easyDITA | Information, Content, Documentation- Is There A Difference?

These terms get thrown around interchangeably but they really have different meanings. Yet we refer to information architecture (IA), content management, and documentation management, often in the …

Source: easyDITA | Information, Content, Documentation- Is There A Difference?

This short but easy-to-read article gives a great description of the differentiation of these tools. I think, sometimes, that technical communicators often somehow know this through osmosis, but when looking for the words to describe the differences to the “outside” world, this article is a good resource.

What do you think? Do you agree with the author’s assessment? Include your comments below.

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4 Lessons Learned (About Learning) From Blogging

Blogs provide great insight and are a helpful educational tool. But did you know the act of blogging can teach us something, too? Danielle Villegas explains.

Source: 4 Lessons Learned (About Learning) From Blogging

Thanks to Phylise Banner, Jennifer Hofmann, and InSync Training for the opportunity to write this article for InSync Training’s blog, Body Language in the Bandwidth. 

I based this article on the many years I’ve been writing here on TechCommGeekMom and other blogs I’ve written over time. I hope there’s helpful information for you here! It’s a quick read, and I enjoyed writing it.


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Is augmented reality part of technical communication’s future? | Leading Technical Communication

While walking my dog last night I came upon a mother and her young son standing on the sidewalk. She was holding her smartphone high in front of her, pointing it toward the western sky. As I came n…

Source: Is augmented reality part of technical communication’s future? | Leading Technical Communication

My friend, Larry Kunz, wrote this thoughtful article about the uses of AR, and how they might–or might not–be used in technical communications.  I think he started to see how it might be used, but he didn’t think it all the way through. His main concern, however, was on target for most of us technical communicators–what is an AR app’s value from a business perspective? Is this something customers would pay for?

Larry had his doubts, but I say YES, and it’s already in practice.  In tech comm over the past few years, I think the idea of what content is has definitely broadened from simple words and images to include more multi-media types. I remember being at an Adobe Day event, and I think it was Matt Sullivan (I might be wrong) who showed us how 3-D images could be used in digital documentation in Framemaker, and how that was a big deal–which it is! Video and other animation is also something that’s now embedded into digital documentation as well. So why wouldn’t AR be included in that?

If an engineer is trying to understand how to fix a part, why couldn’t a help “doc” use AR to show where a missing part should be, or to show in a semi-transparent overlay that would align with what machine you are looking at to see how to make a repair?

Right now, there are already marketing apps out there that you can use on your phone to find businesses, like Blippar. It detects where you are located, and as you look through your phone screen around you, it can tell you what businesses are around you. So, say you are in some town, and you want to know if a restaurant is along your walking path downtown. You can hold up your phone, and see that there’s a coffee shop just beyond your sight line, and another cafe.  The technology–and its content–are already out there in AR.

So I think the bigger question is this–how are we, as technical communicators, going to start integrating more of this kind of technology into our content? I will agree that there needs to be a solid basis for it, just like every business does not need a mobile app.  Just like with mobile apps, I think time will tell how far we push this kind of content for our documentation.

What do you think? Include your answers below.


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The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding | WIRED

What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?

Source: The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding | WIRED

When I saw the headline of this article, I had to read it. Something that I’ve thought about in recent months is how the economy needs to be turned around, and how a huge swath of the U.S. was decided by blue-collar workers who had difficulty finding work after the Recession of 2008.

Sometimes when I’d watch Star Trek, I’d see the few kids depicted on the show taking physics and basic quantum mechanics classes when they couldn’t have been any more than in the third grade. I can’t do that now. Does that mean that the children of the future are super geniuses? I doubt it. But I imagine that how subjects are taught, and what subjects are taught, will change over time. As the needs of our global economy change, skill sets will change as well.  I’ve often talked about how certain digital apps or abilities have morphed quickly in a few short years, such as being a social media strategist five years ago was more of a communications tool, whereas now social media specialists are now marketing specialists who know how to use social media tools.  Even content strategy has been pushed heavier into marketing, where content marketers are marketers who understand content and content management; they aren’t content managers and strategists who understand marketing. See the difference?

So, this article supports the idea that learning coding is going to be one of those basic, fundamental skills like learning how to spell or read or write a coherent sentence.  I still remember taking my HTML course about 18 years ago. Taking that course has served me very well, even as a non-developer! There have been few positions that I’ve held that didn’t involve some elements of coding or having an understanding of coding in a given project.

So, blue-collar coders? I don’t see why not. The trick will be seeing if bringing basic coding into the American curriculum will happen anytime soon (I doubt it). But I do see the benefits, as outlined in this article.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

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Scrap Your Work From Home Policy | Pam Ross | Pulse | LinkedIn

I was recently asked by an HR manager if I had a sample of a policy about working from home. My answer was: Do you want something more than “Get your

Source: Scrap Your Work From Home Policy | Pam Ross | Pulse | LinkedIn

I love, love, LOVE this article. This has been my position on working from home and doing remote work all along. I know there will be arguments about “team building” and “It’s easier when I can ask the person right next to me a question, and that can start an instant conversation.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.  But you know what? As the author said, we should be more about results oriented work, not the amount of hours my rear end was sitting in a chair at an office.

I have two arguments that further support those made in this article. First, as technical communicators, most of us–not all, but most–can do our work from home. We might need to be in the office now and then, but writing is a solitary job. Content management is a solitary job. Creating instructional design is a solitary job. Sure, you may have others who provide you with the information or content that drives what you do, but ultimately, it’s all on you. Second, we live in a globalized world, which means in the 21st century, we have conference calls, conferencing software like Skype, WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc. that allows us to share our work with others in real time around the world. We have instant messaging for those quick questions. We can share and work on content together in the cloud or through a CMS.  But there’s very little to hold us tethered to the office every day.

So, this article just backs what I keep saying. Companies need to update their work from home policies, and get with the times. They’ll find that more people will be happier workers, which usually means they’ll be more productive workers if they can work from home more often–or all the time.

What do you think of what this article’s author has to say? Include your comments below.


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Technical Writer – Career Rankings, Salary, Reviews and Advice | US News Best Jobs

See how technical writer stacks up against other occupations.

Source: Technical Writer – Career Rankings, Salary, Reviews and Advice | US News Best Jobs

Thanks to the STC and Liz Fraley for posting this on Facebook for me to see.

I’m fortunate that I’m friends with Adriane Hunt, the STC President who is quoted in this article. It’s great to know that technical writing is listed as #3 on the US News & World Report’s top Creative & Media Jobs list.  Adriane is a member of the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter (STC-PMC), which I’m currently the vice-president of, and she’s had lots of great takeaways over the years from attending STC-PMC programs and events (like the CONDUIT conference) and other STC events.

This is a great read to remind us why we stick with technical writing and communications.  It’s a profession that continues to grow, even when we think it isn’t, and we can gain great satisfaction from doing the job. It also doesn’t hurt that technical writers are usually great people as well. Adriane is a great example of that.

Check out the interview I did with her almost two years ago…the video is spotty (it was the first time I was doing it, and we had some unforeseen technical issues), but listen to the conversation, and you can see why Adriane and the STC has a great future.

A Conversation with Adriane Hunt

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2016 TechCommGeekMom Year in Review: Yeah, it could’ve been better.

Bored girl expressing, "Seriously though, do you think it could've been worse?"

Seriously though, do you think it could’ve been worse?

As 2017 gets going, I realized that I haven’t written a whole lot in the past year. Why? Simple–not a whole lot to write about, frankly. 2016 was a rough year in many ways, but there were some good elements, too.

It’s hard to write about things when you feel like nothing is inspiring you or giving you little motivation. I remember feeling excited about tech comm for the first few years, and it was much easier, as I was learning new things constantly. Now, while there is still a lot for me to learn, it’s not quite as much in some instances. It’s probably like anything else, in that movements go in waves, and the mobile wave first took hold right about the time I started to study tech comm and get involved in tech comm. Now, it’s something that we take for granted, like electricity or running water in developed countries. There are still things to discover, but the wave of innovation and adapting to the changes to those innovations–both professionally and socially–have generally passed. We’ve adapted, for the most part.  The use of mobile devices like mobile phones and tablets are common place now. Almost everyone has a smart phone. And many companies–not all, but most–have adapted their content and UX to have responsive design to adapt to different devices.  E-learning has gone back to basics with m-learning by re-adapting chunking and also using responsive design and better UX.

From my view, the initial thrill is over, and we are now settling into the “new normal”.   Things that were new and exciting have now become everyday, or have morphed into what they will be. For example, when social media really started to take off, it was an opportunity to create content that could be shared easily in sound bytes or blurbs in a more viral manner than conventional media. It was an opportunity to use content to incite a two-way conversation to discuss and share. Now, social media strategists don’t use social media for discussion, but rather as another marketing medium. Content strategists have been…shall we say…strongly encouraged to look at content as a marketing asset, and look towards content marketing. Content marketers, however, are not content strategists who have some understanding of marketing, but rather it’s expected that they are full-fledged marketers that have some understanding of content. (Trust me. I’ve read the job descriptions posted for many companies.) Both social media and content marketing are things I looked at doing seriously with my career. But as time went on, it was apparent that corporate expectations were shifting, and that these jobs were really meant for business people who were marketers and trained in marketing, not technical communicators. While I have some good sense about business, marketing, and customer service after many years, I don’t consider myself a business person per se. In other words, I would never get an MBA because business topics bore the hell out of me, and there are others who can look and do that sort of thing better than me.

This past year was a year of experimentation for me. When I got out of grad school almost five years ago, I wanted to be an instructional designer until I found that there was no such position as an entry-level instructional designer. I fell back into doing what I had done for years, but with stronger knowledge and experience, which was content strategy and management. I’d been happy doing that work, but always wanted to expand my skills. When I was released from my long-term contract doing content management in 2015, I saw it as an opportunity to do something different. I could start over, if you will. I was hired to do a knowledge management job, but the position was a misnomer. It really didn’t do anything close to knowledge management, and in the end, the projects they had brought me on board for were cancelled, and my contract ended in early 2016.

I was able to pick myself up quickly, taking a copywriting technical writer position. While I definitely had the ability to do the job, I found that my best writing abilities and UX/UI skills couldn’t be used to their fullest potential. I’m used to writing more than two sentences at a time, or re-labeling a button using a single word. I knew I had more to offer than what was required with no opportunities to contribute more than that, so I let that contract expire.

After trying those two other avenues, I found a short-term job doing content strategy and management again. Oh, it was exciting for me! I felt so comfortable doing that kind of work, and I felt confident again in my abilities. I was right to trust my instincts–that there was more to me than writing two sentences at a time, and doing something that I like doing. That, in itself, was a big discovery.

So, through this period of self-discovery, it was rough. I was unhappy with the work I was doing, unhappy with my lack of progress in a positive direction professionally, began to doubt my professional self-worth, and felt conflicted about next steps. Okay, so I’m still working through some of it, but I think the worst is (hopefully) over.

This isn’t to say that it’s all been bad. From those events, I can say that I learned what I’m good at, and what I’m not good at. I learned what I like and don’t like. I started to have a better understanding of my self-worth, at least professionally. Those are big realizations in themselves.

There were also other good things that happened that proved to be positive challenges. I had post-weight loss surgery, and recovered from that well. I’d never had major surgery in my life (and will be avoiding it in every way possible in the future), and found strength within myself to recover quickly and push myself.  I attended three conferences in 2016, namely CONDUIT, TC Camp – East, and the STC Summit. All went well, and it gave me a chance to learn and reaffirm my passion for tech comm, meet and network with old and new colleagues, and remind me that this is the profession where I belong.  I got more involved in my local STC chapter, and now I’m the vice-president of the chapter, and working my way up the STC food chain, as one might say. I’ve been in charge of STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter’s programming this year, and I’m also co-chair of their conference, CONDUIT, so it’s been very busy for me that way as well, as I gain some new soft skills–and enhance ones I already had.

The election outcome put me in a very bad funk for the latter part of 2016. Dealing with my teenage autistic son has been more challenging than ever. End of the year holidays also don’t put me in a happy mood, usually. It’s usually a stressful time on a number of levels, and I couldn’t wait for the year to be over.

While in many respects, the start of 2017 is a chance to start fresh again, it’s an artificial starting point. I say that because we can start over fresh anytime we want to, if you think about it. It could be in the middle of August, or the end of March, or anytime, really. But with the stress of the holidays and year-end activities, January 1st was as good a date as any to start over, and it’s not something that is only on one day.  Fresh starts can take days, weeks, or months. I’ve made some big decisions going forward that will take some time. I will need to be more patient with myself in achieving those goals. I am going to have many challenges, but I have support from my family and my colleagues to move forward in the direction I am intending.

The number one thing that I’ve decided that I need to do in 2017 is I have to get to a place in my life where I can be happy with what I do, and do what I enjoy.  That’s easier said than done. To that end, I’m going to focus more on building up my independent consulting business, which I had intended to start after that long-term contract ended in 2015. I got majorly side-tracked in 2016, so 2017 is going to be focused on getting back on track with that. No agency contract distractions like in the past year. I’m going to do it on my own, using entrepreneurship and networking skills. It may be slow going to start, but I have a few good leads so far. Time will tell if they work out successfully. I know I’ll put my full efforts into any projects I do get. I’ll also be learning, both independently and with help, how to run a successful business.  Hopefully, this will encourage the spark for me to write here more often about things that are going on that I see in tech comm, and how I view things that I’m learning in the process. I had a recent head-start with my adventures in learning DITA. My initial plans are to continue to train and practice using DITA. I’m also going to be learning Drupal next month, as that seems to be a widely used CMS in my area with some of the leading employers in the area. I’m hoping that adding DITA and Drupal to my “arsenal” of skills will be helpful for my business. I’ll attending CONDUIT and the STC Summit for sure this year, strengthening my professional ties and knowledge. I’ll be working hard still for the STC-PMC, as I intend to run for President of the group this year (we’ll see how that goes!).

Outside of my professional life, there are some hurdles along the way as well, but my goal this year is, well, to get through this year unscathed, or better off than I am now. I don’t mean just financially or professionally, but personally as well. It’s going to be a rebuilding year, and I hope that this time next year, I’ll be a little more upbeat about things, and I will have been able to share more with you over the course of the year.

What are your professional goals this year? Include your comments below.

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