but what about for captive employees? Is social networking for you ? Let’s start by defining some terms. From Social Media vs. Social Networking Web 2.0—Refers to a website that allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of provided information. Social Media—Refers to a collective group of web properties whose content is primarily published by users,… Read the rest