RE: Future of Technical Communications: New Media?

Subject: RE: Future of Technical Communications: New Media?
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "'Chantel Brathwaite'" <cnbrath -at- cbel -dot- cit -dot- nih -dot- gov>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 13:36:34 -0400


As with all thing whirler-related, "it all depends". For the 2 1/2 cents
it's worth, here's my take:

I see a large of technical communicators who want to "write and only write",
and tend to think largely in terms of traditional manual-based
documentation. Incredibly important to stable industries and government.

Then there's the group that looks at new media as the only channel available
for future tech comm. Cool stuff for the generation, and a
challenge to stay on top of the new toys and tools that come out. If
well-done, they are attention-getting and -holding, and still provide the
necessary information.

Finally there's an increasing number of folks who come from tech comm,
development, graphics, QA, and lots o' other places who would rather look
synergistically at the whole product--what does it do, who is it intended
for, and how can we build it to do the job completely, accurately, and
efficiently--and make a fortune for all the stakeholders? I think mostly in
software terms, but it can apply to many other technical arenas. If you
follow this line, then documentation is not a separate line item, pure
overhead, or an afterthought. As you design the product, you plan for how
to create an intuitive product interface and embed performance support. You
research how the intended customer does his/her job, and what factors could
improve their ability to do it. I keep telling my bosses that my goal is to
help design a UI that works so well that we don't need more than a 25-page
manual to support it. They tend to grin a lot and say "go for it". So it's
only then that I choose the tools, the media, to accomplish the objectives
set for the product.

For the foreseeable future, we need all three kinds of communicators. Which
gives all of us a chance to try new stuff, become power users, learn new
technology, or advocate for users/customers, if that is what we choose.

As for me, I started writing in the age of IBM Selectrics. I learned about
word processing and DTP on a MAC 512. Now I'm working in html, and building
graphics, UI, and the like in way cool programs. I like to think of new
ways to do things, and make the appropriate call as to whether to use the
new thing or stay with the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" strategy. I'm
more than happy to learn the new tools, html, xml, CBT, WBT, and anything
else coming down the line. But I learn it as I need to solve a new problem,
so I worry less about grad programs and more about how I can improve the
products I help design.

It's a philosophy that's served me well, but I make no claims as to how well
it would serve others.

Connie Giordano
Senior Technical Writer
Advisor Technology Services
e-mail: Connie -dot- Giordano -at- fmr -dot- com

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me,
and I'll understand." - Native American Proverb

-----Original Message-----
From: Chantel Brathwaite [mailto:cnbrath -at- cbel -dot- cit -dot- nih -dot- gov]
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 12:39 PM
Subject: Future of Technical Communications: New Media?

Hi Techwhirlers --

I've been thinking about the future of technical communication and I've
become very interested in what is now termed "new media." I've begun to
research this and I think that the convergence of film/radio/tv/book in an
*electronic* environment will
have a big impact on the technical communication field. Are any of you
producing any type of technical documentation that would fall under the new
media category, and if so, how did you break away from traditional
manual-based docs? Do you see
technical communication moving in the direction of new media? On a seperate,
but related note, do you know of a grad or undergrad program that
incorporates all of these elements, with a tech communications/educational
slant? When I performed a web
search [GOOGLE, NORTHERN LIGHT], I found a few programs -- but not many.
I've seen lots of multimedia programs, but they seemed to be more
visually-oriented, rather than a true melding of different communications

I look forward to your responses. Thanks!


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