All posts about
Technical communication

Why Help Authoring Tools Will Fade

“Using any of the standard authoring tools — Flare, RoboHelp, Author-It, Doc-to-Help — leaves you with the ridiculous model of a single author working from a single vantage point from a single organization trying to pull together an ocean of information.” (Tom johnson)

Technical Documentation Know-how

“Know-how, checklists, tools and links, which will help you to create user-friendly software documentation such as manuals, online help, software demos and other forms of software user assistance.” (Indoition Software User Assistance)

STC Content Strategy SIG

“This site is the home of the Content Strategy SIG (Special Interest Group) of the Society for Technical Communication. (…) Content strategy is an emerging field of practice dealing with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle. Strategy includes alignment to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance.” (About Content Strategy SIG)

Architecting User Assistance Topics for Reuse: Case Examples in DITA

“Single sourcing and its pragmatic flip side, reuse, remind me a bit of the early days of the personal computer. Everybody wanted one, but many weren’t sure what they would do with a computer if they got one. Even among seasoned user assistance architects, single sourcing and reuse remain elusive concepts. I recently heard someone at an STC chapter meeting define single sourcing as producing the same document as both a Help file and as a PDF file. Basically true, but one would hope there is more to it than that.” – (Mike HughesUXmatters)

Hockey Sticks and User Assistance: Writing in Times of Resource Constraints

“Many technical communication departments are experiencing flat budgets, meaning they’re getting only small or no increases in headcounts, capital expenses, or training dollars. Worse yet, many departments are facing reductions in these resources. These reductions cause production pressures that are often confounded by increases in development headcount, here or offshore. Since more code equates to more features, which in turn drive greater revenues, companies are more willing to increase development budgets. On the other hand, adding writers increases costs, which in turn reduces margins.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

WritersUA Conference Supplemental Materials Archive

“Conference speakers, Peer Showcase presenters, and Exhibitors are invited to provide additional materials to supplement the detailed information included in the printed Proceedings. Additional items may be added to this page as they become available. (…) The Conference speakers retain all rights to their presentation materials. WritersUA only assumes the right to distribute the comprehensive, printed Proceedings. If you would like copies of presentation slides and they are not listed here, we encourage you to request them from the individual speakers. Most speakers have provided their email address in the printed Proceedings.” (WritersUA)

Procedures: The Sacred Cow Blocking the Road

“If this column’s title sounds familiar to you, the bad news is you’re getting old, but the good news is your memory hasn’t gone yet. It was the title of a presentation I gave at the STC conference in Anaheim ten years ago. However, many of the points I made in that talk are still relevant to user assistance today, so I would like to update some of them and offer some new thoughts as well.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

Instructional Text in the User Interface: Some Counterintuitive Implications of User Behaviors

“User assistance occurs within an action context—the user doing something with an application – and should appear in close proximity to the focus of that action – that is, the application it supports. The optimal placement of user assistance, space permitting, is in the user interface itself. We typically call that kind of user assistance instructional text.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

Jon Bosak Closing Kenote XML 2006

“It’s hard to remember now just how different this community was ten years ago. There were only a few hundred SGML experts in the world, a goodly number of whom came to this conference every year. Very few groups in existence today could boast the level of intelligence, the breadth of interest, and the depth of independence, not to say downright weirdness, evidenced by the SGML community of a decade past.” (XML 2006 Proceedings) – courtesy of timoreilly

User Assistance in the Role of Domain Expert

“This article explores the role of user assistance in providing domain-centric online Help – rather than Help that simply explains obvious user interactions with well-designed user interfaces – and provides a pattern for and examples of expert guidance.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

New Life for Product Documentation

“We usually assume that documentation is used after a product has been purchased, as part of the process of learning or setting it up. But these are all examples documentation as part of the purchasing-decision process, looking for information beyond the lists of features or simple technical specifications on data sheets.” (Whitney QuesenberyUXmatters)

10 DITA Lessons Learned From Tech Writers in the Trenches

“This exclusive and informative top ten list is based on interviews with technical writers at more than 20 software companies – tech writers that are actually using DITA to create documentation today. It’s jam-packed with useful advice, practical tips, honest warnings, and lessons learned.” (The Content Wrangler)

Minimalism: The Minimalist Model applied to documentation and training

“The Minimalist theory of J.M. Carroll is a framework for the design of instruction, especially training materials for computer users. The theory suggests that (1) all learning tasks should be meaningful and self-contained activities, (2) learners should be given realistic projects as quickly as possible, (3) instruction should permit self-directed reasoning and improvising by increasing the number of active learning activities, (4) training materials and activities should provide for error recognition and recovery and, (5) there should be a close linkage between the training and actual system.” (Martin Ryder)

Apple Style Guide: 2006 version 

“The Apple Publication Style guide provides editorial guidelines for text in instructional publications, technical documentation, reference information, training programs, and the software user interface.” (Apple Developers Connection) – courtesy of usablehelp

A gallery of onscreen help: Updated version

“The Gallery of Onscreen Help has received a long overdue update. I’ve just finished adding over 125 new screens, bringing the gallery to 333 sample onscreen help implementations. Drop by and take a peek at what your colleagues, and competitors, are up to.” (Usable Help)

The Future of RoboHelp?

“This article and my prediction about the future of RoboHelp are not meant to be an attack in any way. RoboHelp is an important tool to thousands of developers throughout the world and they deserve to have as much information about the future of the product as possible.” (Joe Welinske – WinWriters)

WritersUA 2005 Salary Survey

“Level of experience is one of the most important aspects in determining salary level. There is a sizeable increase in salary as we move beyond our first years in the technical communication field. Starting salaries average in the mid-40s and move up into the mid-50s as our careers progress. However, there is a stagnation as we reach the middle years of our work experience with average salaries remaining fixed in the mid-70s. There appears to be an earnings ceiling for many of us.” (WinWriters)