One of the things I like about the STC having a chapter set-up is that even if the closest chapter isn’t next door, it’s usually still close enough to find people from your region with whom you can connect. For me, I found my “tribe” with the STC – Philadelphia Metro Chapter, or “STC-PMC” as we call it.
Every year, the STC-PMC hosts a Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference that people from around mid-Atlantic region–and beyond–come to learn and present information going on in the world of tech comm. My first exposure to tech comm conferences–and presenting–was at last year’s STC-PMC conference, and it was just a positive experience. I met many people whom I had only known through social media, and met new people as well. Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”, and it’s evident with this STC chapter. I immediately felt welcomed both as a member and as a new presenter as well.
The conference itself opened my eyes to new possibilities and new ideas as well. I also felt that it validated many of my own experiences as well–that I was coming up with similar ideas and solutions as others in the field. I also liked that unlike the STC Summit or some of the other conferences I’ve been to, this one is a little smaller and more intimate, allowing everyone the opportunity to get to know the speakers and the other attendees on a more one-to-one level.
This year’s STC-PMC conference is on Saturday, March 22nd just outside of Philadelphia in Willow Grove, PA. This all-day event is going to be jam-packed full of good information that’s timely and will be helpful in your tech comm evolution. I’m presenting this year, and my presentation is called, “Blogging Out Loud: The Basics of Blogging.” It seems I know a little something about blogging and am willing to share. 🙂
But I’m not the only draw–Neil Perlin, STC President Nicky Bleiel, Ellen Buttolph, Roger Renteria, Ben and Marilyn Woelk, Donn DeBoard, Todd DeLuca, Traci Browne, David Dylan Thomas, Bernard Aschwanden and Christopher Ward will all be presenting as well. There’s lunch, prizes, and lightning talks, too! All at a very affordable price!
Afterwards, there will be a free networking event at the nearby Iron Abbey restaurant sponsored by WebWorks and Publishing Smarter. (You don’t need to go to the conference to attend the networking event, but you’ll get more bang for your buck if you do both!)
So, it’s a fantastic event that the STC-PMC is setting up, and gee–it’s on a Saturday! You don’t have to worry about missing work to take advantage of this great networking and learning opportunity.
It’s been more than a week since I attended the 2013 Adobe Day at Lavacon, and like the previous two Adobe Days that I’ve attended in the last year or so, it certainly exceeded my expectations. There’s a lot to digest and write from my notes, plus I’ve been busy with my job, so it’s taken me a while to get things started. I appreciate your patience, as I hope that these upcoming summaries will give you the full flavor of this always free, thought leadership event!
The theme for this Adobe Day seemed to change mid-campaign prior to the actual event. Originally, the day was promoted as being an event in the “City of Roses,” alluding to one of the nicknames of the hosting city, Portland, Oregon. Later, the event was touted as being “a conference at the confluence of 2 rivers,” again referencing the location of Portland. Since this was my second visit to Portland in which I had an opportunity to see much more of the city and surroundings than during my first trip, I decided that I would adhere to the original theme for my postings about the event.
As always, I find it best to start my summaries of Adobe Day with the panel discussion that ended the event, as it provides an excellent starting point for the issues discussed throughout Adobe Day. The panel discussion was titled, “Preparing Your Content for Multi-lingual, Multi-Channel Global Delivery–Challenges and Opportunities.” In thinking about this theme, it reminded me–sticking with my floral theme of the “City of Roses”–of the International Rose Test Garden in Portland. The International Rose Test Garden is the most famous of all the public gardens in Portland, having the most colors and varieties of roses found anywhere for all to enjoy. The Adobe Day panel consisted of several thought leaders in technical communication that resembled this rose garden, as it was full of variety in experiences and opinions.
After an audience drawing for door prizes conducted by Maxwell Hoffman of Adobe for “Made in Oregon”-type prizes, the always nimble Scott Abel (aka The Content Wrangler) moderated the panel. I will admit that questions and answers were going by so quickly as to squeeze in as much information as possible that I was unable to tell you who said what for the most part, but I’m going to provide you with the main summary of the lightning fast conversation. I’d like to thank the following people for also tweeting the event, which helped me confirm my own information as well as fill in some blanks for information that might have slipped by. I’ve included some of their findings in this post:
(Be sure to check out all the Twitter connections of these fine people and the panelists! Lots of good ideas shared by these people!)
Questions and answers were as follows:
Q: What does it means to be global ready? A: Global ready means being able to operate anywhere in the world, ready to be translated easily, and that content being to be able to be structured, simple, and consumable. Other benefits includ knowing your audience well, as this way, content will be more consumable by both native and ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers.
Q: What is the single biggest challenge preventing us from reach global audiences?
A: The current mindset, rapid change, and a lack of strategy were listed as the top challenges. It was also noted that the voice that companies use now, such as cheeky language, isn’t working. We aren’t thinking strategically, so we need to think about the whole life cycle of projects and getting out of thinking in “silos”.
Q: What can we do to prepare for both human & machine translation?
A: Simplifying sentences in a grammatically correct way is a big way to help. Sentences should be 24 words or less. We need to also decide whether to use original content or not, what kind of content, what volume, etc. Content needs good globalization methods with translation and localization.
Q: Is it possible to create consistent tone and voice that will translate well across cultures, and if so, should we?
A: We may not be able to do it for all audiences, but you need to try.
Q: What is multichannel publishing exactly?
A: It is making maximum use of technology to create translation of content. This includes writing code to code, spoken to written, etc. You need to create a single, consistent source for what you are doing. As we break content into chunks for reuse, we have to take into account corporate culture and practices.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing organizations that seek to publish content to multiple channels?
A: The biggest challenges listed were internal obstacles, such as no one wanting to change, “this is the way we’ve always done it” attitude. The is a need to understand that times are changing, so content needs to change with the times. Content may be outdated and it need to keep up. Writers can be a problem as well, as the content we create isn’t necessarily the content we consume. Customers can consume content in ways that we (the writers) don’t, so we need to be mindful of that. The people who are consuming content today are not the people who were consuming it 5 years ago. The content that you put in your help files also has to be on Google, after all. It was recommended that writers use SEO words in Google that customers use, and that will help writers understand context and how to craft our documentation for customers, as “Google-ability” affects context. Keywords are often created post-publishing, so we need to be proactive before publishing to have the advantage. If you manage your keywords, you can help with findability.
Q: What are the not-so-obvious opportunities of multichannel delivery?
A: Opportunities taking advantage of non-text items are the best opportunities right now, such as automated graphics that adjust to a device display. A table of contents for video can actually help in documentation, since end-users don’t have a long enough attention. Indexing multimedia should be made as part of the product. Further action also need to be taken to expand on the idea of being able to start on one device and continuing on another, like Kindle, as this has not explored enough yet.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake an organization can make when moving to a multichannel global content delivery?
A: Organizations tend to look internally, instead of getting outside input, such as learning things from conferences (like @LavaCon ). Mobile delivery is very different in different countries, so we need to do it in ways other than American. We need to find balance if one aspect is overfocused. The biggest mistake is thinking that everyone is like us (Americans/North Americans). They’re not! Strategy and planning from the start is key! We need to also learn from what’s working and what’s not, and go from there. It’s important to stop and assess procedures, and then add on more. There is a strong need to clean up practices. It comes back to knowing your audience–its symbols, language, culture. Testing is the best way to see if your audience are getting the benefit of the content you are putting out, and making sure it’s usable.
Q: How does one write consistency to reap those benefits and be consistent with SEO?
A: Writers need to know what language your customer is looking for you, and find a balance between translatability and vocabulary. Metadata is important inside as well.
Q; Are there tools on the horizon that will help with those symbols, icons, etc. that could not be good for translation?
A: At this point, no software as of yet. It’s mostly people based right now, but evolving software does exist. Precise content has its benefits including accessibility as well as fluid machine translation. Interaction types (voice, touch, text) will be a big part of how you integrate with content for global audience in mobile, although it’s not limited to mobile. Consideration of various screen sizes will be key. Think your online help is the first place your users go for answers? Unless your help shows up on Google, think again.
You have to admit, it sounds like quite the conversation, and it was!
Next in the Adobe Day -Lavacon 2013 coverage: Matt Sullivan’s presentation.
Adobe Day at the 2013 STC Summit was really great. It took me a while to digest all my own notes and relive the moments promoting the rock stars of tech comm. But like all good music festivals, the “Coachella” of tech comm had to end, but with great memories of fantastic information that will stay with me for a long time. Hopefully you enjoyed this “magical mystery tour” as well!
There were several people from Adobe that were truly instrumental in making this event a success, but I have to “give it up” for the two Masters of Ceremony of the event, Saibal Bhatacharjee and Maxwell Hoffmann.
So many people know them from the Adobe TCS webinars, blogs, and other social media outlets. I know they’ve been two of my greatest supporters, so I want to thank them for inviting me to the event, and as always, making me feel welcome both during Adobe Day, as well as during the STC Summit.
If you missed my series for this Adobe Day event, here’s a recap, so you can relive the day yourself:
I hope you’ve enjoyed all the articles. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below!
The next time there is an Adobe Day near you, or if you have the opportunity to go to one, I strongly encourage you to go! I’ve now been to two of them, and both were different. It’s amazing to see how perspectives change on the “hot” issues of tech comm in a mere few months! I was glad to hear from leading experts on the pressing topics of the day. And I have to say, I’ve learned so much from both visits. I can honestly say, as well, that both provided information that were applicable to my job, even as a new technical communicator. Keeping up with current trends in technical communication is important, because technology is changing fast, and technical communicators need to keep up with not only the technology itself, but the needs that new technology presents. Adobe does a nice job of bringing the best thought leadership from around the globe to talk about these issues for free. How can you pass that up?
Thanks again, Adobe, for an amazing opportunity to attend this free event!
[WARNING: this is a long post, but jam-packed with information!]
Every industry has its own rock stars. Those are the people who have lived, spoken, and written about topics in a particular field. The information and perspective they provide are considered out of this world.
As technical communicators, we are fortunate that we have lots of tech comm rock stars among us. There are several events that happen over the course of a year that allow several of those rock stars to come to one place to dazzle us with their brilliance, and we are the better for it.
Among the ultimate organizers for such events is Adobe. For the 2013 STC Summit’s “Adobe Day,” they put together a lineup that would make any tech comm groupie squeal with joy to be able to hear some of the leading minds and pacesetters in technical communications. The best part is that, as always, the events are not product sales pitches, but truly a compilation of thought leadership.
The speakers included headliner Charles Corfield, the inventor and “father” of Framemaker, content strategist Rahel Anne Baillie, online learning educator John Daigle and content strategist Mark Lewis. I’ll be writing more about each of their talks soon.
For this post, I’m going to start with the panel discussion that was at the end of the event first. The panel discussion wrapped up Adobe Day well, and I’m using it first as I think it will to help set the tone for the next blog posts about the event.
Scott Abel, “The Content Wrangler,” served as our trusty moderator for the discussion titled, “The Changing Role of Technical Communication Professionals–Looking at the Decade Ahead.” This was a similar theme to the Lavacon Adobe Day, but with a different set of panelists, the attendees were sure to get a different perspective this time around.
Scott started the panel out with the questions, “What do you think will be going on in technical communication in the next 10 years? What are the necessary things for tech comm going forward?”
Kevin Siegel replied first, saying that technical communicators need to learn how to write content so that content can be consumed quickly, as the average attention span of online consumers is about fifteen seconds, and the mobile is the most viable means of getting content out, so think mobile!
Bernard Aschwanden felt that networking was most important going forward. Face-to-face discussions–not social media discussions–with subject matter experts, your audience, and anyone else who is going to consume your content will help you learn what is required for your content. He stressed that ideas and tools are constantly changing, and technical communicators need to be able to adapt. Bernard continued by saying, “No one wants to read what you write.” He emphasized that readers read the output of tech writers because they have to, so tech writers should making information easier to find and easier to read.
Sarah O’Keefe emphasized that the biggest skill gap in technical communication is how content and information is relevant to business. Business needs content because of…why? The most important skills required in Sarah’s eyes bring relevance–like ROI (return on investment)–so technical communicators need to learn how to write business cases for tools and other resources to be able to deliver effective products and outputs.
Ray Gallon agreed with Sarah’s point of view, and also emphasized Bernard’s point about adaptability. Ray stressed that technical communicators have a unique view, so using that special view plus being adaptable will help technical communications go forward. He believes that software is driving content and making decisions, so we must create it on how software creates things today.
The second question that Scott posed asked, “What is the global impact with tech comm?”
Ray responded first by declaring that all technical communicators should have an understanding of at least three languages, as knowing three languages lends to their global credibility. Since I know that localization is a big emphasis these days in technical communications, Ray’s comment made a lot of sense to me.
Joe felt that in ten years, technical communicators will still be the same people, but traditional tech comm documentation will be less relevant, and QA (quality assurance testing) of documentation will be more prevalent. He emphasized that by testing the documentation, it allows us to truly understand what part of content is not being used, and what part really matters. He also agreed with Charles Corfield (more on his talk in a future post) that voice and multi-screen publishing will be important going forward. He stressed that access to multiple devices are needed as you write, especially to test usability and “Google-ability.” He felt that a technical publications department needed at least three smart phones and three tablets for testing content on commonly used mobile devices as emulators don’t work as well. Real devices, including the ones you don’t like, are needed to see how well your content works.
The next question posed was, “Have you had an ‘ah-hah’ moment with things going forward?”
Scott chimed in his own response, saying that he thinks looking at internationalized English is important going forward. He felt that having a controlled vocabulary and other English language standardization will allow content to be created in form of English that machines can understand.
Kevin thinks localization is highly important, backing this claim up with the fact that the most popular article in his company’s weekly newsletter is about localization. He felt that soon enough, we’ll be converting books to other languages more quickly and easily.
Bernard’s “ah-hah” moment was when he realized that people are the key, not products or tools. He felt that typing was dying, and that technology is leap-frogging. He talked about how younger people today commonly connect and communicate without face-to-face person contact, not caring about political correctness and preferring to connect with those who are like-minded. He said, “Teens have few barriers with race, gender or sexual orientation. We must get over our own barriers to address needs of future consumers.” He emphasized that people are needed in order to work collectively, we need to be able to connect effectively with people.
Sarah’s “ah-hah” realization involves the “rise of the machine” and the machine integration of content.
Ray concurred with Sarah, pointing to Google Glass as an example, declaring that Google Glass is the “caveman” version of the next generation of machines that technical communicators with encounter.
Joe’s “ah-hah” was understanding that mobile apps are not interested in being help documentation. Instead, mobile apps involve how to have product integrated in everyday use.
At this point, the floor was opened to attendees who had questions. The first audience question asked if technical communicators need to be the drivers of change and adaptability. Ray answered for the entire panel with a resounding, “YES!”
The next question asked if there was any empirical data to back up the statements made in this panel discussion. Sarah answered that that her responses were derived from the anecdotal data from client requests. Joe said he based his responses on the QA testing done he’s done over time, and stressed knowing one’s audience. Bernard agreed with both these responses.
The last question asked about relevance–is this a PR problem for technical communication, or is this more of a marketing communication issue? Scott piped in that marketing communication is meant to dazzles customers, but technical communication provides the real customer experience, so in essense, tech comm IS marketing! Customer service is central.
Ray felt that content is permeable and will get more so over time. Various departments will disappear due to unified content strategy; things will get blurred and content will get unified, so tech comm will be an integral part of teams.
Bernard reminded us that, “We must get to know the ‘language’ of our audience in order to stay relevant.” Scott reiterated that idea, stating that globalization is going to be really key going forward, which will affect ROI.
Joe had the last word, stressing that how we present what we do is going to make a difference!
As you can see, it was quite the lively conversation, and the ideas presented here were more concentrated on localization, technology and networking with people going forward. It’s amazing to me to hear a different perspective to the similar questions asked at the Lavacon Adobe Day panel just seven months ago! It does prove to me that adaptability and understanding the bottom line of what content is needed, and how to disseminate content with ever-changing technology is key going forward.
Thanks to all the panel participants for your insights! (Also thanks to Maxwell Hoffman, as I used both my notes and his notes on Twitter to recall this panel discussion.)
To any of the panel participants–if I misquoted or mis-paraphrased you, please feel free to comment below to correct me!
So, this was the closing act of our tech comm “Coachella?” Impressive! Stay tuned to learn more about the main acts of this gig!