Tell me… and I will forget. Show me… and I will remember. Involve me… and I will understand.
Documentation as conversation means getting closer to the users and helping them perform well. Over the years experts such as JoAnn Hackos and Jared Spool have told us that this type of user-centered design and focus increases the quality of documentation.
H. Allen Brizee and Katy A. Schmaling wrote “Effective Workplace Writing” as a resource for the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL), and they say “In the last twenty years, two important ideas have developed that help professionals compose effective workplace writing: rhetorical awareness, and user-centered design.” In my mind and from what I read, user-centered design is consistently related to Web 2.0 definitions. Where Web 1.0 merely served information blindly, Web 2.0 gives users a chance to interact with the information and each other using the web.
Taking off from the concept of user-center design, I’d like to talk about how to get even closer with real customers by starting conversations and enabling user assistance in interactions with users with a series of blog entries on documentation, conversation, and community.
Professional writers have more conversation-starting tools at their disposal than any other time in history. Techniques may include the use of blogs, wikis, forums, and social networking sites, but may also involve photos, simple stick figure illustrations, videos, virtual worlds, or instant messaging. What are your thoughts on a blog series to discuss modern methods for involving readers in the conversation surrounding technical documentation?