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Technical communication

Good Help is Hard to Find

“One of the most fundamental rules of user experience on the web is that developers are rarely qualified to evaluate it. As developers, we know far too much about the web in general, and intuitively grasp details that mystify people who spend their days contributing to society in other ways. For this reason, it’s all too easy for us to build websites and applications that are hard to use. Good user testing during the development process can mitigate the problem, but in many projects, the testing budget is limited if present at all.” (Lyle Mullican ~ A List Apart)

STC Content Strategy SIG

“This site is the home of the Content Strategy SIG (Special Interest Group) of the Society for Technical Communication. (…) Content strategy is an emerging field of practice dealing with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle. Strategy includes alignment to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance.” (About Content Strategy SIG)

Architecting User Assistance Topics for Reuse: Case Examples in DITA

“Single sourcing and its pragmatic flip side, reuse, remind me a bit of the early days of the personal computer. Everybody wanted one, but many weren’t sure what they would do with a computer if they got one. Even among seasoned user assistance architects, single sourcing and reuse remain elusive concepts. I recently heard someone at an STC chapter meeting define single sourcing as producing the same document as both a Help file and as a PDF file. Basically true, but one would hope there is more to it than that.” – (Mike HughesUXmatters)

Hockey Sticks and User Assistance: Writing in Times of Resource Constraints

“Many technical communication departments are experiencing flat budgets, meaning they’re getting only small or no increases in headcounts, capital expenses, or training dollars. Worse yet, many departments are facing reductions in these resources. These reductions cause production pressures that are often confounded by increases in development headcount, here or offshore. Since more code equates to more features, which in turn drive greater revenues, companies are more willing to increase development budgets. On the other hand, adding writers increases costs, which in turn reduces margins.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

WritersUA Conference Supplemental Materials Archive

“Conference speakers, Peer Showcase presenters, and Exhibitors are invited to provide additional materials to supplement the detailed information included in the printed Proceedings. Additional items may be added to this page as they become available. (…) The Conference speakers retain all rights to their presentation materials. WritersUA only assumes the right to distribute the comprehensive, printed Proceedings. If you would like copies of presentation slides and they are not listed here, we encourage you to request them from the individual speakers. Most speakers have provided their email address in the printed Proceedings.” (WritersUA)

Procedures: The Sacred Cow Blocking the Road

“If this column’s title sounds familiar to you, the bad news is you’re getting old, but the good news is your memory hasn’t gone yet. It was the title of a presentation I gave at the STC conference in Anaheim ten years ago. However, many of the points I made in that talk are still relevant to user assistance today, so I would like to update some of them and offer some new thoughts as well.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

Instructional Text in the User Interface: Some Counterintuitive Implications of User Behaviors

“User assistance occurs within an action context—the user doing something with an application – and should appear in close proximity to the focus of that action – that is, the application it supports. The optimal placement of user assistance, space permitting, is in the user interface itself. We typically call that kind of user assistance instructional text.” (Mike HughesUXmatters)

Jon Bosak Closing Kenote XML 2006

“It’s hard to remember now just how different this community was ten years ago. There were only a few hundred SGML experts in the world, a goodly number of whom came to this conference every year. Very few groups in existence today could boast the level of intelligence, the breadth of interest, and the depth of independence, not to say downright weirdness, evidenced by the SGML community of a decade past.” (XML 2006 Proceedings) – courtesy of timoreilly

Minimalism: The Minimalist Model applied to documentation and training

“The Minimalist theory of J.M. Carroll is a framework for the design of instruction, especially training materials for computer users. The theory suggests that (1) all learning tasks should be meaningful and self-contained activities, (2) learners should be given realistic projects as quickly as possible, (3) instruction should permit self-directed reasoning and improvising by increasing the number of active learning activities, (4) training materials and activities should provide for error recognition and recovery and, (5) there should be a close linkage between the training and actual system.” (Martin Ryder)