Design expert Donald Norman has written that when people are anxious, they tend to narrow their thought processes. Conversely when people are happy, they become more creative and imaginative at solving problems. If this is true, it means that one of the best things a technical writer can do is create beautiful content that moves readers to a happier, more adaptive emotional state. Or so I contend.
For technical writers, content reuse it a great idea---but way more difficult in practice than it sounds. Here are some of my practical suggestions on how to do it in a sustainable way, based on my years of experience implementing it with tools like Confluence and Madcap Flare.
I just published an article on how documentation can enable sales. Here's an annotated list of the resources I used in my research.
A student from my alma mater reached out to me with questions about the wonderful world of technical communication. Here's a transcript (peppered, of course, with delightful Dilbert comics).
Arbortext Editor is a software program that lets you do "structured writing"---a special kind of writing in which every piece of content you compose follows one or more predefined rules. In theory this helps writers to develop consistent, high-quality content. The problem is that the tool has a lot of serious shortcomings. Here's my wishlist of things to improve.
Last November I published an article in Intercom, a magazine produced by the Society for Technical Communication. It was paywalled at the time, but the exclusive rights period has since expired so I have copied it here. Synopsis: A regular part of the technical writer's job is to design document templates that help others jumpstart the writing process. How do our template design strategies change as more documentation moves from the print medium to web browsers and mobile devices?
They are very different. But how different, exactly?
Most people who have an inkling of what technical writing is tend to view it in terms of strict practicality or outright boredom. But what if I told you it was far more creative than we think, and a key ingredient in solving some of society's toughest problems?