Report from the Recent ITTT Forum

On May 12, 2015 we held the second session of the ITTT and it was a great one!

After Yoni opened the session, I gave a talk presenting my vision of how technical writers can make themselves more valuable and advance our role in the hi-tech industry. This was followed by lively discussions in small groups in which the participants, triggered by provocative questions, brain-stormed various aspects of advancing tech writers to the next level and beyond.

Yoni and I would like to thank:

  • Our friends at HP for hosting the recent meeting of the ITTT forum
  • All of those who joined us and participated in a lively session. We had deep, intense discussions about the future of Technical Writing in Israel and ideas about how technical writers can do much more than increase their job-security, but rather, become key players in Israel’s hi-tech scene.
  • All of YOU who plan to become active in the ITTT and contribute to the future of technical writing in Israel.

Our next session will be in October, 2015 and in the meantime, we’d very much like to keep up our activity by:

  • Getting YOU to contribute a short piece to the ITTT blog; please write to us with any idea you have for a piece or if you’d like us to suggest something
  • Growing our Facebook group – please join us!

Click to see the presentation given by Eli Jacobs

Eli Jacobs TWs Thriving in 2020

What Do Tech Writers Really Want?
What Do Tech Writers Really Want?

And here are some of the presentations given by representatives of the brainstorming groups:

Laura Novich presented her group’s vision of the dream job for a technical writer

A Tech Writer’s Dream Job

 

Yehoshua Paul’s group discussed how a tech writer can be known in her/his company simply by their first name. This was a follow-up on the idea presented by Eli Jacobs that titles (Tech Writer, Tech Communicator, Information Engineer, etc!) don’t matter and that really key players at hi-tech companies are simply referred to as: Shira, Yossi, Rachel, Oren and so on.

Tech_Writer: How to Become Someone

 

Looking forward to interesting, meaningful discussions – here on this blog, and on the ITTT Facebook group.

See you all soon!

Eli Jacobs

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Customer Support and Tech Writing: A Celestial Alliance?

by Steve Wiseman, Context

cs as tw ally_2

At some point during the evolving story of mankind in the search for terrestrial life on distant planets, planet Earth sent powerful spacecrafts to explore the vast pathways of space. Each vessel was totally independent, solving problems alone. When one spacecraft was outflanked by the vicious and energetic Acado enemy, nearly irreversible damage was done. However, the humans pulled through. Unfortunately, just a short time later, another human spacecraft was attacked by that same group of Acado and fell. Had there been some coordination, the tragedy could have been averted.

[Now, as much as I have enjoyed my first incursion into science fiction, it’s probably best to stop when I’m ahead and explain the connection to the field of technical writing, content authoring or whichever term you wish to place on our precious livelihood. I’m also sure you can find some holes in the metaphor but I suggest you just go with it for now.]

Over the last 20 years, essentially the technical content teams have been an independent department located somewhere at the end of the product roadmap. There was little interaction with other departments, apart from acquiring the knowledge required to author the specific product documentation. Even though, the document and customer service teams were essentially performing the same function of helping users to use the product successfully, there was little coordination between them. The “Acado” business attack of unnecessary rounds of expensive customer initiated conversations could have been avoided.

Self-service is more than just a Smorgasbord

Our world has changed. Our customers expect quick answers. They want to Search > Read > Carry on working. No time for multi-branch heading hierarchies and articles not focused on the user. Calling or chatting with the company takes too long, users prefer great “self-service: The term “self-service” is starting to be used in our world. The idea is that if a user uses self-service to find an answer to their needs, they will not want to turn to the company and waste precious time. Our documentation is the “self-service” option.

We can achieve this only with collaboration with other departments in our company.

Here are some departments within your organization where you can coordinate internally right now:

Dep1: Love Your Customer Service/Success (CS) Department

Implement a system where its inherent ecosystem encourages interaction with the customer service department. They are the natural allies of the doc team. However, the CS team generally deals with immediately pressing issues while the doc team deals with the general product. This is changing and so it should.

We should be writing content that’s relevant NOW. It’s a lot more important than simply covering every feature in the product. Coordination with this department for highly relevant articles is critical to the success of modern documentation. If your support team sees a trend of a certain questions users are asking, write an article immediately to deflect those questions away from the CS team and straight to you documentation.

Dep 2: Branding your Content to Enhance Marketing and Sales

Move away from the old webhelp and other restricted deliverable types. The help center design historically was a minor issue due to the inflexibility of the authoring tool. When the technical content is totally in sync with the corporate website, the whole perception of the content is different within and outside of the company. Customers will now want to access your self-service content to find answers to their questions.
When the help content is anonymous (login is not required), the content is searched by the global search engines. When checking out a company’s product, or searching for any product in the field, people may arrive at your technical content first. Ensure your first paragraph always refers to the business case for the article. Let everyone know that you can be the source of sales leads to for your company. Shifting your content from the last leg of the product roadmap to an effective and proactive sales tool!

Bombard Top Management with Analytics and ROI

You can now have immediate figures on the performance of your articles. This should be an integral part of your documentation process – researching, writing, reviewing and acting on stats. When you relate that to the statistics in your customer service department regarding the tickets in their system in relation to customer questions, you can start to calculate the actual benefit to the company from the articles you create. For example, correlate your articles with deflected tickets, suddenly you have actual numbers and ROI to not only justify your work but see the positive effects it has on your company’s well-being.

Whereby in the past we were independent spacecraft within an organization all going our separate ways, we can now become a fully coordinated and efficient flying armada. Providing the benefits in this blog are now relatively simple to integrate, often from the implementation of a single tool. Contact the author of this blog for more details.

Below, let us know your comments and if you have any experience in working with other departments inside an organization.

Steve Wiseman (swiseman@context.co.il) is an expert in implementing customer service and authoring solutions. As an international official reseller of the Zendesk customer support platform, Steve’s company helps Israeli firms to reduce time and costs with their present customer support department and workflows.

 

Next ITTT Event – Tuesday, May 12

ITTT is delighted to invite you to our next meeting.
The event will be themed around how we can make ourselves more relevant professionally.

Here are the details:
* Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
* Time: 15:00 – 18:00
* Location: HP, Yehud

Agenda
Technical Writer, Technical Communicator, Information – Developer, TBD
What could our jobs look like in 2020?
Eli Jacobs, CEO of JBS

Followed by workshops

In preparation for Eli’s talk please read this blog post, and think about the questions presented there. If you are moved to do so, please write a comment to share your experience.

ITTT CONFERENCE_2

This photo was not taken at an ITTT meeting; but we hope a future meeting will look like this

Were very grateful to HP for hosting this next event.
There’s no charge for the event, but…
Since space is limited, you must register in advance by no later than May 10.
To register, send an email to:
ittt.forum@gmail.com

You can check out the first ITTT blog post here.

The ITTT Forum is jointly sponsored by
Tech-Tav Documentation
and
JBS Technical Communication Services

More than Writing Documents – Tell Your Story

software-development-life-cycle
The Software Development Cycle Involves Many Different Phases and Types of Expertise; Every Phase Requires Documentation (MRDs, Architecture Specs, UI Design, ATPs, Test Reports, etc.) – So Why Do Most Tech Writers Only Get Involved in Phase 6 – User Guides ?

 One of our observations is that technical writers who do really well in their organizations actually contribute to and become experts (or partial experts) in some areas beyond the scope of their core job definition as tech writer. This may be by getting involved in any of these areas: UI design, marketing writing, product definition, customer/staff training, QA, process engineering, etc.

At the next ITTT meeting we will discuss this phenomenon in depth.

In the meantime, in order to get our juices flowing, we are inviting each of you to write a paragraph or two about your experience.
hats
If you prefer a little structure you can use these questions as guidelines.
  1. When did you or do you go beyond the confines of the tech-writer role and wear another hat at your company?
  2. What hat is it?
  3. How did this come about?
  4. When/how often does this ocurr?
  5. How does this affect your work – from your perspective?
  6. How does this affect your colleagues’/managers’ perception of you?
  7. Do you think that overall this phenomenon (of TWs branching out) is good for the technical-writing field or not?

The New Reality of Technical Communication

by Yossi Karp

yossi karp selfie

An Augmented Selfie of Yossi Karp

Technical Communication is on the verge of an upheaval. We have been told for years that the PDF is dying a slow death, to be replaced with on-line, flexible, modular, responsive, and interactive formats.

We are already moving away from the written word as the primary medium for instructional guides. 3D animation and live-action video are engaging ways to communicate information, but those solutions are so pre-2015.

The next big thing in technical communication is augmented reality (AR). When a user looks through glasses, goggles or at a mobile device, software layers virtual objects on top of the physical environment so that it seems to the user that the virtual object is actually there. Users can then interact with those virtual objects in 3D space.

The possibilities for AR are endless. Healthcare, design, gaming, education, marketing, and of course, instructional guides are just some of the practical applications for AR.

Technical communication is about presenting information clearly and in a user-friendly manner. Good technical communication enables users to get on with the job as efficiently as possible. For certain types of documentation, AR answers that need better than any other currently available technology.

Imagine that a service technician needs to replace a part in a machine. The technician puts on a pair of AR glasses and looks at the machine from any angle. The software maps the 3D space, and recognizes the machine and its parts. The technician uses a virtual touch-screen, seemingly suspended in mid-air, to select the required procedure. Screws, panels, and brackets are highlighted so that the technician can easily identify and remove them. The software runs in real-time at the technician’s pace so that it progresses to the next step only when the previous step is successfully completed. Dangerous parts are highlighted with a red overlay, and warning symbols flash if the technician is about to put himself in danger. Visual cues, such as pulsing arrows, show the technician which way to pull the part out of the machine. A voice-over might add to the experience by providing further information, instructions, or safety warnings.

While AR at that level of engagement is exciting to think about, it sounds like something out of Star Trek, Minority Report, or at least, Back to the Future. This concept video from 2009 shows a BMW technician using AR glasses to walk him through the steps of fixing a car. In 2009, those glasses were science fiction. But the thing is, it isn’t 2009 anymore.

There are already tools available to enable you to turn your smartphone or tablet into an AR device. Point the camera at an object and the software recognizes it and overlays virtual 3D elements. The experience is less immersive than a headset, but the technology is proven and is available right now. For instance, in this video the AR application provides instructions for using an Epson multifunction printer. A written procedure, video or even 3D animation can’t provide that level of immersive, interactive communication.

In this example, the user points an iPad at a picture on a printed brochure and the product springs to life in full 3D. Imagine what you can show your users when they point their iPad at a 2D graphic or QR code in your documentation or on your web site. The possibilities are limitless.

Magic Leap, an AR company, recently released this exciting video, showing off some of the cool things they are working on.

Microsoft is planning to release its HoloLens AR headset as soon as December 2015. HoloLens, demonstrated earlier this year, is a powerful, cable-free, stand-alone device that promises to deliver a spectacularly immersive experience. And if you think that devices like HoloLens will be out of the average consumer’s price range, you’d be mistaken. Pundits estimate that the retail price for a HoloLens headset will be between $500-$900 US – cheaper than most mid-range laptops.

 

Augmented reality is not going to replace all forms of technical documentation; the written word, video and animation will still be around for some time. However, augmented reality has real-world advantages that other media do not. As technical communicators, we should explore the possibilities that augmented reality has to offer, and grab the opportunity to get in early on this mind-blowing technology.

Yossi Karp is a Technical Communicator at Stratasys Ltd. He blogs at www.ykarp.com and curates a Flipboard magazine “Everyone Needs One of These” at www.ykarp.com/magazine.

 

 

 

Report from the ITTT Inaugural Forum

Dear Technical Documentation People,

We were pleased to hear the very positive feedback  from the first session of the ITTT Forum. So many of you identified with the need to take a fresh, new look at the future of the technical writing industry in Israel.

Yoni and Steve’s presentations can be found at the links below.

I look forward to provoking you all at the next session of the forum by presenting my views on the future of our field: Technical Writer, Technical Communicator, Information Developer, TBD: What could (or SHOULD) our jobs look like in 2020?

Enjoy the photos and presentations.

Eli Jacobs and Yoni Palmer

Here is Yoni’s presentation: Yoni Palmer on the Future of Technical Content

Here is Steve’s presentation: Steve Wiseman on the wise use of the technical CMS

Here is Nir’s presentation: Nir Gaist on Hackess Denied!

Yoni Palmer kicking off the forum
Yoni Palmer kicking off the forum
ITTT Inaugural Forum -  where is the next generation?
ITTT Inaugural Forum – where is the next generation?
Nir Gaist, founder of Nyotron, an exciting cynersecurity startup - making sure we never forget the "technical" in technical writing
Nir Gaist, founder of Nyotron, an exciting cybersecurity startup. The ITTT includes talks about current technologies because we want to make sure we never forget the “technical” in technical writing.

ITTT Inaugural Event

It gives us great pleasure to invite you to the inaugural meeting of The Israel Tech-writing Tools and Trends Forum (ITTT).

ITTT Israel Tech_Writing_3

ITTT is a forum for professionals involved in technical documentation in Israel. The forum focuses on trends within the world of documentation and in the technology industry as a whole.

ITTT intends to encourage and enable knowledge sharing in technologies, tools and methodologies. The forum also aims to foster active discussion, promote change and influence the direction of the technical documentation industry in Israel.

Our first meeting will be:

Date: Sunday, January 4, 2015
Time: 15:00 – 18:00
Location: Petach Tikvah

The agenda will cover:

  • Technical Writer, Technical Communicator, Information Developer, TBD: What could our jobs look like in 2020?
  • The change is here and now, embrace it. What’s happening to content?
  • Technology trends from an Israeli hi-tech leader

To register for the event and for more information send an email to: ittt.forum@gmail.com

The ITTT Forum is sponsored by:

Tech-Tav
Documentation Ltd.
http://www.tech-tav.com

and 

JBS
Technical Communication Services
http://www.jbstek.com