Structure and Semantics for Context – Simple A

Maxwell Hoffmann

Maxwell Hoffmann, circa 2013
Photo credit: D.M.Villegas

Simple A’s Maxwell Hoffman happens to be a good friend and mentor of mine. I’m lucky and honored to have him as one of my cheerleaders. Maxwell recently wrote and excellent article about structure and semantics for context in content for Simple A’s blog and for the ISTC.

His article starts,
Content becomes intelligent, flexible, and capable of scalable personalization through structure and semantics.

Content drives customer experience (CX). In order to achieve optimal CX, we need the ability to manage multiple variations of content components that are dynamically assembled as relevant experiences, based on the context of the customer’s touchpoints. We need the ability to create a content component once, then reuse and deploy it many times, in many ways. This requires structured content with an intelligence shaped by semantics.

Structuring content within a well-defined content model makes content scalable, reusable, adaptable, and measurable. We cannot create real-time, personalized conversations at scale without structured, intelligent, semantically rich and truly accessible content.

He continues the article breaking down how we can create content models based on reusable content (do I hear DITA?) and how we model content has direct impact on user and customer experience. This is the foundation of intelligent content, if you think about it.

It’s a well-written article, and I highly recommend that you take a look at it.

Structure and Semantics for Context

What do you think? Include your comments below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Virus puts gig economy to the test – LinkedIn

Woman blowing her nose, sick at workIt’s amazing to see how suddenly companies are taking coronavirus/COVID19 so seriously, and suddenly allowing remote work in droves. In light of this, my friend Ken Ronkowitz shared this link on LinkedIn which covers a few articles and comments about how this pandemic may show how the gig economy can truly work, and despite all the protests about remote work not being productive, it really can be.

It’s a LinkedIn article, so make sure that you log into your LinkedIn account first:

Virus puts gig economy to the test

What do you think? Will this be the “needle that broke the camel’s back” when it comes to proving remote work is viable? Or is this solely a temporary fix? Include your comments below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who knew it’d be a pandemic to encourage remote work?

It is early March 2020. At this writing, the coronavirus (also known as COVID19) pandemic is slowly taking over, and people are starting to realize that they need to take it seriously. Unlike other pandemics in the past (last big one was “Spanish Flu” 100 years ago), we do have the knowledge and means to prevent it from spreading too much with basic sanitary hygiene like washing your hands and not touching other surfaces and hands that infected people might have also touched.

It is in light of this that I’m getting many of my tech comm friends pinging me on social media about remote work, as in, “Hey, I know you are an advocate for remote work, and more companies are sending people home in fear of the coronavirus.” Yep, so I’ve seen!  Who knew that it would take a pandemic to encourage remote work?

While there are jobs out there where you do need to show up, most technical communications jobs are really not among them. I’ve worked on virtual teams of technical writers, content strategists, UX designers, programmers, project managers, visual designers, and we did just fine. It’s all about communication and having the appropriate tools, but I’ll go into that more in a moment. Let’s look at some other factors that show that remote work is super viable.  

I could have told you that remote work was better for health reasons long ago. First, we can keep our germs to ourselves more by staying home. This doesn’t mean that we never leave our homes, but because we only go out to shop or get errands done, we’re not exposed to as many things as most. Yes, it only takes one germ to get ‘ya, but your risk is significantly minimized. I used to get really bad bronchial infections, colds, and other things when I worked in offices, no matter how much hand sanitizer I used and how many Clorox anti-bacterial wipes I used on my equipment.  Once I worked from home, that happened less often.  If workers don’t get sick as often, then their health benefits are not as expensive and there’s more time working. That benefits employers as much as it does workers. 

Costs of working from home is significantly less. I think I read a statistic–I think Chris Herd put it on LinkedIn recently (he’s another big remote advocate like me) that it costs something like $18,000+ per worker per year (or something like that) to pay for office space. I don’t think that included internet/wifi connectivity, water/electricity/heating/cooling, telephony, or any other things that you have in an office. Working from home, that costs about 1/10th of that per year. Additionally, there’s the cost of commuting by car or public transit, or even eating out for lunch. Those costs in not only money but time also take away from the “bottom line”–they add up very quickly. 

Remote workers also reap mental health benefits from working from home. In most cases, there have been studies that show that working from home is more productive as there are less disturbances, allowing workers to better focus on their work.  They can use that free time to get a gym workout in, talk to their kids, make a healthier meal than take out, or just…whatever. The balance between work and home is better because there’s more “home” time involved.  Less stress means happier workers. 

Now, I know there are those who say that they like having to work around people. Good for you! But I know this tech comm bunch–most of us (including myself) are introverts. (I know, I don’t seem like one, but I am an extroverted introvert.) We don’t have to deal with people ALL THE TIME. What about that one co-worker you would prefer not to talk to unless you have to? When you are in the office, you are forced into seeing your office colleagues all day, whether you like them or not. You see them more than you see your family, in some cases. If you have great colleagues, good for you. I’ve been in bad groups and good groups. I would rather control my face time with all of them. Remote work lets me do that.  We live in an age where we can video conference, audio conference, make phone calls, email, and instant message people. There are shared drives and BaseCamp and Microsoft Teams and Jira/Confluence and other tools that help with the collaboration. As I said, I’ve been on teams where everyone was spread out globally, and with consistent, concise, and frequent communication using most of the tools listed above, we would make great things happen. 

IT CAN WORK. 

Now, companies are forced into trying it for the sake of world health. I’m willing to bet that many companies that previously didn’t have any kind of telecommuting or remote options that are now forced to consider it are going to get a shocking surprise at how well things will work. Remote work was supposed to be something that was going to be very commonplace by 2020, and it still isn’t. (Thanks, Marissa Meyer.) 

I’m looking for a new remote position right now, as a matter of fact. I am suited for it. I prefer it. I get more work done. I am able to keep after my health better. My mental state is better. I can take care of my family better. I’m more comfortable working in my own setup, and saving money on commuting and other working-at-an-office costs. Some of my best work has been done when I worked from home. 

Will this be the huge wake up call that we advocates of remote work have been waiting for? Time will tell. 

What do you think? Include your comments below.  

PS – You might also want to do a search in this blog on the word “remote” and see several articles that I’ve shared and other insights as well. 😉

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is conversation design?

Scotty talking to a computer mouse.

When going back in time in Star Trek IV, Chief Engineer Scott forgot that there wasn’t AI in the late 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Donn DeBoard for posting this on his LinkedIn feed. This is a really good site for something that all technical communications professionals should be looking at, even if they don’t do something related to it now. This is what the future is going to look like, and we are the pioneers.

Read this page and its subsequent pages from Google about conversation design:
https://designguidelines.withgoogle.com/conversation/conversation-design/what-is-conversation-design.html

What do you think of conversation design? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maybe It’s Not Content Management Anymore. Maybe It’s Context Management/Associations Now

Maybe It’s Not Content Management Anymore. Maybe It’s Context Management.

Thanks to Tina Howe for sharing this on her Twitter feed.

Just from the title alone, the concept is a little mind-blowing.  How would you abandon content management after so many years? Heck, there are still many who haven’t grasped that concept in the first place!

But once you read the entire article, it makes total sense. Content types have been growing steadily, especially in the last 10 to 15 years or so, and with that, you have many different kinds of content that need specialized machinations in order to create the management of that content and how it interacts with other content.  It reminds me a little bit about hypertext theory, but amplified. Hypertext theory has to do with the paths one takes to get from point A to the desired point B when there could be multiple points A and multiple points B and endless combinations. Add the complexity of different things beyond text, images and video and consider bots, AI, and other newer tech that has come into the picture. They all have to play nicely together, but they also need to be organized in a way that the transitions from various points A to points B to points C need to be seamless.

Take a read, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Framework for Thinking about Documentation Quality/STC Intercom

My friend and STC colleague, Steve Jong, has written an excellent piece for this month’s STC Intercom magazine that’s definitely worth read.

As I’m about to start on my new gig soon (red tape holding it up right now), this is a topic that’s been very much on my mind, so the timeliness of the article is great. I like how Steve has broken it down based on the audience types and their needs. After all, it’s practically the mantra of all technical communicators to ask, “Who’s the audience?” so that we can cater our work appropriately. One always hears about the “faster, better, cheaper” of documentation, but Steve breaks it down on how that can actually work based on setting realistic goals based on your audience without losing quality in the process.  I know that’s a goal of mine going into any project that I do!

As this article is openly available, I urge you to take a look, and really savor the information. I think it will either reinforce what you might instinctively know as a technical communicator, or it will clue you in to some things that you might not have thought about.

See the link below, and let me know what you think in the comments.

A Framework for Thinking about Documentation Quality

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Essential Remote Work Statistics for You to Know in 2020

Was remote work included in your New Year’s Resolution? Is finding a remote job on your radar? Are you wondering about the current state of remote work so you can plan your next move? Whatever your strategies are regarding remote work and location-independence, knowing the trends and current information will help you fulfill your goals.

https://remotehabits.com/article/essential-remote-work-statistics-2020/

Thanks to Jennifer Heller Meservey for posting this on LinkedIn.  Remote work continues to get attention, and this is a great article showing some of the more positive statistics as to why it works as well as it does. I know that as soon as I started working remotely again after being in an office for six months, I felt much more productive and relaxed.

What are your thoughts about the stats presented? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment