RE: What would you call this process, and role?

Subject: RE: What would you call this process, and role?
From: "Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)" <sjanoff -at- celgene -dot- com>
To: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2012 12:38:51 -0700

Lauren wrote:

> "Data visualization"? That conjures up some odd images for me. Why am I reminded of the poem, The Night Before Christmas and "visions of sugar-plums" dancing in the heads of analysts? "Data dreaming" perhaps?

"In the Night Kitchen," cookin' up some data. :)

> That sounds like a role that can be called, Data Presentation. Understanding data is important right now, since many people have suffered economically by being misled by someone's data manipulation. People do not necessarily want to know the data, but they do want to know what the data means or how they can use the data to maximize their
ROI or reverse a negative ROI. If you can present the data with same enthusiasm you have for analyzing it and get people enthusiastic about the data, then you can probably build yourself a lucrative niche.

Yes, bingo. That would be awesome.

What's most interesting about this stuff is that, although actually locating and extracting the data is not that exciting (although maybe it can be), the real excitement and challenge comes from analyzing the data and then presenting it in a way that anyone can understand -- and that's where our skills in Technical Communications come in.

It also gives you the opportunity to think a little bit visually rather than just verbally. I love writing but when you add in a visual component, that really takes it into a different level. It does require some graphic skills but they can be rudimentary and geared more toward design than art. I have no artistic ability at all, but I do have a decent visual sense, and something that could be augmented with some basic design training.

Here's an example of something that came across the news today, although it looks like it's been in development for quite a while. I wouldn't necessarily want to sit and develop something like this -- this is more of a programming challenge -- and you can question its usefulness, but it's definitely intriguing, and fun to play around with (if you have a little time -- you can see it's a real time-waster):

Here's the story where I found it:

I'm smack in an IT department and maybe it makes sense that I'd be moving more toward data analysis or business data analysis or whatever it might be called (although I will be doing some online help and PDF docs), but I have to say it's a really interesting shift from the usual menu of how-to documentation, software instructions, etc.

What occurs to me based on just a little bit of reading about Information Architecture and these topics -- and I've only touched the surface -- is that, as you say Lauren, there may be a niche here for Tech Commers. (Tech Commies?:) I think it was in Information Anxiety 2 (which I've begun reading -- cool book) where Richard Saul Wurman said that there's not an information explosion, rather a data explosion. We're inundated with data, and there's no sense-making out of it. We need people to take some of that raw data and make sense out of it. (Nathan Shedroff has a chart that shows the progression from Data --> Information --> Knowledge --> Wisdom.) Raw data doesn't mean much to most of us. Information is raw data that has been collected, coordinated, and made meaningful in some way (e.g., visual presentation). Knowledge, I'm guessing, is the insight gained from the information and what gives us the ability to take action. Wisdom seems to come from the accumulation of years and experience, and perhaps gives us the ability to deduce things and "fill in the gaps" based on the networks of knowledge, let's say, that we've acquired. So the detective with 30 years' experience has an ability to profile the suspect with some certainty, in a way that far exceeds the abilities of the rookie.

There is a need for people to bridge that gap between Data and Information, and it looks like the Technical Communicator is well-suited for that. This doesn't have to be graphics, either. It can be charts or other variations of text-based presentations, maybe that just have more of a visual look. I'm learning a lot about Excel, for example -- that was on the to-do list for over 20 years! Now that it's happening, the mystique has gone away (so has the feeling that I'm missing something by not knowing it!), but the program is very powerful, more so than I'd imagined.

Anyway, don't mean to ramble. But it's exciting stuff.

Thanks, Lauren!


PS - In some ways, this role seems like it can combine the exactitude of the Tech Writer with the creativity and vision of the novelist -- the "visions of sugar-plums dancing" that you talk about above. :)

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What would you call this process, and role?: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
Re: What would you call this process, and role?: From: Lauren
RE: What would you call this process, and role?: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
Re: What would you call this process, and role?: From: Lauren

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