The everyday tactics of content  Clip to Evernote

by: Bill Albing

The technology we employ to manipulate and manage content is an important aspect of our work, because content is crucial in our role as communication professionals. For years, I have worked with content and the technology that delivers it to readers. I have seen automation of more of our work and I have worked with the changes that have transformed our work.

But I continue to wrangle with content, as Scott Abel says, and I continue to learn how to work with the tools of wrangling. I do not apologize for getting my hands dirty and sometimes getting rope burn trying to keep content organized and flowing. But I have, for the most part, been quite successful in working with content and the technology surrounding it. I am not a content strategist and I do not claim to manage the message in the vicissitudes of management.

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Content strategy for technical communicators: what happens to my doc plan?  Clip to Evernote

by: Larry Kunz

The buzz about content strategy has never been louder. During the past few weeks we’ve been treated to a whole gamut of views about content strategy.

There was Tom Johnson’s characteristically thoughtful analysis of what content strategy is and is not. Rahel Bailie showed that content strategy isn’t just about web content. The staff at Johnny Holland gave us a week-long series on common issues surrounding content strategy. We even had a great conversation that started with an editorial error.

There’s no doubt that, as Tom said, content strategy is gaining momentum.

While there’s still discussion about how best to define content strategy, I think that most everyone agrees on a couple of key points:

  • A content strategy is, well, a strategy. A strategy, by definition, provides an overarching framework within which specific actions can be planned and executed. A strategy gives purpose to every action, but a strategy is more than just the sum of the actions. It’s not tactical: for example, it doesn’t dictate things like how a style sheet should be coded (although it might contain broad guidelines for how the styles should look).
  • A content strategy should be broad enough to encompass all kinds of content: content from all over the organization, as well as (increasingly) from the user community; and content that can be distributed in a variety of formats.

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Another view of using analytics with documentation  Clip to Evernote

Analytics. It seems to be quite a hot topic in the documentation world at the moment, especially with Web-facing docs. Mark Fidelman of MindTouch even wrote an excellent guest post on that subject for this space recently.

While I think that analytics can be useful, I also think that perhaps they don’t tell the whole story.

The spark for this thought came from something that Anne Gentle recently wrote:

When I spoke with a few Google technical writers at the STC Summit, one of them confirmed that their performance reviews include a web analytics component

OK, so certain topics in Web-facing docs get less traffic than other topics. But does this indicate a problem with the documentation? Or is it something else?

It could be an indication that portions or functions of app are used more than others. Or it could point to features and functions which many people find difficult to use. Yes, it could mean that the documentation is lacking in areas, and people are going elsewhere to find answers.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, we’re not getting the whole story. I’m not sure we can get it, either.

That’s not to say that analytics aren’t useful. They are. And the statistics present (at least) a couple of good opportunities. One is where we can devote more effort to the documentation. Not just traditional manuals and help, but also tool tips or embedded documentation. It can also give us an opening to work with developers and interface designers to improve the usability of a user interface.

Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.

Photo credit: mashe from Photoxpress