The Romance of Technical Communication

Summary: There is a romance to technical communication, because there is a romance to all useful things. But don’t expect the romance of technical communication to be apparent to everyone.

Technical communication is a romantic profession. No, really. There is a romance to any profession if you love it. But why would anyone love a utilitarian profession like technical communication? Because there is a romance to useful things.

This thought is prompted by Tom Johnson’s recent post on trying (and failing) to interest students at his daughters school in a career in technical communication. Tom made the best possible case for tech comm as a compelling career (my book was on the table), and yet none of the students stopped by. Why? read more

The Interface is Technical Communication

During my recent Webinar with MadCap (recording here), I said something in response to a question that the twitterverse took to:

After Karen tweeted it, it bounced around for quite a while. Perhaps there is a little more to say about this.

Let us start with the basics: the function of an interface is to communicate to the user about how to use the tool. This is true of all interfaces, not just graphical user interfaces. Consider this slide from How to Design a Good API and Why it Matters by Google Principal Software Engineer, Joshua Bloch read more

The Best Job I Ever Had

The best job I ever had spanned the full spectrum of technical communication.

In a response to a comment in a discussion related to my post Content Engineering is not Technical Writing, Scott Abel said:

Who cares what tech writers do. There’s no future (read: great paying careers) in documenting things. That ship sailed a long time ago. Now, companies pay top dollar for someone with a hybrid set of skills.

I’m not sure if I would go that far. I know lots of tech writers who still make a good living. And frankly, for anyone who wants to make a career as a writer, technical writing is a godsend, since there are few other writing jobs that provide middle class incomes. read more

Why content jobs are never well defined

Content jobs are never strictly defined because they are the mortar that holds the bricks of the enterprise together.

I’m attending LavaCon, and here, as everywhere, content people are debating the definition of their roles, the names of those roles, the boundaries and intersects between them, and the responsibilities and qualifications pertinent to them.

Newer fields such as content strategy and information architecture are newer to these debates, but they have been a staple of conversation between technical writers (or is it technical communicators, documentation professionals, or customer information specialists?) for decades. read more

Wide World of Tech Comm

The discussion around Larry Kunz recent blog post The Salt of the Earth raises some interesting questions about the part that those of us who call ourselves “Technical Writers” (or some cognate thereof) can and should play in the wider world of technical communication.

In the comments, Larry says:

As technical communicators, we need to ask ourselves whether we’re content with a narrow role — merely producing end-user instructions — or whether we ought to become contributors, and even leaders, in the work of producing documentation in the broader sense. read more