Contrary to all the books, articles, Web sites, and workshops that suggest otherwise, the biggest problem in user experience design today is not one of practice. Any competent practitioner can dip into the current toolbox of methods and create a satisfactory product. Right now, the biggest obstacle to good design is poor organizational structure. The fundamental makeup of most organizations runs contrary to producing quality designs, and as organizations get larger, this becomes increasingly apparent.
As the profession of technical communication develops and evolves, practitioners are forming formal and informal organizational structures that support collaborative communities. These organizational structures are emerging within commercial companies and professional societies such as the Society for Technical Communication. This article describes evolving methods and best practices that technical communicators can apply in the workplace to create an environment that supports effective communities of practice. We identify specific techniques and best practices, including methods of assessing the effectiveness and business impact of communities in the workplace, and interventions for improvement. We also reference a specific technical communication organization, Data Management (DM) User Technology at IBM Corporation, as a case study of ways to implement an organizational infrastructure that supports both skill-based communities of practice and multidisciplinary goal-based communities.
Information technology has enabled organizations to generate and retain mountains of information. Unfortunately, many organizations suffer from 'infoglut.' They have the information they need, but they don't know they have it. Or, knowing they have it, they can't find it. We would like to find ways that information technology can support business processes, but to do this we need to understand how and where information might be of use within organizations.
After our recent reorg, our tech writing group, now split up, has been wondering about the best way to realign ourselves in the new reporting structure, which has yet to be fully defined. Will we end up at the bottom, relegated into some lonely, forgotten corner of the org chart? Will we be grouped with the finance accountants and the secretaries? Or clumped into some other miscellaneous grouping, like a collection of odd socks?
The twenty-year partnership between the Orlando Chapter and the technical writing program at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has reached new heights in the past two years. This paper reviews several highly successful programs that have either grown directly out of the UCF-Orlando Chapter partnership or which have benefited from and been improved by it: (1) an annual scholarship program; (2) student projects that benefit the chapter (or feature the chapter as client); (3) strong student support to the STC AccessAbility SIG; (4) an annual fund-raising initiative; (5) an educational outreach initiative to Central Florida high schools, and (6) a highly successful formal mentoring program pairing students with professionals.
Those who teach mainly writing have a particular need for avenues of career growth because their tasks are especially repetitive and personally draining. One such avenue can be a year's leave of absence in industry.
Research clearly shows the advantage of receiving feedback on an ongoing basis. In our data, collected for more than a decade, we consistently find that leaders who ask for feedback are substantially more effective than leaders who don’t.
When Monsanto attempted to release transgenic wheat in the upper Midwest of the US, localization efforts to accommodate stakeholders were unsuccessful. This paper explores this case briefly and suggests a new role for technical communicators as negotiators of technology.
Technical communication is increasingly identified with high tech and particularly with documentation. This affiliation and the issues that technology raises have spurred the field to grow not just in numbers but also in knowledge. For example, the concepts of users and usability offer rich ways to look at documents and their development and implementation.
If you work for a large corporation, you don't have to worry about who handles the invoicing, pays the bills, or manages pesky clients. But if you're a small business owner, all this quickly becomes your concern. Anecdotal evidence suggests that entrepreneurs are increasingly linking up with colleagues to work on specific projects or to create virtual agencies.
In creating the site for a client, the magic ingredient was passion. My client's passion added fuel to my own, and I was immediately catapulted to an even higher energy level than usual designing his site. This magic ingredient was being reflected in the client's web site.
There are only three possible behaviors when pasting tracked changes. The one you get depends on whether Track Changes is on or off in both the document you copied from [source] and the document you are pasting into [destination].
Peer Reviewing Across the Atlantic: Patterns and Trends in L1 and L2 Comments Made in an Asynchronous Online Collaborative Learning Exchange Between Technical Communication Students in Sweden and in the United States
In a globally networked learning environment (GNLE), 16 students at a university in Sweden and 17 students at a university in the United States exchanged peer-review comments on drafts of assignments they prepared in English for their technical communication classes. The instructors of both sets of students had assigned the same projects and taught their courses in the same way that they had in the previous year, which contrasts with the common practice of having students in partnering courses work on the same assignment or on linked assignments created specifically for the GNLE. The authors coded the students’ 816 comments according to their focus and orientation in order to investigate the possible differences between the comments made by the L2 students in Sweden and those made by the L1 (English as a second language) students in the United States, the possible impact of peer reviewing online, and the influence of the instructors' directions on the students’ peer-reviewing behavior.
A number of smart businesses are realizing that the organizational characteristics that lead to their successes — such as agility, decentralized decision making, and fast growth — have made their Web sites unworkable through poor development processes and inconsistent user experiences. This frustrates any attempt by visitors to find meaningful information.
When 90% of what you do for work is based online, there are bound to be some glitches, and not just the technical ones. How do you handle the inevitable misunderstandings that come with today’s rapid-fire digital conversations and communications in the workplace? I’ve put together a few ideas for how we can all minimize misunderstandings or at least diffuse the fallout.
Due to my own experience as an employee of the Writing Center, as an English major, and from taking courses and working in the Biology department, I knew that writing in the sciences is essential, as science, at its very heart, is most interested in conveying information, often through writing. Therefore, I could not grasp why science students who bring their papers to the Writing Center would not ask for the same kind of consultation as those from the humanities, and I began to suspect that students in disciplines outside of the humanities were possibly confused or unsure how the Writing Center could help them, and that perhaps, as an extension, confusion was circulating among Writing Center Consultants and science professors as well.
Subject-matter experts, managers, and other reviewers tenaciously resist our nagging to review documents properly, often delaying reviews until it's too late to do a good job. It's not that they inherently oppose quality control; rather, the problem's in the amount of work required to review something thoroughly, and 'work' is a physics concept. Conveniently, reviewers--like falling objects--follow the same laws of physics as the rest of the universe, and understanding those laws helps you predict reviewer behavior and take appropriate countermeasures.
Explains how RSS feeds from weblogs can be aggregated to enhance communication among groups of software developers, and how XML/RDF can be used to describe multiple communities.
Businesspeople, faculty, and students can participate in learning communities in a variety of ways. Online learning communities provide benefits to individuals and the group, even if a community uses only low-tech communication tools. Learning communities are important because they create a human connection often missing in our Internet communication and allow people from diverse locations and backgrounds to share information and experiences. Effective learning communities celebrate diversity and create a supportive environment for members working toward a common goal.
A “doc sprint” is similar to a book sprint. We called ours a doc sprint because it focused on technical documentation and on developing a set of tutorials, rather than a single book. We invited a number of developers to join the technical writing team in a three-day sprint, with the aim of producing some quality tutorials on gadget and plugin development.