Monthly Archives: October 2011

Qualman, chapter 8

In chapter 8, Qualman warns to never “build your own Field of Nightmares by building or replicating a social network for your company.” I found this quote particularly interesting since the audiology practice where I work utilizes both a major social media tool, Facebook, as well as a company based site run by our 3rd party investors. Our 3rd party investors created a site called “The CEO” that only members can access. The site works a lot like Facebook, where there is a chat and message feature, as well as a wall to post on and personal pages. I feel in some ways Qualman is right, but not in others. I think if a company were to create a social media site for the public, it would fail because it would only cater to a fairly small population. However, for our practice, CEO is an excellent way for us to connect with other practices and audiologists in our field since it is strictly limited to those who are a part of the organization. Since the site is based around a network of practices all endorsed by the same company, we have so much to gain from one another.

Week 9 | Information Design & Content Management

Improving Information Design & Content Management Capabilities through Our Class Blog

I am having a hard time coming up with the main point of this week’s readings, but I realize I don’t have to have all the answers. Sharing ideas and learning is what the blog is for. Writing my blog post and reading other posts will help me understand the material better.

Our class blog hasn’t replaced our need for D2L, but the blog is a great improvement in the ways students in the class share information. D2L is necessary for uploading and downloading information, retrieving comments and grades, and other administrative tasks. In the D2L discussion board and our blog, content, namely written word is most important. Beyond words, the blog blows the discussion board out of the water.

I am enjoyed reading about the lexicon relating to information design (Spilka, p 109), and how these concepts help people understand and utilize information better. I could relate the lexicon to many things I do at my job – like; how will Dave Smith retrieve and utilize a document I send him? Or, what should the template for a proposal work with the text? I could also relate the lexicon to our blog.

In the blog, I have control over the formatting, fonts, pictures, headings, embedded media, and links. Tools for mapping and navigation are okay (I think it could be a little better). If I want to read all of Heidi’s or Robin’s posts, I can click on their names. I can look in the archives by month, or just scroll by date. I wish we could separate the posts by week a little better. I’ve noticed we can see when the most views of the blog. There are taxonomy (tagging and categorical assignment) capabilities. The blog just seems like a better learning and sharing environment than D2L.

Giving More Credit to Early Websites

I would give more credit to designers of early websites (Spilka, p 106). While early websites were rudimentary compared to websites of today, like any new thing, websites in the late 1990s were in their infancy. When websites were being created for the first time, people did not know how to best make a website—optimized for readability and usability. Before websites, a standard format was an 8.5×11 portrait-orientated piece of paper. People knew how to design for that. I compare this to the invention of cars—how long had cars been invented before people decided to run tests for safety or optimal performance?

Making Sense of the Digital Landfill

I’m still trying to make sense out of the Digital Landfill website. Are we specifically to look at January 28, 2011? In addition, the PowerPoint was okay, but it seems like it only half makes sense without the speaker (even though we have his notes).

 

We Gain Nothing If We Lose Our Humanity By Utilizing Technology.

The Rise and Fall of a Company

The evolution from dependence on IT to an overflow of unemployed IT professionals (along with the rest of the company) is something I can relate to.  The company my husband used to work for grew at an astounding rate in the 90’s. In fact, they would hire 20-30 temps each week and as long as they worked out, by end of 30 days, they would be on the permanent payroll. Here is a picture of how fast this company grew: (numbers are estimated)

They needed an entire infrastructure to link the hundreds of employees that worked full time in house as well as programming to handle sales, service and manufacturing. The IT professional was GOD!

The company began their rise to fame, so to speak, with a modest 12 employees, and as you can see by the general timetable above, they were gobbled up and thrown to the wind with little effort.  Six months after this company was bought out, there were 100 scattered employees who were systematically absorbed or let go. The facility is now a ghost town. What used to be miles of corridors marked like streets of a small town is now a molding mess of stagnant air. Because this all occurred in a very small town, the implications for the residents were amazing.

This  company was a pioneer in a field that was very technical and highly in demand, their own need for technology was tremendous. During their hay day, there was an army of IT professionals, miles of coax cable which was then replaced by Cat5 cables connecting a network of computers. An intranet for the entire company with submissions by the departments and a large security force was in evidence.

That was then – This is now

So, why did this company sell out?  There are many thoughts on the subject, but one of them is that the owners were old-school and could not understand the value of the internet. After their rocket rise, they began to falter and lose ground in the industry. They felt that their level of technology should be enough and to spend more on IT functions was frivolous – they were very wrong.

What they were not wrong about is the time it takes to take good care of the customer.  When the new company took over, there was no question that the concern was for the bottom line.  Special programs were designed to track time on call or bring about data to analyze the total amount of cost per intervention on average.  The same technology that was supposed to make life easier for the employee and customer was now being used to squeeze every moment out of every day and pack as much profit into every second. 

As our reading “A Sea Change in Enterprise IT” illustrates (AIIM P. 5), there is a definite evolution of content and I am not sure it is totally for the good.

What I don’t get

I understand that our technology is changing so fast that it is difficult for the professionals to keep up, much less the business people who will be using it.  I also understand that profits, especially in these economic times, are a high concern for businesses.

What I do not understand is how companies can utilize more technology to cut out the personal touch that customer service used to provide, but then use our personal social networking interactions to get into our pockets.  This seems to be like burning a candle at both ends.

I do not agree with the AIIM white paper when it claims that B2C will “use social media to extend and IMPROVE customer service” (AIIM p. 8).  Customer service SUCKS in our country and further automization will only erode what little confidence we have in customer service centers. I do not understand how talking to a computer will be any better than talking to someone who hardly speaks English. 

We definitely need to foster advancements, but I fear that we are replacing humanity with technology all too much.

IMAGE CREDITS:

http://www.communication-type.com/technology-and-human-communication/

Working with Large Writing Groups

How do you get a large group of people to write well together? This is challenge that my company faces everyday. I’m going to focus this post on Chapter 5, Content Management—Beyond Single Sourcing, by William Hart-Davidson because this chapter opened my eyes to the question of large groups writing together.

On page 141, Hart-Davidson says, “…if their expertise is used properly, technical communicators can help organizations avoid the pitfalls and prosper.” I think this statement sums up everything I’ve noticed since I’ve been out of college and in industry. A lot of companies don’t understand the value with having a technical communicator in the organization.

I think if you’re going to have a company with a content group, you need to have a couple of technical communicators involved because they tend to understand the usability that content management needs to have and they also understand what a quality document is versus a document that isn’t too necessary for the organization.

It’s weird because I used to work for a company where there were only two writers in the entire organization. My coworker and I created everything. It was nice because we didn’t have too many other people sticking their noses into the details of our content. Now I work for a company where there are 40 people creating content together for the same audience. It’s completely different than what I’m used to.

Working with 40 other writers/designers/photographers is super challenging because everyone wants something different with the document. The writer wants good content. The designer wants a nice looking page. The photographer wants certain images to be a certain size on a page. A lot of my time is spent trying to convince people that the content I create needs to be on the page.

My biggest problem with my job is that the three managers (one for each group) only understand the one aspect that he or she is in-charge of. I’m 100 percent confident that if my company put a technical communicator in-charge of all three groups, everything would get done and the quality of the documents would improve because a technical communicator understands how writing, designing, and photography work together to make a page.

The managers at my company are too old-school and they don’t listen to suggestions. I’ve told my boss that I have a lot more skills (e.g. design and understanding CMS) and they just don’t want to hear it. I think my bosses need to be educated about the field of Tech. Comm. The problem is it’s challenging to educate people that don’t want to listen.

Here’s a link to the Adobe Tech. Comm. team: http://blogs.adobe.com/techcomm/tag/adobe

They use a blog which I think is pretty cool because it allows customers and employees to interact as a group. I think a large writing group within an organization could use something like this.

Understanding through Poetry

For this week’s reading on information design, I decided to get a little creative. Therefore, I explored three different information architectural elements presented in the article by Salvo and Rosinski through the lens of a Shakespearean sonnet, employing his ab, ab; cd, cd; ef, ef; gg rhyme scheme and using iambic pentameter.

Sitemap: A Sonnet
When writing for the web a scribe should know,
That men and women often can get lost.
Their quest is: ride the information flow;
But sanity could be the reader’s cost.

They ride the ship that leaves behind the shore,
Their origins these people can’t recall.
And find themselves distracted evermore
With hyperlinks that whisper siren’s call.

But like the sextant and compass used past,
There is a tool that saves these weary souls.
A sitemap shows them site from first to last
And helps them reach their information goals.

Once these travelers tame the digi-seas,
They can explore most other sites with ease.

Using Granularity: A Sonnet
As all know, puzzle pieces have their place
With websites info comes in large and wee.
The principle that governs placement space
Is something we call granularity.

When pictures take up every bit and byte,
And text is crammed in tiny as a speck
Applying granularity is right
To keep the page’s balances in check.

Should TPS report be sent by post?
Or sent through faster electronic mail?
Which mode of message can convey the most?
When using granularity: no fail.

Identifying granularity
The finer is increased technology.

The Many Forms of Tags: A Sonnet
If only metadata were applied,
Each piece of info could be simply found.
By labeling each doc you will have tried
To organize and find your way around.

Taxonomy’s another way we can
Form stronger links leading us to the docs.
A limited vocabulary, man.
Like Dewey dec’mal’s system really rocks.

Folksonomy tags info in the cloud,
But keeping tabs on older stuff is hard.
So hash your tweets and keep your trending proud,
But from your past tags you may well be barred.

These types of tools help readers find their way
Through pages on the web both night and day.

But seriously, the Salvo and Rosinski article was an excellent way to learn about the different ways to conscientiously design information so that users can find it. I am glad that we went through all of the spatial metaphors. Right now at work, I am in charge of scanning all existing paper documents and tagging them for retrieval in the Image Now system. Not only do I have to tag documents, I have to come up with tagging classifications and criteria for the different areas (department governance, curriculum, the new school structure, etc.) and I am having a hell of a time wrapping my mind around what I think future users might use as criteria to find a particular type of document. It’s been kind of a nightmare.

Reading up on these concepts gave me a bird’s eye view of what I am doing. It is a whole different way of thinking of things. I have been banging my head against the proverbial wall trying to cram this tagging stuff into a metaphor of a filing cabinet so I could understand how to set up tagging fields. That isn’t working. This reading has helped me gain more insight into what I am doing.
It’s also kind of neat that I AM learning how to set up the criteria and classification. It ties in with what Hart-Davidson says about the future role of technical communicators as content managers. One of the areas that he talks about is “Creating and managing information assets, defining relationships between these and specifying display conditions for specific views of these” (p. 135). I am learning to bring about his “tangible outcomes” by using “Taxnomies, Object metadatas, document type, definitions and schema” (p. 136). Although Image Now management is for an internal document retrieval system, many of the principles cross directly over into content management. The more of these skills I am able to master, the better my chances will be when I look at other jobs.

U of M Finally Goes Social

So I complain a lot about my organization not using social media effectively. Well, Google turned on Google+ plus for their educational edition and the University of Minnesota jumped on board. Read the story here: http://blogs.twincities.com/yourtechweblog/2011/10/27/the-u-of-m-a-google-apps-using-school-embraces-google/

I am wondering what happens when a University doesn’t just allow its employees/students to use social media but actually encourages/expects them to by making it an available University tool? Will people be more apt to collaborate and engage if they are doing it through University provided service that is tied to their University account instead of a personal account? It’s interesting to think about.

Qualman 5 and 7

There were two key points in Qualman readings that really hit home with me. The first one is “Be more like Dale Carnegie and less like David Oglivy; listen first, sell second.” Social media is the perfect tool for listening to your customers. It gives them an open forum to complain or praise. I’m a firm believer that if you want to be successful at business (or communication) you need to have constant contact with your customers. You need to have conversations with them so you learn about their expectations, their wants, their needs, and their desires. I like to think of social media sites as never-ending, completely-open focus group.

The other idea that I really liked is “It’s better to live in a social media life making mistakes than living in a social media life doing nothing.” This idea is not new to me. I have been screaming this idea at my coworkers for years, yet they are still in the “we need to plan or social media strategy” phase. I think they are afraid to make mistakes with social media. I tell them over and over that we just need to do it. We have a Facebook page we have nearly 300 fans, who are just waiting to engage with us, yet we continue to use it as a news delivery vehicle.

My coworkers are afraid to engage with fans on Facebook. Every time a fan comments on a news story we basically have to have a meeting to figure out how we should respond to them. I say just do it.

If you are curious you can check out my organization’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/University-of-Minnesota-Information-Technology/228749862154.  It is real exciting.

Spilka 4 & 5

I found it interesting the way Spilka brought up how Internet or computer based websites and documents are usually presented in a similar format, and without realizing it, we as users learn to expect a certain presentation when working with sources on the web. Spilka also goes on to explain that if a website or e-mail does not follow this common format “code,” we may not take it as seriously or even disregard it all together. The lack of expected format may also hinder the user’s ability to access and utilize the site for what it is meant for, causing the user to instead choose a different site to collect their information. I know personally at the workplace when I receive memos or reports from my coworkers I expect them to be in a certain format, and if they lack the format I am used to, I tend to question them rather than read and utilize their instructions or information. The same goes for websites. When I choose a site to collect information from, I tend to be drawn to the sites that keep the familiar format of starting with a home page, then from there direct the user via a list of links pertaining to each different topic the website covers. I never realized how important the format of a source could be, as well as how the format used links to my understanding and utilization of the material.

What Happens Here, Stays Here.

What’s 11,688 people strong, has 670,200 likes on their Facebook page and 7,292 views on their YouTube video?

Give up?

It’s the “Know the Code” campaign created by the Las Vegas tourism department. It’s essentially an anti-social media push in certain circumstances. Of course, Vegas tourists want you to Tweet/Facebook about their restaurants, casinos and entertainment but warn against taking photos of people and sharing them through the same social media facets. They even have a place on their Facebook page where you can “Report those who violate the code” through their Facebook page.

I first saw a video on TV and as I dug into it more, I thought it was interesting that the Vegas tourism department used social media to encourage visitors NOT to use social media. Further more, they created rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to Facebook-ing, YouTub-ing and Tweeting.

I think this campaign is successful for a couple different reasons:

  1. It creates buzz around Vegas and buzz equates to more visitors. More visitors create more dollars.
  2. It demonstrates that Vegas is still a “cool” place to visit and shows that they understand issues and challenges that their audience faces. Not only do they understand their problems, they’re proposing a solution.
  3. It created interactivity for participants rather than just allowing the audience to view their site. Audience members can sign an oath, respond to Facebook messages and Tweet “#knowthecode.”
Here’s one of their promotional videos:

Additionally, their web site has some interesting elements that help “humanize” it by calling out individuals who have broken the code. Now, weather these people are actually “real” is another matter all together but I definitely appreciate the effort. See left for an example.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Digital Literacy, Spilka talks about combining “rhetoric” and “technology” and I think this is a perfect example of the melding of the two. Essentially, the tourism department is trying to promote Vegas through a round-about campaign that not only says “visit Vegas” but also says, “We want to keep Vegas a safe place where ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ still applies despite the advances in technology.” Additionally, Qualman states that “people value the opinions of other people” and I believe this campaign relies on that type of thinking. This campaign boasts the accountability factor that by “knowing the code,” you’ll hold others accountable to do the same. Granted, this is different than what Qualman means in chapter 5 as he is addressing socialommerce, but the bare bones principal that “people value the opinions of other people” holds true in this case.

Shaped and Shaping Tools.

See in the  above clip opponent of technology in action!

The chapter impressed me about the new revelations I learned about twitter which I didn’t know before. The rhetoric surrounding Twitter and the rhetorical implication of Twitter are becoming fascinating and are everywhere. Before I read this chapter I didn’t know that :

  • Twitter is ideal for sharing quick messages with groups. Probably because I didn’t use Twitter before reading this chapter.
  • Shows all signs of real cultural phenomenon reason being the notion of  being widely mocked being featured on “The Daily Show”.
  • Recently featured during a NASCAR race as well as receiving  mass media coverage.

As if this was not enough there is that side of technical communicators perspective which I find most interesting.  There are emerging rhetorical implications of Twitter.

  • Twitter is public – when you post and ask for help incase you have a problem with installing something, within seconds you will get response on Twitter more than in a class settings.
  • Twitter can be endlessly resorted and reorganized.  Twitter is not like most messaging systems which are designed for short-lifespan messages. Popular current trends in lists, can be search via location through Twitter search.
  • Twitter is powerful in the aggregate. The public tweets allow Twitter to offer new and interesting possibilities for searching which help users to find and track events too new to appear on Google.

Twitter has been a versatile discovery and its helpful in information sharing, messaging in professional settings as well as accomplishing workplace tasks.

What I learned:

  • Cultural affiliations of technology –  having some baseline, cultural agreements about what technologies should be allowed(p.88). The cell phone has its critics. Cell phones are not allowed in classes disturbance and in doctor’s offices, and  movie theaters because they jam technologies. I like how Clark termed all these opponents of technologies.
  • Another interesting  point Gurak (1997), I like how Gurak showed interest in leveraging the rhetorical concepts of interpretive communities and the two key rhetorical elements namely ethos and delivery to evaluate the rhetoric used by on line communities.
  • The “bridging’  between worker and tool. The argument by “Spinuzzi (2003), technical communicators have seen texts that they produce – manuals, references, instructions as bridging between worker and tool. This topic can be discussed at length and it is debatable.  It  reminds me of the  middleman threat  when it comes to the digital world.

Podcasts Don’t Need Rules

Qualman, Chapters 5 and 7—I like how Qualman brought up the point that as a consumer, you can actually have all three—cheap, quick and quality because of social media. Social media allows consumers to complain or express good things about products. This type of content makes companies respond because negative publicity in the world of social media isn’t limited to a certain group; it ends up being broadcasted everywhere. 10-years-ago if you wanted to complain about a company’s product, you had to contact the company to file a complaint. Now days, all you have to do is post your comment on Twitter or start a blog that expresses your opinion. I think it’s great for consumers to be able to post their opinions about products but I also think it can be pretty scary for a company because the company has a challenging time controlling lies that people are saying about them.

On page 137, Qualman brings up a great point about podcasts. A podcast doesn’t have a set amount of time to fill. It only lasts as long as the news is relevant. I think this is a great point because a podcast is less likely to waist the audience’s time. For example, an average local news program will last about 30 minutes. That’s what the consumer is used to, but there are times when the news could be longer or shorter. I think the news programs are hurting because each program needs to be a certain amount of time. I think ESPN really noticed the value with showing the audience what they want to see because ESPN now runs a tool bar on the left of the screen that shows the next five stories and they also show a timer on the screen that shows how much time is left of the current topic they are discussing.

ESPN

The local Fox news program in Minneapolis, MN does something like this on their 10 pm show. They list the top 10 stories in 10 minutes because they understand that viewers like me don’t want to waste our time watching stories that I don’t care about.

Spilka, Chapter 3—I loved the comment that since Twitter is public, people can track topics and events that are too new for Google (p.87). I think that shows the true value with Twitter and with social media. I always use Twitter to find current news stories. It’s funny because I am so current with my news that by the time someone tells about something, I already know what he or she is talking about. Social media allows people the ability to know more about a news story than the people that are supposed to report the story.

Week 8 | Social Media are Tools of Influence

This week’s readings cover many topics relating to how people use social media, including Twitter, product reviews (which I feel are a form of microblogging), and Facebook as tools of influence. Dave Clark’s chapter, Shaped and Shaping Tools on the rhetoric of technology is complex by the nature of its subject matter. He says that both rhetoric and technology are difficult to define individually, yet the two concepts go hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, it is even harder to define the rhetoric of technology. Clark says by its very essence, technology is rhetorical. When it comes down to it, Dave is examining how “technologies structure, shape, and influence the ways we communicate (p. 87).”

Twitter’s Influence
The structure of the author’s latest muse was 140 characters. He was marveling at the fact that while it was a simply coded program and a basic concept, the rhetorical implications of Twitter were very powerful. This was because Tweets are public (unless the author has an account with protected Tweets), Tweets are searchable and allow trends to surface, and Tweets in large numbers about the same subject can be powerful. Those who don’t use Twitter, yet have something powerful to say, lose an opportunity to compound the message through this potentially influential tool.

Product Reviews Influence
Twitter is changing how people communicate and who people communicate with. Similarly, other social media outlets are changing the way people shop online. I like how social media influences the way my friends and I shop. “Socialommerce is a referral program on sterroids (Qualman, p. 94), and “consumers are taking ownership of brands and their referral power is priceless (p. 97).” Qualman says that retailers are encouraging consumers to review products because whether a product is good or bad, eliciting feedback only helps the brand either sell more of the product or improve it. I look at online product reviews when I purchase things online and in the store. They often influence my purchasing decisions, too. Sometimes I write product reviews, too.
Yesterday I received an email request from Eddie Bauer to rate some outerwear I recently purchased online. Since reviewing seemed easy to do, and I liked my new purchases, I took a minute to review the products. On the other hand, I have also reviewed products I didn’t think were that great. I bought a clothes drying rack at a Target store. The rack is low quality and keeps falling apart. While I could no longer return it to the store because the 90-day return period had passed, I decided I could at least write an online review in hopes others not to make the same purchasing mistake I did.

Facebook’s Influence
Shoppers consider anonymous online product reviews, but shoppers also seek the advice of people they know via social media. Just the other day, I saw my friend recruited her friends’ advice on Facebook. She wanted recommendations on best smartphones, but not from anonymous reviewers or technology experts. Since people generally feel strongly about phone brands like Droid and iPhone, her friends and family rushed to her aid. She received many comments on the best phones to buy. Seeking advice gave my friend a list of phones to consider and hopefully helped her narrow down her options.
Companies miss an opportunity to connect with consumers when they don’t utilize social media like Facebook. I love shopping at Trader Joe’s, but I feel the company is missing out on a great advertising opportunity by having a profile on Facebook. The store could tell people about new products, new store locations, specials, and fun recipes to try.

Other Clever Ways to Influence Consumers
In “Winners and Losers in a 140-Character World,” Qualman discusses how integrating product advertising into the programming like the Charles Schwab podcast is smart, but it is not new. When I was young, my mom listened to famous announcer, Paul Harvey on the radio. Paul often endorsed products on air like the Bose Wave Radio. He was known for endorsing his favorite products on air (in turn for advertising support for his program). I felt that when Qualman talked about product advertising incorporated into programming, it was a tangent and not so much about social media. However, maybe it is best to think about it as talking to people where they are and where they will listen. Social media are powerful tools, and they shape the way people and companies communicate.

Esoteric Theory With a Side Order of Internet Junkie

 

Spilka

Dave Clark’s essay on rhetoric in technology was extremely esoteric but I was able to take away some good ideas. I agree with him that technology and rhetoric are co-embedded in culture (p 85). I also agree that the words rhetoric and technology are both hard to pin down, so doing a review of the discipline is a slippery slope.

The theoretical frameworks he introduces (rhetorical analysis, technology transfer and diffusion, genre theory  and activity theory) don’t seem to click into place- none of them seem to neatly apply themselves to technology rhetoric. It is true when he says, “This lack is unfortunate at a time when technical communicators more than ever need to develop and use rhetorical tools for evaluating and implementing new technologies” (p 96). However, technology (no matter how you define it) is moving so fast that, as a target, it is going to continue to be hard to nail down.

I also found it interesting that he notes that other scholars have acknowledged that current activity theory analyses are incomplete because, “… [they] ignore the circumstances in which much knowledge work is done, that is, in for-profit, hierarchical corporations” (Thralls and Blyler, 1993, p. 14).

Qualman

As I sit here and type, I have no internet. I don’t know the last time this has happened to me. We have ordered an upgrade to our DSL and AT&T didn’t tell us there would be a minimum twelve-hour outage while they complete the steps. It is absolutely disconcerting. Both my husband and I had a day off: he is sick and I took a vacation day to study. When I came downstairs this morning, he said:  “You’re going to have a tough day ahead.” He told me about the outage. I told him I had all my homework on my desktop. Luckily.

It has been frustrating, as I’ve worked on assignments, to not be able to hop on the internet to look up a fact, use the much easier OWL database, and take a ‘brain break’ by checking my Facebook or Pinterest.

The reason I bring all of this up is that it relates to the Qualman reading for this week. He discusses, “That old adage that you can only have two out of the following – cheap, quick, or quality – doesn’t hold true within social media …”(p 108). He’s wrong-o. For us AT&T only lets us have one: quality.

In some of our other readings, he’s talked about the “little man” being able to champion his cause on social media, however some conglomerations are so big and have such a strangle hold that it doesn’t matter if you tweet or blog about it – unless you’re already famous. AT&T won’t let me get an iPhone unless I get a data plan with it. I am in wifi range almost every waking moment of my life. I don’t need a data plan. It made my husband madder than a wet hen that they wouldn’t separate out the service, but we can’t retaliate by boycotting AT&T. We still need them for their sweet, sweet bandwidth.

As of now, I have only three and a half hours left to wait til we’re back online. Maybe. Since I’m really having a hard time with the  withdrawal, it makes me wonder if – as a new media student – I am a junkie studying heroin.

 

Is it time for a Different Social Network?

Is it time for Twitter, is it time for a different  Social Network?

I am not old – I am busy! 
This is my excuse for not utilizing Twitter up until this semester. Of course, when I realized what the content of this particular course would be like, it became apparent that the only way to really understand this phenomenon was to experience it firsthand.

Because the majority of my experience lately is with Facebook, I just assumed that there would be similarities – there are not.  Dave Clark, in his article:  Shaped and Shaping Tools presented me with a much different perspective of Twitter.  When he described his frustration with a program, subsequent Tweet and then an answer from a perfect stranger, it became apparent to me that, unlike Facebook, what we say and do on Twitter reaches the world.

So far, I have found some very interesting Twitter feeds to follow including Mashable, Lifehacker others specifically relating to our school and my own personal interests.  Mashable is purported to be the largest independent online news site and caters to social media. Lifehacker is such an interesting feed and so far. I have seen everything from holiday decorating ideas to feeds about our cyber lifestyles.

This brings to mind our conversations regarding social networking. Because there is not only a possibility, but a probability to meet new people daily through Twitter, I find that this is, indeed a social networking activity.  Not only that, it is much more organized than I ever imagined. My initial impression was that this was a random, willy nilly type of activity where people posted randomly everything from where they were and what they were doing. It is much more than this.  The quality of information available via links and searchable content make this a very powerful resource.

Of course, you will note that what I mostly took away from Clark’s work was his introduction. As he continued on in his writings and the concepts got thicker and thicker, I found that it was increasingly difficult to maintain focus. This is not to say that his concepts and information is not valid and worth study.  I just find a more direct and lest scholarly approach easier to digest.

This being said, Qualman’s readings are much easier to assimilate and compare to real-life situations. His references to the power of social networking are such amazing information. I equate his references to the proverbial drop of water in a bucket. My one purchase may not really mean much on its own, but couple that with the purchases of my friends and their friends and everyone that I am a fan of on Twitter and our bucket is overflowing.

Social Networking on Blogs by Penny C. Sansevieri CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. is an amazing reference to the power of blogs and their place in the land of social networking.  Penny states in her blog post that

“Commenting on blogs posts is a sort of social networking, even better in fact because blog posts and their associated comments are searchable.”

Just like Twitter, we are able to search blog posts for pertinent information and use this information however we desire.  While Penny’s post relates to the trials of getting a publication noticed, it is a powerful statement about the uses and abuses of blogging.

After going through this week’s readings and paying a bit closer attention to both Twitter and blogs posted on the net, I am coming to feel the immense power of social networking. I am also becoming very disillusioned with Facebook. I am starting to yearn more for interesting concepts and tire of daily drama.  Does this make me a bad person? I am curious – how do you answer the following?

Reading-Appropriate Photo Post

I was just surfing on Pinterest, and I saw this. I’ve been filling my head all day with Turkle and Jenkins and it was so spot-on, that I had to share:

“it’s this thin geeky line that keeps it going”

Because I watched this video with my freshman today and because of Chris’s comment to Nate’s post, I thought it might be nice to share Jonathan Zittrain’s TED talk on some of the nicer things that happen on the web.

For more on the community ethos of Wikipedia or what Zittrain refers to as “random acts of kindness by geeky strangers,” be sure to watch Jimmy Wales’ TED talk too. Actually, while I’m link sharing, I also came across this story on the success of Wikipedia today.

Enjoy!

via Jonathan Zittrain: The Web as random acts of kindness | Video on TED.com.

Qualman, 5 & 7

I enjoyed chapter 5 in Qualman, it definitely hit home for me. I have used Facebook since February 2008, and it has been a part of my everyday life ever since. I found it enlightening when it noted how a major part of Facebook’s success is its ability to allow its users to “brag, compete, or look cool” without breaking any of the unacceptable social rules of our society. It is frowned upon to brag about oneself openly to others, but with social media outlets, such as Facebook, our page is our own, and if we want to brag a little, it is totally acceptable. Most of us don’t even realize we are doing it! For instance, if I do well at a rodeo or barrel race, I post that as my status. However, in real life I would never walk up to someone and begin a conversation with my recent successes. Ultimately, I believe we enjoy these social media outlets so much because it allows us to break the rules of society and create a totally “look at me” personal page with only the best pictures of ourselves, only what we like, such as activities, quotes, movies, and books, as well as posting statuses about our beliefs, feelings, and lives that we may never share if no one in the real world asks about it specifically. I have always wondered what it was exactly that made me waste sometimes hours of the day on Facebook, sometimes procrastinating other more important things (such as homework!) in order to do so. I believe Qualman sums it up perfectly. Maybe now with this new outlook I’ll be able make Facebook less of an obsession… maybe!

All Restaurants Are Taco Bell (language)

Ok, so I was so tired tonight –  hard day at work. To relax, I grabbed my Ipad, pressed the icon for Netflix and started watching the first fun, sci-fi movie that I saw: Demolition Man (1993).  The movie had not gone very far when I realized the number of references to elements that are in our Turkle readings.

When I think of the “reduction in meaning” that is referenced by Turkle, I think of a lack of intimacy and even a dehumanizing factor that occurs when using technology.  This movie was absolutely packed full of references to just this.  Here are a few:

  • The dispatcher answers a call and says something like: “911 – if you would like to speak to a recording, press 1 now”.  DAMN!
  • People die and the squad room is shocked, sort of. Moments later when a conveyance is located through technology, everyone is elated and cheers. The deaths are all but forgotten.
  • The Compu-Chat program takes on a human personality and is deferred to as such. Even to go so far as to have an upset individual go to the computer for guidance.
  • The human police officers utilize a computer to walk them, step-by-step, through a narrative in order to act human.
  • The only person (Simon Phoenix), who can master technology can control it. All others are helpless.

Here we have a movie going on 20 years old that is addressing issues that concern us today.  Of course, I am not saying that all restaurants will one day be Taco Bell, but I am saying that to a degree, we are all concerned with technology dehumanizing us.

Chapter 4 and 6

Chapter 4

Social Media creates, solves long voting lines:

Qualman brought a point on political realms when he mentioned how the social media revolution played an important part to help ease the burdens of crowds and hassle which are always the norm during voting exercise. He suggested micro blogging tool to help supply real-time data on polling conditions. The mobile device was a crucial tool because it was used to send in reports. Qualman mentioned so many other alternatives which made the voting exercise to be manageable in the 2008 elections. His assertion is  proved that  utilizing free social media tools and placements is more timely and cost effective than traditional advertising. I like the point Qualman used to  alert politicians and governments regarding the use of social media. He urged them to keep up  with advancements in social media, because they will be left behind. He points out that using social media in politics pays big dividends and also he pointed out the success of Obama’s 2008 and the role of the internet which helped him to win. Social media is here to stay and we are all benefiting from it.

 Chapter 6

Qualman reminded me the importance of Face book postings when he related the  Texas Longhorn offensive lineman and preventative behavior in social media.  Soon after posting his racist update on his Face book profile about Barack Obama when he was elected president of the United States.  I think people should know  that the speed of information exchanged within social media mitigates  casual schizophrenic behavior.

According to  (Qualman, 123) soon after that was posted. Coach Mack Brown kicked the lineman off the team. Even though the lineman posted an apology the damage had already been done. People should know that social media cannot be used for own gain that is offensive or provocative language cannot be entertained on Face book.

I read this article in yahoo news : http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/american-faces-15-years-prison-blog-post-insulting-162308225.html. You may check it out its very important to blog with a sense of responsibility because there is always the law to punish people who are careless so that is why it is important to be ethical in whatever you do especially with social media. There is no way that you can write anything abusive and get away with it.

What I learned:

  • I learned that I should not under estimate the power of social media in all what I do be it on personal or business
  • Social media should be respected at all times for it might get you into trouble if you use it negatively like in the above Texas Longhorn offensive’s story.
  • Ethics should be part of us as long as we move on with social media we will be at peace.

Customer Centered – Not Corporate Centered

In with the old –In with the new!

I consider myself a pretty computer-savvy and up to date kind of gal; however, right out of the box, many of the concepts that R. Stanley Dicks presented refreshed my thinking. Ok, I was not surprised to find out that “Today, a majority of technical communicators are women…” (Spilka, 51).  What was a wakeup call was the concept that our industry is not only about the here and now – it encompasses generations of techniques and information.

EXAMPLE:

This should not have come as a surprise to me because in my own present industry, we have UPS (uninterruptible power systems) units in the field that were manufactured in the 80’s and earlier. In order to provide technical assistance, we have to utilize old manuals. Sometimes, it is necessary to recap these dusty tomes or adjust our present technology to work on these older units. One example is the ports they provide. A technician can easily communicate with a newer unit via the communications card; however, an older unit used a serial port. As many of you know, serial ports are no more standard today on a laptop than a 3 ½ inch floppy drive. This creates an element of transition and clarification when dealing with these older systems.

Present your greater worth or prepare to be outsourced!

Here is a concept that sends shivers up my spine.  Then again, I suppose there are levels and levels of justification to contend with here. A company that does not make a profit cannot afford to hire and if outsourcing menial tasks keeps the boat afloat, then so be it.  I know that many charge ahead with “buy American!” I agree with this sentiment; however, I am
also a realist and what is real to me is that we live in a global world, not just a local neighborhood. We no longer compete with only the talented individuals in our home town. We now compete with people all over the country and world!

It hit home with me when the book’s discussion centered on a post industrialist society and referred to technical communicators of old as “word smiths” (Spilka 54).  This scenario is
nothing new to our society. There was a time when a person graduated high school (or most often not), went to the factory and worked there as unskilled labor for 40 years until they retired with a pension. These jobs have also been mostly outsourced – it is time for America to work smarter!

EXAMPLE:

As many of you know, I work for a company as a Technical Sales Specialist. What is this? It is not simply a salesperson. In order to protect my job, I need to bring many skills to the table while at the same time helping to keep down costs.  I do this by providing the following:

  • Work from home which saves over $600 per month in office expense alone
  • Maintain my own records, do my own calls and provide sales and service to my customers as:
    • Main contact
    • Dispatcher for Technicians
    • Quoting units, services, batteries, parts and other for a variety of manufacturers
    • Provide pricing, availability and freight along with tracking information for orders
    • Maintain a database of technical documentation that can be distributed at need
    • Handle technical calls when they arise, and whenever possible at all hours

Customer Centered

There are other benefits that I provide as well, but in the end it is all about planned job security.  I know that I cannot just sit back and do the minimum – this will flag me for replacement.

As is exemplified in the model by Zuboff and Maxim, I have already placed my customer at the center of my universe – I am ahead of the game.  As a matter of fact, I would consider my
model to be one of Customer-Centered, not Corporation-Centered.

Netflix Caves

I just heard on the news this morning that Netflix abandoned its plans to split their service into two (video streaming and DVD rentals). I can’t help but wonder how much of their decision was driven by social media. I know their was tremendous opposition to their plan and clearly remember the Twitter wire lighting up with #netflix hashtags.

If you are interested the story can by found here: http://mashable.com/2011/10/10/netflix-abandons-qwikster/.

Here is one interesting line from the story. “The move baffled many and was perhaps further complicated by the fact that Netflix had no control over the @Qwikster Twitter account.”

The Dos & Don’ts of Social Media

Least interesting title, huh? I’ll try to do better next time, I promise.

Digital Literacy – Chapter 2

I was surprised to learn the the majority of technical communicators are women (Spilka, 51) – I guess you know what they say about assumptions! Spilka stated that the entire landscape of technical communication is changing so much so that technical communicators  now know possess a set of skills that weren’t even in existence 5 years ago. It’s safe to say that social media has a lot to do with that. Technical communicators have so many more options to communicate with their audience in the social media world, which can be more effective in a way because the conversation can be on-going and continual when using social media networking sites, like Facebook. At the same time, the author warns that it’s important not to assume (going back to what I just said about assumptions…) that the latest communication trend is the most effective way to communicate with any and all audiences. I think this is something good to keep in mind – as technical communicators, it’s important to do our homework on the front end in order assess and evaluate our audience and figure out the best method to relay the message so it is received the most effectively.

Socialnomics – Chapter 4

When I first saw the title of the chapter – Obama’s Success Driven by Social Media – it mad me think of an article I read recently. It was a critical review of a book where an author dissected typestyles and commented on the typestyle that was used on Obama’s campaign materials, stating that it was a font that can be described as “self-assured” and “take charge.”  Anyway, just a interesting little tidbit…

I thought the number of social media supporters for Obama and McCain was really interesting. It would be interesting to research the issue either further to see if Obama had more Facebook friends fans and Twitter followers due to the type of demographic Facebook/Twitter attracted during the election or if it was just truly because he used social media more effectively.

Socialnomics – Chapter 6

The mention of Sims in this chapter was interesting. I never understood why anyone would want an avatar. For me, personally, it’s hard enough keeping up with my professional and personal personas that I don’t see any fun or value in adding another one to the mix.  Of course, I realize people do it for different reasons, which I totally respect, just not my thing in the least. And I chuckled at this sentence: “or perhaps these simulation games will experience a quick death because people may find it difficult to brag about playing a simulated game that replicates life instead of just leading their own lives.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

I’m not sure what I think about the NFL creating fake Facbook pages in order to gain access to potential new players. I see their point, of course, but I’m not sure if I like the “I gotcha!” mentality.  But in the end, Qualman is right – don’t put anything on your Facebook page that could damage your reputation. Keep it PG!

Week 6 | Obama Drove His Own Success

I was listening to NPR on the radio on the way home from work on Thursday when an interesting story came on the air. Ahmed Al Omran, a NPR social media intern was discussing the how social media was helping to influence political change in the Middle East in an interview on Morning Edition with host, Renee Montagne. Omran spoke about how new technologies and tools like Twitter and Facebook allowed bloggers in Arab countries to “stimulate and accelerate political change in the region.” He was on a panel at a meeting for bloggers discussing the role of the social media, and discussed this with Montagne:

MONTAGNE: You know, much was said about Twitter at the time because Twitter, of course, is much quicker and can really, you know, help organizationally. What are people there saying about the role of Twitter?

OMRAN: I was sitting on a panel about the role of Twitter on the first day, and most people on the panel seemed to agree that while Twitter was important to help people to organize and also to get the word out, and then it’s just a tool. You know, we cannot call this a Twitter revolution or a Facebook revolution. It’s the revolution of the people. And the people in that revolution would use whatever tools that are available to them.

I thought, bingo, Omran—it wasn’t Twitter or Facebook that caused Obama to be elected to presidency in 2008. Obama was just using whatever tools he had available on the road to presidential victory, and using them extremely well. I disagree with Qualman’s comment in Socialnomics that “Obama would not be president without the Internet (Qualman, p 87).” It’s hard to say what would have happened if Obama ran a traditional advertising campaign. That is a speculative premise. Would Obama not have used traditional media well enough to win the election?

When all was said and done, the campaign was still about people casting votes. People voted for Obama because he connected with them. He was extremely charismatic, he had a popular message of political change, and he didn’t have much political baggage. Like Montagne said with tools like Twitter, his messages were delivered quickly, and the conversation between presidential hopeful and voters was a two-way conversation. People connected with the man through his camp’s tweets and behind the scenes footage. Obama’s eloquent speaking abilities sealed the deal with the American public.

This reminds me of another presidential hopeful who used new media to his advantage. John F. Kennedy used television to his advantage over Richard Nixon during the famous televised debate between the two. Kennedy looked glowing and calm while Nixon looked haggard and nervous. That was a milestone debate because after it, everyone learned that makeup and camera charisma was essential to putting the right foot forward on TV. Obama wasn’t elected because he had the internet, although he was the first presidential candidate to utilize social media tools extremely well to connect with people.

How Can Communicators Increase Profits?

I found the R. Stanley Dicks article in the Spilka book really interesting–especially the section on economics. Studying economics is passion of mine. While most people’s bookshelves are filled with great fiction, mine is filled with books on economics by F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Adam Smith. I know. I’m a dork. But it is probably why I found this section of the Dicks article so fascinating. It also got me thinking how technical communicators can increase profits for their organization. Dicks article touched on some of this, but there wasn’t any real advise on how to increase profits. He basically says technical communicators need to show their value. They need to show that they are more than wordsmiths. I agree.

Technical communicators are in an interesting position in their organizations, well, at least in my experience anyways. Technical communicators typically know all the different facets of the organization because they work with all the departments. I’ve put this to work for me. Because I know all the parts of the organizations, I look for connections between groups and find ways for them to collaborate. For example, I work with one group that is responsible for managing Virtual Private Network (VPN) for the University of Minnesota. They provide VPN clients for people to download and install on their computers. I manage their website and documentation. I work with another group that uses Microsoft Active Directory to manage computers (e.g., deploy software, make updates, control power usage). Because I work with both groups, I made the connection that these two groups need to work together, so the VPN group can use Active Directory to deploy their VPN clients.

That is just one example of how I make connections to get people to work together. I wouldn’t have possible if I wasn’t familiar with both departments because of my work communicating for them. This example doesn’t translate directly into increase profits (Keep in mind I work in higher ed. There are no profits.). But it does translate into savings through increased efficiency.

I like the example I gave because I think it is something realistic that technical communicators can do to show their value to their organization.

Social Media and Online Issues

Social media has forever changed the way people interact with each other.  People are interacting more online and less in person. This is good news for people like me that don’t like to talk to people face-to-face.

Qualman, Chapter 4: First of all, I love this book because it makes sense and I think almost anyone could learn a lot from it. If I believed that the management at my company could read and comprehend good information, I would have them read this book. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Anyway, I loved how Yahoo saw a trend happening and then shared that information with Pepsi so Pepsi could sign a contract with Brittney Spears before she became really popular. This showed me how powerful the Internet really is.

On page 70, Qualman talked about how they can create kind of a “flu neighborhood” due to how and where people are searching ‘flu symptoms’ online. I never realized that this could happen and I think it’s pretty remarkable that the Internet can actually be used for good instead of evil.

Everything that seems to happen online is tracked, charted, and used to try to make some money. That sounds pretty familiar to any company.

Qualman, Chapter 6: On page 124, Qualman talked about how the NFL set up fake Facebook accounts to spy on cheerleaders. This is something that I don’t understand. Do people actually accept the friendship from people that they don’t know on their personal Facebook account? Maybe I’m missing something but I only friend people that I know. If you’re an NFL cheerleader and you friend everyone because you’re kind of celebrity, then you should know better than to post something that could affect your job.

It also seems kind of stupid for the NFL to spy on people. The world has become too politically correct and I can’t stand it anymore. It seems like if one person gets offended then you have to make a huge apology to everyone.

Where do we draw the line about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate for social media? I don’t think you can. Social media seems to have created a problem where companies cannot only interact with their audience; they can offend them, too.

Spilka, Chapter 2 by R. Stanley Dicks:  There were two things that jumped out to me in this chapter—Paper catalogs doing the same thing as Web sites and using electronic data storage instead of paper when possible.

At my company, I write catalogs for aftermarket power-sports products that get printed and I also write the same information for the Web site. The problem is doing this is a lot harder than you would think. The catalog is easy to write because it’s more of a linear document and all the necessary information for a certain product is in one spot of one page. When you put a product from the catalog into the Web site, you have to figure out how many different ways a user might search for that product. The user might search by the fitment, part number, color, brand, cost, manufacturer, material, style, size, and so on. In the catalog, the user can only search by brand or the name of the product. As an author, I have to be careful so I make sure that all of the necessary information is in the Web site for the user. If the information is not there, then the user might get frustrated and shop at one of our competitors.

The other thing about my company is they are super old-school when it comes to documenting everything. They want everything on paper. We could save a ton of money if we would store and share information electronically but they won’t because management thinks it would cost too much money to supply everyone with the proper software. The thing is, the money the company would save on paper would offset the cost of the software over time. It’s frustrating to work for a company that is stuck in the past when you’re used to working on the front line of the future.

Dicks and Qualman: Thematic Trends

During this week’s readings, I identified a few shared themes that both authors touched on – although their approaches were very different. In this week’s post, I’ll review both authors’ ideas about two topics: middlemen and specialization.

Middlemen Beware

Both authors agree that, in the new information economy, there will be fewer communication obstacles between parties in corporate relationships. That means fewer “middlemen,” no matter what relationship.

The first example of middleman elimination is in regards to internal corporate communication. According to R. Stanley Dicks in his article “The Effects of Digital Literacy” from the anthology Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, supervisors are becoming less and less necessary as knowledge workers become more savvy and come into the workplace at a similar educational level as their supervisors. During the industrial age, supervisors oversaw eight to ten workers. Dicks asserts that supervisors can now lead 30-40 workers due to their education and motivation levels (p. 67-68).

Qualman, in his book Socialnomics, makes a similar argument about the layers; however, his assertions cover the relationship between company and consumer. Web 2.0 has given customers the power to communicate directly with the company – and with their peer groups in regard to a company’s products, services and behaviors. In the past if a customer had a complaint, the only recourse they had was to contact customer service. Since customer service calls were private, one-on-one conversations the general public wouldn’t know anything about problems. Compaines could more easily get away with shoddy products or services. These days, companies need to be watchful. With the transparency of Web 2.0, customer experiences – whether good or bad – are broadcast to the world. Qualman states, “…the  iddlemen are becoming less important than they’ve been in the past, and the rise in power is shifting rapidly to the social graph” (133).

Specializing

The authors both touch on the idea of specialization, but approach them from very different angles.

A running theme in the Dicks reading is the idea that technical communicators must abandon the old paradigm of being solely writers and editors, and embrace a broader view of their role in the future. He asserts that technical communicators should become “symbolic-analytic workers,” who are able to “analyze, synthesize, combine, rearrange, develop, design and deliver the same information that they or others will then modify for multiple audiences” (p.54). He also claims that technical communicators may want to learn skills outside their normal purview, like “…learning about Extensible Markup Language (XML), databases, and some light programming…” (p. 70). Workers who develop these skills are less likely to be casualties of companies outsourcing writing and editing duties.

Qualman explores the importance of specialization from a company marketing perspective. He discusses the fact that many companies try have a broad appeal by advertising many of their features rather than homing in on a specialty. Rather than use scattershot marketing to hit as many potential targets as possible, these days companies have to emphasize how they’re unique, both to set themselves apart and to let their niche customers find them. “If you don’t have a niche position in a marketplace that you are  attempting to defend from your competition, and you are trying to be all things to all people, then you are doomed to failure” (p 128).

As can be seen from the readings, experts are finding trends in this new information age of ours. Although their approaches are different, I think it’s interesting that these themes keep popping up on parallel tracks. Has anyone else noticed any interesting trends in our readings?

Steve’s Apple

“Three Apples changed the World, one seduced Eve,one fell on Newton and the third was offered to the World,half bitten by Steve Jobs.” – BBC

 

Spilka Chapter 2

 

After reading chapter 2 on the effects of digital literacy on the nature of technical communication work I concluded that change is inevitable in technical communication realms. The chapter explained that most documents were written with the assumption that their audience consisted of technologically savvy users. This gives the writer less work because its use did not have to be explained. I like the ease of work in all areas. Spilka mentioned the replacing of old industrial modeled organizations by support organizations with specialty in managing customer’s interactions with service and product providers. This is the reason of ease of work because all I have to do when taking vacations is to get on the internet and keep in touch with a support person who already has on file my preferences for all of the services to do everything for me. The chapter emphasized on the tutorials and three-dimensional user interfaces. Spilka mentioned that technical communicators need to reshape their status by learning technologies and methodologies like single sourcing. Single sourcing is good because it is the use of one single document as the source for multiple kinds of product support documents

Such as manuals and online help.

Outsourcing has been part of technical communication for a long time. The meaning of outsourcing: it is an effort to improve the bottom line so that a company’s profits will be higher and its stock will be more attractive to investors. Spilka brought brilliant points about methods to prevent technical communicators prevent their jobs from being outsourced. The strategy is to make sure that they do symbolic analytic work instead of commodity work. Commodity work includes routine writing describing the features and functions of a product.

RIP Steve Jobs

In Laura Gurak’s 2001 book Cyberliteracy: Navigating the Internet with Awareness, she defines “cyberliteracy” as inherent of four traits:

  • SPEED:  the Internet inspires speediness; it is one of the key features of Internet communication.  And this speed inspires certain behaviors and qualities.
  • REACH:  partner of speed and one of the axioms of communication technology.  Digitized discourse travels quickly and it also travels widely to reach thousands, even millions, quickly!
  • ANONYMITY:  sometimes you really never know who is at the other end of an electronic text.  In cyberspace, the identity behind what you see floating on the screen is not always what you imagine.
  • INTERACTIVITY:  online communications technologies allow you to talk back.  Interactivity inspires us to consider—access to the inner circle [everyone can be part of the discussion and step through the screen], capacity to talk back [form communities of common interest], a two-way presence online [the lure of an audience of millions], ecommerce and connections to the customer [ways for customers to interact with each other and with customer service], privacy [more interactive a site, the greater the potential for privacy problems]

I mention this tonight to call attention to the first two traits. The speed with which news of Steve Jobs death has spread across Twitter and Facebook is astounding. And many of the “RIP” messages and memorials exemplify the reach he and Apple products have had over the years.

Apple.com now looks like this:

 

 

 

with the following call on http://www.apple.com/stevejobs/:  “If you would like to share your thoughts, memories, and condolences, please email rememberingsteve@apple.com.”

Google and Wired.com already have tributes up as well, but I’m most interested in seeing what Apple does with the emails it receives. Online memorials & crisis communications are very interesting to me…I’ll write more on this as the news emerges.

Qualman and Social Media

Qualman incorporated quite a number of examples to promote his idea about the popularity of social media. I found Dancing Matt-Something to Chew On interesting amongst them all. The idea of Mathew Harding quitting his job to travel and filmed his dance for entertaining is unique. The video passed around by email is evident enough to promote social media. The statistics revealed that Matt’s server received 20,000 hits a day is alarming. I like the way Qualman , 27 describes the beauty of the video with no language barriers because visual rhetoric is self explanatory.

This connects well with visual rhetoric because a good visual design works the same way as an argument, conveying information without excessive elaboration. Qualman  further gives a good description of Matt’s video. He said,  “it really makes you feel good about us one day eventually all being connected globally”. To me it seems that with social media a person can connect anywhere. With social media we can be able to do anything because social media will always be our mouthpiece.

I like the idea that Qualman mentioned about the success of a brand because of simply associating itself with social media that is already virally successful which gives other brands something to chew on.

Qualman 4 & 6

Qualman’s discussion of living in a “schizophrenic” world was interesting to me. I feel we all do this whether we realize it or not. I know for a fact I have different personas. I have the person I am at work, extremely professional, a little shy, and productive. Then I have the person I am on the weekends, a cowgirl hauling to rodeos and barrel races with my horses and boyfriend. Sometimes I feel as though I’m leading a double life! This got me thinking about the personas we portray of ourselves on social media sites such as Facebook. Personally I can think of several people I am subscribed to on Facebook that post statuses that seem very different than who the person is in real life. However, the subscribers that I don’t know personally, I feel as though I know them through reading their statuses… but is that a reasonable way to feel as if I “know” someone? Probably not.

Qualman Chapter 1

Qualman brought up a whole different perspective regarding social media that I had never taken into account. He explains that we as human beings have the need to belong and yet to be an individual in order to be fulfilled. Social media plays into both of these needs, allowing each person their own “page” while also connecting them with their own networks of friends, family, coworkers, as well as complete strangers the individual may have never met. The creators of social media websites use different ways to keep the users “coming back for more” with the way they word different areas of their sites. For instance, using Facebook: we “like” each other’s postings, making the user feel as though they are getting approval from their friends. Friend requests rather than saying “subscriber” causes the user to feel as though that person is interested in their page, photos, and thoughts when the person may be a complete stranger sending out friend requests to random people so they too can feel as though they belong. I have fallen victim to Facebook, I love it! I found Qualman’s outlook on social media to be another unique way of analyzing the hold it has on our society.

Question | Do You Type your Blogposts in Word?

I’m using the Notepad program on my computer to paste my blog post from Word to Wordpad to get rid of the formatting that carries over from Word when I paste it into the Word Press post box. I’ve tried a few times to write my blogs in the blog post box, but somehow end up clicking something I’m not supposed to and deleting what I’ve written. Does anyone have a better method?

Week 5 | Digital Technology Gives Power to the Little Guy

If He-man were a technical communicator in the age of social media

Social media and personal computers at every work space has cut out a lot of middle men and shifted power from a few big entities to many individuals. It is a fundamental shift and the overarching theme between Spilka and Qualman readings this week.

Many people have heard how online news and content is quickly diminishing the viability of printed newspapers and magazines. Readership of printed newspapers has declined. People don’t have to wait for the news to break, be printed, and get distributed. Even more, social media is changing who is distributing the news.

Qualman features a hypothetical news story example involving the car accident of a U.S. senator from Idaho. Both a popular newspaper conglomerate in New York a local political enthusiast blogger cover the story. In the end, more people probably read this news from the blogger than the news source because the blogger knew more about the local senators, was able publish the news online faster, and offered her content free. Her friends read the blog post, and her friend’s friends keep passing the word on. People get news with less of a middle man like a news organization. It is an interesting case study that shows the power may be shifting to bloggers. Qualman (p. 12) states that newspapers can’t just get by on delivering news to stay viable. Instead, the newspaper must provide analysis and commentary.

I have to note, however, that the reputation of the newspaper must have some merit. I would more likely click on the newspapers link on the story than the bloggers link on the story. I might not have guessed the blogger to be a credible source on the topic. If I could not read an article because a subscription was required, I’d search for another name in news who was delivering the news story for free.

I appreciated Table 1.1 (Spilka p. 24-25), but I would have understood the example faster if I would have known who the large employer was. I wasn’t sure at first what point the table was trying to make, being that the technical communicator’s role in a large corporation has changed drastically since the 1970s. My guess is the table is a case study of IBM because the company went from making mainframe computer systems to PCs to networks and databases like Watson, the supercomputer.

Spilka reviewed how technology has fundamentally changed the role of the technical communicator. I believe technology has changed every field of work, nonetheless, Spilka made an important point. Before personal computers desktop publishing, communication would have to go through a lengthy production process. But now, the power shifted from a technical communicator who could not produce communication to a technical communicator who could do it all—create and produce.

By being able to do it all, so to speak, bloggers and technical communicators can reach niche markets and small interest groups like never before. Traditional media’s content like TV and newspapers is generated by only a few and is good for reaching the masses. On the other hand, internet’s content is generated by many. Social media has created a huge shift in information holders and distributors (Qualman, p. 11). People are web authors through wikis, they develop micro content with blogs, and interface in an online software applications, thus cutting out the middle man TV or newspaper distributing the content. Like never before, an individual has power and influence.

Social Media: Embrace It or Suffer

First off, I didn’t really care for the Carliner article this week. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. I’m just getting a little tired of reading about the history of technical communication. Carliner took a little different approach with his article though, focusing the technology and how that technology shaped the field. I guess that was pretty interesting. Also, it was interesting to see how the technical communicator’s job changed as the technology changed. Now, our jobs are changing again. Web 2.0 technologies have made everyone an expert. Anyone can create content. At first, it seems as though technical communicators are being replaced with an endless supply of free labor that create content just because they like to. However, that is not the case. Technical communicators only need to adapt. We become content strategists, Communication Specialist,  Social Media Curators, and so on.

I also found it interesting that the early word processing and desktop publishing tools required the use of tags, much like HTML. Eventually those complex systems became simpler WYSIWYGs. The same thing happened to web development tools. Early on, when creating  website, you had to write the whole thing in HTML. But as tools advanced, you could build a website with drag-and-drop tools and WYSIWYGs. However, none of these tools work quite right for the web designer who cares about his/her code. Most drag-and-drop tools leave the code on the backend messy, which isn’t good. Messy code slows down load time. Also, messy code usually means the website will not pass accessible standards because screen readers have trouble reading the code.

I just thought I’d mention that above paragraph as an example of technology that makes technical communication easier, but isn’t quite there yet.

Expand Your Drama Universe or Make a Real Impact on the Virtual Plane

Good news and bad news.

First the bad news:

At the very start of Qualman’s 1st chapter, I was a bit annoyed.  It goes without saying that Qualman will be “Pro-Social Network” – I get that. But what aggravated me was the wholesale way he touts goodness for all through social media.  Personally, I think that there is as much crap coming out of social media as there is goodness and light.

I am speaking from personal experience. I began with a Facebook page, added only my family and some friends, closed off my access to just those that are friends, and ended up deleting about ¼ of the people on my list.  A good majority of these were family.  These are the reasons:

  • Games, games and more games being posted at all hours of the day and night (yes I would select not to show, but then some new  game would come out and I would be back at it again) Farmville, Fishworld, Cafe’ World, Gardens of Time, The Smurfs & Co. – you name it!
  • Profanity – while I can swear like a drunken sailor driving a truck with a broken foot, I don’t need to read it over and
    over by people not old enough to drive
  • D R A M A! “I am so mad at the %$ing )*$(%) and  you know who you are” (I don’t care)
  • REPOST this if you think Facebook will charge next month, if you are wearing pink underwear or if you mom is a real %*(%$

Qualman states “The younger the generation, the less concerned they are about privacy” (Qualman, 2). He sure has that right!  Does TMI mean anything to these people?

I understand that by keeping in touch we can get that perfect recipe ingredient, know how to decorate a bicycle and find out the most intimate detail about the neighbor, but this really doesn’t always save us time. What it does is sanitize our interactions and makes us a little less human. (personal opinion folks).

In a perfect world, the social networking scenario would be responsible and productive – but most humans are just not built that way.  Too many of them use these venues to expand their Drama Universe.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying that all social networking is the devil – far from it!  I am saying that reality needs to be brought into the room, and not simply checked at the door.

Now the Good News!

I have stared at a blank word document on many occasions trying to figure out how people write and post on the internet and then ultimately become known for what they have to say.  Sitting here, it seemed to me that by posting to my blog that has no followers or to my twitter account which as 2 followers, there is no way I can speak to the world.

But Qualman enlightened me to the “and she told two friends” concept of social networking. Now I can see how my little blog post, which I post to my facebook page and twitter about can be “liked” by someone, reposted and eventually reach someone I never, ever knew.  This is powerful stuff!

**NOTE: While I begin posting today quite harshly, please do not take that as an indication that I feel Qualman does not know his stuff. I merely tend to disagree with someone who says that the top and bottom of my shoe will remain equally clean no matter where I will tread.

Dear Tempur-Pedic, You got the right stuff.

I was watching a commercial today for Tempur-Pedic and they stated it was “the most recommended bed in America.” They said to log on their Facebook page and see for yourself. So, I went on the site to see what the buzz was about and I was so shocked to see how popular it was. People posted photos of their new bed (!), opinions of their recommendations and asked questions regarding their bed while other posters responded. Additionally, Tempur-Pedic posted articles about sleep studies and updated their status, one that said “Who needs a nap?”, which 156 people liked. I was floored! I don’t think I’ve seen that much interaction on a company’s Facebook page and I didn’t expect it, especially with a bed company. I love to see that companies that previously didn’t have that type of interaction on the web and with their customers now have an inexpensive outlet to reach their customers through a two-way conversation with other customers and between the customers and the company.

And if all those things I mentioned above were not enough, here’s an example of how the company really takes care of their customers:

I think Tempur-Pedic’s response to this was perfect – and the fact that they responded and offered a solution is great. I really appreciate that they didn’t delete the post to “help” their reputation but posted both the good and the bad, which gives them credibility and, additionally, you know it’s a company that’s willing to work with you if you’re not satisfied with their product.

Qualman mentioned in Chapter 1 that there’s an argument out there, “well I already don’t have enough time in my day, how can I possibly follow anybody else or keep those following me informed? I can’t waste my time like that!” I think that ties into the Tempur-Pedic “case study” nicely because it shows that people follow and keep up with what’s important to them. While I have no interest in what bed I sleep in (and, no, I don’t own a Tempur-Pedic), I do care about what my best friend is up to and going to Better Homes & Garden’s to download a free cookbook. I think that’s the beauty of Facebook – that you can find your own niche and concentrate on that instead of trying to absorb everything out there on social media networking sites.

Do you guys know of other companies who’s social networking web sites are successful?

Social Media–The Leader for News

Qualman: I really liked this chapter because it explained social media and why it can be valuable. The part of the chapter that reached out to me was when the author was talking about how all blogs are not bad. I liked the example of blogger Jane because it showed me how a national news story isn’t only a national story, it’s also a local story to the people that live in that area.

The blogger Jane story reminded me of the 35W bridge collapse that occurred in Minneapolis, MN in August of 2007.  It was a huge national story but to me, it was a local story because I live in Minneapolis and I have crossed that bridge a thousand times. I could relate to Jane and how she had a close connection to details about the senator because she worked at the courthouse and already new a lot about him. When the 35W bridge collapsed, I new two people that were on the bridge when it fell and one of them survived and one of them did not. I never posted anything about it on Facebook or anywhere on the Internet, but I did tell some of my friends and family and I’m sure they used my details (that weren’t in the news) of the victims and spread them by word of mouth.

Qualman is right when he said that word of mouth goes world of mouth because news travels faster than ever. I used to love reading the newspaper but that doesn’t happen anymore because by the time the newspaper is printed, it’s all old news to me. I get all of my news from Twitter, Facebook, and some news apps that I have on my iPhone.  It seems that everyone who uses social media is a journalist because everyone with social media, has an audience.

Spilka: I liked the history that Spilka provided about Technical Communication. I pretty much knew the history of Tech. Comm. because we always talked about it in my undergrad classes at UW-Stout. The thing that jumped out to me was when Spilka was referring to technical communicators and she said, “It’s time to adapt or move over” (p.2).  This is totally true.

I used to ignore technology and it really hurt me for a long time. Now that I’m a Technical Communicator, I have learned to embrace technology and use it to my advantage. I think my problem was that I didn’t understand a lot about technology and that scared me. Now that I’m familiar with it, I’m not afraid of technology at all. A little knowledge can go a long way.

The only thing I question about the Spilka reading is that not all companies are willing to adapt to technology. My company understands the need for technical communicators but they will not let us use current technologies so we can operate at a maximum level. It’s so frustrating knowing that I could be more efficient in my job if my company would just put some extra money back into itself and if they would try to learn about the benefits of technology. They are so old-school and afraid of change that they hurt themselves financially and internally because employees that brace technology can really see how much better the company would be if it would embrace technology too.

Digital Literacy for Technical Communication

The description of how technology changed jobs and job titles of technical communicators made my heart to leap a bit before I finished the chapter. I had already been having a feeling my professional interests are taken away. After reading thoroughly I understood the shakeup technical communicators went through in the early seventies. This week’s essay made me fully understand why McKenzie described technological advances as a ‘revolution’ she furthermore believes that change requires fine balance (McLunann,25). The style and methods used in Spilka’s essay all the transitions made by professional communicators as Spilka well lay them out the timeline played a vital role.

Timeline 1970s to-date summarizes the occurrences especially the responsibilities of technical communicators. Upon reading the week’s reading it dawned to me that technical communicators played a very important role. The primary job for technical communicators was to document the functions and features of the systems in order to accomplish a true reflection of their role in the production of technical content. When reading I confirmed the following to be primary task for a technical writer:

  • On-the-job mentoring
  • Training
  • Editing product specifications
  • Technical writers had earlier had assistance from typing pool.

1980’s Change was inevitable: Customers increased and this changed the nature of technical communication.

It is amazing to learn that the contributing factor that the work of a technical communicator was affected by the change in markets for computers and the rise of word processing and desktop publishing.

Shifting of technical communicator’s responsibilities with new job title as information developer who also tried to influence the design of the systems to  minimize barriers. I just thought this was a nice move  and I appreciate that the product and technical expertise continued to be highly valued.

What I learned:

  • I learned that the work of information developers was affected by the rise of word processing and automated publishing affected the way information developers prepared content.
  • Late 1990’s shifting from mainframe computers to PCs was complete. Merging of the internet as primary means of communicating online
  • Change of the job of the technical communicator as they worked at client sites to document installations and customized applications.
  • Two categories of assignments were designers of  screens, prompts, and forms with  which users interacted in the application software.

The significant shift in printing came with a significant change in typing which I appreciate the idea of reduction of number of errors that comes with spell check this is the reason I believe the spell check feature was the best discovery in the writing realms.

I also discovered that more information this week  about the desktop revolution that it brought ease of computer literacy. One of the remarkable part of this revolution was the word processing applications that handled the entry revision, simple formatting, and printing of documents. Technical communicators benefited from grade-level checkers.

As other standards emerged for user interfaces was an advantage because users could transfer some skills from a familiar application to a new one.

As the revolution proceeded the third phase in the development of technology for technical communication  the was move to Graphical User Interfaces. Graphical interface offered advantages:

  • Frame maker became the dominant desktop publishing product in the field of technical communication
  • Desktop publishing programs produced plates this reduced printing costs.Check this out http://frame-makers.com/

The year 2000

Email became one of the primary means of interpersonal communication and a lot more like exchanging files through email made easy-to-use file transfer mechanisms.

Considering the central role played by technology in technical communication it is undisputed that technology has been also a tool that facilitated the work in a life of a technical communicator. It gives pride to technical communicators to know that they have been their own designers, illustrator, and production assistants and their own editors. Multitasking has played a role in technical communication. Overall the word revolution is the best description.

 

 

Oh, yeah. And Qualman too…

I think it is very interesting to see Qualman’s “Jane the Idaho Blogger” scenario in action. Initially there was little to no major media coverage of the Wall Street protests that are happening. I kept getting updates on my Facebook page linking to blog stories about the protests. I think that so many people were disseminating information that the major media outlets were forced to cover it or look like they were siding with corporate. Silence can be an endorsement.

Back in the olden days, big media could have ignored this and Nobody Would Have Known About it. Had it not been for social media, this would have been a non-story, and the lack of viral information would probably have killed it after the first couple of protests.

Here’s the most recent story one of my friends linked on Facebook: http://wapo.st/qXQExI

Week 5 Reading Response

The Spilka reading covered a lot of ground. The forward and intro were good to put everything into context.

It’s true that the digital revolution has changed everything. After having done the digital narrative about myself, this was another way for me to see how I grew up in tandem with technology. Everything that was mentioned is stuff I worked with, dabbled in, or was away from by one  degree of separation. My husband has been a computer guy since I met him, so even if I didn’t work with programs myself, I learned from him what they were and how they worked.

I was just a kid during Phase 1, was in junior high and high school during the Desktop Revolution of Phase 2, was in college and in my first jobs during Phase 3 and was working in advertising during Phase 4. How exciting to be on a parallel track with the technology that has changed the world so much.

In a lot of ways, this article has bummed me out. I am on the wrong end of the seemingly two-pronged path of technical communication. I’m on the creative side that’s being farmed out or shipped overseas. I feel that the creative skills are not valued as much as those of the technical/programmer/software engineer. In some ways even I feel like they have the “money” skills, but I think writing has to be valued differently. To communicate effectively, you need to be able to write clearly. If you want to convey meaning or persuade, you need to have a much more subtle grasp of the English language. Just like some people have talent to program script, some people can see shades of meaning within words that can make the difference between a good piece of copy and a great one.

It makes me worry about the career path that I’ve chosen. If it is of so little value, what can be done to change the field enough to be relevant again? One of the paragraphs that stuck out the most for in the introduction is the section where Spilka asks,

“How many of us fully understand all new types of technology that have sprung up in recent years?…Do the changes mean that we need to abandon skills that we have worked so hard to acquire and to set aside strategies that have worked for us in the past, but that have become   outmoded? Has the time arrived that we now need to work especially hard to acquire new skills and to develop and try out new strategies?” (Spilka, p.9)

As the meme says: “Wat do?” http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/wat-do