RE: Trends in Tech Comm

Subject: RE: 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>, "Cardimon, Craig" <ccardimon -at- M-S-G -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2012 10:54:51 -0800

Can't argue with you there, Craig. Nicely put.

I think too that other than things like Minimalism, structured writing, maybe embedded help or mobile help, we're probably not going to see any "revolutions" in the content of tech writing, although as in these examples maybe just to make it more and more concise.

Technology is still relatively new, and device interfaces, and the devices themselves, still have time to go through radical evolution (can't predict where though). Documentation, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have that opportunity, or let's say promise.

I think we're at the limits of written and verbal communication in this regard. While technology is new, writing as a discipline is at least 2500 years old -- I read somewhere that somebody had a popular handbook on rhetoric several generations before Aristotle (it didn't survive), designed to help you argue your case effectively in the courts at the time. Writing has not evolved all that much since then, although prose style has changed over the years (and tech writing style has changed since the early 20th century).

So I think if we see any revolutions at all it'll be in the delivery, tools, and maybe structure of documentation, or winnowing down the content, but no major breakthroughs in content itself (I don't count multimedia as a breakthrough).

As a little PS, the John Muir "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive" book came in, and I opened it and sat down and browsed, intending to look for maybe 10 minutes, no more -- when I looked up it was an hour later. I had completely lost track of time. It drew me in that deeply.

But I also had the feeling that, this is from a different time. You couldn't get away with a book like that today. It's a good book, chock-full of information (I don't own a Volkswagen and never have - it almost makes you want to get one), but the best spots were where it only contained essential info, either numbered steps or detailed drawings (like of the engine, showing all the parts). The rest, while fun to read, is an indulgence -- and like you say, Craig, an indulgence that not a lot of us have time to support.

Steve

-----Original Message-----
From: Cardimon, Craig [mailto:ccardimon -at- M-S-G -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2012 6:30 AM
To: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene); 'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com'; 'John Allred'
Subject: RE: Trends in Tech Comm

Here are my thoughts on this. Feel free to contradict.

The early 1900s were perhaps a more gracious, ordered, and leisurely era. One had time to devote to prose. One didn't dash off a quick email at a traffic light. One sat down, deliberately, with pen and inkwell and notepaper, and carefully created a LETTER. A letter was the primary means of communication. Telephones were quite expensive.

Two world wars, along with several smaller wars, one Great Depression, and innumerable recessions had the effect of wringing most of the elaborate beauty out of writing. One was too busy trying to land a job, feed their families, or simply trying to survive being shot at, to worry much about the beauty of their prose.

And, who has the time to read prose, let alone elegant prose, now? Life keeps speeding up.

My two cents.

-- Craig

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References:
Trends in Tech Comm: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
RE: Trends in Tech Comm: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
Re: Trends in Tech Comm: From: Tony Chung
RE: Trends in Tech Comm: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
Re: Trends in Tech Comm: From: John Allred
RE: Trends in Tech Comm: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
RE: Trends in Tech Comm: From: Cardimon, Craig

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