Weekly links roundup

  • Adobe Air has been getting some buzz lately. This tool from Adobe can convert WebHelp files to an Adobe Air application.
  • Craig Haiss debates the merits of full-text search versus keyword search.
  • This article examines the use of audio and video content for interacting with a computer.
  • Should simplicity drive the adoption of technology? One writer thinks so.
  • Sharon Burton of Madcap Software looks at topic-based content development.
  • Amber Swope of JustSystems discusses the five best practices for developing a strategy for content reuse.

Fostering user and author collaboration

As was discussed in a previous post, users can be an excellent source of information and of documentation. One of the key problems is how to get the community of users involved.

This article looks at the problem from the perspective of educating new users. The author points out:

… the value in educational content lies in context (what immediate problem the reader is trying to solve) and timeliness (what’s true today will be outdated tomorrow). Value no longer lies in the traits associated organization, pace, and tone as in traditional books.

Advice for the novice tech writer: think long term

So you’ve just started out as a technical communicator, or you’ve been on the job for a year or two. And you’ve decided that maybe, just maybe, technical communication is the career for you and you’re in it for the long haul. Now what?

Think about the future and how you want your career to develop. Do you want to move into project or team management? Become a freelancer? Take the plunge as a consultant? Shift into technical marketing or become a tools specialist? As Aaron and I discussed in a podcast, you can be more than a just a technical writer.

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Musings on user-generated documentation

User-generated documentation is a big issue in technical communication circles. Aaron and I have discussed this topic on and off over the last couple of years, but really haven’t come to a definitive conclusion on the merits of user-generated documentation.

However, this post at Craig Haiss’ Helpscribe blog got me thinking once again about taking advantage of the knowledge of users. If properly done, tapping into the knowledge of users can improve the quality and breadth of your documentation.

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Developing documentation, the FLOSS way

I enjoy reading about the processes used by other technical communicators and those working on various types of projects. Not everyone will tackle a project in the same way, and there’s often something to learn (or at least to get me thinking) by studying someone else’s approach.

While the Free/Libre/Open Source (FLOSS) community is sometimes seen as a bunch of unguided missiles heading towards the same target, it’s actually more structured than that. This guide, from the Fedora Project, is a detailed look at one approach a FLOSS project uses to develop documentation.