Technical writersCan we help with knowledge management? Neil WoolleyTreasurer and Webmaster, Australian Society for Technical Communication (Vic) 28th August 2013
Brief History of Technical Writing • Early 1900s - The first technical writing books began to appear • Strongly linked to the engineering discipline and military (aircraft manuals, weapons…) • Post WW II – war-time technologies translated into peace-time use • 1950s – technical writing courses offered in universities • 1980s – computer era generated a lot of work for technical writers • 2013 – Many people doing technical writing who are not calling themselves technical writers. Historically we were very technical, now we are more of a generalist profession
We call ourselves technical communicators(but no-one else does)!We do so much more than just “write”
Where do we fit in the spectrum of communications professions?
But we don’t just writewe also do: • Research and analysis: • research • information gathering • requirements analysis • audience analysis • interviewing
But we don’t just writewe also do: • Design, structure and layout of information • content design • visual design (look and feel) • graphic design (illustrations, photographs)
But we don’t just writewe also do: • Editing and quality control • usability design and testing • editing (technical, structural and copy-editing) • proof reading • developing writing and editing style guides • peer reviews
But we don’t just writewe also do: • Output and publishing to a variety of formats to suit the audience • paper • PDF • online help • wikis • web and intranet content • content management systems We can also advise on using single-sourcing tools for reusing content and publishing to a variety of output formats.
But we don’t just writewe also do: • Management and organisation • scoping of content development projects • project management
But we don’t just writewe may also be: • Subject matter experts in tools such as: • MS Word (advanced features such as styles, templates, macros) • MS PowerPoint • Adobe Acrobat • Help authoring tools (Author-it, Flare, RoboHelp, Framemaker) • HTML / CSS programming • Video creation tools (Captivate, Articulate) • Proofreading (PerfectIT)
How long does it take to understand this?(From Yarra Council website) All reasonable precautions should be taken to avoid damage to Council assets. If damage occurs as a result of a skip bin being placed on, or removed from, the site or whilst there as a result of its use, the permit holder will be held responsible for the cost of repairs and/or reinstatement. All repairs will be carried out by Council. The permit holder must advise Council immediately of any such damage.
How long does it take to understand this?(Alternative suggestion) When using a hired skip, you must take care not to damage any Council property. If any damage does occur: • inform the Council immediately • the Council will organise to repair the damage • you will pay the cost of repairs.
How long does it take to understand this?(From an unnamed company) “The option to temporarily relocate out of the building while building works are undertaken will result in significant expenditure, more than the bid for the relocation as a temporary site will need to be established before the move, then the old site will have to be refurbished for the move back. This would result in a new purchase of equipment plus additions to move back to the old site and two fit outs, albeit one temporary.”
How long does it take to understand this?(Alternative suggestion) “If we move out of the building temporarily while the building works are being done, it will cost more than relocating permanently because: • a temporary site will have to be fitted out • the old site will have to be refurbished • new equipment will have to be purchased • there will be two moves instead of one.”
What did that illustrate? • How much time can be saved in an organisation if the words are written well • Good writing is so clear it is invisible
Technical writing and knowledge management (1) One definition of knowledge management (Duhon, 1998): • "Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers."
Technical writing and knowledge management (2) Technical writers can perform many of these tasks: • Identify information • Capture information • Evaluate, retrieve, share information assets • Write policies, procedures • Extract knowledge, expertise and experience from individual workers and convert it into meaningful information for the audience • Design information so that people can easily find the piece of information they want when they need it
Discussion What are the similarities and differences between knowledge management professionals and technical writing professionals?