RE: Request to take survey

Subject: RE: Request to take survey
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Chris Despopoulos'" <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2016 08:20:59 -0400

I agree with Chris completely on this. I think there is a broad misconception about what "social media" means. Social media is not defined by its subject matter. It is a description of media, not content. Social media are those media that are conversational in nature. Books and traditional websites are not social. They are one way communications. I publish, you read. But media like Facebook, Google Plus, Stack Overflow, and Twitter are social because I publish and you publish back and we create a published conversation.

This is a genuinely new media form of the Internet age. We had conversations before, and we had publications, but the nearest we can to published conversations was the occasional publication of collections of letters. But such publications usually happened long after the letters were written and were often one sided -- the letters of the famous person were published, but not those of their correspondents. The published conversation, then, is a transformative media of our age, and it had transformed technical communication as much as any other field. A significant proportion of all technical questions that people ask today are answered by reference to published conversations in web forums and sites like Stack Exchange. Social media is redefining how technical communication takes place.

It is true that it is marketing departments who tend to advertise for "social media writers". Marketing via social media is arguably a more difficult skill than doing tech comm via social media given the potential for anything promotional in nature to blow up in your face if people feel it is inappropriate or insensitive. Social media writing on technical subjects is much less likely to cause scandal, so you are less likely to worry about special training or education for tech writers who post about how to mangle left handed widgets on stack exchange.

So, "social media writing" should not be taken to mean marketing on FaceBook, it should be taken to mean communicating in a conversational media about any topic. And by that definition, technical communication has a longer history on social media than marketing does, since technical communication was the second largest activity on Usenet.

Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Chris Despopoulos
Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2016 7:37 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Request to take survey

Helen asks:In response to what's below, could you explain how "social media writing"
qualifies as technical communications?
In fact, my company faces quite precisely the issue of "technical writing" in a social site. The community exists to share technical details around the use of our product. There's a life cycle for this writing/information, and there's some threshold across which it becomes "curated technical writing". I see something like this:* Discovery -- Customers discover and write up usage or issues we couldn't predict* Dependency -- Discovery topics reveal dependencies among each other* Generalization -- Dependent topics reveal a pattern that can be generalized* Curation -- Generalized articles pass through review and are marked as official There are lots of issues with technical content on a social site. Versioning, deprecation, accuracy, validation... At what point can you log a bug against social content? Should you ever log bugs, or will reputation take care of that (my thinking is that reputation is inadequate... Tyranny of the majority... Everybody might think something is correct when it's actually quite wrong.) At some point, true technical writing has to intervene if you want to rely fully on the content. This is my idea of how social media writing can qualify as technical communication.
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