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“Lucy, you have some ‘splanin’ to do!”: Considering your ESL Customers

Lucille-Ball-Desi-ArnazContent Rules Inc. was kind enough to extend their invitation to have me blog for them again. This time, it’s on a subject that’s near and dear to their hearts as well as mine.

This article talks about my own personal experiences in trying to use standardized language. Whether you use standardized language in your personal or professional life, it’s something that one needs to keep in mind as a writer, especially when writing for a global audience, and even more so if you are writing for a digital format that is easily accessed through the Internet. It’s not easy to do, but it’s something that should be tucked in the back of every writer’s brain.

Read the article for more:
“Lucy, you have some ‘splanin’ to do!”: Considering your ESL Customers

Many thanks again to Val Swisher and the gang at Content Rules, Inc. for the opportunity!

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The Top 6 Questions to Ask When Creating Your Content Strategy

WOW!

I will admit that there are a lot of content strategists who have been doing content strategy for a much longer time than I have.  Val is one of those people, and she’s someone I consider to be one of my many wonderful tech comm mentors. So you can believe me when I say that it’s been a great honor to be asked by Val Swisher of Content Rules to do a guest post on the Content Rules Blog that will also be in the Content Rules Newsletter soon. I’ve learned from her and many others over the last few years, and I have some experience under my belt as well now, which has culminated in this article. I hope you enjoy it!

The Top 6 Questions to Ask When Creating Your Content Strategy

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Adobe Day @ Lavacon 2013: Scott Abel’s 5 Technologies Tech Comm Can’t Ignore

voodoodonutsignI 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!

ScottAbel
Scott Abel checking his files before his presentation

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:

ScottAbel_ExampleA ScottAbel_ExampleB

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!

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Another one of those 2012 Tech Comm Years in Review? But it’s MINE…

MP900309664It’s December 31st, 2012, and the end of another long year has come. This is the time of year when everyone starts to see the year in review posts and articles all over every media source imaginable. I’m no different– I’ve already posted a Top Ten Posts of 2012 for TechCommGeekMom.  But this post is more about my reflection of the year–and what a year it’s been!

This is not to say that everything has been coming up roses for me this year. Upon reflection, there were a lot of good things that happened over the past year that were never expected and were really great. There were also things that were definitely not so great.

The not as great things included problems that my son was having at school that greatly affected his behavior, me getting pneumonia for a month last winter, losing my full-time job, and being laid off my part-time job. Just those things alone could easily make it a bad year, especially if you knew some of the details of the school problems my son was having.

But there were so many things that outweigh those negatives that for once, I can actually say that 2012 was a pretty good year for me. The first big thing was that I graduated from NJIT with my MSPTC. That was the result of two and a half years of blood, sweat and tears–sometimes literally–to get it finished. It was so much a part of what I did for a while that I actually miss it. The fact that I actually graduated, with honors no less, is surreal. I can’t believe that it’s all finished and done, when I feel like I should still be taking a class or doing something more, like writing up another paper.  I was very fortunate to have made several friends in the program, even through this virtual program, and make connections that I think will benefit me for life. The knowledge I gained from the program will also serve me for life as well, I am sure.  I know that NJIT was proud enough of my recent accomplishments enough to feature me as one of its “poster girls” for the Continuing Education program by featuring me in a promotional video for the school. I’m honored and still surprised that they picked me, but appreciate the nod of approval nonetheless.

The other part of what made this year exceptional was this blog. What began as a combination of a class assignment and something to do on a whim has taken on a life of its own. I don’t think anyone, especially me, would have expected anyone to be reading it with the gathering that I’ve collected over the past year. Social media has truly been key to many of the successes I’ve had this year.  I’m glad that I started to become more involved professionally with Twitter and Facebook especially, in order to connect with other technical communicators. Not only did I seek to learn from other technical communicators in the past year, but I used social media as a means of marketing this blog so that my voice could be heard amongst the many great voices out there. The amazing thing to me is that my voice was heard.

Now, I did have some unexpected help along the way. As I’ve explained in the past, it was an early post in which I vented my frustrations about learning tech comm software that someone heard me very loud and clear.  It was someone at Adobe, who not only heard me, but also wanted to help me.  That person was Parth Mukherjee.  It was very early in our contact that he wanted to help, and offered me a webinar. What, me? A webinar for someone just out of grad school? Yes, crazy as it sounded, that what he offered me and I took it. I’m glad I did. Along the way, I got to know Saibal Bhattacharjee, Maxwell Hoffman, Ankur Jain, and Tom Aldous at Adobe as well, and they constantly provided me with more opportunities and support throughout the year–many more than what are listed here. The biggest highlights of this relationship for me were doing the webinar in June that gained me initial greater exposure, and when I was invited to be one of Adobe’s guests at their “Adobe Day” pre-conference event at Lavacon. For a gal who is still new to the field to be invited to “run with the big boys and girls” was a thrill! I learned so much at the Adobe Day conference, and I had a chance to meet and get to know some of the people that I had not only gotten to know through social media, but people I revered and respect in the field.  There have been so many good things that happened to me thanks to Adobe, and I don’t think I can ever thank them enough. As I’ve also said many times before, I was a big fan of Adobe’s before the connection with Adobe’s Tech Comm team, but now they’ve allowed me to become truly loyal to the company with everything they’ve done for me personally that they didn’t have to do. Thank you so much!

I also had an opportunity this year to express my technical communications knowledge in a different way–I was able to teach a virtual class in business and technical writing to Microsoft Korea through the World Learning Company. It was a unique opportunity to present information not only so the students could understand the information, but I truly wanted my students to learn the information so they could use it more often in their everyday business communications. I got great feedback from the end-of-class surveys as well as directly from the students themselves that I made it easier to understand these complicated language nuances, especially since English was a second language for nine of the ten students I had! It was a great opportunity to flex my knowledge muscles to help other people become better writers, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

A big part of this year was all the people I met who helped me along the way. In addition to those at Adobe and NJIT, I met SO many individuals along the way that helped me through this first year of being an “official” technical communicator. I’m sure I’ll be missing someone from this list of tech comm and e-learning professionals, as there were so many, but off the top of my head, they include RJ Jacquez, Mayra Aixa Villar, Miriam Lottner, Toby Price, Barrie Byron, Jamie Gillenwater, Sharon Burton,  Christie Fidura, Shay Shaked, Marcia Riefer Johnston, Colum McAndrew, Renaldo Lawrence, Joe Ganci, Sarah O’Keefe, Val Swisher, Jackie Gerstein, Anita Horsley, Scott Abel, Chad Udell, Alyssa Fox, and Karen Mahon. Each person here, and many others whom I met through social media or in person, contributed to my knowledge base and growth not only as a technical communicator and e-learning specialist, but also as a person. I thank each and every one of you for your support in taking me under your wing, but also for your friendship.

I also want to thank Gary Woodill, who is one of the m-learning gods in my eyes, for retweeting my tweet promoting my Whitepaper, thus giving it his understated blessing. That was a big deal to me for you to acknowledge it and deem it worthy of retweeting the link.  Also many thanks to TechWhirl, especially Craig Cardimon, for promoting two of my blog posts in recent editions of the “Tech Writer This Week” feature on TechWhirl.com. For me, that was a huge indication that I have “arrived” in tech comm.

So, as you can see, 2012 was actually a very good year for me. Sure, I didn’t have a full-time job, and I had illness and issues that were beyond my control at home, but for me, this has ended up being one of the best years that I’ve had in a long time. My first full year of being a technical communicator hasn’t been without some bumps along the way, but through this blog, my school connections, and all the new social media connections I’ve made in the past year, I wouldn’t change a thing. What a whirlwind for a “newbie”! I can only hope that I will continue to have the support of all these wonderful people, and be able to truly practice what I’ve learned over the past year in my new adventures as a Web Publisher for BASF in 2013.

This was the year of building, and I’ve gained a fantastic foundation. Now is the time to continue to grow and move onwards and upwards! I’m anxious about 2013, but having this strong foundation, I have a feeling that it’s got the potential to be another great year.

What are my resolutions for 2013? Well, I don’t know about resolutions, but I know that some of the things that I hope to achieve, other than a firm establishment in the tech comm field, is to go to the STC Summit in May (I hope), and maybe some other conference as well, if I can afford it. I want to meet so many more people in tech comm, and absorb the  information given by the best and brightest in the field. This year, I was the new kid on the block, and in 2013, I want to be part of the next generation of technical communicators helping to take the field further.

Thank you to everyone reading this, and have an incredibly Happy New Year!