TCS 5: Adobe’s Bold Move

At the beginning of 2014 Adobe released Technical Communication Suite 5, with new versions of all its key software elements.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been asked to blog on a lot of subjects. This is one. I’m not going to review TCS 5, or enumerate the new features, many competent people have done that already long ago. I am going to talk about what I think is a major move by Adobe in this release. It’s a good move, in my view, and one that is not without risk to the company.

Full Disclosure

I work with Adobe, and they asked me to review their software, to which they give me access without charge. No one in my position is going to write a negative review and publish it. However, if I did not have positive things to say about this software, I would simply not write about it at all. In any case, this is not a review, and the opinions in this post are my own, and are not influenced by Adobe or anyone else. As always, I reserve  the right to my own independent opinion, and that’s what you’re getting here.

Continue reading “TCS 5: Adobe’s Bold Move”

Guest Blog Post by the Humanist Nerd

Dear Readers, please visit the Gather Content blog, where I have just published a guest post: Your Software Needs a Content Strategy Too!

We Are Family

Over here in Europe, we get a fair number of American TV series, but not all of them. Recently, a friend passed me a complete set of all the existing episodes of Firefly which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I’d not heard of it before, but I understand that it has become something of a cult series in the U.S. and I understand why.

It has something in common with a series that has had vastly greater success, in the U.S. and abroad: NCIS.

I’m not sure why one series failed and the other succeeded, but what ties them both together, and makes them both so appealing, is the sense of dysfunctional but united family.

Continue reading “We Are Family”

Are You Googleable?

A comment I made to one of Mark Baker’s recent posts, What is your primary media? Paper or the web? led to an interesting discussion about embedded user assistance.

In my recent webinar series on User Assistance and Cognition, I used the term Double Embeddedness to speak of embedded procedural help that has, in turn, concepts embedded in it. I also mentioned that our user assistance needs to be searchable.

In our exchange on Mark’s blog, he said,

Embedded assistance can never be comprehensive, by its nature, so there is still a role for more comprehensive information. But the place for that more comprehensive information is on the Web, where it can integrate with all the customer-produced information. People are simply going to stop looking to “the help” as an intermediate information source. They are going to start with the interface, and then go to the web.

I couldn’t agree more. Not only that, but the source of that additional material must be a true, integrated learning community, one that groups users, SME’s, developers, tech comms, marketers, and product managers in one community, sharing ideas as equal contributors (even if, eventually, some of them have decision power that others do not have).

That was one of the main points in the third webinar of the series.

If your user assistance isn’t Googleable, chances are your users are not going to find it – wherever else it happens to be.

A Cognitive Design for User Assistance – Comprehensive Links

Update, 17 September 2015: Adobe has a new platform for its recorded webinars. Links to the recordings are now updated and will work correctly.

It is important to follow the Instructions for viewing them, which is also updated.

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I’ve had a number of emails, tweets, and other requests for information on how to get slides or recordings of the webinar series I just finished for Adobe.

Thanks are in order

First off, I need to thank all of you who attended, asked questions, passed me feedback and food for thought.

Thanks also to Adobe for giving me the space and the freedom to present these ideas, and promote the research we are starting to do in The Transformation Society. I’ll be blogging about that more in the near future.

Some Practical Information

Slides are posted as pdf files to Slideshare. You are welcome to use, but not modify, these slide decks, with attribution.

Recordings of the webinars are on the Adobe site – you need to have an adobe.com account to get to them. This will not hurt, I promise 😉 You can get the account for free, and there’s no obligation attached to it.

 Instructions for viewing webinar recordings 

When you click the links to the webinar recordings, you’ll arrive at the webinar description page. Click the “register” button, then fill out the form. You’ll be sent a link that will activate watching. The user experience is less than stellar, but don’t worry about it – just plod through, you’ll end up at the recording, just as we promised 😉

The Links

Session 1: Users Become Learners

Session 2: Empowering User/Learners Through Cognitive Development

Session 3: Integrated Learning: Building Customer Loyalty

 I’ve tested the links, and as of this writing, they all work as advertised.

Enjoy!

 

Let’s Break a Tech Comm Rule

Update: Links to all session slides and recordings are grouped here.

I’ve been a technical communicator for nigh on 20 years. I teach technical communications. I theorize about technical communications. And for all this time, I have steadfastly held to the great rule that you do not mix concepts with tasks.

DITA has three major topic types. Two of them are Concept and Task. Why? To keep them separate, of course – everyone knows that!

And yet – and yet – and yet – here I am, telling you that “everything we know is wrong.” Continue reading “Let’s Break a Tech Comm Rule”

I Keep Thinking…

…about all this communication stuff:

  • I keep thinking about how information architects don’t like to be called UX designers. “IA is so much more,” they say. The “more” they’re talking about includes content. Not Lorem Ipsum, but real content. Many IA’s think of themselves as content strategists, too. They probably are. In fact, I think IA and CS are interlocking, interdependent parts of a single, holistic process – whether done by one person or a team.
  • I keep thinking about how Map should be an element used on the publishing side of DITA, not the authoring side. Let’s rename Map to Container (that’s what it is) and then a Map could really be one: you could map a layout out on a graphic of a page or screen of your publication, and fill it with DITA elements: topics, concepts, and the newly named containers. Using these graphical elements, you could have text flows just like in old fashioned desk top publishing programs, and you could control the layout and make it pretty – removing one of the most common criticisms of working with XML.
  • I keep thinking how I really want to do it all myself. Not because I don’t like teamwork, not because I’m jealous of others’ competencies, but because I love all this stuff so much, I just want to have the fun of doing it all. Silly of me, I know.
  • I keep thinking how technical communication is a lot like playing the piano. Not just because you need to make your fingers work a keyboard in both cases, but also because, as you develop your skill and hone your craft, you become aware that you are working with subtleties that no one other than a few other specialists in your field would ever be aware of. Quality assurance people would say that this is “too much quality” – you should provide just as much as the customers ask for, and not a jot more. But we do this, every day, even though we don’t really get paid for it, and users do not – at least consciously – notice. Not only that, I encourage everyone to keep doing it.
  • I keep thinking that everything is connected. I’d better quit it, because in the end, it means thinking about the entire, infinite, exquisite universe – makes my head ache.
  • Yeah, but I keep thinking that the only really valuable skill in this age is the ability, just exactly, to make connections between things where seemingly none exists.
  • I keep thinking that one day, we’ll discover basic principles of electronic networking and break through to achieving the wonderfully facilitating type of many to many communications environments we used to have on The Source back in 1985.
  • I keep thinking that Ted Nelson was right. About just about everything.
  • I keep thinking that the more means we have to communicate, the more we seem to be throwing words and preconceived ideologies at each other like weapons.
  • I keep thinking about silence.