We were discussing the biggest challenges in Tech Comm at the last STC Toronto brunch and we all seemed to agree that the difficulty getting feedback on the effectiveness of the content we create is the biggest challenge. The things that really matter in technical communication is whether users can achieve their goals after finding and reading the docs, and whether that makes a difference in whether they buy from you again or speak well of you to their friends and colleagues. These things are incredibly difficult to measure. You are just not there to see them happen, and it is very difficult to separate their effects from the effects of the work that designers, developers, sales people, trainers, field engineers, and support staff do.
Summary: As content consumers, we love hypertext. As content creators, we still believe in content management, even after years of disappointment. Content management disappoints because it does not scale for culture. It is time to embrace hypertext instead.
I should know better. Every time I put the word “hypertext” in the title of a post, my readership numbers plummet. Hopefully “content management” will help pull them up this time, because as content professionals we need to come to terms with hypertext.
Why is writing the only profession untouched by its tools? Larry Kunz strikes a familiar note in his recent blog post, Tools come and go. I’m still a writer.
I’m a writer. Once I used a typewriter. Now I use XML editors. If I stay at this long enough, other tools will come and I’ll learn to embrace them.
My old typewriter is gone. But I’m the same writer I’ve always been.
The same refrain is sounded over and over again wherever writers gather. It seems almost a badge of honor among writers to proclaim that your work and the essence of what you do is unaffected by the tools you use.