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STC summit 2012 What Should Technical Communicators Do When Products “Just Work”?

Copy of slides from Ellis Pratt's STC Summit presentation "What Should Technical Communicators Do When Products “Just Work”?"

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STC summit 2012 What Should Technical Communicators Do When Products “Just Work”?

  1. 1. What is the role of theTechnical Communicator when everything ‘just works’? 408 Ellis Pratt Cherryleaf
  2. 2. What we’ll cover1.About me2.A profession in an existentialist crisis?3.Evolution of technology4.A brief history of technical communication5.Your organisation believes their products ‘just work’6.Learning from others
  3. 3. 1. About me
  4. 4. Director of CherryleafMy experience is of technicalcommunication in:• UK and Europe• IT & medical equipment http://youtu.be/k4so9OIRiHM(YMMV)‘Trends in TechnicalCommunication’ talks:• Adrian Warman Phd, IBM UK• Briana Wherry, Alfresco
  5. 5. ‘just works’ =?Is straightforward to specify, plan and build/to install/to repairVery rarely goes wrongWhen it does go wrong, it always does so completely and unambiguouslyIs intuitive to operateIs efficient and effective in fulfilling its purposeIs always identifiable as the core product, no matter how much it is extended or improved
  6. 6. 2. A profession in anexistentialist crisis?
  7. 7. Are we still needed?The challenge ofjustifying our value Image: DeltaMike
  8. 8. Demand 2004-12Permanent TW vacancies in UK as a % of all IT jobs Data: ITJobsWatch
  9. 9. Writers who are in demand Those describing technical stuff to a technical audience People with domain knowledge Image: Library of Congress
  10. 10. We need to be moretechnical and specialise?A false assumption Image: Thinkgeek.com
  11. 11. 3. Evolution of technology
  12. 12. Kevin KellyWhat does technology mean in our lives? http://www.ted.com/speakers/kevin_kelly.html
  13. 13. Technology and biological evolution Images: Kevin Kelly
  14. 14. The traditional modelIt is big and scary andlikely to break
  15. 15. The traditional modelIt is big and scary andlikely to break
  16. 16. The new modelIt just works
  17. 17. The new modelIt just works
  18. 18. 4. A brief history of technical communication
  19. 19. (Some slides omitted to save space)
  20. 20. (Some slides omitted to save space)
  21. 21. The two models
  22. 22. The two models
  23. 23. The two models
  24. 24. Maybe more“The MakerGeneration”
  25. 25. 5.Your organisationbelieves their products ‘just work’
  26. 26. They believe“Good design canreplace need for amanual”
  27. 27. What should you do?
  28. 28. Either
  29. 29. They’re right
  30. 30. or
  31. 31. They’re wrong
  32. 32. What if they’re right?
  33. 33. They are rightThe traditionalwriting models maynot workThe traditional cost/benefit argumentsmay not apply Image: Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer
  34. 34. They are rightFlickr image: Martin Wichary Flickr image: tingley
  35. 35. They are rightUsers don’t call support,they chuck it in the binProduct can become acommodityperfect products arerarely robustcommercially Image: Wikipedia
  36. 36. They are rightTech Pubs becomes abrand loyalty issueCan Tech Pubs improvethe brand image? Image: Wikipedia
  37. 37. They are rightTech Pubs becomes amarketing issueYou need to be moreengagingYou may need tobackshore the writing tothe USA or UK
  38. 38. Moving to Marketing ?!! Coca Cola Content 2020 http://youtu.be/fiwIq-8GWA8Might not be so different as it appears
  39. 39. They are rightTech Pubs becomes aUsability/UI issueA lot of complexity inthe background tomake it easy in theforeground
  40. 40. Tech Pubs becomes a Usability/UI issueWhat makes‘cool apps’cool?
  41. 41. What makes ‘cool apps’ cool?There was lots ofHelpIt was embedded inthe applications(under differentnames)
  42. 42. What makes ‘cool apps’ cool?Help was embedded inthe applications...but...with 2 ‘X factors’ Flickr image: Alessio85
  43. 43. They are right, and this meansTech Pubs becomes aUsability/UI issueYou may need to ‘own’the dialog and errormessages
  44. 44. They are rightTech Pubs simplybecomes a trainingissueYou only need toexplain concepts Image: Google
  45. 45. They are righthttp://youtu.be/McOGxK5JcEU http://youtu.be/5t5na44D0Dw http://youtu.be/P4v-crPSrj0
  46. 46. In the worst caseCompanies will still need to:Explain unfamiliar conceptsExplain how to hack and connect thingsAvoid being a commodityDifferentiate themselves from the competition
  47. 47. What if they’re wrong?
  48. 48. They are wrongFlickr image: Khairil Zhafri
  49. 49. They are wrongDevelopers’ hubris“The product that sellsitself”
  50. 50. Not all products work simplyIndustry ‘game changers’introduce instabilitiesWriters tend to becompensating for thelack of simplicity in‘perfect products’Connecting back to asimpler positioning
  51. 51. They are wrongGet them to drawtheir “evolutionarymap”Discuss theproducts they like
  52. 52. 6.Learning from others
  53. 53. Affective DesignAttentionemotionand “flow” Image: Trevor van Gorp
  54. 54. Summary
  55. 55. SummaryThere are now twomodelsWe need to providedifferent, interesting,shinier outputsWe’ll need to fight todo the shiny thingsWe’ll need some new Image: Siiboskills
  56. 56. For more information ellis@cherryleaf.com www.cherryleaf.com