Re: Podcasts for Customer Support

Subject: Re: Podcasts for Customer Support
From: Beth Agnew <beth -dot- agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2006 04:27:21 -0400

The world is changing and this is a new technology that is still in the shakedown stage for use in technical communication. While podcasts do not have the information density of traditional technical writing (which will always have a purpose, we'll never lose the print manuals entirely), they have other benefits such as rapid uptake and better retention factor. I think it's fair to say our users are evolving. They aren't all baby boomers anymore. Lines are blurring all over the place. What is the difference between a video tutorial and video documentation? It's whatever we say it is.

We have a choice. We can embrace the new technologies and adapt them to our industry in whatever ways work. If we decide to do that, we take the leadership position and we get to influence how they are used to convey technical information. Or we can wait until the marketplace gets so frustrated by podcast-dreck that they clamor for some decent communication and finally come looking for us. We did not get off the mark fast enough with web technology -- the graphic designers and web developers got in there first, and started cranking out beautiful, functional but entirely uninformative and unusable web sites. We still have to fight the marcom people to get our hands on web content. One of the definitions of technical communicator is one who uses technology to communicate.

Have you ever taken one of those "walking audio tours" of a museum, where they give you a tape recorder and you wander through the exhibits yourself listening to an expert tell you all about them?

The ways in which we use podcasts (audio and video) are limited only by our imaginations. What do we think we can do with them? We don't know until we try.

Stuart Burnfield wrote:

I still find it hard to picture how podcasting would be an effective way to
communicate technical information. Reading is so much faster than

In ten minutes of reading I can scan, skim, reread, follow links, and so
on. In a ten minute audio presentation I can cover ten minutes of speech
and that's about it.

For technical information I need to concentrate and work at my own pace.
From my experience of podcasting it would work best when I can listen while
doing something else (cooking, driving) and it doesn't require my full
attention. So it would be good for catching up with radio programmes and
talking books but not for trying to grasp technical concepts or procedures.

Can anyone give examples of technical 'writing' that they have successfully
absorbed through a podcast?
Beth Agnew
Catch the Buzz:
STC Presentation archived at:

Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416.491.5050 x3133


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Re: Podcasts for Customer Support: From: Stuart Burnfield

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