Design expert Donald Norman has written that when people are anxious, they 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.
Technical writers usually think of their job in functional terms: to help end users know something (such as how frequently an oil change is needed for your car) or do something (such as how to actually change the engine oil). Creating beautiful content is typically not seen as a core part of the equation. But what if technical writers thought of themselves as artists whose aim is to create a thing of beauty? Isn't that, in the end, what makes for a positive user experience?
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).
Lent, Rembrandt, and updates on various writing projects (just submitted another article, yay!). Recommended readings on MLK and celibacy.
From the day I started this blog, I haven't committed to a strict blogging cadence. Until I do that (and I really should), if I don't have any well-formed thoughts to publish, I'll settle instead for giving a brief update on what I'm reading and working on.
Of all the boring subjects in the world, page archiving has got to be the most boring one of all. But for organizations whose content starts getting out of control, it's a critical problem to solve. Here's how my team tackled it in a low-cost way.
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?