RE: Tech Writing for Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Subject: RE: Tech Writing for Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
From: <Brian -dot- Henderson -at- mitchell1 -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2009 13:46:33 -0700

I've only been half-following this thread, but it's taken me awhile to
realize the company I work for has been using a form of social
networking, for customer contributed "corrections" to our product. It's
not like any of the forms discussed, but it definitely belongs on the
list of networking types.

A major part of my company, Mitchell 1 (formerly Mitchell Repair
Information Co.), is the publishing (well, RE-publishing really) of
repair information. Nowadays, the main form of that publishing is
through a integrated website containing hundreds of thousands of
articles about most of the cars in the world, going back 30 years. A
couple of years ago Mitchell instituted a sort of annotation feature
where customers are encouraged to contribute "tips" about ways to
improve various repair and diagnostic procedures. It's a great idea to
tap the huge pool of mechanics who actually have their hands on the
machinery. And we get a lot of good information this way.

But keep in mind that this Tips systems is live, real-time annotation,
by potentially thousands of customers. At the moment the input rate is
well-moderated by the single person in charge of dealing with the
system. It could easily get much busier. The truly interesting thing
about this system is that what was supposed to be helpful suggestions
from mechanics in the field, has morphed into something more akin to an
online forum. Unfortunately, the particular structure of the annotation
system does not lend itself particularly well to forum-type
back-and-forth interaction.

So...we are in the midst of trying to figure out whether we should
re-design, to accommodate the way our customers actually want to use our
product. Or should we try to "dissuade" them and enforce an
"annotation-only" usage.

If I had a vote, I'd definitely go with our customers.

Brian Henderson
Mitchell 1

-----Original Message----- From: Blount, Patricia A

Hi, all,

A leadership change prompts me to pose this question: how can tech
writers exploit today's social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook,
maybe You Tube, chat rooms) to deliver product instruction, if at all?

Trends in connectivity technology have created a culture in which
instant gratification isn't just expected; it's delivered. Cell phones,
BlackBerry's, GPS's, instant messenger - pretty much any information
wanted is quite literally a click away. So where does all this
connectivity and Must Have Now mentality leave the instruction manual?
Even though we deliver our books electronically, maybe long PDF files
are ready for pasture? If so, how do we adapt?

I look forward to hearing what those on the List think.

Patty B.


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