Dangerous future for technical writing?

Photo courtesy of Hamed Saber, http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/

I finally got to watch the final season of The Wire and was fascinated with the interplay of the media in the plot lines that included journalists and editors at the Baltimore Sun. Over at the Duo Consulting blog, Diane Wieland wrote a great entry titled “Why Pay When You Can Get It For Free.” In it, she discusses the general freaking out of old media and their dated business models. Yes, people want news. Yes, people can get news for free. Previously the best way to get your news was through journalism and your daily newspaper – but the publishing systems have changed and allowed for citizen journalism and news updates through various channels.

I naturally draw a parallel between citizen journalism and user-generated content. After all, in software, technical writers are like the journalist is – finding the relevant story for a particular audience, interviewing to get the facts, presenting in a fair, nonjudgemental manner, and writing to a deadline. Must we be introduced to the new tech comm, like this lead in for the All things Digital article about the Washington Post admitting that the Huffington Post could take them to survival school?

“Old media, meet new media, meet old media’s new media.”

Will Google Wave be part of that new tech communicator’s arsenal? My fellow Agile writer Shannon Greywalker thinks so and describes its usefulness in this post, Google Wave changes everything you know about agile collaboration and technical documentation.


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  • June 27, 2009 - 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I think part of the problem is that technical communicators work in hierarchical organizations where “authority” is key. Staff are expected to follow.

    A tension has arisen because many parts of the Web based content are not based on authority or hierarchy. It’s a network, collaborative in nature.

    For an organization with a “behind the firewall” culture – protect your intellectual property, no access to Facebook etc – that’s a really alien way of thinking.

    So many technical communicators – particularly those working in large traditional companies – might have to deal with two different and opposing cultures.

    It may be a tension that will never go away.

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