Great State of the Union for Tech Comm

You might think I immerse myself in a feed reader all day long to find just the right tidbits to share with others. In 2007 we got to see how Scoble reads over 600 feeds, and that image still sticks in my mind. Well, that and I saw him at Rackspace’s headquarters a few weeks back, but I digress.

But information collection with that method is not really how I work today, and I’m guessing Scoble has different techniques than those used three years ago. Sometimes I find myself only reading links through Twitter and ignoring my feed reader for months on end. My tech comm information comes through serendipity quite often. Even when I let go of any attempt to trap, categorize, store away, and manage my information intake, I still get fantastic information about technical communication. Here’s an excellent example.

The subject line said something like, “Have you ever had a persona review your book?” Intrigued, mostly by the subject, but also instantly recognizing who it was from, I clicked through to the presentation, titled “Developing Content as a Business Asset.”

Why is this snapshot in time so important to me? Because when I read that Adobe wants to know how important the TOC is (it depends), and that CHM files are still the preferred way that Microsoft wants you to deliver help for Windows applications (apparently only through hope and prayer will this change), I get discouraged. I think momentarily that the state of the union for tech comm is stuck. Stuck in the past, stuck with tools invented in the 80s, stuck with standards created in the 90s, and stuck with the same vague value definitions of a professional organization born from a merger with yet another professional association in the 50s with its current name from the 70s.

But then I get an email like this and read through a presentation like this and know we’ll get unstuck.

I was floored. It’s not often that I catch a glimpse of the perfect storm, but this presentation has it all. It won’t take guff from vendors, it doesn’t preach or try to boast, it truly analyzes where we stand today, on the verge of embracing content strategy and web content. It really resonates with me throughout, especially “finding content gems” and collaborating with experts throughout the company. Answering the question, “how is your group an asset?” tout the presentation is a fascinating way to explore the various facets of content creation, care, and management.

When I was a grad student in the 90s I was fortunate enough to get to a few conferences even if on a budget, and I got to see Cheri Lockett Zubak, and let me tell you, she has her finger on the pulse of this decade’s value proposition for technical communication.

I say to Cheri, pave the way! Your presentation accurately provides a “state of the union” snapshot for all of us. I love it.

7 Comments

  • November 1, 2010 - 9:34 am | Permalink

    I love it too. Thanks, Anne, for sharing it with us.

    Maybe it’s because we’re in a “0″ year. But I sense that our profession is at a turning point, about to head in a new direction as we start a new decade. Cheri’s presentation does a great job describing this new direction, and it also captures the energy that I feel within the profession.

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  • November 1, 2010 - 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Anne and Larry – Many thanks for your kind words. The crew at JournalTech also thank you!

  • November 9, 2010 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    I accidently reached to your site. I cannot stop reading your posts. Great information; you have a native professional writing style.

    I hope to see a new post soon.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  • December 23, 2010 - 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Anne,

    I enjoy reading you, but in this case I have to criticize. I’ve been an Editor for nearly three decades and, unfortunately, while I recognize the allusion and understand the point, it keeps glitching for me like a badly mixed metaphor, which, in a way it is. I have to ask: What “union”?

    The President’s “State of the Union” address is required by the Constitution, which directs him to inform Congress on the state of the Union, the “Union” being the Union of the several states.

    For technical communicators, what is the “union” that you are describing the state of? Is there a technical communicators Union that I should consider joining? The STC does not really fulfill the role of a Union. Is there another?

    As I said, of course I get your point, but having trained myself for decades to automatically glitch on the wrong choice of word, I glitch on this particular post.

    But please, do continue to post. I enjoy them VERY much.

    Yours,
    August

  • December 23, 2010 - 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I wish you were my editor for this post. Excellent points. I had in my mind it was a presidential address, but there is no union, in fact the fractured state is part of the point of the post. Quite the mixed metaphor! Thanks for your comment and for reading. I’m a better blogger thanks to you!

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