Sarah O’Keefe is the founder of Scriptorium Publishing (www.scriptorium.com) and a content strategy consultant. Sarah’s focus is how to use technical content to solve business problems; she is especially interested in how new technologies can streamline publishing workflows to achieve strategic goals. Her latest book is Content Strategy 101: Transform Technical Content into a Business Asset.
Sarah speaks fluent German, is a voracious reader, and enjoys swimming, kayaking, and other water sports along with knitting and college basketball. She has strong aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.
The average consumer doesn’t read manuals any more; even the most complicated device they get (such as a smartphone) will be expected to explain itself, not through words, but through affordances. (The classic example of an affordance is a door handle; but those can be done wrong too – watch how many doors have a u-shaped handle built in, yet are meant to be pushed.)
That’s partly because people don’t want to read before getting to play with their devices (play being a good thing; we learn about things through play), but also because we grew so used over the years to badly translated manuals that weren’t in Chinese but weren’t in English either. People puzzled it out.
So what is left for technical writing? Is it only for those spaces where people have to describe fiendishly complex processes occurring within banks, or for dismantling aircraft? Even the latter will be transformed by devices such as Google Glass, which might show you which item to unbolt first when you’re taking something apart, or what not to touch.
Technical writing – a field in which I once considered a job – is going to have to evolve in the consumer space to become something akin to design. When people don’t want writing, they’ll still want guidance, but in a more subtle form than it ever was before, because the devices we’re using are more complex – in terms of what they can do – than before. (Consider the tree of possibilities when using the iPhone’s Settings app, which has scores of possible paths, each of which will have an effect.)
If it’s not called “writing”, what will it be? That’s a puzzle for the profession. All I’m sure of is that the change is coming.
Charles Arthur is technology editor on The Guardian, where he has been since 2005. He co-founded the Free Our Data campaign, which aimed to get government data such as mapping and Treasury data made available for free to the public – and was effective with the release of large amounts of Ordnance Survey data in mid-2010.
Before that he worked at The Independent from 1994 to 2004; before that, at New Scientist, Business magazine and Computer Weekly.
In this era of device explosion, when consumers are spending more time on smartphones and tablets than on PCs, it has become increasingly important for organizations to reach their customers by offering content on these new devices. However, it is easier said than done, as the traditional output formats such as Webhelp are ill-suited for these devices because of their varying screen sizes.
In this presentation, Vikram Verma, Product Manager, Adobe Systems, will describe how organizations are adapting to the multi-device era and will share the best practices to keep in mind while creating content for these devices. He will also discuss some of the content strategies relevant for these devices and will show you how to publish your content and make it accessible to end-users.
What does it take to create great visual content to support technical documentation, reference and other content? Do you have to be a graphic designer or artist to make effective content? Believe it or not, it’s not all about you and your creations. It’s actually about everyone else and getting their feedback.
In this workshop, you learn and practice a few ideas to help you keep your design looking professional and useful. We’re will run a design review on work that you create and revise in the session. Believe it or not, at least half of good visual design isn’t about you or what you create it’s about the feedback you get.
We’ll layout ground rules for a design critique session and then work through suggestions for getting the most meaning out of the feedback, without the ‘I just don’t like it.’ We’ll practice providing feedback on visual elements and help you overcome the ‘But I don’t know anything about that!’ for yourself and those reviewing your work.
So while you may not be an expert in visual design and would prefer to ‘just work with words’ come explore with us how you can do more with a little feedback.
So, your organisation regularly churns out bids for technical equipment and services and your boss wants you to set up a team of specialist communicators to support this work. How do you decide what that team should look like? How do you plan, launch, develop, fine tune and finally manage that team in “steady state”?
In this session Fi will present several approaches to this challenge in large and complex organisations. She will illustrate these approaches with examples based on her experience building teams to support business and technical communications in the professional services, IT and telecommunications, and engineering sectors.
Fi is a technical communicator with over 15 years’ experience designing, commissioning and producing material for business communications, end user support, sales and marketing, tendering and training. She wrote her first bid back in 1989 and today she is the principal proposal author at Babcock Defence Systems Technology, where she is busy developing a new team to support the production of bid submissions for the UK, Canada and Australia. In her spare time she translates technical texts from French into English and occasionally sails away from the office desk into the big blue yonder.
Is social media the place for “over the gate” discussion
In order to meet the challenges of feeding an ever growing population the farming sector needs to use innovative ways of getting in touch with each other and also to access general knowledge that will underpin and enhance existing indigenous knowledge. Whilst access to high speed broadband is challenging in rural areas the opportunities to engage in a digital dialogue remain. Conversation and knowledge exchange is driven by the demand for information and skills within a context of ” not knowing what you do not know.” Simple information transfer can be delivered through SMS texting and websites but this is a broad brush approach and does not afford the information seeker to modify or enhance the information provided. Social media provides the opportunity for greater person to person interaction and upscaling of a sector.
Louise Manning, PhD, is a senior lecturer in Food Production Management at the Royal Agricultural University.
She has worked with the food supply chain in the area of sustainability for over twenty five years addressing food safety, quality assurance, animal welfare, financial and business performance, ethical issues and environmental and conservation management. Her research has been published in many peer reviewed journals. Louise is responsible for the development and implementation of the Integrated Farm Management strategy on the land farmed by the RAU. Louise is also responsible for the translation and knowledge exchange strategy for the Royal Agricultural University with specific emphasis on social media, supply chain interaction and the development of a global knowledge network.
Whatever the next step might be for your career, leadership will become increasingly important. Whether you are moving into a management role for the first time, have been managing for some years, or are looking for ideas about how to increase the influence and development of technical communication in your business, it is leadership that will protect you, and leadership that will open up new opportunities.
This presentation will make the case for focussing your energies and learning on developing your leadership habits, and will demonstrate what this means in the context of technical communication.
Paul has been consulting, selling, managing and leading in technical communication for nearly 20 years. He established 3di in 2002 to combine his two areas of professional passion: his belief in the value of well-designed technical information and making it easier to deliver multi-lingual versions of products to new markets. In a volunteer capacity, Paul is also currently the President of the ISTC, and led the revival of the Technical Communication UK conference. Over the years he has met and worked with hundreds of technical communication teams and individuals, and seen the impact and legacy of a wide range of management and leadership practices.
Bristol is one of six Science Cities in England. The designation is there to attract inward investment, and encourage organic growth, in the technology and science sector. The challenge for Science City Bristol Limited is how to communicate with a disparate audience of business people, investors (both local and international), academics, funders and support organisations. This session will look at the approaches SCB is taking to try and reach these sectors and what success it is having. These include the use of social media, newsletters, networking events, video, websites, conferences and an innovative cluster map of technology-related businesses.
Alastair is the Science City Bristol Director. He is responsible for promoting the Bath and Bristol region as a great place to start and grow a science and technology businesses. He engages with many other organisations in the West of England region. Alastair previously held the post of Network Director at Science City Bristol. He has a science degree from Oxford and an MBA from Cranfield. Following an early career in production engineering, he became a management consultant, specialising in business transformation. He has advised many large, and small, businesses over the years, as well as starting up three businesses himself.
Marilyn Heron and Nick Tonge give an insight into their varied roles at Pace plc, showing how these have extended beyond that of the traditional author. Using examples of their work in consumer electronics for the Americas market, they describe:
How they became responsible for designing the labelling on products and cartons. This led to:
input into product design
increased understanding of the manufacturing processes
discussions with suppliers
research into labels and materials
How they took over the design of carton artwork
How their typical authoring tasks changed, moving away from user manuals, words and paper.
Marilyn Heron, BSc, MISTC has been a technical author for 28 years, over 20 of them at Pace plc. Her role has changed significantly, as the company has grown and technology has changed. Before that she was a research engineer in the electronics and aerospace industries, including in Germany. At Pace she designed and implemented their interactive service manuals, based on an idea she got at an ISTC conference. She gave a presentation about these manuals at the conference several years ago. She has been involved in carton-artwork design for about four years and in labelling for two years.
Nick Tonge, BSc, MISTC has been a technical author at Pace for nine years. Before that he spent five years writing on-line help for medical software after starting his authoring career writing maintenance manuals for compressed air systems. Shortly after his arrival at Pace he had to unexpectedly take on responsibility for the company’s labelling requirements. The way that Pace specifies labels has changed significantly over time and Nick has overseen these changes and trained up additional staff. He is Pace’s labelling expert, at the same time still doing traditional authoring work and carton-artwork design.
Our consumers’ attention span is diminishing on a yearly basis, increasing the challenge to engage and retain their focus. Although a few tools make it easy to insert rich media into multi-channel published content, how do you determine when to use images instead of traditional steps? Today’s projects require distribution equivalents of a press release, a movie trailer, and an interactive, visual experience. Text and words aren’t going away; we will just be using fewer of them. Attend this dynamic session to discover which skills you already possess to address the challenges described above, and how to “think visually”.
Maxwell Hoffmann is Adobe’s Product Evangelist for Technical Communications. A former product manager for FrameMaker at Frame Technology, Hoffmann also spent nearly 15 years in the localization industry doing multi-lingual Doc and Help projects in production; over 1,000,000 pages appeared on his screen during that stint. Hoffmann has also provided face-to-face, hands-on training to over 1,200 people in scalable authoring solutions. He is based in Portland, Oregon and can be followed on Twitter as @maxwellhoffmann.
Robert Illes MISTC has developed a niche in providing technical communication services to the energy and resources sectors. This follows a colourful career comprising 10 years’ experience in R&D and inventing in lighting and outdoor media; 10 years in academia and teaching; and a doctorate in energy education. He relishes in applying fine attention to detail while keeping the large, strategic picture in view at all times. Outside of work, Robert has made a respectable contribution to music with the release of several albums and some significant live credits.
Working as a technical writer on some energy and resources mega-projects, it is apparent that there is a potentially vast “undiscovered country” of opportunity for writers. An exploratory study was carried out, with the help of stakeholders at all levels, concerned with identifying and exploring the risks and opportunities associated with using a dedicated technical communication resource on engineering projects. One recurrent theme emerged – that of promoting technical communication as a profit centre. Furthermore, the risks identified were largely culturally predisposed and were perceived as being easily mitigated and/or massively outweighed by the benefits.
Some style guides specify the part of speech that an approved term has. For example, Microsoft style permits the word ‘input’ as a noun but not as a verb. An effective style checker must give a warning only if a term is used incorrectly.
Patterns in language can be used to identify the part of speech that a term has.
In the structure, ‘an + X + was’, X is a noun. Most text is more complex.
Sometimes, disambiguation is not possible. However, the patterns are sufficiently good for practical purposes. (The patterns are used in a term checker.)
Many years ago, Mike taught English as a foreign language. Mike started his technical communication career in 1995. In 1999, he became a freelance technical communicator.
Mike uses controlled language to make his documents as clear as possible. In 2012, he released an open-source term checker for the controlled language ASD-STE100. You can download the term checker from www.simplified-english.co.uk.
This session presents an overview of some of the issues documentation and training materials can face when being viewed through a cultural lens different to our own to better equip technical communicators who are writing for an international readership. Choice of words and supporting images will be examined with the aid of in-country research conducted in Oman together with experience gained on recent projects.
Technical communication is a second career for Andrew following nearly a decade spent as an overseas HE lecturer in both China and the Middle East. He now writes both software documentation and military training materials and remains acutely aware of the interaction between end-user culture and the message he is trying to convey. He holds degrees in Religious Studies, Molecular Science and a MA in English Language Teaching, and has presented at conference on the development of training materials for culturally sensitive regions.
This session is about getting yourself ready for the future, whatever it may bring. Change is not something that we usually excel at in technical communications.
If we don’t update our thinking, content and methods, each new wave of technology puts us yet another step behind the curve. Even though tablets and smart phones have reached near ubiquity with professional users, most organisations do not have their people, processes, platforms or content ready for mobile delivery. Many are not even internet-ready. Today we’re bombarded by announcements of new content creation and consumption technologies that are wearable, social, dynamic or embedded directly in products.
Although we can talk about how to do something about it, before our content and processes can change, we must change. We must address what is actually holding us back: how we think about our content in the first place.
This session will provide a new and inspiring perspective on how you can and must work with content to be ready for the future. We’ll look at updating our processes, structures and the biases and habits that surround them.
Dynamic delivery is delivery of context-appropriate information that can be assembled at the time of request with the most up-to-date, relevant content appropriate for the user and interface in question.
Embedded content is where content becomes a seamless part of device interfaces. Products become “self-describing”, allowing users to work uninterrupted by the need to open help files or manuals.
Many aspire to working in this way, but few (so far) have achieved it. This workshop looks at the benefits, requirements, and barriers related to these new types of delivery.
We will look at:
Why should we bother with this type of delivery?
What type of techniques, technologies and skills are required to realise such a system?
Noz Urbina is Content Strategy Practice Owner for Mekon Ltd and co-Author of Content Strategy: connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits. With years of experience as a content strategy and content management consultant he has provided services to Fortune 500 organisations and small-to-medium enterprises. Noz’s expertise is brought into projects for requirements analysis, project planning and scoping, tool selection support and training. Noz also manages and curates Mekon’s consultancy methodology used by all Mekon consultants ensuring quality service.
Maria Luisa MacDonald is a graduate linguist with over 30 years’ experience in technical translation and 13 years as a trainer of technical authors and engineers in the ASD Simplified Technical English (STE) Specification. Maria is the UK’s National Coordinator for the UK STE Working Group and a member of the ASD STE Maintenance Group, the body responsible for review and update of the ASD-STE100 specification. She is the Team Lead for STE Training within the UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB) and provides STE Training on a regular basis either at UKCeB Bristol or off-site at clients’ premises.
Persuasive writing is an important skill that cannot be taught too early. Business cases and proposals need agreement from others before you can move forward. Presenting your arguments clearly and persuasively will help you to get that agreement.
This workshop will show you how to develop this essential management skill. You will learn how to create business cases and proposals, with a good logical structure, which are easy to read and persuade readers to your point of view. We will also cover how to write for readers with different behavioural characteristics so that you can be sure that your key messages are absorbed by all of your readers.
The session will include highly enjoyable practical sessions and you will take away a number of checklists to use back at your desk.
As the owner of Write to Win, Alison has been an experienced freelance technical communicator since 1994, but has a documentation/training history spanning over 30 years. She has had roles that covered technical author, online help author, trainer, copywriter, marketing specialist, and documentation consultant. In addition she currently helps businesses to write Bids, Tenders and Proposals concentrating on persuasive writing. Customers include Microsoft, Fujitsu, Tata, Shell, Siemens, Balfour Beatty Construction, Balfour Beatty Rail and Xerox as well as local businesses and charities. Alison is also a creator and trainer of business writing training and a member of the ISTC.
Chris Atherton is a user experience consultant. Originally from an academic psychology background, Chris got interested in how people process visual information presented on screens, and subsequently ran off to join the software industry. Since then, she has worked with a variety of clients and organisations including Skype, the BBC, and Time To Change. Chris is currently embedded at the Home Office as part of a UK Government initiative to improve citizen-facing products and services.
This workshop will give technical communicators a guided opportunity to develop a documentation structure, with the emphasis on doing justice to existing, unstructured content, rather than merely recreating the concept, task, and reference ‘holy trinity’ of topic types. Chris and Kai will outline basic principles of creating a taxonomy and an information model, drawing on cognitive science concepts like learning and mental models, to explain why standard topic types don’t always work, but why taxonomies do. They will also show how information models can be effective in making structured content easier to understand, and efficient for technical communicators to reuse. The workshop will give attendees practice at using physical media to turn unstructured content into structured documentation, at deducing and sketching out taxonomies based on existing content. Techniques such as card sorting may be of particular interest to attendees whose job roles touch on usability, user experience, or information architecture.
Léonie Watson began using the internet in 1993, turned it into a web design career in 1997, and (despite losing her eyesight along the way) has been enjoying herself thoroughly ever since.
After many years as Director of Accessibility at Nomensa, Léonie is now working with The Paciello Group (TPG). Amongst other things she is Chair of the British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB), writes for .Net magazine, and is a member of the W3C HTML Working Group and HTML Accessibility Task Force. She even appears every now and then on TV and radio to talk about technology.
Delivering content across different digital channels is an accepted part of today’s communication landscape. But how do you make sure your information is reaching everyone who wants (or needs) to access it?
This presentation will explain how to create a successful digital accessibility strategy. It will look at existing standards and frameworks, accessibility as part of agile and waterfall methodologies, and provide best practice guidance for accessible content across different platforms.
John M A Burns BSc.(Hons) Pg.Dip. MSc. MISTC MBCS CEng is an IT manager leading a team that develops and supports a range of systems within the ICT Division at Solihull MBC. He is an experienced project manager, ISEB qualified business analyst, systems developer and technical author. He is one of his organisation’s leads for project management and systems development using Agile methods.
Alasdair Bullivant BTech is Business Services Manager at Solihull MBC. He manages a team of ICT project managers, analysts and applications staff. He holds a degree in Technology and Computer Science and is one of his organisation’s leads for project management and systems development using Agile methods.
Agile methods are increasing in popularity as an approach to project management and product delivery. Originating in computer systems development, the methods are now gaining acceptance for application in contexts other than information technology. Many organisations, across all sectors, are citing methods from the Agile family as assisting in delivering the right products and services at the right time.
This workshop will develop knowledge and understanding of Agile methods from two viewpoints: what a project manager will experience when managing projects using an Agile method and what technical communications professionals and customers will experience when working on a project managed using Agile methods.
John and Alasdair’s workshop will use a variety of workshop interventions and exercises to express ideas, engage the group and to facilitate knowledge and understanding of the Agile family of methods.
Prior to joining MadCap Software (he is currently VP, Product Evangelism), Michael Hamilton served as the Product Manager for the RoboHelp product line from RoboHelp 7 through RoboHelp X5. In 2005, he became one of the founders of MadCap Software where he has been instrumental in the design and development of the next generation of authoring and publishing tools for the technical communication industry.
Mr. Hamilton has over twenty years of experience in training, technical communication, multimedia development, and software development at several organizations including Blue Sky Software/eHelp/Macromedia, Cymer, a leading supplier of laser illumination sources to the semiconductor industry, National Steel & Shipbuilding and the US Navy.
For most authors the concepts of content reuse are nothing new. Whether you work under the labels of “single-source publishing”, “content management”, or “multi-channel publishing” it all boils down to writing content once, maximizing reuse, and (hopefully) never resorting to content duplication to achieve your publishing goals. All of this works beautifully with text, but various media elements have always been the Achilles heel of content reuse. In this session Mr. Hamilton will explore concepts and techniques to bring graphic and multimedia elements into the content management workflow.
Sophie McMonagle is the Information Architect for the IBM CICS (Customer Information Control System) portfolio of transaction processing tooling, working at IBMʹs software development laboratory in the UK. She has worked for IBM since 1996 in a variety of development and management roles in the banking and government sectors. In her current role Sophie is helping to shape the direction of IBMʹs software information, and she feels passionately that a cohesive information strategy is vital to give customers the right information when they need it.
How well do you know your product manager? Do they come to you to understand what the user experience is like when using the product and associated help? If not, then maybe it is time they should. According to the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), products that deliver unique benefits and superior value to the customer are the primary drivers of success and product profitability. This doesn’t just relate to function, it also relates to the user experience as a whole, a massive part of that being how a user feels about the help and ‘documentation’ that is presented to them as part of that experience.
Sophie will discuss her experiences working with product management in terms of ensuring the right message is being delivered across the product, but also in making the product teams aware of the impact that the written word has on the user experience.
Screen videos have been growing in popularity as ways to provide detailed information and document processes. Many in the Technical Communication field are finding that they need to expand their skills beyond writing to communicate with their audiences. Many already use screenshots, but will benefit from creating screen videos.
We will focus on tips for making screen videos, including tips for recording, editing and producing – regardless of the tools used to make the video. Be prepared to walk away with ideas that you can apply, whether it’s your first or fiftieth video.
Matt Pierce is manager of the video department at TechSmith (formerly lead training, documentation and support groups). He is also the host of the Forge, TechSmith’s monthly web show promoting visual communication and screencasting. Matt has experience in instructional design, visual design, public speaking, and advocacy of good design principles.
Matt has worked in various training settings, including teaching hands-on computer courses at Indiana University and developing instructional content for multiple companies. Matt has a Master of Science in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University, and considers himself an instructional design geek.
There are two trends that technical communicators must be aware of, and manage.
In some regions or market sectors, you might not be permitted to sell your products or services unless you can demonstrate accessibility.
The growth of mobile platforms continues to accelerate.
In this presentation, we review the implications of these trends when taken together, illustrated with simple examples. We will explore the impact of accessibility and mobility interaction, and outline ways in which you and your organization can manage technical content to benefit from the resulting opportunity.
Adrian has been with IBM for twelve years, and works as an Information Architect. He is a voting member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, a member of IBM’s team on the International Digital Publishing Forum, specializing in the EPUB standard and technology, and is active in IBM’s work on Mobile Information Architecture.
Before joining IBM, he worked in the telecommunications and retail banking sectors. He began his career as a University Lecturer, researching Information Systems and Computer Security. He maintains active links with universities, and is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Bournemouth University
KPIs (key performance indicators) are measures that help you manage your team’s activities, improve your content and communicate with your colleagues and customers. Even if KPIs aren’t part of your organisation’s culture, going through the process of developing them will sharpen up your strategy and ensure you and your team are focused on activities that really matter to the business.
This is a hands-on workshop, where you will spend most of the time working alone and in small groups and to come up with KPIs through exercises.
During the session you will:
learn about the characteristics of good KPIs
begin to develop KPIs relevant to your role
The workshop is suitable for anyone working as a technical communicator or managing a technical communications team.
Rachel specialises in improving the customer experience that software and technology companies deliver. This involves working on the interfaces between the companies and customers, as well as the interfaces between the various disciplines involved in creating and communicating about products. After 13 years working with software and technology, she knows quite a bit about developing user-centric business processes, creating and managing support portals, improving findability of information, and improving software user interfaces.
Rachel advises on 3di Technical Communication projects and runs the 3di Software Usability division (www.3di-usability.com). In her ‘free’ time, she is a volunteer for the ISTC (www.istc.org.uk).
In this presentation, we’ll look at how to plan a user documentation project when you’re working for a startup technology company. Working in this environment gives you the opportunity to work ‘from a clean sheet’, but it also has its own challenges of working in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.
We’ll look at the issues around planning user documentation and the additional considerations when you are a startup. Your budget may be limited and the product or service in development may be constantly changing, so how should you work in this situation? What should you be developing, and what is the value of user documentation for a startup?
This session will cover:
What is different about working for a startup
Lean startup strategies
The value of user documentation for a startup and why should you provide it
Ellis is Director and Help Strategist at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company based near London, in the United Kingdom. He has over fifteen years’ experience working in the field of documentation, has a BA in Business Studies, and is an Associate of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Ranked the most influential blogger on technical communication in Europe, Ellis is also an author and editor of two books: How to Write Instructions and Trends in Technical Communication.