This is a big part of my job right now, and this is an excellent way to clarify the difference between what a thesaurus is and taxonomy is. Taxonomy really is about the organization of the content so that the hierarchy makes sense.
Another analogy that I’ve used–which I got long ago from Val Swisher of Content Rules is how one can organize a closet. You can put the pants together, the shirts together, and the jackets together, but you could put all the red clothing together, all the blue clothing together, etc. Neither way is wrong, as long as it makes sense and others can follow the flow.
Except with me these days, it’s more about pharmaceutical departments and procedures. Still, even with those topics, we need to scale it back all the way to what are the objectives of the website we’re building, and how do we structure the website so that users can find what they need quickly and easily. Start with the foundational basics, and build from there.
I highly recommended this article if taxonomy isn’t your strength. It shows that it’s not as hard as it seems.
I know I haven’t been on my blog all that much. What can I say? Life gets in the way. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a busy summer, and it is shaping up to be an even busier autumn.
“Why would that be, TechCommGeekMom?” you may be asking. I’m glad you asked.
Work has picked up quite a bit, in a good way. I’ve spent a large part of the summer working on three significant internal websites at work, and they are all near finalization. But the big news is that at the end of this month, I’ll be having training on Adobe CQ5–which is a new CMS for me to learn–and I’ve been given a high profile section of the external website for the company where I’m consulting. This is huge! In all my years of being a content manager/publisher, I’ve only worked on one “standard” CMS/WCMS, namely SharePoint. All the rest have been “franken-systems”. I’ve been told that eventually the company will be moving all its internal content to that SharePoint, but first they have to get all the current sites into the current system before they can make that move. In the meantime, the external site is moving forward in a big way using Adobe CQ, and I’m being brought into the fold with a big project.
There are several things that excite me about this project:
1) I get to learn a new WCMS, and I like the challenge of learning something new and useful.
2) This WCMS is one that will help bring the company’s website into the 21st century–there’s a big push on responsive design, social media, and localization for the website, especially the section that I will be working on. I’ve only been learning about these kinds of sites for the last two to three years, but not being able to put what I’ve learned into practice. Now I can!
3) I’ve been given a preview of how the website will be structured and how the content has been chosen and mapped out. I like the content strategy that’s been decided for the overall project and the direction it’s pursuing.
4) I can’t say what section I’m working on at this point, but when I say it’s a high-profile section, it’s a VERY high-profile section. I’m really honored that the company has asked me to work on building this section of the site. For me, it shows me that they like the work I’ve done so far, and they trust me to make good decisions. That means that it’s a big responsibility, and I can’t be lazy on this project. They’ve placed a lot of trust in me, and I can’t let them down.
So, that’s going to be taking up a huge part of my daytime hours. And quite frankly, work has been exhausting, but in a good way. You know when you have a really good workout, and by the end of the day you feel a genuine tiredness from being physically tired, as opposed to being tired simply because you’ve been up for a while? It’s like that, but it’s mentally. Well, it’s physically for me too, since I’ve started trying to squeeze in actual workouts into my daily routine, too, to try to lose weight since I sit on my bottom all day. Throw in responsibilites for my local STC chapter (which I’m still trying to get a handle on), and mom-related responsibilities–there’s a lot going on! So, getting info into TechCommGeekMom proves to be challenging these days.
I haven’t given up on this blog, but being as busy as I am, I’m sure you’ll understand. It was much easier when I started, as I was unemployed with plenty of free time that has slowly diminished as time has gone on once I became employed. Now, I’m taking care of my health and taking on other new responsibilities, so priorities change a little bit. This is still my connection to my tech comm family. And without this blog, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had to learn about content strategy or social media practices that I’ll be applying to this project. Like I said, I’ll finally be able to use all the information that I’ve been learning post-grad school from all the conferences and online conversations in practice, and that is exciting to me! The trick for me right now is figuring out how to balance it all effectively, and I’m still figuring that out.
So, if you find that my postings are more intermittant, you understand why. Ultimately, when looking at the big picture of events going on, they are steps in a positive direction. In the words of Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.”
Okay, I’ll admit this is going to be a slightly self-indulgent (and slightly long) blog post. I read something recently that said that there shouldn’t be so much “self-promotion” in promoting your blog. This has always been a blog that not only encourages community, but it also tracks my own journey through technical communications, for better or worse. Taking the time to do the year-end review of what’s gone on in the past year is a good exercise for anyone.
At first, I thought my year wasn’t all that great, meaning that it wasn’t exciting. I hadn’t achieved some things that I wanted to do; I did not fulfill all my tech comm resolutions for the year. But as I looked through photos of the past year on my mobile devices to come up with something to put in this blog post, I realized that a LOT of good things still happened this year.
The year started off with a bang, as I was finally working full-time after a year of unemployment. The new job ended up being a good opportunity. I get to work from home, I’m being paid well (a lot better than I ever had before), and it’s doing something that comes naturally to me–content management. I have had the chance to use my UX and web design abilities during this position, too. Things have gone well enough that my contract has been extended for another year. I know that there’s a good chance that later in 2014, the company I’m contracted to will be switching CMS software, so it’ll be an opportunity to learn a new system and flex those content management muscles. I’m looking forward to it! It’s been a long time since I had a job that I truly enjoyed and feel appreciated for what I do. In past positions, I would offer my suggestions and advice based on what I had learned from my social media connections, graduate school courses, conferences, and personal experience, and I’d be ignored. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t take my suggestion if there’s something valid that will discount it, but using the excuse of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s what the end user is used to, so why change it?” doesn’t cut it for me. There’s always a better way. This was the first position that actually gave me a chance to use my voice and makes some executive decisions that would benefit the end user. My manager supports my decisions 99% of the time, so that’s been a huge load off my shoulders. Stress has not been a major issue with this job, and I know I’m fortunate to have made this employment connection.
Having a job, and a good job at that, would make for a good year. But there’s been more.
2013 was the year that I started to go out on the public speaking circuit. It started with my first conference presentation at the STC-PMC Conference in March, followed by two webinars this past fall. Three presentations might not sound like a lot, but considering that I have only presented to my tech comm peers twice beforehand (my capstone presentation at grad school and an Adobe Webinar that Maxwell Hoffmann helped me with immensely in 2012), and all these presentations were STC-related, I figure that’s a pretty good feather to add to my cap. I’ve been told that the presentations were well-received, and I have gotten some good feedback, so I consider that a big success.
I also added an additional writing credential to my repetoire. I started writing a by-line for the STC Notebook blog that started out as a column as a newcomer for the 2013 STC Summit. That column has now turned into a regular monthly column for the STC Notebook called Villegas Views. Again, I feel like I’ve received some good feedback on my writing there, so that’s another success.
I attended three conferences this year, namely the STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference, the STC Summit, and Lavacon (although I was only at Lavacon for a day–hey, I still need to write about that! I’ll try to get to that soon!). The biggest one, of course, was the Summit, which was mindblowing for me. I loved being able to travel, considering I work from home day in and day out. (I’m not complaining, but it was a welcome change of scenery.) Actually, all the conferences were wonderful and overwhelming at the same time, and that sense of feeling somewhere that I belonged was never more evident than when I attended these events. I’m SO glad I did, and that leads me to the last thing that I found to be the greatest part of this year.
While I had started to develop some professional connections in 2012 through social media and through my first visit to Adobe Day at Lavacon in 2012, both social media and these conferences enabled me to expand my professional connections exponentially. However, it became more than just professional connections. I’ve ended up making some fantastic friends along the way. I know most people don’t think of me as being shy or introverted, but I actually am. I’m horribly awkward socially , and I know it. Social media helped with the introductions, for sure. A few in-person introductions have helped as well. I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many times again, but I have found that technical communicators to be one of the most friendly and inviting groups of people I’ve ever met. I have appreciated every person who introduced himself or herself to me in person when knowing me from my blog or a social media connection. I’ve appreciated the friendships that have developed over time from these connections. I’ve loved having some of these friendships with those who are industry leaders develop into mentorships as well. When one of those supportive mentors encourage me or tell me how proud they are of my accomplishments, I want to cry tears of joy. (Heck, I’m crying tears of joy just writing this!) For so long, I’ve felt like an outsider, so to have my professional peers look to me as an equal and show me constant support and encouragment is a huge boost that I’ve needed for years.
This blog has grown, too. The numbers aren’t done for the year yet as I write this, but I’ve added a lot more readers and had more response to TechCommGeekMom in 2013 than in 2012. I’m sure I’ll be doing more celebrating when the blog hits its second “birthday” in March, but for the calendar year, it’s been great. I know I haven’t always been able to keep up with this blog as much as I liked during this year, but I feel like the efforts that were made to grow and expand have been supported by the tech comm community.
So, thanks to all of you for reading my posts either here, on the STC Notebook, or in social media. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and share ideas with me. Thanks for continually teaching me more about technical communication, and helping me to expand my mind and my understanding of this profession, and teaching me how I can continue to grow in this profession.
2014 is already shaping up to be an exciting year as well. I will be attending three conferences before the year is halfway done, of which I’ll be presenting at two of them, I believe. I know, for sure, that one of the conferences I’ll be presenting at is the STC Summit 2014! That’s a big deal to me. I mean, think about it–only out of grad school two years, and already presenting at the annual Summit? Not too shabby, I would think. I’ll be continuing to write here at TechCommGeekMom, and I’ll still be writing my by-line for STC Notebook, and I’m hoping that there will be some more opportunities to do presentations either in-person or in webinars.
2013 has been quite the year for me…time will tell how 2014 will be!
I realized as I was writing this post that this would be my 500th post on TechCommGeekMom. Who knew that so much information and thought could accumulate through original posts and curated content? I’m also very close to my all-time 15,000 hits mark (only a few hits away at this writing). I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that I’d hit these benchmarks when I started this blog, but of course, I’m going to keep going! I debated about what I should write for my 500th post–whether to finish my Adobe Day coverage or do something else, and in the end, it seems fitting to finish my Adobe Day coverage, because in many respects, knowing and writing about the presentation of Scott Abel, aka “The Content Wrangler”, shows how far I’ve come already in my tech comm journey from beginner to covering internationally known presenters.
Scott is one of the most prolific and vocal speakers out there on the conference circuit speaking about content–whether it be content management or other technical communication topics. It also seems like he has written the forewords of many of the best tech comm books out there. He’s everywhere! To boot, he’s an accomplished DJ, and I found myself “bonding” with him over dance remixes and mash-ups while at Lavacon, because I always enjoy when he posts either his mash-ups or his favorite mash-ups on Facebook. (I’ll be writing a post about the relationship between tech comm and dance mash-ups in the near future.) He is a person who is full of so much kinetic energy that you wonder when he’s going to explode, but he doesn’t. Even the time I saw him at the STC Summit last spring with a bad cold, he was still more on top of his game than a lot of people would be on a good day. Much like Val Swisher, my love for all things Scott Abel also knows no bounds. He knows how to stir things up at times, but there is no denying that in his frenetic pace of delivering a presentation, you learn SO much. I’m lucky that he’s so kind to be one of my cheerleaders!
So when it came to thinking of a garden in Portland to use as an analogy to Scott, I had to deviate. In my mind, he’s the Voodoo Doughnuts shop located about four or five blocks away from the Chinese Garden. Scott’s talks always have lines going out the door, and like many of the Voodoo Doughnuts themselves, the unique flavors dispensed open your mind up to new and delicious possibilities and ideas, and you come back wanting more (hence, more long lines!). They are both crazy and sweet at the same time. You can’t beat that combination.
Scott was the keynote speaker for Adobe Day as well as the moderator of the discussion panel later in the event. Scott’s topic for his talk was called, “Five Revolutionary Technologies Technical Communicators Can’t Afford To Ignore.” If Joe Gollner went fast during his presentation, then Scott went at lightning speed, so my notes below are the highlights.
Scott started by telling us that translation is going to be an important part of automated content going forward. It’s important to understand that for the web, the World Wide Web (WWW) is equal to the “land of opportunity.” The WWW can reach a global market reaching new consumers. As American users, we forget that 96% of web users are not in the US. We don’t all speak English globally. In fact, less than 6% of the global population speaks English well, but don’t necessarily read or write it well.
Scott’s list of the five technologies the Tech Comm can’t ignore were as follows:
1) Automated Translation
Why would be need automated translation? We write for the *worldwide* web. There are over 6000 languages in the world, so translation is a big deal for a global reach and global connection. We need to recognize that content is written for both machines and humans. Even though we write for both machines and humans, we need to write for machines first, as they are the “gatekeepers” of content, such as for searches. Everything goes through the machine first. We need to recognize that writing rules learned in elementary school are no longer sufficient for a world in which language science is needed. We need to examine our content from the vantage point of a rules-processing engine and ensure it’s optimized for machine translation.
2) Automated Transcription
Automated transcription involves software that translates speech to text for machine use. Without transcription, content is locked and hidden from view. Transcription allows for better searchability of content. Scott recommended Koemei as a good transcription software tool for video and general transcription, as it can help transform editable content into other languages.
3) Terminology Management
Terminology management controls words in a central place, namely the words used the most and used consistently for branding, products, etc. Terminology management is important for consistency as well as for regulatory reasons. This is an instance where seeking a global content strategist is needed to help standardize processes. It’s best to adopt a terminology management system, such as Adobe partner and Scott’s suggestion, Acrolinx.
4) Adaptive content
Adaptive content is content that is structured and designed to adapt to the needs of your customer; it’s about substance of the content. Adaptive content adapts to the devices, e.g. laptops, GPS, and smartphones. Customers are demanding exceptional experiences, so we need to meet their expectations, so it’s up to responsive designers to meet that challenge. Adaptive content makes it possible to publish to multiple platforms and devices. It is content separated from formatting information. By allowing authors to focus on what they do best, adaptive content makes content findable and reuseable by others who need it. We need to rethink content, as the move to adaptive content involves work, but the ROI (return on investment) can be realized in months instead of years.
5) Component Content Management
Component content management systems are needed. They focus on the storing of content components that are used to assemble documents. Components can be in all sizes, and can be photos, video, and text. It’s about managing CONTENT not FILES.
Scott provided these slides as his example to show this:
Structured content, combined with a component content management system, supports personalized content and targeted marketing, which in turn increases response rates. In this end, this process can save money! The key is to remember that all customers are not the same! Reusing content without the “copy and paste” methods produce the best results. You can ensure that content is consistent by seeking a content strategist who understands content and is a technologist. Implement a component management system. Scott suggested checking out Astoria Software for a good component content management system.
At this point, Scott’s talk had pretty much finished, but in answering audience questions, he pointed out that there’s a lot more than just these five technologies to watch. He suggested that we should look out for wireless electricity, flexible surfaces, more wireless devices, wearable computing, and augmented reality as well. He also said that in order to mature as a discipline, we need to be content craftspeople, content designers and content engineers. We need to leverage using content and code. We need to think more like engineers, and less like writers and editors. Even websites that are very localized still need to be written for global purposes to improve the English used for the native speakers as well. Controlled vocabulary helps all end users!
Scott covered a LOT of information in a short amount of time, and he set the tone for the rest of the session, as the presentations that followed repeated much of the same information. (This is a good thing, because then we know that the information is valid, coming from several experienced technical communicators!)
Scott posted on Twitter than his presentation was available on SlideShare, but I have it below.
And as always–Scott, if I misinterpreted or misquoted any of the information I summarized above, please let us know in the comments!
One of the things that I can’t stand–and I’m sure I’m not alone in this–is that feeling of “hurry up and wait” for anything. I hate having to rush only to find that I have to wait for a long time. I feel like I’ve been in this mode for a long time, so perhaps I should be used to it by now, but I guess I never am. I suppose it’s part of that “instant gratification” that many expect, and I’m no different. It makes it all the more difficult when it’s something that’s out of your control.
I started my new job on 3 January. It’s good so far. But there’s not much to say, even after slightly more than a week. Out of a week, I’ve only actually worked a day and a half so far. I went to the home office for a half day, and all seemed to go okay, but due to some paperwork that hadn’t been done (not my fault), I couldn’t get my ID card, which allows me to use the company computer and network. Okay, that’s no problem. I had my basic orientation, and then lunch, and then I got to go home early. I was given two business days off, and I was scheduled so that I could go in for another day when I could get my ID done, do some training, get my computer set up, and then I could continue some of my training at home, where I would just be able to start playing with the CMS so that I got comfortable using it before really starting in with the work. The training went fine. The CMS I have to use is relatively straightforward, and I just have to familiarize myself with the ins-and-outs of it better, and become more familiar with the content. It’s an internally created CMS, so there’s no way for me to brush up on it as if it were SharePoint, Adobe CQ, or some other CMS out there on my own. I just have to play with it a bit directly.
The problem that day was that I still couldn’t get my ID card. There’s only one person in the company that makes the ID cards, and she couldn’t be tracked down. We found her back-up, but then he said that the computer wasn’t working right. I felt really bad for my manager, as I could see him keep his cool while simultaneously having his face turn beet red. He was not happy, and I could understand why. He was frustrated. I was too, because I’m just so ready to get started and dig in! But again, it was something that was out of our control, so there was no use in getting too worked up about it.
Later that day, we tried a back door login on my computer laptop that would bypass needing the ID, and allow me the access I needed. It seemed to work so my manager put the laptop on “hibernate,” thinking that the login would hold until I could plug the machine into an outlet at home. Yes, you guessed it, it didn’t work. And to get the back door recovery password again, I had to go through the help desk, and the help desk would email the password to my manager’s boss. The problem was that the manager’s boss wasn’t forwarding the email to me to use. (She’s a busy lady, after all.) I’m frustrated, but again, there’s nothing that I can do. I’ve taken advantage of the time to write an article for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter that I was asked to write, and catch up on some curation, but it’s not doing work. I’m not angry at my manager or anything like that. I’m just angry at red tape getting in the way.
So, after all this time, as I said, there’s not much to report about the new job just yet. I haven’t done enough to really get into it to say, “Ooh, this is something that much be a new trend,” or anything like that about content management or content strategy. It’s still “hurry up and wait” mode for me. After waiting a year to get a job, and then waiting more than a month to actually work, I’m just a little frustrated. I like the people I am working with, I like the company so far, and I think I’m going to like the work as well, once I can really get more involved. But understandably, I’m human, I’m tired of waiting, at this point. I wait as patiently as I can, because I know the payoff will be worth it. It’s all out of my hands, and I’m hoping when I go back for training this week, it can all be straightened out.
When it comes to corporate red tape, I know none of this is unusual by any stretch of the imagination. I guess what I don’t understand is how–whether it’s this global company, or any other national or global company that I’ve ever worked for (and I’ve worked for quite a few)–that the process isn’t more streamlined than it is. How many of us have walked in the first day, and the computer isn’t set up, network access administration hasn’t been done, and you can’t get started? Now, on the first day, it is nerve-wracking enough, so it doesn’t have to be the first day exactly, but who doesn’t want a new employee to be able to start immediately with training or doing the work by having everything ready to go? Like I said, I don’t blame my new managers or anything like that. I can see they are frustrated by the red tape as well. It is out of their control as well, and I get that.
I guess the good part is that my new manager and other co-workers are excited to have me get started and flex my tech comm muscles! I think expectations are high, which is a little intimidating and slightly overwhelming, but I’m sure in time, as I get deeper into the actual work, it’ll all become more second nature. At least I have the security of knowing I have the job, and there’s lots to do! I’ve been told that I already have a lot being sent to my company e-mail for things I need to do, and I’m ready to get started! But first, I need that all-critical computer access to the CMS and the network. Until I go back for more training in a couple days, I just have to hurry up…and wait some more.
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