Trends in Tech Comm

Subject: Trends in Tech Comm
From: "Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)" <sjanoff -at- celgene -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2012 19:14:14 -0800

Thanks for the link, Char. Great job by you and Sarah on this webinar. Watched it in full today.

The one thing I'd like more information on is trends in content itself. A lot of the information presented dealt with trends in delivery, format, tools, and really *how* the content is delivered as opposed to how content itself is changing.

For example, topic-based authoring and structured writing (I'm still not sure these don't mean the same thing) are major trends over the past decade that deal with content as "chunks" and moving from book format to topic format (maybe following the growth of online help).

Information Mapping and its outgrowth (which I believe includes DITA and Minimalism) and the major topics of task, concept, and reference -- especially task, now that tech writing seems to be primarily about developing step-by-step procedures -- plus throw in single-sourcing have dramatically reduced the amount of content developed, at least compared to the same documentation goals of the past. Plus, with a reduction in content you can spend more time "boiling down" the existing content to the essentials -- carving the perfect step-by-step procedure, for example.

And you also have this weird effect where you can take one or a handful of topics and repurpose them into a documentation piece that nobody asked for but could be extremely helpful to users. So flexibility and improved user assistance.

But the question I'm really asking is, where is content itself going? Meaning, are we now confined to just the task, just the concept, just the reference? And mainly the task?

Meaning, where do these constructs go from here? Just variations of the same thing? Fifteen years ago documentation was full of narrative conceptual material. Today you don't find much of that, and we all dream in step-numbers. I hardly see a bulleted list anymore unless it's embedded in a how-to step. ("Do one of the following:")

Mobile will make things more compressed, but to me that's just another format.

I don't really have any clue what's next in this area, the way for example Minimalism broke new ground in the early 90's. And I think the tools developed to address the principles -- DITA was an outgrowth of Information Mapping (if I have that right), so DITA/XML tools are answers to that need. Mobile UA is an answer to smaller devices but I don't know if it ends there.

I welcome anyone's thoughts. Just musing out loud here.



PS - Maybe the question is, is there anything on the horizon as groundbreaking as Information Mapping for developing user assistance -- because it seems like, without really knowing it, that's what we're doing in a lot of contemporary content development. I don't really know what Information Mapping is, but I suspect I'm using it all the time. And I hate to think we're all heading toward becoming Information Mapping Robots, or Minimalism Robots, or DITA Robots, or Task-Topic-Writing Robots. (Although, somebody on the webinar actually wrote in and asked if documentation would ultimately be written by robots! Maybe the answer is yes. Phil's post about Clarify seems to portend something like that, or at least taking simple documentation into the mainstream.)

-----Original Message-----
From: On Behalf Of Char James-Tanny
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 11:28 AM
To: Roberta Hennessey
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Linked-In: Your Skills' Desirability Is Cratering Year Over Year

> I know Sarah O'Keefe of Scriptorium just did a webinar on the Trends in
> Tech Comm., but the recording is not available yet. It's a free webinar,
> you just have to register. I'm always wondering which tool skills will be
> in demand in the future.

The recording is available at

Char James-Tanny ~ JTF Associates, Inc. ~

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