Re: Request to take survey

Subject: Re: Request to take survey
From: Helen OBoyle <hoboyle -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: INKtopia Admin <admin -at- inktopia -dot- net>
Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2016 15:51:58 +1000

To echo and augment others' comments:
1) It does seem that the survey is biased toward consumer web content
development, given the mentions of search optimisation, responsive design,
advanced illustration (as opposed to technical diagramming) tools, and web
dev standards like HTML, CSS, javascript and so on. There's a whole
technical communications world out there beyond the activity of writing
content, which may or may not be technical, for the web.

2) DITA and DocBook are both major standards in the tech comms world.
They're built on top of XML, which didn't get a mention in your survey.
The last 3 writing jobs I've had, over the past 10 years, required writing
in XML according to DITA, DocBook or a proprietary schema. The only time
I've done writing projects involving HTML were to convert it to a
proprietary XML format. The more technically sophisticated the
organisation, the more likely they are to use an XML toolchain, which they
have probably have customised for their requirements, for content creation
and publishing. For example, a shop employing developers to work on their
products, or one who considers software development experience a plus for a
tech writer, and thus is capable of creating tools optimised for their
content creation and publishing use cases, has in my experience been more
likely to use one of these open formats. Just a guess, but it may be that
only writers at the higher end of the market tend to work with these
technologies, and since we're pretty good at networking, we get gigs before
they're advertised.

3) The mention of specific tools used for documentation tends to indicate
that the organisation is looking for a publishing technician type of
technical writer. These are the writers who used to be called "desktop
publishers", who primarily pretty and otherwise reformat existing content,
and for whom learning a new piece of software can be drama requiring
training classes and a mentor. In most cases they've been obsoleted by
usability improvements in commodity writing tools like Microsoft Word that
let non-writer users format content acceptably and also by a reduced desire
by companies to pay for prettying up their content, since that content is
likely to be out of date in a couple months if the product is developed per
agile methodology. On the other side of the spectrum is a pure technical
writer who often has to reverse-engineer product functionality to write the
only written description of the feature that exists, and who can pick up
new tools on the fly. This person may or may not have anything to do with
how the content looks on screen, let alone any other processing such as
search optimisation. They generate the accurate words, and someone else
takes care of figuring out how they look to end users, how usage metrics
are collected, etc. Microsoft and Cisco were at least at one time full of
such technical writers.

4) Whither task automation in your list of technical skills? Whether we're
merging database table definitions with content, determining how to use
software that's "really" for QA testing to automatically capture screen
shots each time the product changes, filling in default content when
appropriate based on querying source code, converting content from one
format to another and posting it to a proprietary-standard wiki with one
click, automatically checking content against our own internal style
guide's rules before checking it in, mining the support call database to
determine features that have generated multiple support requests and
therefore would benefit from improved documentation, automating repetitive
tasks using whichever tools are available to us, even if it's a proprietary
macro language we've never seen before, is how some of us generate value.

5) How about writing tool selection as a skill as well? It's not often
that a writer gets the chance to pick their tools of choice for a gig, but
it happens, and the org assumes that the writer is enough of a technical
writing SME to pick one appropriate for the situation.

Kind regards,

Helen.


On Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 3:52 AM, INKtopia Admin <admin -at- inktopia -dot- net> wrote:

> Hi everyone, we were asked to distribute a survey for Arizona State
> University.
>
>
> Survey information:
>
>
> Eva Brumberger and a colleague are researching current workplace practices
> of technical/professional communicators, including technical writers, UX
> designers, content developers, social media writers, etc. We started by
> analyzing ~1500 technical communication job postings to identify the
> skills, technologies, and personal characteristics (e.g. initiative,
> leadership, etc.) that employers were seeking. The results are published in
> two articles in *Technical Communication*: the first (Nov 2015) focusing
> on information development jobs, the second (coming out next month) on UX
> jobs.
>
>
> The second stage of the project focuses on practitioner perspectives rather
> than employer perspectives. This summer, we interviewed several
> technical/professional communicators and shadowed them in their workplaces.
> Building on that data, we are now surveying technical/professional
> communicators about the competencies they use on the job on a daily
> basis. The survey should take no longer than 10-15 minutes; you can access
> it here: https://qtrial2015az1.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_
> 2iyrLwPJeIUzJbL
>
>
> The project data will help academic programs better prepare students for
> their roles in the workplace, and will provide practitioners with extensive
> up-to-date information about the field that may be especially useful for
> those seeking new jobs or thinking about career paths. Iâd be happy to
> answer any questions about the project.
>
>
> Thank you for your help!
>
>
>
> Eva R. Brumberger
> Associate Professor & Program Head
>
> Technical Communication
>
> College of Integrative Sciences and Arts
>
> Arizona State University
>
> ###
>
> This seems like a good survey and we hope you all will take a little time
> to fill it out.
>
> All the best
> al
>
> --
>
>
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>
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