As many readers know, the “geek mom” side of me comes out when I see new technology. One of the new technologies that has been attracting my attention is 3D printing. So, yes, this is another article about 3D printing. In this case, it’s about how 3D printing is becoming a more embedded part of the British school curriculums, which is something I had heard about a year ago. Britain is making a concerted effort to bring more computing and other STEM technologies into the classroom for children as young as kindergarten, as they feel that technology training starting at a younger age will help prepare students for a world in which technology will play a greater part in the workplace as they become adults. I agree with this. I’m still amazed to see teenagers who have no to little basic software skills, like barely know the basics of Microsoft Office, let alone having a basic understanding of how computers and the internet works. In the United States, very few school systems are adopting any kind of similar curriculums simply because a)it’s too expensive, or b) the teachers don’t have the training to teach the information, or both.
This article is mostly about a young girl who is taking advantage of the 3D printing available to her through her school, and she is taking off with big designs and ideas. This is the kind of inspiration that we need to encourage in more students! She is definitely the future, and I’m hoping there will be more like her out there, given the opportunity.
It was recently announced that in the UK, the Royal Family was going through a bit of a corporate merger and restructuring, one might say. Her Majesty The Queen is getting up there in age (she’s almost 88 years old), and while she still maintains a full schedule that probably would put people half her age to shame, it was announced that her communications office and the communications office of her son, HRH The Prince of Wales, would be merging. This inferred that 65 year-old Prince Charles, who’s of retirement age himself yet shows no signs of slowing down either, is slowly going to be taking on more affairs of the regency on behalf of his mother. While the Queen has vowed never to abdicate or give up the throne (and if she lasts as long as her own mum, that could be another 15 years), it looks like she might be winding down to a point that she is slowly transitioning the affairs of state to Charles, as well as delegating responsibilities to her grandchildren as well. According to the Sunday Telegraph, “Reports suggest the move should avoid clashes of coverage of royal events as younger royals perform more engagements, and spread expertise in modern media.”
So, all this is fine, but what does this have to do with content strategy, you may ask? Simple. This scenario really isn’t that different than any other company having to merge content written by different departments, like that of technical content writers and marketing content writers. Everyone in the merger or restructing needs to speak the same “language”, or to use a better description, they all need to use the same terminology. One of the issues that has been surfaced in recent tech comm talk in conferences and blogs is the idea of “silos”–different departments writing content, but not getting together to make sure that everyone is using the same terminology and language to communicate the company message consistently. This can lead to mixed messages in print, in multimedia, and online very quickly if everyone isn’t on the “same page”. Joe Gollner’s Adobe Day-Lavacon 2013 talk came to mind as I was thinking about this merger, and what it meant to have different departments sending out different messages.
So, the merger of the royal communications offices makes total sense, really. In an age where news is spread quickly throughout the internet, especially through social media, it seems like a proactive move on the part of the royals to start this transition. One office will need to juggle multiple products–in this case, the royal family members–by providing a single voice and consistent message to promote their activities or relevance, whether it be in print or by digital means. The royals are already a bit ahead of the curve of many corporations, having already set up fairly active websites and social media presence on the internet. They even have their own YouTube account and several Twitter accounts, for example! The communications offices are already on top of internet media, and this step seems like a modern move that many companies are still hesitant to make. Perhaps the royals, known for being a bit stuffy and overly traditional, might actually be cutting edge, and setting the example of how to move forward in the 21st century.
I had set several goals for 2013, and for the most part, I achieved many of them. Due to finally having a job this past year, I was able to pay for my new kitchen outright (okay, we saved on labor costs because my multi-talented husband installed everything–and I mean everything–except the Silestone countertops), so I have a new kitchen that I love. I definitely travelled more, as I visited Atlanta for the first time in 21 years due to the STC Summit, and I got to visit Portland, Oregon again for Lavacon. I didn’t get to go to the UK, however. And I still don’t look like a supermodel yet.
My 2014 goals are still fairly ambitious, I think. I would like to build upon my web publishing experiences at work, and figure out how to become a content engineer, rather than merely a content manager. I’m hoping that attending the Intelligent Content Conference in San Jose, CA this February and attending this year’s STC Summit in Phoenix, AZ will with help with that. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to Lavacon again until later in the year. I still want to go to the UK, but I think I may have to wait a little longer for that. If there’s a way to combine a vacation and a conference there at the same time, perhaps I can pull it off later in the year instead of going to Lavacon (just to vary things up a bit). I had hoped to become a certified Muse expert last year, and that didn’t happen. Perhaps I can try this year. I also got the “WordPress for Dummies” book this year, which has inspired me to become more expert at using WordPress. I currently use the version hosted by WordPress itself, but I think it might be helpful to understand how the independently managed version works, too. If I can achieve some weight loss in the process during all of this, I will consider 2014 a success. 😉
As for predictions for 2014 in tech comm, I decided that I would be a little more analytical about it. Two years ago, it seemed that the push in tech comm was that we needed to think more carefully about content management reuse of content, and think in terms of mobile content. This past year, that was extended to translation and localization of content, taking it a step further. So with those concepts in mind, what’s the next step? In my mind, it’s implementation of all of these with more vigor. Some companies are on top of this, but it wouldn’t be surprising to me if many companies–even large, global companies–are not on top of any of this yet, or on top of it in an effective way. I think about companies that I’ve worked for in the past, and how, despite their size and availability of resources, these companies wouldn’t be cutting edge in distributing content for desktops or mobile, and regional sites were not as localized nor standardized as they should be. So, in my mind, this is the year of implementation.
Another thing to consider is technology changes. Over the past few years, we’ve been adapting not only to desktop or laptop interfaces, but we’ve also been adapting to more mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Marta Rauch, a technical communicator friend of mine who is part of the Google Glass beta testing, pointed
out that 2014 is due to be a year in which even more portable, wearable mobile devices will become relevent. These devices would include something like Google Glass or similar products, but it also would include devices like Samsung’s wristband device or devices that are synchronized with car components. She’s got a point. Components are getting smaller, and technological portability is becoming more and more mainstream all the time. How do we decide what content is most user-friendly, reuseable, streamlined, and pertinent for these kinds of mobile devices? It’s something we need to start thinking about now.
So there you have it. At least in my mind, if we aren’t all wearing Comm Badges like in Star Trek by the end of the year, I don’t know what this world is coming to. 😉 But it’s hard for someone like me to figure out where the future is going. I’m grateful there are those who are on the cutting edge that can help me figure that sort of thing out, and can educate me on the latest and greatest so that I can bring it to my own workplace, as well as talk about it here on TechCommGeekMom.
I’m sure that there will be plenty of surprises coming up in 2014. As I said, I have three conferences that I’ll be attending in the first half of the year, and I know with the continuation of this great work contract I have, I will probably be learning a lot of new things through that opportunity, too. My philosophy is to never stop learning, and I plan to continue to learn a lot more going forward in the coming year.
What are you predictions for the coming year? Am I on target, or off-base? What did I forget to mention? Let me know in the comments.
I mentioned a while ago that I had several writing projects that were coming up, and the first of them is now published! I was asked by the STC-PMC to write a two-part article about the differences and similarities between American and British English. Of course, I think there’s much more to that simple debate, and this is a favorite topic of mine, so I gladly accepted the challenge. The bigger challenge was to try not to write an entire book!
Is English an international language? Yes…and no. There is no question that English is a predominant global language. Half the world’s technical and scientific periodicals are written in English, as is eighty percent of the information stored in the world’s computers. There is no question that English is the most prominent language on the Internet, which has contributed to its continued spread around the world.
However, among English speakers, there can be huge differences, as if English speakers from different countries actually spoke different languages. The argument is often made that those who speak English do speak the same base language with just a few different spellings or colloquial idioms now and then. This is only partially true. While most of the world thinks of English in terms of American or British English, there’s also Canadian, Indian, Australian, New Zealander and South African versions of English to consider among others. Each version of English has further nuances that distinguish itself from another version. For the most part, an Australian can understand a South African, an American can understand a New Zealander, and someone from India can understand someone from the UK. But there will be moments that any one of those speakers could elicit a bewildered “EH?” amongst themselves in understanding.
Since most countries that speak English as the dominant language or a second language are former British colonies or Commonwealth countries, British English is usually the standard taught in schools. The exception to this, of course, is American English, which is usually taught in the United States and much of Central and South America as a second language. Even so, between American and British English, one would think that with a few small exceptions, they are essentially the same language, right?
What many Americans don’t realize is that British English has enough nuances that in several cases, we can’t understand our British brethren, and vice versa. For example, if a person came up to you in London and mentioned that he had a mate who sold so many crisps from his lorry that the crisps were falling out the boot and bonnet, would you know what that person meant? If you’ve watched a lot of BBC America or read enough books from the UK (as I have), then you might. An American would have to translate what the Londoner said, which was that he had a buddy who sold potato chips out of his truck, and the chips were falling out of the trunk and hood. Another example would be that if an American said that he would lose his pants over a financial deal, a Brit would misunderstand it to mean that the American would be losing his underwear over the deal, as “pants” is used to refer to underwear instead of “trousers” in the UK. Those are just two of many examples of how Brits and Americans don’t necessarily understand each other.
This divide is an important consideration in technical communications. Single-sourcing and translation are a large and continually growing component of technical communications. While software is becoming more intuitive about translating written content into different languages, it’s not flawless. Using a standard commonality in the language would be desired as a result.