TCUK17 Speaker Karen Mardahl – “Surviving the agile enterprise: case study from the trenches”

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Karen Mardahl will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Surviving the agile enterprise: case study from the trenches”.

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What are the challenges for ten technical communicators in a large company moving from a waterfall development environment to an agile development environment with about 500 developers and testers?

This is a case study about writers learning together to work the agile way in a world that is in flux.

My colleagues and I use our own technical writing community of practice to guide ourselves via our successes and failures, and to teach our developer/tester colleagues about what we do. We are now reaping the benefit of our move to topic-based authoring several years ago. We still have challenges fitting a backlog of non-TBA legacy material into the fast-paced world of SAFe – Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises.

I will share our plans, our goals, our challenges, and our frustrations using real-life anecdotes from the trenches.

About Karen Mardahl

I am a senior technical writer at SimCorp in Denmark where I do my part to document an investment management system for the financial industry. I have long been keen on issues of accessibility and usability for technical communicators. That interest is still very strong and will never disappear. Lately, my daily focus has been on how a technical communicator can get things done in an agile world. I feel privileged to work together with great colleagues on finding answers to all our agile questions. TCUK17 will be my eighth TCUK conference. You can find me on Twitter @kmdk.

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TCUK17 Keynote Speaker Mike Hamilton – “Five Cascading Style Sheet Techniques That Every Technical Writer Should Know”

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Keynote speaker Mike Hamilton will also give a presentation at TCUK17 on “Five Cascading Style Sheet Techniques That Every Technical Writer Should Know”.

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We all know how to style in word processors but too many writers seem reluctant to learn CSS techniques. In this session, Mike Hamilton shares five easily mastered CSS techniques to help build confidence in writers at any skill level. Since the CSS language is the basis for styling modern markup languages, the more you learn about CSS the more it will benefit your career. Learn the basic techniques for the beginner, and some intermediate techniques for those more advanced. In addition, Mike will then finish with a prototype CSS technique allowing for vocabulary control over your content in a Responsive Design situation.

Mike Hamilton’s keynote talk is about “Topic-based Authoring – Is it for me?”.

About Mike Hamilton

Mike Hamilton is the Vice President of Product Evangelism at MadCap Software. Prior to joining MadCap Software, he served as the Product Manager for Macromedia’s award-winning RoboHelp product line, where he gathered input and feedback from the customer community and guided ongoing development of the various RoboHelp products.

Mr. Hamilton has over twenty years of experience in training, technical communication, multimedia development, and software development at several organizations including MadCap Software, Macromedia, eHelp, Blue Sky Software, Cymer, a leading supplier of laser illumination sources to the semiconductor industry, National Steel & Shipbuilding and the US Navy.

Mr. Hamilton is often a featured speaker at industry events, including the STC (the Society for Technical Communication) Annual Conference, the annual TEKOM/TC World Conference in Germany, the annual SOAP Conference in Poland, the European Online Documentation Conferences, and many more events. Mr. Hamilton has also appeared at the Microsoft Campus and STC regional conferences and events.

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TCUK17 Speaker Graeme West – “Resistance is futile! How automation can improve your docs – and your life”

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Graeme West will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Resistance is futile! How automation can improve your docs – and your life”.

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Continuous Integration (CI) tools are used by software engineers to test and deploy code on a daily basis – but their benefits for technical writers are less well understood. In this presentation, we will explain the benefits of CI tools in your docs workflow.

We’ll consider how automation can achieve two key goals: improving quality and encouraging innovation.

CI tools can make regular checks of content, such as grammar, broken links, and file validity. More importantly, adopting an automation mentality lets you become a ‘writing engineer’ who takes ownership of implementing continuous improvements to your workflow.

About Graeme West

Graeme West is a technical writer from Glasgow, Scotland, who focuses on software documentation and localisation. He has interests in automation, process improvement, and working closely with development teams.

He works for Verint, a global leader in business and public sector intelligence systems. He previously designed and implemented the documentation system for NCR’s Mobile Centre of Excellence. He has also worked as a community manager, developer, and sysadmin.

In his spare time, he writes about himself in the third person, and wonders why you are still reading his boring biography.

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TCUK17 Speaker Mark Dennett – “How to win friends as a technical author, and influence the development of software”

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Mark Dennett will be presenting at TCUK17 on “How to win friends as a technical author, and influence the development of software”.

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Drawing on my recent experience as a technical author working in multi-national software environments, I will identify the challenges in producing quality documentation, and discuss some helpful strategies. I will argue that the technical author possesses a range of skills that could make them essential to the software development process, particularly with regard to terminology, and the development of the user interface. By providing guidance and feedback into the development process, I will describe an approach that will allow us to become an essential cog in the development machine, rather than a spare part.

About Mark Dennett

Born in East Yorkshire, I studied English and Philosophy at Staffordshire University before moving to Bristol to work in video production. I then worked in IT and telecoms support, spending ten years at Buro Happold Engineering in Bath. I eventually worked in the IT Infrastructures team, supporting several international offices. In my final years at Bath, I completed a part-time MA in Technical Communication at Portsmouth University. This enabled me to develop a career as a technical author. After briefly working for Sky, I secured my first technical author role at CAE Mining, before moving to Zuken at Bristol, where I currently work as a senior technical author.

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TCUK17 Speaker Andrew McFarland Campbell – “Automatic Documentation for Software”

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Andrew McFarland Campbell will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Automatic Documentation for Software”.

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Many modern software products are complex, having anything from dozens to thousands of configuration parameters. This is particularly true for distributed systems or cloud-based products. Agile environments can result in many subtly different product versions released in quick succession. Traditional documentation methods have trouble keeping up.

It is important to automate as much of the documentation process as possible, including generating documentation directly from source code, moving the technical writer from being a writer to being an editor and developer.

The session covers case studies and scenarios, including code samples, and will conclude with practical considerations, such as management buy-in.

About Andrew McFarland Campbell

I am a technical writer with more than a decade’s experience of automating documentation production for complex software products, particularly in the financial and telecommunications industries. As well as working with standard documentation tools like DocBook and DITA I am experienced with XSLT and various programming languages.

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TCUK17 Keynote Speaker Frances Gordon – “Why topic-based writing and plain language need each other”

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Frances Gordon will be giving her keynote talk on “Why topic-based writing and plain language need each other”.

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According to the Center for Plain Language (US), plain language occurs when a person can find the information they need, understand the information they find, and use this information to meet their needs. Plain language practitioners often emphasise that this discipline involves multiple levels of a communication piece (context, content, structure, design, format, flow, readability, tone, and so on).

To be clear is to be consistent and brief, so the idea of topic-based writing is one that is gaining traction among plain-language practitioners. But it also works the other way: plain language can provide a very useful entry point into the mechanics of topic-based writing – how to stitch together groups of words, phrases and paragraphs in a way that makes sense in varied contexts, for varied users, even translated into varied languages.

Over the past 50 years or so, plain language has built up a solid foundation of research into how human beings read and process information. On the level of terminology, corpus studies can help technical writers to both identify complex words and to find simpler alternatives. It’s important to differentiate jargon from complex words and have a method for how to make decisions about both types of words.

Plain language as a discipline also has a lot to say about metaphor – all language has (or even is) metaphor – but we need to be conscious of how we use metaphor, avoiding extended metaphors, or those that can easily become ‘mixed’ when they appear alongside a different topic.

Another point is that pronouns need to have clear reference points within each content module – else they can very easily become lost, without any reference at all.

On a sentential level, we look at classic readability principles, such as the importance of understanding sentence complexity rather than just length, and how to create sensible rules about active and passive language, and nominalisations.

On a higher level still, we look at cohesion – a key issue for topic-based writing, where paragraphs must make sense as a stitched-together whole, and not as isolated units. Often the use of headlines is very valuable in promoting cohesion in this way.

In conclusion, plain language provides a set of ingredients that if combined with the right taxonomies and technologies, are a recipe for successful topic-based writing.

Frances Gordon will also be giving a presentation on “Dealing with jargon and technical terms”.

About Frances Gordon

Frances’ career started in rural South Africa where she wrote and designed educational materials for low literacy adults.

During her 20-year career, she has held tenures at Datatec/Logical as communications strategist, at London-based Siegel & Gale as Head of Content (EMEA), and at Barclaycard as VP of Content Strategy (UK).

Together with lawyer, Candice Burt, Frances co-founded Simplified, a plain-language and content training and consultancy firm. Its services include communication and content strategy, writing coaching, content audits, Treating Customers Fairly consultancy, and plain-language rewrites. Over 5 000 professionals, from lawyers to technical communicators, have benefited from the Simplified training programme.

Frances has worked on content for blue-chip international companies such as Alexander Forbes, MTN, Liberty Group, NS&I, Old Mutual and Vitality. She also has an active interest in financial inclusion programmes in frontier and emerging markets.

Frances sat on the board of international plain language organisation, PLAIN (Plain Language Association InterNational). She was part of the advisory committee of IC Clear, an EU-funded initiative that developed a post-graduate course in clear communication. She is an active member of Clarity in the UK, which is an organisation devoted to writing legal information clearly.

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TCUK17 Keynote Speaker Frances Gordon – “Dealing with jargon and technical terms”

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Keynote speaker Frances Gordon will also give a presentation at TCUK17 on “Dealing with jargon and technical terms”.

Photo of Frances Gordon

A lack of clarity about jargon often gets in the way of clear, topic-based writing. This presentation gives a method for how to deal with jargon. Jargon are terms with a specific technical meaning – often problems arise not from the jargon itself, but from users ascribing different meanings to the same jargon term, or using different jargon terms for the same meaning. It’s important to research jargon with users so that you can find out not only whether users understand the jargon, but how well, and how consistently across the organisation.

There are two main methods to test jargon – scenario-based user testing, which draws on the field of UX, and comprehension testing. Each has its purpose, and both methods should be used in jargon explorations.

After identifying jargon problems through research, writers need to make and document decisions on whether to replace jargon or define it. If defining, it’s important to keep the definition as short as possible, and to avoid the temptation of including explanations, examples, or substantive content in the definition. Although often used only by lawyers, a drafting table can be a very useful tool for technical writers too.

Frances Gordon’s keynote talk is about “Why topic-based writing and plain language need each other”.

About Frances Gordon

Frances’ career started in rural South Africa where she wrote and designed educational materials for low literacy adults.

During her 20-year career, she has held tenures at Datatec/Logical as communications strategist, at London-based Siegel & Gale as Head of Content (EMEA), and at Barclaycard as VP of Content Strategy (UK).

Together with lawyer, Candice Burt, Frances co-founded Simplified, a plain-language and content training and consultancy firm. Its services include communication and content strategy, writing coaching, content audits, Treating Customers Fairly consultancy, and plain-language rewrites. Over 5 000 professionals, from lawyers to technical communicators, have benefited from the Simplified training programme.

Frances has worked on content for blue-chip international companies such as Alexander Forbes, MTN, Liberty Group, NS&I, Old Mutual and Vitality. She also has an active interest in financial inclusion programmes in frontier and emerging markets.

Frances sat on the board of international plain language organisation, PLAIN (Plain Language Association InterNational). She was part of the advisory committee of IC Clear, an EU-funded initiative that developed a post-graduate course in clear communication. She is an active member of Clarity in the UK, which is an organisation devoted to writing legal information clearly.

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TCUK17 Speaker Rahel Anne Bailie – “Topic-based writing in the molecular world”

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Rahel Anne Bailie will be giving a workshop at TCUK17 on “Topic-based writing in the molecular world”.

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The demands on content are growing.

There’s Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative, which assumes that the interoperable exchange of data within manufacturing technologies. They don’t call it content, but content developers know all about content denial. An Information 4.0 consortium has already sprung up to prepare us for what’s to come when the content to be delivered is expected in smaller and smaller chunks.

On another front, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing are shaping the content mix. In some ways, topics become more irrelevant; in other ways, well-formed and semantically rich topics are more important than ever.

In this workshop, we will look at these two emerging practices, and examine ways to deal with the sometimes competing, sometimes complementary demands on our topic-based content. Using some basic examples, participants will explore a range of solutions and outcomes through hands-on exercises.

About Rahel Anne Bailie

Rahel Anne Bailie brings a strong understanding of the complexities of managing the editorial and technical aspects of content, throughout the entire content lifecycle, to ensure that content is the driver for existing and emerging channels within the context of a rich customer experience. Chief Knowledge Officer at Scroll, Fellow of the Society of Technical Communication, and organiser of the Content Seriously meetup. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy. She is working on her next book on writing for a structured content environment.

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – TWi

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TWi is a leading technical writing and information design service provider, based in Ireland. We partner with clients who require scalable and fully managed documentation solutions to meet their changing needs. We work mainly with multinational clients in the Software, Fintech, Utilities, Engineering, and Pharma/MedTech industries. Thanks to technology and Ireland’s time zone, we’ve worked with teams around the globe.

Clients avail of our technical communication expertise and knowledge of documentation best practices, tools, and strategies to create deliverables fit to accompany their innovative creations. Typical deliverables include SOPs, technical guides, user manuals, online help, training resources, and white papers.

Partner with us to turn your documentation into an asset by:

  • Enhancing knowledge transfer
  • Promoting usability, customer safety, and user satisfaction
  • Generating increased sales
  • Growing internal capacity to meet future documentation needs
  • Supporting legal, quality, and regulatory compliance
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TCUK17 Keynote Speaker Michael Meng – “Optimizing API documentation: What we can learn from developers”

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Michael Meng will give his keynote presentation on “Optimizing API documentation: What we can learn from developers”.

Michael Meng

The talk will outline the main findings from some empirical studies we have done to better understand the information needs of API developers, their expectations regarding content and structure and some criteria they apply to assess documentation quality. I will then propose a set of heuristics and principles that we have derived from these findings, and that we hope can provide evidence-based guidelines for technical writers working on API documentation. Examples showing how the heuristics can be implemented will be drawn from a prototype that we are currently working on.

This work has been co-authored with Stephanie Steinhardt.

Michael Meng will also be giving a presentation on “Effects of visual signalling in screenshots: an eye tracking study”.

About Michael Meng

Michael studied German linguistics and psycholinguistics at the University of Jena (Germany) and the University of Edinburgh. After completing his PhD on syntactic processing during reading in 1998, he worked as a technical writer and later on as department manager of documentation and localization for an international software company. In 2012, Michael was appointed Professor of Applied Linguistics at Merseburg University of Applied Science, where he now teaches courses on text analysis, text production, research methods and cognitive psychology in the B. Eng. and M. A. programs in Technical Communication. He is member of tekom Germany and presents regularly at conferences such as the European Academic Colloquium on Technical Communication, Write the Docs or the annual tcworld/tekom conference.

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – Adobe

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Adobe has revolutionized how the world engages with ideas and information. Our award-winning software and technologies have set the gold standard in communication and collaboration for more than 30 years. Adobe’s Technical Communication group delivers best-in-class tools, systems and services that help businesses streamline content workflows end-to-end. With our cutting-edge solutions, teams can effortlessly collaborate on the creation of ground-breaking content, manage and reuse assets efficiently, and seamlessly publish it across multiple channels and devices. Published content can be tailored to audiences, increasing relevance and consumption. All this, and more, while offering the highest return on investment.

With the convergence of marketing and technical content across enterprises – Adobe’s new-age solutions will empower your organization to create valuable experiences that build your brands, drive demand, and extend the reach and ROI of customer-facing content, pre-sale and post-sale.

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TCUK17 Speaker Eran (Yuri) Kolber – “To Video, Or Not To Be – That Is The Question”

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Eran (Yuri) Kolber will be presenting at TCUK17 on “To Video, Or Not To Be – That Is The Question”.

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Technical Authors are being requested by clients (both internal and external) for video segments to be incorporated into online documentation. This session will help you get started if the medium of Video is new to you, or if you are looking for hints and tips to improve your video production capabilities.

Topics covered:

  • Video capture, editing and production fundamentals for Technical Authors
  • Planning & Preparation (audience issues, scripting/storyboarding, preparing your equipment)
  • Recording best practices
  • To narrate, or not? That is another question… (alternatively, Modality, Temporal, and other principles)
  • Editing cheats
  • What NOT to do (well… maybe, sometimes)

About Eran (Yuri) Kolber

Eran (Yuri) Kolber is the Director of Training and Professional Services for OnTarget Communications. As part of his duties, he assists customers world-wide with Training Needs Analysis, Training Delivery, Content Creation and Management, Migration Project Planning and Execution, Knowledge Transfers, and extracting the maximum business value from technology, in the age of the Cloud and Mobility.

Yuri served as a Platform Evangelist for Microsoft for many years, and has assisted global consulting organizations, such as Holden International, to plan and roll-out content management and training programs for their customers.

He also leads OnTarget’s Internship program, which helps entrants into the industry obtain the required experience.

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TCUK17 Speaker Wayne Brissette – “Work Smarter, Not Harder: Reorganizing your team for the new world”

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Wayne Brissette will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Work Smarter, Not Harder: Reorganizing your team for the new world”.

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Is it possible to actually ‘work smarter’ and ‘think different’ about today’s tech comm’s concerns? Deadlines are tighter, budgets more constrained, and people resources are more constrained. Learn how one writing team at ARM reorganized itself to put the cliché into action. Learn how we reorganized a global team, measured reuse to help understand how they can tell you about your topic-based project.

Learn how thinking differently about multiple projects allowed us to increase document quality and meet critical deadlines all without increasing headcount.

About Wayne Brissette

Formal electronics training courtesy of the US Marine Corps, with a degree in Technical Communication, Wayne has over 20 years in the Technical Communications field. He has worked for companies large and small. Currently working as Product Information Architect at ARM, based in Austin, Texas. He has previously worked as a technical author at Apple, ATI (now AMD), and LSI (now Intel). One of the co-leaders of the Central Texas DITA User Group, with over eight years of DITA authoring experience.

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TCUK17 Speaker Maja Engel – “Plunging into the waters of UX”

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Maja Engel will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Plunging into the waters of UX”.

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I will talk about what User Experience (UX) is about, its principles and best practices and how to apply them in your work, regardless of whether you are a technical communicator, UI designer or content strategist. I will show that incorporating UX considerations early on in the design process can help you stay focused on goals instead of features and be able to prioritize. Finally, I will give you some tips and advice drawn from my own experience and cooperation with other UX professionals that might help you venture in this broad field and expand your skills.

About Maja Engel

I have a degree in Conference Interpreting and Translation and started translating technical documentation straight out of university. I worked for the EU and the Croatian government prior to my current employment as technical writer in ESTECO, an engineering software company in Trieste, Italy. I am responsible for the technical documentation of two desktop software platforms and for about a year and a half I have also been in charge of UX architecture and UI design. My goal is to get things done and I want my users to be able to do the same.

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TCUK17 Speaker Ellis Pratt – “Documentation as self-service support”

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Ellis Pratt will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Documentation as self-service support”.

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In this presentation, we’ll look at the different approaches to self-service support, and the role of the technical communicator within that environment.

We’ll explore:

If an organisation wants to encourage self-service support, where does end-user documentation fit in?
Is it realistic to expect users to write any of the content?
Does Software as a Service change the type of support an organisation needs to provide?

About Ellis Pratt

Ellis Pratt is a Director and Help Strategist at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company based near London, in the United Kingdom. He has over 20 years of experience working in the field of documentation, has a BA in Business Studies, and is an Associate of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Ellis is also on the management council for the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC).

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TCUK17 Speaker Alison Peck – “There must be a better way!”

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Alison Peck will be presenting at TCUK17 on “There must be a better way!”.

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When the authoring tools and processes are making keeping up with product changes nigh on impossible, something has to change.

  • Client A uses Word to produce PDF manuals … but their applications are web-based, and they now sometimes update three or four products simultaneously.
  • Client B uses FrameMaker and RoboHelp to produce PDF manuals and online help, and there is a lot of duplication.

I’ll take you through the steps I followed when learning to use and evaluating MadCap Flare and moving to topic-based authoring, the opportunities and difficulties I faced, all the way to the decisions my clients made.

About Alison Peck

I’ve been a technical author for over 20 years, and have managed Clearly Stated since November 2004. I love my job – from starting to investigate a new application, through crafting the materials, to delivery of the finished products.

Most of my clients are software developers – about the only thing they have in common. They range from multi-national organisations to small companies with fewer than 50 employees, and they operate in sectors as diverse as healthcare, logistics and secure messaging. I produce everything from training materials to reference documents, in anything from online interactive formats to more traditional PDFs.

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TCUK17 Speaker Neil Perlin – “Topic-Based and Structured Authoring – Keeping It Simple”

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Neil Perlin will be giving a workshop at TCUK17 on “Topic-Based and Structured Authoring – Keeping It Simple”.

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Topic-based authoring creates content in small chunks rather than long documents. Structured authoring applies a formal structure to those topics. They’re different processes but most effective when used together. Consistent structure makes content easy for authors to write and readers to absorb. “Bead-sized” content allows single sourcing to multiple formats and devices.

But these methodologies can be time-wasting, expensive, and over-complicated if they don’t fit your company. This workshop looks at various factors to see how to implement these methodologies as quickly, inexpensively, and simply as possible.

  • Definitions of topic-based and structured authoring.
  • Business factors – support for company strategy, handling legacy material, more.
  • Technical factors –trends that affect content development, maintenance, and distribution.
  • Implementation factors – information type definition, template creation, cascading style sheets, DITA vs. non-DITA, more.
  • Hands-on practice defining an information type and structure.

You won’t leave with all the answers. There’s too much to cover and companies differ. But you will leave with the concepts needed to implement topic-based and structured authoring.

Neil Perlin is also giving a presentation at TCUK17: “We’re Going Mobile! Great! Wait. What Does That Mean?”.

About Neil Perlin

Neil has 38 years experience in technical communication, 31 in development, training, and consulting for online formats and tools ranging from cutting edge to dead. He is certified for Flare, Mimic, RoboHelp, and ViziApps Studio and consults on them, along with single sourcing, structured authoring, and apps.

Neil was a columnist for STC and IEEE and is a popular conference speaker, recently at TCUK15. He ran STC’s Bleeding Edge, and represented STC to the W3C for four years. He has written eight books on computing, including Advanced Features in MadCap Flare 10 and Creating Mobile Apps without Coding.

In his spare time, Neil builds telescopes, flies aircraft carrier simulators, and barbecues meat. Contact him at nperlin@nperlin.cnc.net or on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (@NeilEric).

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TCUK17 Speakers Derek Cooper & Sammi Lauesen – “The fun side of technical communication”

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Derek Cooper & Sammi Lauesen will be giving a workshop on “The fun side of technical communication”.

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Derek and Sammi, the presenters of this workshop, have a passion and excitement for technical communication and bring diverse and complementary skills and experiences to it. They want to share some of that excitement with you in this light-hearted workshop in which you’ll have a chance to ‘play’ with some mystery objects, and to write about them as if they were new products from a start-up company.

If you have one, please bring a laptop computer with MS Word installed, which you’ll use to develop a template and to write user information. You’ll also be critiquing each others’ work, and some samples we supply, offering assessments and making changes for a positive user experience (UX).

About Derek Cooper and Sammi Lauesen

Derek Cooper is a Fellow of the ISTC and has worked in technical communications since 1992. Although his background is in marine electronic engineering, he has produced user documentation in a range of different forms for subjects as diverse as electron and optical microscopy, marine and seismic survey, environmental monitoring, government and financial services, and veterinary science. He has worked with many UK employers, and has run his own successful business as a freelance and contract technical author. He now works for ARM in Cambridge, where he applies his obsession with quality to improve the user experience for ARM’s customers.

Sammi Lauesen is an Information Developer at ARM. Her background is in software, and she has a strong interest in User Experience (UX).

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TCUK17 Speaker Neil Perlin – “We’re Going Mobile! Great! Wait. What Does That Mean?”

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Neil Perlin will be presenting at TCUK17 on “We’re Going Mobile! Great! Wait. What Does That Mean?”

Photo of Neil Perlin

So you’re taking your documentation mobile. Great!

But just saying “mobile” is too vague. Is it an app? Responsive online help? Something else? And how might going mobile affect how you create content? Come to this presentation to find out.

We’ll look at three definitions of “mobile” – responsive design, “mobilized” online help, and apps –pros and cons and tools. We’ll then discuss changes to your documentation practices, such as greater syntactical rigor, eliminating local formatting, modifying or eliminating tables, and more.

You’ll leave this presentation with a solid understanding of your technical and workflow options for going mobile.

Neil Perlin is also doing a workshop at TCUK17: “Topic-Based and Structured Authoring – Keeping It Simple”

About Neil Perlin

Neil has 38 years experience in technical communication, 31 in development, training, and consulting for online formats and tools ranging from cutting edge to dead. He is certified for Flare, Mimic, RoboHelp, and ViziApps Studio and consults on them, along with single sourcing, structured authoring, and apps.

Neil was a columnist for STC and IEEE and is a popular conference speaker, recently at TCUK15. He ran STC’s Bleeding Edge, and represented STC to the W3C for four years. He has written eight books on computing, including Advanced Features in MadCap Flare 10 and Creating Mobile Apps without Coding.

In his spare time, Neil builds telescopes, flies aircraft carrier simulators, and barbecues meat. Contact him at nperlin@nperlin.cnc.net or on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (@NeilEric).

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TCUK17 Speaker Danielle M. Villegas – “The Future of Mobile Learning”

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Danielle M. Villegas will be presenting at TCUK17 on “The Future of Mobile Learning”.

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This presentation will tie together how early efforts to create and promote literacy are tied to e-learning and how technology helped the evolution of that process, explain the basic concepts behind m-learning practices and instructional design, and provide evidence of efforts now being done to revise how m-learning is conducted on smart devices through current thought in the m-learning industry. While the main concepts here are geared towards instructional designers or help authors, anyone writing help documentation, or those wanting to write for mobile can learn the principles that can form the mindset needed to write mobile content.

About Danielle M. Villegas

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own consultancy, Dair Communications. She is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has flourished since its debut in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference, as well as written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, the InSyncTraining blog, and The Content Wrangler. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @techcommgeekmom, through her blog, or daircomm.com.

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TCUK17 Speaker Alison Turner – “Topics for teenagers”

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Alison Turner will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Topics for teenagers”.

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This session will offer tips on constructing topics, based on the thesis that you will get this right if you imagine you are writing for a teenager.

Like my teenage sons, the users of my help and manuals are not fans of the beautifully constructed training course or the well-structured novel. Many never learned to use an index. They want ‘concise and speedy’ help, ideally without too much to read.

I will present examples of my work to illustrate the ways in which I have altered my style to deliver information to suit my users – taking a topic-based approach.

About Alison Turner

Alison Turner CEng CPhys MInstP MISTC trained at St John’s College Cambridge and Universität Heidelberg in Physics, then took a postgraduate certificate in Engineering Management.

Alison worked in technical consultancy before becoming a Project Manager for Racal Avionics. She led project management process initiatives and delivered business analysis of the project portfolio at Thales Aerospace UK.

For the last seven years Alison Turner has been the sole Technical Author and IMS Manager at Vocality, a telecommunications equipment manufacturer based in Surrey, which recently became part of Cubic Mission Solutions. She is responsible for both product and process documents.

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TCUK17 Speaker Robert Kratky – “Going Modular: Turning Legacy Docs into User-Story-Based Content”

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Robert Kratky will be presenting at TCUK17 on “Going Modular: Turning Legacy Docs into User-Story-Based Content”.

Photo of Robert Kratky

How to adapt the big guides of yesterday into modularized narratives that are easy to maintain, scale well, and still allow for a ‘guide-like’ experience when it is required? This presentation will describe the work documentation writers at Red Hat are doing to solve this problem: re-purposing the existing body of documentation into modular units that can be combined into user-story-based content. The talk will also outline how to leverage the modular structure of content to present it to users in a dynamic manner — using a metadata-based, hierarchical navigation.

About Robert Kratky

Robert Kratky is a Principal Technical Writer at Red Hat and a long-time contributor to open-source projects. He has published dozens of technical and outreach articles in both print and online media, and presented about documentation topics at open-source events. At Red Hat, Robert specializes on developer docs and improvement of user experience with documentation.

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – 3di

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3di Information Solutions Ltd.

Logo for 3di

“Complexity made clear”

3di has delivered technical communication and localization services to global companies, government organisations, and technology and software businesses since 2002. Our in-house team is based near Guildford and in Kraków. Quite a few of us are attending TCUK as delegates.

Our customers and suppliers love working with us and keep coming back. The people we work with day-to-day like our friendly and reliable approach and our focus on quality — we don’t let them down. The people who pay the bills like our competitive rates and our focus on efficient processes — we save them money.

Visit our stand at TCUK to:

  • discuss your work and the challenges you face
  • brief us about projects you have coming up
  • tell us about your availability to work with us and our customers

For more information visit our website www.3di-info.com.

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – SCHEMA

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SCHEMA logo

The SCHEMA Group develops and markets high-performance solutions for information logistics. Founded in 1995, the company employs over 110 people at its headquarters and development site in Nuremberg, Germany. Relied upon by over 500 customers, the SCHEMA ST4 Component Content Management System (CCMS) and the SCHEMA CDS Content Delivery Server number among the most widely used systems for a modular approach to technical writing and documentation. The SCHEMA ST4 Component Content Management System and the SCHEMA CDS Content Delivery Server cater to all functions relating to the creation, versioning, variant control, translation, quality assurance, publication and distribution of product information – from service information on a mobile device to the final layout for a print catalogue. SCHEMA ST4 is a flexible system that can be scaled to suit the needs of small authoring teams up to entire companies. It is also available as a standard version or as a client-specific solution. SCHEMA CDS distributes information while providing its immediate availability. The SCHEMA Group’s solutions are suitable for a broad range of applications. They are deployed in a wide variety of sectors including mechanical and plant engineering, automotive, IT, electronics, medical technology and the pharmaceutical industry. Clients such as ABB, Agilent, Andritz, Bayer, Bentley, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bombardier, Bosch, Bundesanzeiger Federal Gazette, Carl Zeiss, Caterpillar, Daimler, Datev, Doppelmayr, General Electric, KSB, MAN, Miele, Austrian Federal Railways, Philips, Porsche, Roche, Schaeffler Group, SEW Eurodrive, Siemens, SMA, Toyota, TüV, Voith, Weleda, Wincor Nixdorf and many more rely on systems from SCHEMA.

SCHEMA. Complex documents made easy. www.schema.de

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – kothes GmbH

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Logo for kothes GmbH

kothes GmbH is a leading specialist service provider for technical documentation and CE marking.

kothes GmbH was founded in 2003 and now employs a good 100 people, about 70 of them technical editors. Offices in Kempen, Bremen, Berlin and Stuttgart as well as in Kloten near Zürich (kothes Schweiz GmbH) guarantee fast reaction times for our customers in the entire German-speaking area. Our customers include more than 1,000 manufacturers, operators and importers of technical products, from family companies to global corporations.

We stand for cooperation models where consultation and services are combined in such a way that your employees and our employees collaborate at the optimum level.

www.kothes.de

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – Imprimatur

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Imprimatur is a leader in implementing technology to improve the document creation and management process, offering guidance, training and consultancy to enable our customers to become more efficient.

As part of its strategy to work with the best documentation technologies, Imprimatur is SCHEMA’s sole UK partner, offering sales, support and consultancy to enable customers to implement the SCHEMA ST4 CCMS.

Imprimatur is a specialist language and technology company, providing services to both technical and marketing teams of large companies operating in global markets.

Imprimatur offers languages services – from machine translation right through to copy writing – to enable its customers to be clearly understood in their target markets. By using the latest and most powerful translation management systems, Imprimatur produces high quality translations whilst delivering to the tightest of deadlines.

www.imprimatur.co.uk

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TCUK 2017 Sponsor – MadCap Software

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MadCap software logo

MadCap Software is a trusted resource for thousands of companies around the globe for single-source, multi-channel authoring and publishing solutions, including multimedia and translation management. Our products are used to create corporate intranets, online Help systems, policy & procedure manuals, video tutorials, knowledge bases, ebooks, user guides and more. Our services include product training, consulting services, translation and localization and an advanced developer certification program.

www.madcapsoftware.com

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TCUK 2017 Keynote Speaker – Michael Meng

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We are pleased to announce Michael Meng as a keynote speaker for TCUK 2017.

Michael Meng

Michael Meng is Vice Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration and Information Sciences at the Merseburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany).

Michael studied German linguistics and psycholinguistics at the University of Jena (Germany) and the University of Edinburgh. After completing his PhD on syntactic processing during reading in 1998, he worked as a technical writer and later on as department manager of documentation and localization for an international software company. In 2012, Michael was appointed Professor of Applied Linguistics at Merseburg University of Applied Science, where he now teaches courses on text analysis, text production, research methods and cognitive psychology in the B. Eng. and M. A. programs in Technical Communication. He is member of tekom Germany and presents regularly at conferences such as the European Academic Colloquium on Technical Communication, Write the Docs, or the annual tcworld/tekom conference.

Michael Meng’s keynote presentation is about Optimization strategies for API documentation.

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TCUK 2017 Keynote Speaker – Mike Hamilton

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We are pleased to announce Mike Hamilton as a keynote speaker for TCUK 2017.

Mike Hamilton

Topic-based Authoring – Is it for me?

Sometimes it can feel like everyone in the industry has made the transition to modular content creation, except you. Is this really true? Of course not. How can you decide if it is time to transition from a linear authoring process to a modular or topic-based process? What questions do you need to ask?

If you decide that you could benefit from a topic-based process then where do you begin? Do you start over? Can your existing content be reused? Beyond the content itself, will you need to approach the task of writing differently? Do you have any special content needs that would need to be addressed such as translation/localization requirements or heavy multimedia usage?

What about ongoing maintenance? How will a topic-based process change how you handle edits and content updates? What additional complexity will be introduced into the documentation process and how will it be managed?

These are all questions that Mr. Hamilton will address in this presentation. Transitioning to a modular content workflow can be very powerful or very frustrating. Asking the hard questions up front, and having good answers to those questions can help to ensure a successful transition.

Mike Hamilton will also be giving a presentation on “Five Cascading Style Sheet Techniques That Every Technical Writer Should Know”.

About Mike Hamilton

Mike Hamilton is the Vice President of Product Evangelism at MadCap Software. Prior to joining MadCap Software, he served as the Product Manager for Macromedia’s award-winning RoboHelp product line, where he gathered input and feedback from the customer community and guided ongoing development of the various RoboHelp products.

Mr. Hamilton has over twenty years of experience in training, technical communication, multimedia development, and software development at several organizations including MadCap Software, Macromedia, eHelp, Blue Sky Software, Cymer, a leading supplier of laser illumination sources to the semiconductor industry, National Steel & Shipbuilding and the US Navy.

Mr. Hamilton is often a featured speaker at industry events, including the STC (the Society for Technical Communication) Annual Conference, the annual TEKOM/TC World Conference in Germany, the annual SOAP Conference in Poland, the European Online Documentation Conferences, and many more events. Mr. Hamilton has also appeared at the Microsoft Campus and STC regional conferences and events.

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TCUK 2017 Keynote Speaker – Frances Gordon

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We are pleased to announce Frances Gordon as a keynote speaker for TCUK 2017.

Frances Gordon

Frances’ career started in rural South Africa where she wrote and designed educational materials for low literacy adults.

During her 20-year career, she has held tenures at Datatec/Logical as communications strategist, at London-based Siegel & Gale as Head of Content (EMEA), and at Barclaycard as VP of Content Strategy (UK).

Together with lawyer, Candice Burt, Frances co-founded Simplified, a plain-language and content training and consultancy firm. Its services include communication and content strategy, writing coaching, content audits, Treating Customers Fairly consultancy, and plain-language rewrites. Over 5 000 professionals, from lawyers to technical communicators, have benefited from the Simplified training programme.

Frances has worked on content for blue-chip international companies such as Alexander Forbes, MTN, Liberty Group, NS&I, Old Mutual and Vitality. She also has an active interest in financial inclusion programmes in frontier and emerging markets.
Frances sat on the board of international plain language organisation, PLAIN (Plain Language Association InterNational). She was part of the advisory committee of IC Clear, an EU-funded initiative that developed a post-graduate course in clear communication. She is an active member of Clarity in the UK, which is an organisation devoted to writing legal information clearly.

We’ll have more news from Frances Gordon in a later post.

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TCUK 2017 – Call for proposals

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The TCUK Committee proudly announces the theme for the 2017 conference: Staying on Topic.

Topic-based authoring uses a modular pattern for content creation. It structures information into topics that can be combined and reused in different contexts, and is distinct from book-oriented or narrative content that follows a linear structure from beginning to end.

Topic-based writing methodologies are gaining recognition and acceptance across all business domains. They require content creators to produce information in distinct stand-alone chunks or topics, which can combine to create deliverables that are well-written, well-structured, and of high quality for efficient and effective distribution through any chosen delivery channel. In return, end users find the content more convenient to access and navigate, and the information they seek easier to find and more reliable.

There is a particular skill to the creation of topic-based and modular content. It involves careful analysis and categorization of the source material and the creation of discrete stand-alone topics that are complete and properly formed in their own right. The modular nature of these topics means Content Developers can reuse them many times. Subsequently, subject matter experts need to review them only once as a stand-alone entity, after which they need only to review their validity as a component of a larger collection.

We look forward to meeting experienced practitioners of topic-based writing, those who have yet to develop the necessary skills, and delegates who have a more general interest in technical communication. As usual, the conference also invites proposals for off-theme presentations on subjects that are of broader interest to scientific and technical communicators.

The conference offers valuable opportunities for delegates, speakers and tools vendors to network and exchange ideas and experiences, and to benefit from working in an environment that is rich in technical communication expertise.

We also welcome those who might still be at University and still undecided about their future career path, or who may be unaware of the opportunities that our profession presents. Again, we also invite those who are closely involved in the recruitment process so they may benefit from having a potential pool of talent from which to draw candidates for their growing businesses.

For more details and to submit your proposal please visit our call for proposals page.

The call for proposals ends on Wednesday, 26th April 2017.

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TCUK16 Speaker Rahel Anne Bailie – “Strategist, Consultant, Trusted Advisor: Which Are You and Why Does It Matter?”

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Rahel Anne Bailie will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Strategist, Consultant, Trusted Advisor: Which Are You and Why Does It Matter?”.

Rahel Anne Bailie

It’s been twenty years since the Cluetrain Manifesto changed the dynamic from pushing messages to our audiences into creating conversations. Now we’re more concerned about the type of conversations we have. Do we get the right kind of engagement with our audience? Do we provide a commoditised service, or do we operate as trusted advisors?

Rahel Bailie looks at the various names that we go by, and creates a map that shows the arteries and intersections of professional competencies, talents, skills, and other factors that round out our diverse set of professions.

About Rahel Anne Bailie

Rahel Anne Bailie, Chief Knowledge Office for Scroll, runs the content strategy practice and consults for clients with serious content challenges. She blends techniques from multiple disciplines to develop content strategies that have business impact. Rahel also teaches in the Content Strategy Master’s Program at FH-Joanneum, runs the Content, Seriously meetup, and is working on her third industry book: writing content for a structured authoring environment.

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TCUK16 Speaker Chris Hester – “Be The Captain of Your Career”

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Chris Hester will be giving a workshop at TCUK16: “Be The Captain of Your Career”.

Chris Hester
Chris Hester

Workshop: Be The Captain of Your Career

Have you ever applied for a job you really wanted, but didn’t get? Or perhaps you landed the job, but feel under compensated?

Chances are you made one (or several) mistakes that are hindering your job and career growth.

In this hands-on workshop you will learn:

  • The most common mistakes professionals make when looking for work—and how to avoid them
  • How to ace a tech comm interview using a portfolio
  • How to hone your workplace negotiation skills

Want a different job, more money, a better standard of living?

Don’t miss this workshop!

About Chris Hester

As an independent consultant and the founder of Red Desk Studio, Chris has delivered successful content strategy, training, and knowledge management projects to a variety of clients, including those in the advertising, construction management, entertainment, and healthcare industries.

Chris is an STC Fellow and has been actively involved in the technical communication community as a volunteer, academic mentor, and presenter at events such as the STC Summit, LavaCon, and BigDesign.

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Change of Keynote Speaker at TCUK 2016

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We are very sorry to announce that Jack Molisani is now unable to attend TCUK 2016.

His place as a keynote speaker will be filled by Ray Gallon. Ray is co-founder of The Transformation Society, a research and consulting company, and owner of Culturecom, a company that provides business process improvement through communication. Ray Gallon’s keynote presentation is on “Let Us Say ‘Yes’ to Our Presence Together in Chaos”, where he will help us glimpse ahead to how our industry is changing, even now, and how we need to adapt ourselves and our skills – for survival, for sanity, and for success in a world without documents.

Jack’s workshop will be run by Chris Hester.

Please see the programme page for other late-breaking changes to the conference programme.

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TCUK16 Speaker Ray Gallon – “Let Us Say ‘Yes’ to Our Presence Together in Chaos”

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Ray Gallon will be giving a keynote talk at TCUK16: “Let Us Say ‘Yes’ to Our Presence Together in Chaos”.

Ray Gallon
Ray Gallon

Technological change advances at a dizzying rate, we are all inundated with a host of names and acronyms that we can barely manage. We’re urged to “be creative” at the same time that we must follow orders. Information changes in the time it takes to verify it. Welcome to chaos!

You can fight against the tide, trying to make order, or you can accept that we will never know it all, will never master it all, but we can deal with it all.

One of the major currents in the maelstrom is called Industry 4.0, and its combination of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things promises to totally change the way we live. Technical communicators will not be exempt. We’ll still need technical information, but we aren’t going to be producing it “the way we’ve always done it.”

We’re going to glimpse ahead to how our industry is changing, even now, and how we need to adapt ourselves and our skills – for survival, for sanity, and for success in a world without documents.

About Ray Gallon

Ray Gallon is co-founder of The Transformation Society, a research and consulting company, and owner of Culturecom, a company that provides business process improvement through communication. He has over 40 years as a communicator, first as an award-winning radio producer and journalist, then in the technical content industries. His management experience includes a stint as program manager of WNYC-FM, New York City’s public radio station.

Ray has always been interested in the meeting point between technology and culture, and has used his broad experience to advantage with companies such as IBM, General Electric Health Care, Alcatel, 3M, and the OECD, as well as in smaller companies and startup enterprises.

He has been quoted as saying, “Since the beginning, I have been, paradoxically, communicating and shooting myself in the foot. I find that this combination leads to fascinating outcomes that have made me one of the most fortunate people I know.”

Ray is a university lecturer and a speaker at events throughout the world. He has contributed articles and chapters to many books and periodicals and is the editor of the recently published “Language of Technical Communication” (XML Press).

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What are your top three technical writing tools?

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Earlier this year, Ferry Vermeulen asked speakers at conferences earlier this year what they consider their top three tools of choice for their technical communication needs. He received over 70 responses which he published in “Technical Writing Tools: The Ultimate Expert Choice” on his blog.

Many of the responses are perfect for this year’s conference theme: From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator. Dive into the article for inspiration!

  • Find out who feels that a certain tool is like a map of her brain (or at least, if she were Data from Star Trek).
  • Learn how many are using Github and why.
  • Discover who considers “talent” a tool!

If Ferry had contacted you, what would you say to him? You can add your thoughts in the comments at “Technical Writing Tools: The Ultimate Expert Choice”.

You can also continue the discussion at the TCUK conference or on Twitter (and include @TCUK_Conf or the hashtag #TCUK16).

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Changes to the booking procedure for TCUK16

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We still have spaces available for the TCUK 2016 conference! However, due to accommodation filling up at the conference hotel and the need to confirm alternative accommodation on a case-by-case basis, you need to email or call in your booking:

  • Email: tcuk@istc.org.uk
  • Call the ISTC office: +44 (0) 20 8253 4506

You can still use the booking form to plan and calculated your booking needs. After August 16th, the payment processing section was removed.

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SCHEMA – Platinum Sponsor Interview, Jörg Plöger

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Jörg Plöger – SCHEMA Consulting GmbH, Sales Manager (Northern Europe)

Jörg Plöger

TCUK: Thank you for returning to sponsor us at TCUK16. Tell us about what motivated you to join us again?

JP: The industrial sector (secondary sector) generates 57% of the United Kingdom’s exports (approx. 11.5% of which go to Germany). The IT and software sector also plays a vital role in that regard. With globalisation and the rise of the Internet of Things, technical communication is playing an increasingly important role in industry. Buzz words such as Mobile Documentation, Big Data, Omni Channel, Content Marketing and Knowledge Management are increasingly influencing the everyday work of the Technical Communicator.

We are proud to be a sponsor of the TCUK event again this year, as this environment offers potential for the use of standardised and cost-effective solutions for content management.

In our opinion, TCUK attendees represent a cross-section of people with a variety of knowledge and experience – from novices to experts. They are open-minded, practical, goal-oriented and are seeking the best and most effective way to achieve those goals.

TCUK provides an efficient platform for exchanging information and obtaining information on trends, technologies and standards. The direct interaction with experts and colleagues from all sectors and different countries also offers added value.

TCUK: This year the TCUK event special focus is ‘From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator’. Are there any relevant trends in technical communication that apply to both novice and experienced communicators?

JP: I began as a novice in 1986, when I took over the management of a service company for technical communication with 20 employees. There were no PCs and we only had a limited amount of information and knowledge in the field of “technical documentation”. Many things could only be self-taught. Texts were typed using typewriters and mounted on a light table.

In the late 1980s, we purchased our first PC in the form of the 486 with a DOS operating system. It was on this PC that we gained our first experiences of Word, Ventura and a simple CAD program. We progressed to working with FrameMaker, Interleaf and Intergraph on a Unix workstation.

In the mid-1990s, we then used one of the first Translation Memory systems, Trados, for translation and we created SGML Data Modules for the S1000D standard. We also developed customer-specific semantic XML DTDs.

Since 2004, I have been working at SCHEMA, the German manufacturer of the Component Content Management System ST4 – a leading standard solution for creating, managing, publishing and distributing multilingual product information.

The backdrop to the various stages of my career was the search for simpler solutions for the complex and rapidly growing demands for product information. Reducing this complexity is still the challenge we face today. The responses from over 400 of our customers worldwide highlight the trends that mark our overall approach:

  • Content modularisation and enrichment with metadata
  • Content reuse (variables, metadata, terminology, sentences, images, fragments, topics, structures…)
  • Variant management with automatic configuration of deliverables
  • Multi-language support
  • Simple production for multi-media publishing
  • User-friendly and flexible out-of-the-box solutions

TCUK: As an experienced sponsor, what words of advice do you have to encourage technical communicators to attend this year’s conference?

JP: I believe that TCUK has once again succeeded in creating a programme with a colourful array of informative workshops and presentations. What’s more, leading service providers and systems providers will once again be attending in order to exhibit their products. That makes it a good opportunity to bring together information and knowledge regarding customers’ requirements and framework conditions and learn collectively. The potential applications and types of process support available are also equally diverse. In short: TCUK is offering precisely the right mix that will enable technical communicators to view, take in and immerse themselves in the very latest developments.

TCUK: The TCUK conference moves to a new location each year. This year, TCUK is hosted in Bedfordshire, England. What are you looking forward to most at this year’s conference?

JP: The industrial sector in the United Kingdom offers a well-trained workforce, a high domestic demand and forms an integral part of the European domestic market. It is supported by a solid scientific base, as well as a highly developed capital market. These are the strengths that it calls upon in order to improve the prospects of the future generations in industrial centres such as Manchester, Coventry and Birmingham and to ensure that the UK economy can compete on an international level once more. It is now a case of identifying innovative, highly technical niches, which can draw from the rich pool of talent that is available in British centres of learning. Bedfordshire is conveniently situated between London and Birmingham, the East Midlands and the West Midlands. We are looking forward to meeting local Technical Communicators, seeing their challenges, answering their questions and exchanging information.

See you in Bedfordshire!

About SCHEMA

SCHEMA Group was founded in 1995 in Nürnberg and today has around 100 employees. SCHEMA ST4 is an XML-based editing and content management system, offering extensive features for all aspects of the creation, management, translation, quality management, publication and distribution of product information of any kind. SCHEMA ST4’s scalability makes it suitable for small editing teams as well as for company-wide solutions for information logistics. SCHEMA ST4 can be used as a standard product or a customer-specific solution. With the SCHEMA Content Delivery Server, information can be distributed intelligently to all common platforms, independently of SCHEMA ST4.

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TCUK16 Speaker Andrew Head – “Can’t see it? Augment it! Creating and delivering content for Augmented Reality”

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Andrew Head will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Can’t see it? Augment it! Creating and delivering content for Augmented Reality”.

Andrew Head

Industry demand for Augmented Reality (AR) solutions grows by the day, and technical communicators are facing a challenge to provide this new rich media. So, how does an author create content for AR? Is it a new content type, is it a new system, is it new software or is this a whole new science?

Andrew will explore the technology, processes and purpose of creating content for AR distribution. By sharing examples of how content is authored in a Content Management System, and how cloud content distribution platforms are the enabler for AR technical communication solutions.

About Andrew Head

Andrew Head from Semcon leads the development of new business and new solutions in the United Kingdom. Andrew’s co-operation with product manufacturers, systems developers and service providers affords him a unique insight into the needs, ambitions and challenges associated with the creation and distribution of content that resolves problems, drives greater product utilisation and delivers innovative, high quality user experiences.

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TCUK16 Speaker Darren Mitcham – “It all started with BS-4884”

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Darren Mitcham will be presenting at TCUK16 on “It all started with BS-4884: the courses, colleagues, and copy that have characterised my 20-year career as a technical communicator”.

Darren Mitcham

As a failing electronic engineer for Marconi in my first job after university, I jumped at the chance to write a manual for our first ever consumer (rather than military) product. I stumbled rather fortuitously on BS-4884 – the British standard for technical authors – and I knew at that point I had found my true vocation in life. Over the subsequent 20 years, I have benefitted from numerous courses and workshops, and read countless books and papers. I will share my experiences to highlight which ones I recommend for technical communicators and which ones to avoid.

About Darren Mitcham

I am a senior technical author at Intel. I used to work for a small American electronics company for 17 years, but our 2,000 employees were very recently subsumed into Intel’s 133,000.

I live and work in High Wycombe. I play Hammond organs, attend many classic car rallies, collect classic car brochures and manuals (mainly to see how the use of technical English has evolved).

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TCUK16 Speakers Sean Marlow and Sally Haywood – “From Technical Communicator to Instructional Designer”

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Sean Marlow and Sally Haywood, from our TCUK16 sponsor Capita TI, will be giving a vendor presentation at TCUK16 on “From Technical Communicator to Instructional Designer”.

Sean Marlow
Sally Haywood

Sally Haywood and Sean Marlow delve into the world of eLearning. See how the landscape could change for you. Communication is at the heart of Instructional Design, but what other qualities would you need to cross that bridge? Are the roles and responsibilities distinct or complementary? Will a new title raise your profile? Understand more about the hot topics in eLearning from social and mobile learning to gamification. Learn about authoring techniques for compliance and branding as well as giving your learners that all-round great user experience.

About Sean Marlow and Sally Haywood

Sean Marlow has over 25 years’ experience in the translation industry, specialising in software and user assistance localisation. Dedicated to the cause, he even married a freelance translator, though training his dogs to be bi-lingual was deemed a step too far.

Sally Haywood has over 20 years’ experience in the translation industry and specialises in the localization of software and eLearning. She lives in North Yorkshire with her husband, 3 daughters and very playful young dog.

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From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator

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Anjali Gupta works as a Technical Writing Consultant with Adobe Systems, the Diamond Sponsor for TCUK16. She is smitten by Adobe products (especially FrameMaker and RoboHelp) and plans to learn and teach some great, new workflows to users. She loves to explore new communication styles and media. Anjali has written an article for us where she shares her thoughts on the 2016 conference theme.

From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator

It is one of those Monday mornings, when I am rushing to the office, skipping breakfast again. First thing that I want to do, after I reach the office, is to sip 2-3 cups of coffee and get rid of the usual Monday sickness. An email from my boss is the last thing that I am expecting to see on my smartphone screen. And Beep. It’s an email from my boss.

Hi Anjali, the Online Help looks great. Thanks for such a quick turnaround. It’s a pleasure to have an expert like you in the team.

I have been working through weekends to complete a crucial delivery. And this totally makes my day. A wide smile covers my face while I start for office. I remember the days when I had just started off in the field of technical communications and with the little experience that I had at that time, I was someone who was nervous and not very confident about my skills.

Being a Technical Communicator requires you to be quick with learning tools and technologies, determining what users need, and helping users accomplish their tasks with the various types of content you create. The communication needs to be precise as well as engaging.

At this point, when I sit down introspecting, I feel that I could have done a few things better. So if you think you are a novice in this field and want to plan your career path to be an expert technical communicator, imbibe these quick tips:

  • Understand that technical communication is more than just technical writing.
    I agree that these two terms are closely connected. But, as the world around you evolves, you will see that newer communication media and changing user preferences will open up opportunities for you to communicate in many ways, not just through writing conventional user guides and help manuals. So explore a variety of writing styles and methodologies and embrace new media.
  • Be patient. In fact, be very patient.
    Your first write-up will be rejected, your following write-ups will be heavily edited, and your first appreciation mail will not come easily. But you will have to be patient to excel. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s crucial to learn from them. Actually, this is how a writer grows: Write > Revise > Enhance. Remember, smart and steady will win the race here.
  • Keep up the investigative skills. Ask a lot of questions.
    Do not worry, if in a product demo, you ask something that leaves someone in the room amused. If you have done your user analysis, do not hesitate to play the user. Keep your probing skills sharp. It won’t take long for people to notice that somebody in the room has understood the product and the user community really well.
  • Keep sharpening your technical skills. Bridge the demand and supply gap.
    Gone are the days when writers used to work around with basic word processors. Today, as users want to see content in various formats, like interactive How-to videos, mobile and search-friendly articles, you as a technical communicator will have to match up to those requirements. Be well-read and flexible so that you can use both technology and skills to produce user delighting content.
  • Be collaborative and grounded.
    Collaborate well with your team and stakeholders. Be grounded and professional when it is about giving and accepting suggestions. Do not take reviews personally. They are done to improve the document. However, if you also choose to improve with each of the reviews (which is highly advisable), you will realize that success will be closer.
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Bronze Sponsor TCUK 2016 – Clever Resourcing

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Clever Resourcing logo

Clever Resourcing

CLEVER Resourcing supports companies with clever new systems to roll out and individuals with a clever invention to bring to market.

We are independent Product Managers /Business Analysts, Project Managers, Testers, Innovators, Project support, Inventor and Investor support, Trainers, Data collectors, Report writers, Process Improvement strategists, data and knowledge management organisers. We ask the right questions to deliver appropriate answers, not just ‘what’ but also ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘awareness’ focused on gaining more profit with less risk.

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PleaseTech – Bronze Sponsor Interview, James Wilding

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James Wilding – PleaseTech Ltd. Account Manager

James Wilding
James Wilding

TCUK: Thank you for becoming a TCUK16 sponsor. Tell us about what motivated you to join us?

JW: We need to tell you a bit about us to explain why we joined TCUK as a sponsor…so here comes the PR!

PleaseTech is a technology company specialising in collaborative document co-authoring and review software. Our flagship product, PleaseReview, is a proven collaborative review and co-authoring solution for Microsoft Word and other document types including source code. It facilitates controlled, simultaneous and secure collaboration for the review and editing of documents.

Whilst document review and co-authoring is recognised as a critical business issue which consumes considerable resources across the organisation, the basic problem remains: if you have a Microsoft Word document (or Excel, PDF, etc.) and need several people to review it, how do you do that in an efficient and controlled way? This is where PleaseReview adds value: it offers control, management and metrics to the review, accommodates both online and offline reviewers (supporting a mobile workforce) and enables secure collaboration with external partners.

In addition to defence contractors, the military and government, PleaseReview is used by 75% of the world’s top 25 pharmaceutical companies, where bringing products to market is a huge endeavour. In this environment, medical writers have to collaboratively edit and review complex documents generated for clinical trials, quality assurance and regulatory submissions. This often requires contributions from area authors and subject matter experts both internal and external to an organisation.

Whilst technical writers are required to work with applications including HTML and XML editors, there are many documents such as user manuals, specifications, guides, contracts and proposals which are created, updated and reviewed in Microsoft Word and PDF. Joining TCUK seems to be a natural fit.

TCUK: This year the TCUK event special focus is ‘From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator’. Are there any relevant trends in technical communication that apply to both novice and experienced communicators?

JW: When there are many people involved in the review of documents, including experts outside of an organisation as well as different teams internally, this process can be frustratingly slow. Without a proper business process in place, documents distributed via email for review result in hundreds of often conflicting changes, all of which need to be amalgamated into a master copy – just imagine trying to do that using cut and paste! Furthermore, if tracked changes have been used by several participants on a review, it’s almost impossible to see who has commented on what, and why. All this leads to a frustrated team, as well as delayed and inaccurate documents if important changes have been missed.

Consequently, we’re beginning to see a move towards more effective collaboration, with technical writers looking to make the document review and co-authoring process more efficient and transparent. Whereas a few years ago there was a gentle hum of conversation around the topic, there’s now a much louder dialogue going on, as has been seen amongst the analyst, IT and business community.

With increasing regulation and higher compliance standards, reporting and audit trails are also key, detailing what has been changed in a document, by whom, when and why.

TCUK: As a sponsor, what words of advice do you have to encourage technical communicators to attend this year’s conference?

JW: Go and talk to the exhibitors! We regularly exhibit in the US where conference attendees make it a part of their conference experience to talk to the exhibitors and find out what products are on the market. We’re not just saying this so you’ll come and talk to us (although please do!), there are some really great tools out there that can genuinely improve the way you work.

TCUK: The TCUK conference moves to a new location each year. This year, TCUK is hosted in Bedfordshire, England. What are you looking forward to most at this year’s conference?

JW: We’re really looking forward to being able to talk to delegates to better understand how technical writers approach document review, and the challenges they face, both on a day to day basis, and from an industry perspective.

About PleaseTech

PleaseTech has satisfied customers ranging from small consultancies to global organisations from multiple business sectors including Life Sciences, Defence, IT, Utilities and Government and across disciplines such as regulatory, proposals, software engineering, marketing, contract management, QA and more.

For more information come and see us in the exhibition area, contact us at info@pleasetech.com or visit our website www.pleasetech.com.

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Book now to guarantee your accommodation for TCUK 2016

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Book now to guarantee your accommodation for TCUK16 in Wyboston Lakes this September.

One of the advantages of booking your place at the conference early is that you can feel assured that a room will be guaranteed to be there for you at the hotel.

The full residential package with guaranteed overnight accommodation at the conference hotel is available until Friday 29th July. After that date, each room booking will be on a case by case basis. The closer we get to the event, the greater the risk that the hotel will be full. This means, if you want to stay overnight at the hotel during the conference, you should book your place now.

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TCUK16 Speaker Sarah Richards – “From bit-of-a-scaredy-cat to banning words for the UK government” and “Using evidence and data to have tricky conversations”

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Sarah Richards will be giving a keynote presentation and a workshop at TCUK16: “From bit-of-a-scaredy-cat to banning words for the UK government” and “Using evidence and data to have tricky conversations”.

Sarah Richards
Sarah Richards

Keynote: From bit-of-a-scaredy-cat to banning words for the UK government

Sarah started in a quiet team of editors and ended up banning Whitehall from using their favourite jargon on GOV.UK. Sarah will explain her journey from having to publish whatever lawyers and policy people said to running an agency that will only take on work if the process is agile and user-centred. It’s a tale of tears, sugar, late night pizza, not many kittens and tea*.

* plus how she introduces user-centred content into organisations.

Workshop: Using evidence and data to have tricky conversations

If you have to go through an approval process for your content and you often have a… difference… of opinion with the approver, you might like Sarah’s workshop. Sarah can show you how to have conversations using data and research to back up your arguments. You’ll also learn how to have these conversations without getting into a ‘them vs us’ situation.

About Sarah Richards

Content strategist, digital consultant, and former Head of Content Design for GDS. Sarah has led high-performing, award winning, agile teams, and has a longer and more varied editorial career than she cares to admit.

Sarah started in a quiet team of editors and ended up banning Whitehall from using their favourite jargon on GOV.UK. Sarah will explain her journey from having to publish whatever lawyers and policy people said to running an agency that will only take on work if the process is agile and user-centred.

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TCUK16 Speaker Jack Molisani – “Seven Career Lessons I Learned From Selling Ginsu Knives” and “Be The Captain of Your Career”

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Jack Molisani will be giving a keynote talk and a workshop at TCUK16: “Seven Career Lessons I Learned From Selling Ginsu Knives” and “Be The Captain of Your Career”.

Jack Molisani
Jack Molisani

Keynote: Seven Career Lessons I Learned From Selling Ginsu Knives

In the mid 1990s I was laid off from my position as a Sales Engineer at a leading technology company. The US economy was in recession and I spent months trying to find a new engineering position.

A friend who owned a company that sold Ginsu knives in home and garden shows needed a temporary worker for the summer. She knew I was unemployed and offered me the position. I instantly accepted the offer, glad just to be working.

I ended up loving that summer job. Not only did I get to travel, I learned some life- and career-changing skills along the way.

By the end of the summer the economy started to improve and I landed a position as technical writer. I eventually started my own technical writing and staffing company.

What started out as “just” a temp job for the summer turned into a major turning point in my career.

Want to take your career to the next level?

Master these seven lessons I learned from selling Ginsu knives and watch your career and income soar!

Workshop: Be The Captain of Your Career

Have you ever applied for a job you really wanted, but didn’t get? Or perhaps you landed the job, but feel under compensated?

Chances are you made one (or several) mistakes that are hindering your job and career growth.

In this hands-on workshop you will learn:

  • The most common mistakes professionals make when looking for work—and how to avoid them
  • How to ace a tech comm interview using a portfolio
  • How to hone your workplace negotiation skills

Want a different job, more money, a better standard of living?

Don’t miss this workshop!

About Jack Molisani

Jack Molisani is the author of Be The Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement, which hit #5 on Amazon’s Career and Resume Best Seller list.

Jack also produces the LavaCon Conference on Content Strategy and Technical Communication Management, and is the president of ProSpring Technical Staffing, an employment agency specializing in content professionals.

You can follow him on Twitter @JackMolisani or reach him at Jack@ProspringStaffing.com.

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TCUK16 Speaker Irit Arkin – “Advanced interrogation techniques: Extracting information from engineers”

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Irit Arkin will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Advanced interrogation techniques: Extracting information from engineers”.

Irit Arkin
Irit Arkin

As technical writers, the best source of information we have is engineers: friendly, chatty colleagues who possess all the knowledge we need on a particular topic.

Good luck getting that knowledge out of them, of course.
Over the years, as both software tester and technical writer, I’ve had the chance to succeed – and fail – at asking engineers sensible questions and ensuring comprehensible answers. My TCUK talk will highlight some of the best and worst techniques I’ve employed to gently elicit information out of engineers.

About Irit Arkin

Irit Arkin extracts information from engineers in ARM’s Internet of Things Business Unit. Before that, she moved between writing and software testing for startups, with the occasional foray into spec writing and one (accidental) adventure in project management.

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TCUK16 Speaker Louise Fahey – “Mapping your path in tech comms: Surviving the early years”

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Louise Fahey will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Mapping your path in tech comms: Surviving the early years”.

Louise Fahey

Mapping your path in tech comms: Surviving the early years
Are you a newbie to tech comms? Or are you a tech comms expert charged with the training and development of a newbie? If so, this presentation is for you!

Using my first two years working in tech comms as a reference, I will share tips and tricks that are key to the development of new starters in the field.

This includes advice for breaking into technical communication, entering the profession from a non-technical background, getting over the steep learning curve at the beginning, the key skills you should focus on developing, as well as much more!

About Louise Fahey

Louise Fahey is a Technical Author at Clearswift, based in Reading, UK. She holds an LLB degree in Law Plus and a first-class honours degree in Technical Writing, both from the University of Limerick, Ireland.

Louise is a member of the ISTC, as well as Copy Editor of InfoPlus+, the monthly online newsletter from the ISTC. She is a big fan of MadCap Flare and all things Agile. Louise is also passionate about end-user experience and usability.

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TCUK16 Speakers Deborah Stevens and John Spenceley – “Asking the right questions for product management – knowledge management for an unstructured world”

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Deborah Stevens and John Spenceley will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Asking the right questions for product management – knowledge management for an unstructured world”.

Deborah Stevens
Deborah Stevens
John Spenceley
John Spenceley

Learning to ask the right questions is the starting point to gather and store data. Analysis interprets data to begin our understanding journey along different routes. We can have very different analysis outcomes and documentation needs from travelling these different routes. Product Management includes customer focus and optimum profit. Product Management is a possible career development step for technical communicators. Technology push and scientific description could just be about ‘what’ and limits ‘why’ to how the science and technology works perhaps a more traditional Project Management role. Different focuses require unique journeys through the data.

We structure each output for our unique journey from the same data sets, so organising unstructured material in a logical framework can be a challenge. How can we achieve that?

We will share some key ideas to help your questioning techniques, data collection, organisation and output focus.

About Deborah Stevens

Deborah Stevens is a technical and business communicator and product manager. Deb is a former science advisory teacher who created training rollout material, she has written and illustrated documents for change management and strategy development, manufacturing, operation and maintenance instructions, technical specifications, test scripts and reports. She has worked for large and small companies. Deb is passionate about changing the limiting ‘method, result and conclusion’ often used without exception in science lessons. Where is the content ‘applications where this idea is useful’ and ‘how much does it cost to make x using our equipment?’ A few innovative educators are making a difference. She is also passionate about bringing more innovative ideas to market.

About John Spenceley

John Spenceley is a business analyst and product manager and has an IT management background. He has worked with senior management in British Rail, Thomsons and in the public sector as well as guiding small businesses and technology spin out companies to bring new products to market.

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