The Long Tail and Why Docs are Frustrating

It is often a matter of some perplexity to technical writers that more and more people seem to prefer searching the Web rather than looking for information in the documentation. It is perplexing because information found through a Web search is of variable quality, sometimes hard to navigate, lacking in authority, and has to be picked out of a big pile of fluff.

Why would people prefer to search the sprawling mess that is the Web when they could look in the neat, authoritative, well organized documentation set? Shouldn’t they, at least, look in the docs first before turning to the Web? read more

Why EPPO and the Web are the Right Fit for Tech Comm

While most of tech comm has moved to digital media — either to the web or to the product media — tech comm information design practices have been far slower to change. A large part of the tech comm world is still writing and delivering books, even if they deliver them as PDF or burst them into hierarchically  linked help topics. This is a carry over from the design constraints of the paper world, and we need to move away from it.

Two of the key factors determining publishing strategy are the size and the time-frame of the content. Content may be large or small, and it may be topical (of immediate short term interest) or durable (of long term interest). In the paper world, different publishing and binding models fit different quadrants: read more

Differential Content Strategy

Traditionally, the content strategy for technical communications has tended to be undifferentiated. That is, organizations would define the components of a doc set: user guide, admin guide, quick reference card, reference, etc, and would produce that same set of documents for every product and every product release from 1.0 to the very last release before the product was finally put out to pasture.

This undifferentiated strategy was based on a expectation about the role of documentation in a product — an expectation shared by both customer and vendor. But today, thanks to the Web, expectations have changed, and with frequent releases and squeezed margins, the cost of meeting the old expectation has become increasingly burdensome. As a result, more and more organizations are questioning the value of documentation, and the value of developing it in-house  as opposed to outsourcing or off-shoring it. read more