RE: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town

Subject: RE: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town
From: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- ga -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:16:27 -0800

I still feel that one future for technical communicators is in areas encompassed by information design, information architecture (in its original meaning, not the web stuff of today), information visualization, data visualization, data presentation, business intelligence, and similar terms.

There will be plenty of work in UI, web, and mobile -- and the "under the hood" stuff, as you say -- but I also feel there's a strong future in taking large amounts of raw data and converting it into something meaningful, and presenting it in a way that allows the point being communicated to be comprehended quickly and easily.

This involves more visual forms of communication. This doesn't mean you have to become a graphic artist or technical illustrator, although those skills can certainly help. I'm thinking of visual building blocks -- maybe what Information Mapping was originally intended for (and Robert Horn's work is on my list of to-reads but haven't had time to).

These skills are different from classic technical writing, but I feel tech writers have these skills innately.

There's a massive amount of data that needs to be communicated intelligently. I don't mean in the way Amazon shows you what else you might like to buy based on your recent purchases. That's far more sophisticated than what a technical communicator can add to the mix.

I mean presenting things to humans in a social context. A more visual language lets people grasp information more quickly than they can with strictly words. This involves first designing a way to communicate complex data or information, then producing a document that does it -- and that may involve charts, graphs, maybe some basic form of infographics (not the glitzy BS stuff you see today), a flowchart, a map or roadmap, some combination of words and visual language. This is an area that doesn't typically involve minimalism, instructions, DITA, content management, XML, structured writing, etc., at least not in the ways we normally deal with them as a focus of tech comm.

Simple shapes can help do the trick. It's amazing what you can communicate with something like Visio, even for the non-engineer. Think of the information that a map of the solar system conveys. The spatial relationship of the planets, their relative sizes, their orbits, their direction of rotation and revolution, their orientation in space, their distance from the sun and each other, their moons, weather conditions (in some basic sense), composition (again basic), the scale of the solar system itself. Well, that's a map of an actual system so of course it's going to have some relationship to the physical objects. But you can take something more conceptual like data and abstract it into a picture representation. A solar system map that is mapping not an actual solar system but a collection of data and their relationships.

We knocked some of this around a couple of years ago, and I had some time to research it then. I've only done a little more research since then, but I believe even more strongly in this for the future.

(I went online after writing this and the first headline I encountered was this one: "Population of Known Alien Planets Nearly Doubles as NASA Discovers 715 New Worlds." Not really relevant to the discussion, just ironic. And I think they meant "extrasolar" rather than "alien," because they don't know if aliens really live there.:)

Steve


On Wednesday, February 26, 2014 9:40 AM, Gene Kim-Eng wrote:

I see it as more as a shifting of emphasis. For a relatively brief time in history there was a need to handhold consumers through poorly-thought-out products based on new tech. As the tech is getting smarter, that need is becoming increasingly unnecessary, But at the same time, the need to document what goes on under the hood of that tech is *increasing*. BLS projects a continued *growth* in future need to technical writers, not a reduction. It is just that those writers are going to need different and in many cases more industry-specific qualifications to meet that need.

Gene Kim-Eng


On Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 6:04 PM, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- ga -dot- com>wrote:

> So there's no question the field of what needs to be documented has shrunk.

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References:
Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town: From: Robert Lauriston
Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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