One third of all computer users who seek technical support say they never find the solution to their computing snafus. A recent survey by Consumer Reports magazine puts IT technical support among the lowest-ranked services—even lower than the support offered by cell phone vendors! Common gripes include: poorly designed help systems, difficulty obtaining telephone support and technical support specialists who don’t know what they are talking about. While these problems are due in part to the inability of software vendors to provide useful and convenient support services, the brunt of computing problems can be traced back to software coding errors—sloppy development practices that cost the U.S. economy an estimated $59.5 billion a year (just short of 0.6 percent of the gross domestic product), according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Over half of the costs associated with software bugs are paid for by users in the form of lost productivity and increasing support costs. See “When Good Software Goes Bad” for the...Read More
Information architecture consultant Louis Rosenfeld makes the case for abandoning the search for the perfect business title. Many professional titles exist for those whose job it is to make information easier to use. Some call themselves information architects, others experience designers, technical communicators, content strategists, usability consultants, and so on. Rosenfeld writes, in Boxes and Arrows, “I like to think there are more fruitful communal pursuits, such as finding better ways to market ourselves, organizing ever more outstanding conferences, and setting up local professional groups for networking and...Read More
By Scott Abel with additional contribution by Lisa Woods What in the heck is a weblog? In an article entitled Getting Through the Blog! Living in the Blog-Osphere, Janie Payne of the Montana Chapter of STC, described weblogs (also known as blogs) as “personal web pages containing short, frequently updated messages – often with links to other items or articles on the Web – arranged in reverse chronological order, newest first.” Payne says “Blogs are usually maintained by one person (although some blogging software allows multiple contributors) and are written in a conversational manner. There are blogs about cats, knitting, TV shows, baseball, life in the Antarctic – you name the topic, and there is probably a blog devoted to it.” The folks at blogger.com, a software provider whose offerings include a popular weblog publishing tool of the same name, offer a similar description of blogs, but add, “Weblogs help small groups communicate in a way that is simpler and easier to follow than email or discussion forums. A blog can help keep everyone in the loop, promote cohesiveness and group culture, and provide an informal voice of a project or department to outsiders.” And some blogs stimulate dialogue by providing a way for readers to comment on what they read. In a nutshell, a blog is a place for an individual or group to present current information, insights,...Read More
If you’re involved in creating, maintaining, publishing or managing content (and who isn’t nowadays), you should consider becoming a member of the Society for Technical Communication. STC is the world’s largest professional association for technical communicators with over 150 local chapters on six continents. Members include technical writers, help authors, web content strategists, information architects, graphic artists and illustrators, editors, instructional designers, usability pros, translation specialists, and software programmers. Members receive myriad benefits including subscriptions to Technical Communication and Intercom. Membership application is located...Read More
In “Managing Enterprise Content”, the authors, Ann Rockley, Pamela Kostur, and Steve Manning, make the case for their “Unified Content Strategy”—a practical and logical way of researching, planning, preparing, testing, implementing and selling content management across an enterprise. The lessons contained in this easy-to-read volume are not lost on smaller organizations, however; departments, small work groups, even individuals, will also benefit from learning innovative ways to effectively create, use and manage content. The author’s main message is that a well-planned “unified content strategy” can provide a dramatic improvement in the way content is created in an organization. A “Unified Content Strategy” is defined as “a repeatable method of identifying all content requirements up front, creating consistently structured content for reuse, managing that content in a definitive source, and assembling content on demand to meet your customers’ needs.” According to the authors, improvements that result from implementing such a strategy include “increased quality and consistency and long-term reduced time and costs for development and maintenance. In addition, reuse provides support for rapid re-configuration of your content to meet changing needs.” Of particular importance, the authors provide guidance on selecting a strategy BEFORE you get started; they explain their Unified Content Strategy, the importance of single sourcing (write it once, use it often), and how a properly planned content management initiative can help your organization deliver the right content to the...Read More
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