Monthly Archives: September 2012

We No Longer Search for “All the News that Isn’t”–It Finds Us (And then we copy it)

In his book Socialnomics, Qualman reminds us of the Tina Fey/Sarah Palin skits on Saturday Night Live.

Do you remember how much fun people had watching and talking about these satires? Qualman finds the skits interesting in terms of how popular they were, and where people watched them. According to NBC estimates, 50 million people watched the skits, but according to Solutions Research Group, more than half the viewers saw these over the internet. People had it pushed directly to their social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

I wonder if that’s how Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gets his news from The Onion. Does he have The Onion “liked” on his Facebook page? Maybe not anymore. The satirical news source, The Onion fooled Ahmadinejad and Iran’s official news agency with a story titled “Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama.” The spoof article states that results of a recent poll show that rural white Americans would rather vote for, go to a ball game with, and have a beer with Ahmadinejad than President Obama.

Well, not only has the internet made it really easy to share the news with others, it has made it really easy to steal the news as well. Iran’s official news agency took the article (you remember it was a satire, right?), passed it off as their own journalism, and then published it in Iran.

I suspect heads may roll over this goof-up.

Qualman’s book says that some people think the SNL skits with Tina Fey may have influenced the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. Did some people think that was actually Sarah Palin? Did people mistake SNL’s comedy for serious journalism?

Similar questions can be asked of The Onion incident. Does Ahmadinejad really think I’d rather share a home brew with him than with President Obama? Really? The Iranian news agency can’t recognize the satire in The Onion?

Actually, I’m not surprised. Sad, but not surprised. Satire and verbal irony can be tough to catch. (Every time I go through Stephen Crane’s poem “Do Not Weep, Maiden, For War Is Kind” with my sophomores, I have a frightening number of students who insist that Crane’s message was pro-war, despite me and other students pointing out the gruesome battle imagery and lines such as “… a field where a thousand corpses lie.”)

So what if people get fooled by internet content? A lot of people are being fooled by what’s on the internet. It used to be that the reliable news sources “looked” reliable. They hade professional layout, quality graphics, good photography, and they were the only sources that could afford to be published or televised. Now, digital technology and the internet give everyone the ability to self-publish professional-looking content. If our material is packaged right, it might get passed along to others. The problem is that it takes a more sophisticated audience to recognize credible sources today than it did ten years ago. Maybe satirical internet content should have to carry a warning label or start with the standard opening, “A funny thing happened on the way to Tehran the other day…”

“Friss oder Stirb” aka “Adapt or Die”

I found Myers “Adapt or Die” pretty intriguing from the get go. Instantaneously, I thought, “Friss oder Stirb”. Just for the heck of it I punched it into my (online) translator and got back the phrase “It’s sink or swim”. Oookay, let’s go for a swim or let’s say a stroll down memory lane. According to the articles by Spilka and Carliner, I would like to show you how digital technology influenced my work as a technical communicator.

I think I saw Phase Two, the desktop revolution. I remember when I first started in the Technical Writing department, my coworkers had sets of manuals for each machine type, which they then photocopied and filled out (by hand) with the technical specification of the particular machine this manual was for. But one of them had already a computer and digitalized those forms, etc. But I think I remember that it was kind of complicated to create a table because the software didn’t offer these features – yet. The graphics – like e.g. for the spare parts lists – were done by a sub-contractor who did so-called explosion drawings. These graphics really showed well how each part fit in with the other ones to form for example a gear. When the company acquired computer-aided design tools, those drawings were replaced by two-dimensional drawings that didn’t fulfill the purpose as well. The engineering department created all those graphics since none of us technical writers knew how to work with CAD programs.

Of the GUI revolution, or Phase Three, I didn’t feel the impact that considerably. For the same reasons Carliner states, we used PC’s. Microsoft Word was the program of choice to do the operating instructions, to integrate sub-suppliers documentation and so forth. We never gave our manuals out to print. They were all customized and delivered in such low numbers. From the copy machine to the laser printer was just a small step for our department.

Since our department created just manuals, not websites, the impact of Phase Four, the Web1.0, was also pretty low on us technical writers. I remember, we had some requests for online documentation. So we converted our word files into PDF’s and were proud that we could connect the table of contents to the appropriate chapters. The last change I remember before I left was that we gave clients a login possibility to our website where they then had the chance to download the PDF file to their specific machine. We were pretty proud of that service. No wait, yes, we just started to integrate our documents in a small content management system, but it was very difficult to navigate and work with. So we ended up using it just for one machine type – an insignificant one. The documentation procedures for all other machine types remained the same.

Of Phase Five (Web 2.0) I just learn here in this program. It is interesting to use some of the newest technology in a safe classroom setting before purchasing it on company’s expenses and then finding out that it doesn’t quite fit the requirements. Many programs are great to use in some part of our professional lives. Others are just not practical for some work situations.

However, when reading Spilka’s and Carliner’s works, I just realized how much I already adapted throughout my working years – without ever paying attention to it. It almost happened unconsciously. I guess what I would like to say is that if we are truly interested in this profession we will find a way to adapt to new technologies, as we will find our own place, our own niche to succeed as technical communicators. Do we have to adapt to each new technology that is out there? I don’t think so. We just have to pay attention and keep ourselves updated and then pick and choose for our specific situations. Sometimes there is a different way than “Friss oder Stirb” or “Adapt or Die”. Sometimes we don’t have to adapt to each new trend out there. Sometimes we won’t die right away.

Technology and Technical Communication

I always find it fascinating to read about the history of the technical communication profession. It is undeniable that technology—particularly the advent of personal computers and the Internet—has completely transformed the landscape for technical communicators. Saul Carliner’s chapter (Computers and Technical Communication in the 21st Century) in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication does a great job describing the impact of technological changes on the role of the technical communicator.

“Technology has always played a central role in technical communication. At first, it served primarily as the subject about which technical communicators wrote. As various publishing technologies emerged, the technology also became the tool that facilitated the work” (p. 45).

Advancements in technology have certainly made life much easier for technical communicators today than in past decades. Frankly, I can’t imagine the amount of rework that communicators had to put into early documents created using a typewriter, retyping content for each correction or addition. Additionally, the challenges that came along with printing and formatting in the 1970s and 1980s were considerable. Today we, as technical communicators, have fancy software that comparably makes it a breeze for us to perform our jobs, and to create an appealing and usable product that meets the needs of our audience.

While I came away from this chapter with a new appreciation for all the technological advancements we benefit from, I also now recognize that the role of the technical communicator has become a lot more complex as well. Not only do we have more than ever to document (i.e., our potential subject matter has increased significantly), but there is an infinitely larger audience to reach.

In my current position, audience is something we constantly try to evaluate. In writing about my company’s products, it is sometimes difficult to know what level of knowledge and skill an audience has right off the bat. Some users are probably well versed in using computers and technology, others may not be. What do we assume the user already knows? This is even further complicated by language and cultural barriers. Even when a company only produces content for an audience within the United States it can be difficult to determine an appropriate reading level and vocabulary.

I have to admit, I’m thankful to be a technical communicator today, with all the technology we have available to help us do our jobs. But I certainly acknowledge that this same technology does add to the complexity that exists within the field.

Roles change for technical communicators

For this post I decided to write about Rachel Spilka’s book, Digital Literacy For Technical Communication. I learned a lot from the first chapter regarding the evolution of technology and thus the evolution of the role of the technical writer.

Chapter one, in Digital Literacy For Technical Communication by Rachel Spilka provides a straightforward description of how technical communication as a field has evolved with technology. In this chapter, Saul Carliner analyzes one company—the largest employer of technical communicators—to represent the field at large. The result, in my opinion, is a robust essay that suggests technology has indeed altered the roles of technical writers. Carliner’s analysis begins in the 1970’s, “In a few instances, people were hired with formal training in technical writing, but during the 1970s, this employer typically emphasized technical knowledge over writing skill” (23). The primary reason for this was that they were writing for individuals who already had an in-depth knowledge of computers, who didn’t need a step by step guide or manual (22-23).

However, as technology progressed into more and more people’s homes, the audience of the technical writers began to change. That is, Carliner states, “Both the change in markets for computers and the rise of word processing and desktop publishing led to profound changes in the work of technical communicators in this organization” (26). As a result, the emphasis of the technical communicator shifted to include writing technique, audience analysis, and the ability to prepare user friendly guides. To show when each significant advancement in technology occurred and how each advance in technology affected technical communicators, Carliner breaks a 40 year period, 1970-2010 (roughly) down into five phases.

The fourth and fifth phases, the rising popularity of the internet as a communication tool are perhaps the most relevant to me, since this is what I have grown up with. It seems clear that the internet has had a large impact on virtually all aspects of daily life. For technical communicators, the internet created not only new topics to write manuals for, but also provided a new method to transfer the information from those documents. Carliner states, “Electronic file transfer had many effects on technical communication (38). Indeed, the internet made possible email and on-line meetings/discussions. Thus, Carliner notes, “Electronic file transfers also facilitated remote work, as workers in one location could now easily collaborate on or manage projects across multiple locations” (38).

In essence, technical communicators transformed from being product specialists to product designers/explainers. Their primary roles changed from writing for a few individuals with an advanced knowledge of a product, to writing for potentially millions of users with limited or no knowledge of a product. The primary result of the advent and popularity of the internet on technical communicators then is that, technical communicators of today need to have specialized writing skills. They need to be able to write across cultural borders, across many levels of user experience, and in such a way that all audience members find the technical documents useful. This is a large task and why we are all learning how to do this in the MSTPC program!

What Does Social Media Have to do with a Leaf Blower?

In his book “Socialnomics” Erik Qualman writes, “To effectively leverage the social graph (the interconnectedness of social media users), every company needs to understand that they need to make their information easily transferable” (p. 14). Let’s write this another way: To put to best use the networks of social media, companies need to understand that they must make their information easy to share. Huh, simple, but SMART.

I would say companies are figuring this out. Have you noticed how many opportunities you are offered online to click a button and post that you had an interaction with a company/product/post? It was bizarre, but again my readings this week tied into a recent experience. My husband decided to purchase a gas powered leaf-blower online both for the savings and ease of the purchase. (Read: Fifty bucks cheaper and he didn’t want to leave the recliner.) My husband, who only started on a computer a few short years ago, ventured onto Amazon.com, read the reviews and easily completed the transaction. What shocked him was that after the purchase, he was invited to click a button that would post the following to his Facebook page: “Eric just purchased a Husqvarna, 28cc, 170 MPH, 2-Stroke, Gas-Powered, Handheld Gas Blower from Amazon.com.” (I know, holy souped-up leaf blower! FYI: leaves wreak havoc on the job site of a concrete crew.)

The hubs didn’t accept Amazon’s offer to post his purchase to his Facebook page, but how smart that he was given the option. Qualman explains why, “The average person on Facebook has 150 friends – there is a lot of viral potential when one person posts a story or video.” All it takes is one or two friends to hit “like” or comment, and then the post is visible to their approximately 150 connections, and so on and so forth. In the event that no one comments Amazon isn’t out advertising dollars either. It really is a win/win for them.

In my current position I have been producing email newsletters. Newsletters are rather hard to get excited about anyway, but after last week’s Qualman readings that said emails themselves are on the way out, I have had an increasingly difficult time! Is the fact that e-newsletters are so stagnant exactly why? They are too single-sided? They are currently a grocery-list of upcoming events and relevant topics. This may not offer any significant reasons for the reader to even think about passing them on! My new plan is to include a section that has comments provided from the very-connected e-newsletter readership. Possibly if readers are also part-author, the e-newsletters will be more interesting and more “post-worthy.” Oh, if only I can make the e-newsletter as cool as a new, souped-up leaf blower.

“Thank you, old media.” “No. TY, new media.”

Qualman’s first chapter brought on this little post.

Oh, yes.  Old media vs. new media: the oft-discussed subject in the Technical Communication and MSTPC programs.  Both have their pros and cons, and I think that at this point in time, each has its proper place.  Since my son just celebrated his 9th birthday and we’ve been working on thank-you notes, I’ll go with this comparison:

Old media is to handwritten thank-you notes

as

New media is to sending thank-you e-mails.

Handwritten thank-you notes are a must for grandparents and other respected individuals. This thank-you media requires more thought, effort, and even comes at a higher monetary cost (stationery, stamps, smiley-face stickers, etc.)  We are likely to send them out with correct spelling, capitalization and punctuation.  Errors or missing details can’t be added once the thank-you is sent without going through the entire process again.

E-mail thank-yous, however, will suffice for close friends and other situations in which informality is acceptable.   We may let punctuation and spelling slide, and e-mail is a free service, so it costs us nothing.  An e-mail can come across as more of an afterthought, with generally less time and effort put into it.  We could turn around and send an additional e-mail correcting errors or adding things we forgot in minutes.  There is a more fleeting feeling to them, and recipients are not very likely to keep them once they are read.

Likewise, old media creates more of a record, whereas new media seems fleeting and fickle.  I think of watching a story develop over the course of a day, and watching the headlines change on CNN.com.  We can get very different information, depending on at what point of the day we check the website, and we understand it’s best to wait until everything is sorted out before taking the online news reports as complete and accurate.  Old media (newspapers in particular) gather the information once per day, so there is really only one opportunity per day for erroneous stories.  While the possibility of misinformation still certainly exists, it is not nearly as rampant, and it is not acceptable when misinformation appears in hardcopy print because we expect these outlets to verify their sources and information.  They, themselves, are often considered to be more respectable organizations because their reports are more reliable.

This might seem like a case against my argument, but it demonstrates that when old media gets something wrong, it’s a big deal, but when new media reports something erroneously, it’s no big whoop.

For similar reasons, I think we are more likely to keep, for example, a newspaper clipping of our graduation announcement rather than printing out the online version of the article.  We might see the article online first, but we would be prompted to go out and buy that day’s hardcopy newspaper for scrapbooking or archiving.  It is my opinion that we have a lot more trust in old media than new, but we are drawn to new media because of our love of instant gratification.  Humans are a pretty impatient species, and new media can give us what we want instantly.  There’s a saying at my place of employment: Do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?  New media does it now, but old media is more likely to do it right.

Encyclopedia Titanica (Qualman Ch 1)

“Internet dead ahead!”  The thing that interests me most when I look over the carnage that the internet has left in its wake is at what point did these industries–encyclopedias, newspapers, record labels, magazines and book publishers–realize that they were doomed.  Was it something specific like the papers piling up at the end of all their neighbors driveways or their kids getting busted using Napster, or did/will they live in denial all the way to the bitter end?

The publishers of Encyclopedia Britannica probably never thought that it would be possible for unpaid and unvetted people to equal the quality of the articles produced by paid professionals, but recent studies have shown that Wikipedia is at least the equal of Britannica.  Is Wikipedia the first real example of large-scale crowd sourcing?

In chapter one of Socialnomics by Erik Qualman, he summarizes how technology and human nature conspired to overthrow industries that have existed for hundreds of years.  For example, Encyclopedia Britannica began publication in 1768 (I looked that up in Wikipedia ironically).  The big surprise to me–and maybe to these industries–isn’t that they disappeared, but the fact that it all happened so fast.  As Qualman points out, social media has only been around for a few years, but it is so perfectly aligned with our basic human need for connectedness that it is like the internet on steroids.  I mean, it has surpassed porn as the most popular activity on the internet (p 1).  I never thought I’d see the day when porn was overthrown on the internet.

According to Qualman, “As human beings we have the dichotomous psychological need to be our own individual, yet we also want to feel that we belong to and are accepted by a much larger social set.” (p. 2) Why have an editor of a newspaper that doesn’t even know me decide what I see in the newspaper when I can have my friends and colleagues on LinkedIn and Facebook recommend stories based on a personal/professional relationship?

Newspapers aren’t doing themselves any favors by moving to a subscription model for internet content locking it behind a firewall.  That only works if you have a product that can’t be obtained elsewhere.  News and commentary are available from tons of sources for free, and, as Wikipedia has demonstrated, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad.  Qualman’s scenario about the Idaho-senators blogger (p. 14 – 21) did a good job capturing the futility of the old business model.

There was really only one area where I question Qualman’s argument.  He contends that the time that appears to be a waste on Facebook, actually makes us more productive since we gain access to potentially critical information much faster.  I’ll admit that that can be the case, but sometimes it’s like drinking from a fire hose of  Zynga requests, political status updates, and funny cat pictures to find the kind of useful tidbits that Qualman uses in his example.  Have you ever had your boss walk by while you had Facebook open?  Did they think you were being productive?  Did you?

It ain’t what it used to be: Digital Literacy (ch1)

I don’t think I have ever really met anyone famous, so I never get to name drop.  But, the foreword to Digital Literacy  was written by JoAnn Hackos, whom I’ve talked to many times–I even got to interview her once.  In technical communication circles she’s about as famous as it gets, but that doesn’t really help me with my friends outside of work.

Ok, back to the task at hand.  The thing that stuck with me in JoAnn’s foreword is summed up in this quote:

The authors argue throughout that the roles and responsibilities of technical communicators are changing rapidly–in some cases for the worse.  The focus on producing “books” by individual authors working independently is rapidly coming to an end. (p. ix)

If you have worked in TC during the last decade or so, then you know this to be true.  The dot com bust followed by waves of cost reductions and outsourcing have really demolished a lot of training and documentation groups.  The jobs that remain require different skills and a lot of flexibility.

Part of that change is due to the death of the book-based authoring model that Hackos mentions at the end of the quote above.  The rise of XML, DITA, and CMSs is destroying the technical communication profession in the same way that the internet has wrecked the newspaper industry.  And that is actually a GOOD thing.

Yes, if it is your goal to go out and get a job writing a technical manual you are going to be disappointed.  But, if you are a curious person that likes to explore all the possible modes for communicating technical information to people in a way they can understand, then you are in luck.  Technology–including social media–has done such a thorough job destroying the old tech comms model that you can get in on the ground floor of defining what it means to be a technical communicator in the future.  Most of the Introduction  of the book was spent driving this point home, for example, “[Technical communicators] need to define their own opportunities and them move boldly forward.  In short, it’s time to adapt or move over.” (Myers p. 2)

I think the hardest part for a lot of people that I have worked with is that the new model (whatever it turns out to be) will require us to be a lot more social.  It might mean creating interactive training, or holding webinars, or interacting online with real customers.  You might need to have video or audio production skills–I talked to a guy at Microsoft that rewrote job descriptions so he could hire people from CNN and Lucas Film rather than typical tech writers.

Pretty much the whole chapter was a trip down memory lane for me and I think that Carliner was dead-on about everything in there.  Being in tech comms isn’t about locking yourself away in the corner and writing your book anymore.  It’s about leveraging all the cool new tools, including social media, to more effectively communicate with our audience.

Is Social Networking Right for School?

According to Jack Molisani and his article “Social networking for you” “Our job is not to write user manuals and sales brochures. Our job is to get user-optimized content to people when they need it and where they want it. In other words, follow your audience.”

What if my audience ranges in age from 15 to 18 years old? What if my audience is already physically captive in my room? What if my audience is my Literature of the Land class or my American Studies class? What if I’m my audience’s teacher? Do I still have to follow them? Yes I do.

And that’s a tough task because they come from so many different backgrounds and are going in so many different directions with so many different talents, concerns, questions, and challenges that it’s hard to follow them all.

Ah, but perhaps social networking will actually make it easier—or at least more successful since that’s what so many of them are familiar with anyway.

Sure, Molisani is talking about social networking to advance a career or business, but many of the arguments he uses make sense in education too.

The ease of finding information. Right. So why would students want to listen to a teacher lecture about the difference between alliteration, assonance, and consonance when they’d be able to google the terms and find definitions and examples in about 45 seconds if they ever found a need to? Since students don’t need help finding such information anymore, teachers need to find ways to push students to put the information and technology tools they have to good use.

Ask a friend. Molisani suggests that web sites should allow people to interact since they may have valuable information to share and will find a way to talk about a product anyway. The most engaging classrooms encourage student interaction and input. Wouldn’t it be nice if students could interact in an extension of that classroom (the web) after the bell rings. Teachers might as well help provide the structure for that.

Molisani says, “You are the master of your career.” Students could become the masters (or at least very active advocates) of their education too. Rather than wondering where the teacher’s plan is going, the internet offers students the opportunity to have some say in the direction a lesson takes. If the curriculum states that everyone has to learn how to write persuasively, why do all students have to show that the same way and to the same audience. The answer is they don’t, and social networking on the internet gives students the opportunity to reach an audience that may be more meaningful–outside the walls of the school.

Since students are already so good at social networking in the halls and after school, why not harness their natural talents for class-related purposes too?

RE: Social Media Taking Over

Chapter two in Qualman’s book: Socialnomics was interesting to read because I related to much of the content being covered. Qualman suggests, “ Cameras document everything, and technologies like Facebook’s Mobile Upload and ‘tagging’ can disseminate a naked keg stand to your network faster than you can count to five.” I recently attended a birthday party for a relative, and my niece recorded the whole thing via her smart phone. I don’t think she ever actually watched the party through her own eyes—rather through her display screen. After the recording was finished, she was so excited to upload it to Facebook. I didn’t understand this—I asked myself: why can’t we just enjoy the moment anymore? I asked her why she recorded the party to put on Facebook, she didn’t have much of an answer.

This need to record and post everything is also true in other situations. Anytime I go out with my friends, someone is taking pictures and uploading them to Facebook, no longer does privacy exist. I am not sure if this is bad necessarily, but it is different. The notion of connecting with one’s children via social media rather than through oral conversation is also different. Qualman notes, “In many instances, social media can help bring families a little closer by enabling parents to unobtrusively follow their kids’ lives.’” Perhaps in some cases, but I can certainly see how this may backfire. More to the point however, if parents begin to rely solely on social media to communicate with their children—to find out about their day—what is lost as a result? To argue that passive communication is better than active is also interesting to consider.

One topic that I have not considered, addressed in chapter 3 is the notion that email may go extinct. I send many emails everyday, so the idea that in the not so distant future email will be obsolete is hard to fathom. However, I don’t doubt it. The rate at which technology now evolves is staggering. For instance, as Qulaman notes, even the way we date has changed due to technology. Qualman states:

First, people used to give out their home phone number. Then people began to give out their email address instead. At first it seemed odd to ask someone for a date over email, but then it became quite natural. Then we progressed to mobile phone numbers because some people didn’t have land lines anymore. Besides it was easier to message one another—it was less intrusive and awkward: ‘What are you doing tonight?’

To some extent I think it is appropriate to ask the tough questions in person, or over the phone, rather that take the passive approach—perhaps I am just a traditionalist. While text messaging and social media offer a means to gain knowledge about another person—it is only portrayed information. That is, what you see on Facebook may not be what you get in real-life. As such, in-person conversations may still be the most fruitful. Overall, chapter 2 and 3 in this book forced me to question my own decision regarding my use (or lack their of) of social media. Further, it provided a lot of good insight regarding why social media is so popular which is beneficial to someone like me who does not have a very good understanding of it due to never participating in it.

It’s All About Attitude

Chapters two and three of Eric Qualman’s Socialnomics do a great job of explaining how companies can leverage social media to build and enhance their image and reputation. The key, it seems, is to focus on the positive. Some companies take a very reactive approach, viewing critical feedback on various social media outlets as something to be controlled or contained. Responding in this way (essentially by stifling the opinions of consumers) really doesn’t do much for the company or the consumer. Companies that are truly successful use criticism in a more productive way, as Qualman explains,

“Effective companies and people relish online feedback. They use the information to make themselves more competitive by improving their products and services in the eyes of the consumer . . . Good companies view it as an opportunity to prove to the customer that they are willing to go the extra mile for them” (p. 40).

Personally, I hadn’t thought about it this way before. It’s really in a business’s best interest to respond to online criticism proactively. Then, they can not only acknowledge the consumer’s complaint, but also create an opportunity for themselves. If they are able to rectify the situation, they demonstrate—in a very public way—their willingness to help and that they care about their customers’ satisfaction.

Today, the companies that embrace the social capabilities of an online environment are in the best position to thrive. While doing this week’s readings, I found a good example. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, uses Twitter to as a way for employees to communicate directly with customers about their products. This is exactly the type of positive, proactive interaction Qualman is talking about. Not only can employees assist customers, if needed, but they can also interact with them on a personal level—in front of a presumably large audience in the public sphere.

Companies who are struggling to develop a social media strategy would do well to examine their approach. Using lemons (criticism and complaints) to make lemonade (a lasting, positive impression to customers and their social networks) is an invaluable tool. The company doesn’t necessarily control what the online community is saying, rather it uses it to positively influence the way consumers feel.

Grab the reins…

This week’s readings were pretty interesting, since I don’t consider myself as being very familiar with social networking. So the article by Boyd and Ellison out of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication was a good start to learn more about the history and some of the few researches that have been done here in the U.S. According to the authors “social network sites are structured as personal (or ‘egocentric’) networks, with the individual at the center of their own community” – or like Baron states they are for relationships that are not “physically proximate” [p. 71]. One thing seems for sure, social network sites will reshape offline social geography (Lee Humphrey in Boyd/Ellison). How so? Well the just the simple fact “that ‘friends’ on social network sites are not the same as ‘friends’ in the everyday sense” (Boyd/Ellison) will have a great impact on our social skills overall. Often we use these sites by staying connected with people we don’t really want to go through the effort and really connect with them by spending time with them and by sharing our lives. As email seems to be outdated in the younger generation already and the new way to communicate is via text, IM or social network sites like Facebook, as there will be a different form of social interactions created. I guess the process started already.

However, to me more interesting is the professional aspect of social network sites. Qualman offered in both chapters great examples on how customer service can be redefined using these tools. I never heard about vanity search or Miles. I found the example about the how to connect with your customers as really eye-opening. For a short while I worked for a real estate broker. I held a few open houses and my main goal was to get people’s email addresses. It didn’t matter if they weren’t really interested in that particular house. It mattered to connect with them, to reach them, to get their email so that we then later could send them newsletters etc. about other listings. According to Qualman, it is nowadays not anymore about getting that person into my database, but it is about starting a real – well online – relationship with the customer via social networks. “Your customer wants to have a relationship with you and even help out where they can. All it takes is honesty, transparency, listening, and reacting” [56]. To boil it all down: Let the consumer brag about your products – not you. After reading those chapters, Molisani’s article in the Intercom was tailored even more to our profession. He states: “Our job is not to write user manuals and sales brochures. Our job is to get user-optimized content to people when they need it and where they want it. In other words, follow your audience” [4].

Even though, I try not to share my private life that much on social network sites, I believe Molisani is right that we as Technical Communicators have to leave a digital (positive) footprint of our works. We have to know these tools and platforms to be able to advise our customers and employers how to best connect with their audience – and we have to brag about it … online. To speak with his words: Let’s start “grabbing the reins of” our “career and steering it where” we “want it to go”.

Keeping up with the Jones’s Status Updates

There were a couple of things that really stood out for me in chapter 3 of Socialnomics, by Erik Qualman.  First, email is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet.  And, second, if our friends have better status updates than us, we will get off the coach and run a 5k just to one-up them.

First let’s start with the horse-and-buggy that email has become.  Qualman provides the following quote from a director of Apple iTunes . . .

At Apple, we generally hire early adopters.  That being said, I was still blown away when we recently hired a 22-year-old and he had literally never sent an e-mail.  Via his iPhone he had always communicated with his friends either by instant messenger, text, phone call, or comments within Facebook.  I believe he is not alone and this is a trend we will continue to see with the next generation. (p. 47)

I’m almost twice as old as this kid–so maybe it is because I’m old–but I still use email at work all the time.  That said, when I think about my life outside of work, I’m not that much different than Apple-boy.  I text my family and friends, or post to their FB page, and I send private messages to their FB page if it needs to be private.  So, I can kind of see how a young person today could get through life without email, but what about work?   I think maybe work needs the formal structure the email provides.  If not, what is holding back the spread of social media inside of companies.  I bet that 22-year-old learned how to use email after he got hired.

The second phenomenon that Qualman described was about how constantly commenting (and reading others comments) on life causes us to live more meaningful lives.  He describes the case of an 83 year old man named Bill Tily who consciously examines all of his status posts (p. 51).  Then when he finds that he is wasting his time, he redirects himself to do more fulfilling activities.

I’ve thought about this myself, though not to the same degree as Bill.  More commonly, I see that my friends are doing something cool while I’m watching Wipe Out and I take stock and try to make some changes.  I’ll be honest, I have a couple of friends that are hard-core athletes: one runs triathlons and the other travels the planet riding in and writing about bike races.  While I admire their drive, I often find their posts incredibly annoying.  Things like, “Just completed a seven-mile run to 7-Eleven for a bottle of YooHoo”  or, “Sipping wine in Tuscany after a long ride.”   It just makes my life seem kinda dull.

But again, it does somehow motivate me to ask myself if I’m really making the most of my life.  Wasn’t it Socrates that said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living” ?   Could social media really be what causes us to shut off Farmville and live better lives?

The New Company Website

Chapter three of Socialnomics was a perfectly-timed read for me this week. In this chapter Erik Qualman explains that email is on its way out, referring to the decline in the use of this technology by Generations X and Y (p. 46). He also points out that websites are serving different purposes these days, they should no longer be the sole means of online information about a company:

… [A company] could be in communication with fans and consumers on someone else’s database (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.). Yet, many companies fail to grasp this new concept. They build elaborate YouTube or Flicker pages, placing callouts and click actions that send the user outside the social network, often to their company website (p. 48).

Qualman vividly compares this antiquated strategy to the following…

It’s analogous to meeting a pretty girl in a bar and asking if she would like a drink. When she responds “yet,” rather than ordering a drink from the bartender, you grab her and rush her into your care and drive her back to your place… (p. 49).

Okay, so we all get Qualman’s point, but why was this read well-timed for me you ask? Well I would just love to share… A friend of mine introduced me to her photography business this week. It is a small, hobby business, but growing quickly and earning her a nice supplemental income. Over lunch we were discussing new businesses, marketing them and the-like when she happened to mention she didn’t have a website. (Gasp.) I had to hide my surprise and the inner-dialogue, What is a snazzy little photography business doing without an equally-snazzy website?! Well, as I found out later, the answer is quite a lot.

After lunch we scheduled a time for her to come and take pictures of my kids the following evening. The next afternoon I noticed a Facebook message from her suggesting I “like” her page so that she could “share” with me a sneak-peak album she would post after the shoot. Hmmm, now you have my attention. Absolutely, I will like that page right this minute… task completed.

Painted Iris Photography + Design’s Facebook Page

After an hour of photos and lots of good chatting, my friend headed home. The next morning I checked Facebook, thinking she couldn’t possibly have anything posted already. Yet, there they were, a dozen or so darling shots of my kidlets. And the marketing beauty of it for her little business? All I had to do was hit “share” to post them to my wall along with the link to the original album located on her Facebook page. Twenty-four hours later, dozens of my friends and family had commented about the photos and quite likely browsed her business page. A page that is updated almost daily, unlike most websites, with new sneak-peak albums… all spreading kiddo-cuteness among family and friend networks. THAT, my friends, is brilliant and in this particular scenario MUCH more effective than a static website.

The best way for me to summarize this lesson is to finish with Jack Molisani’s frank comment in Is Social Networking for You?: “Why should your company have a Facebook presence? Because that’s where your audience is” (p.10).

Social networking is only for entertainment in my world. And for spying.

You know why we love social networking?  Because we love ourselves, we naturally compare ourselves to others, and we are nosey.  Also, we feel important when we self-publish.

What?  That’s just me?

Boyd and Ellison

Friendster failed because it tried to tell its users what they should be, rather than allowing them to (even unknowingly) contribute to the development of the site’s features.  Facebook has been more receptive to the directions in which users themselves are taking the site.  A main point of social networking is to allow individuals to express and define themselves, and Friendster seems to have been hellbent on nipping that in the bud.

Qualman

In Chapter 3, Qualman discusses Millennials as though they are all committed to bettering the world.  Qualman seems to assume Millennials are keenly aware of world happenings, but while they are exposed to much more information than previous generations, might much of that information not be from reputable sources?  In fact, in our world of instant communication, there have been embarrassing incidents of incorrect information given out by reputable sources that jumped the gun and reported results of elections (for example) prematurely.  The speed with which news must be reported in order for outlets to be competitive, and the desire to create eye-catching headlines compromises the integrity of even the most trusted sources.

Also, are Millennials really that much more interested in bettering the world?  Or is it just that they are in their mid-20s, fresh out of college, and it seems that anything is possible?  Weren’t hippies the same way in the 1960s?  Perhaps if social networking were available to hippies, they would be branded the same way Millennials are in the present time.  Now they are “baby boomers” and considered to have different priorities from Generations X and Y.  Of course they do!  They’re at a different point in life!  They’ve experienced things that demonstrate why change is difficult to make in the world, and they’ve moved on to working on the things they have control over.  Qualman points to the fact that so many Generation Yers voted in the 2008 election, compared to lower numbers of Generation Xers who had voted when they were the same age.  This factoid used as “proof” that Generation Yers are out to change the world fails to consider that the 2008 election was a huge deal, with more voters participating overall, due to several economic and social factors in the U.S., along with the first African American candidate.

I realize this was not the main point of this reading, but I get frustrated when any large number of people are assumed to have the same (albeit generalized) set of values.

I was also bothered by the practices Qualman brings to light, especially the quote from Allison Bahm on page 46, “I’ve started relationships and signed contracts exclusively within social networks.”  Yipes!  While I don’t know the exact nature of Ms. Bahm’s business, this practice would make me very nervous.  The work world I live in requires everything in writing, documented, confidential and hand-signed.  It is difficult for me to imagine my employer or any of our usual customers considering any SNS to be suitable for professional use, but then again, we government contractors are an anal-retentive bunch.

Hey, baby. What’s your Telex number?

“Is Social Networking for You?”

I have to admit I couldn’t relate very well to “Is Social Networking for You?”  The company I work for sells products to the Department of Defense rather than the general public.  At this point, there is no way government buyers are allowed to source products or manufacturers through social networking.  We are called out on drawings and official documents as approved sources for certain part numbers, and sometimes the customer has no choice but to buy the product from us.  I suppose social networking is not “for” our company, but involvement in social networking can obviously be beneficial for those that sell products to the general population.  If I hear about a product I’m interested in, I go to the company’s website to learn about it and then ask my Facebook friends if they’ve used the product in order to get reviews, much like practices that are discussed in Qualman’s chapters.  It is in those companies’ best interest to have lots of information available for the consumer.

SNS = Social Network Sites (not Super Nintendo System) Boyd and Ellison

I’m guessing that most Americans understanding of the history of Social Network Sites (SNS) comes from the movie The Social Network, myself included.  Based on that, I assumed that there was MySpace and Friendster and then Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook smote them.  Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison, however, clear that all up in their article Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.  I think the thing that surprised me the most about the history part of this article is how quickly the members of the various social networks abandoned them when they got annoyed.

When Friendster got more popular, the network performance suffered and then as more and more people joined it became less cool, “. . . exponential growth meant a collapse in social contexts: Users had to face their bosses and former classmates alongside their close friends.”  If FB messes up bigtime could they fold up too?  I can’t remember where I read this, but I have heard that many young people are abandoning FB (or are at least downplaying it) in favor of Twitter since their Mom and Dad haven’t joined Twitter yet and they can still say what they want.

Now Facebook has been pretty stable in terms of performance, but it definitely seems to be declining in the coolness area.  Maybe it is just me, but the more people I add to my “Friends” the less I post to FB.  Yes, there are privacy settings, but figuring them out is like doing one of those logic puzzles.  You know, “Jane likes bananas and grapes, but only on Sundays.  Bill hates grapes and likes bananas, but will only eat them in the morning.  What kind of fruit can Jane and Bill eat on Tuesday afternoon.”  Is there anyone out there that hasn’t been burned by a status update that somehow made it to someone that it shouldn’t have?

And now our employers are busy implementing their own internal SNSs, “This growth has prompted many corporations to invest time and money in creating, purchasing, promoting, and advertising SNSs.”  It’s one thing to post something that annoys your Sister-in-Law, it is something else entirely to offend the Director of Marketing (or some other muckety-muck).  I have no evidence of this, but I suspect that this is a significant reason why most corporate social networks are lame: no one wants to offend anyone so no one challenges anything–no matter how stupid.

In our private life we can choose our friends and we stand a chance in understanding our audience, “In listing user motivations for Friending, boyd (2006a) points out that “Friends” on SNSs are not the same as “friends” in the everyday sense; instead, Friends provide context by offering users an imagined audience to guide behavioral norms.”  But corporate SNSs are guided by org charts and not personal relationships.  Without having this guide, how can companies leverage the power of social networking for collaboration and sharing without triggering all the bad aspects–misunderstanding and mistrust?  And add cultural differences to the list and it starts to look a little hopeless.

But Boyd and Ellison do offer a little hope, I think, when they say, “Although exceptions exist, the available research suggests that most SNSs primarily support pre-existing social relations. Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007) suggest that Facebook is used to maintain existing offline relationships or solidify offline connections, as opposed to meeting new people.”  Maybe rather that dictating to people who their “friends” should be inside a company, they should allow people to share comments with colleagues of their choosing. It seems counterintuitive, but maybe we need less connections to get more sharing.

Blogging: Rising to the Occasion or Being Swept Away

Not long ago, my wife and I were canoeing Mud Creek between the Collins Marsh and the Manitowoc River. We pulled into an eddy below the dam at the south end of the marsh to watch the carp trying to hurl themselves upstream and over the dam. Who can blame them for trying to move out of a dwelling as ingloriously named as “Mud Creek” to the more middle-class neighborhood of Collins Marsh? It’s kind of like the American Dream–upward mobility in a very literal and metaphorical way.

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But they are carp. Just carp. What are the chances they can actually better themselves? What is the likelihood that a bloated carp can ever lift itself out of the only mud it has ever known and wallowed in, to find a new home in a cleaner community? And even if one did succeed, could it ever be accepted as something other than a carp? It’s a tough name to overcome.

Most of the carp we watched smacked right into the concrete wall of the dam and splatted into the muddy water of the creek. A few made it to the top of the dam, floundered around, not knowing what to do with their unexpected progress, only to be swept back down by the relentless current. Not once did we see a carp make it out of the creek and into the marsh.

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Progress, but not for carp.

That’s kind of how I see myself in this situation. What do I know about blogging? Nothing. And the obstacles in my way look pretty tall and solid. Add to that the fact that once I become somewhat familiar with one web tool, I find 28 new web tools. The new technology forces the old items over the dam, dragging me further and further down stream.

Splat. Yup. Back in Mud Creek.

Blogging: Not a newbie, but not an expert either

I don’t consider myself to be an expert in the blogosphere, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as a beginner either. I’ve used free blog offerings in the past – ie. BlogSpot, but about nine months ago switched over to WordPress.

For my purposes, I use and follow blogs that are done in a conversational style, are easy to read and aren’t overloaded with content. As a former newspaper editor, I relish white space and get overwhelmed if there’s too much going on. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into each post.

Personally, I set-up a family blog about five years ago as a means of saving money and not having to print hundreds of photos of my children to mail out to family members. Instead, I posted the pictures to the family blog and if family members wanted to print them off, then they had that option. I still use our blog for this reason. We had family pictures taken by my sister this past weekend and posted them to our blog for friends and family to see. We’ll make copies for grandparents and parents, but are happy not to be making 100+ copies of photos every time one of the kids does something adorable. We’re soon to have four kids so that’s a lot of photo prints!

As we entered into the adoption world, I realized how fantastic and educational following other families’ blog was so we started our own adoption blog, and later decided to merge previous blogs into one so everything is at www.kellibloomquist.com. We’re planning to blog while we’re in China next month to adopt our son, Blake. This will allow friends and family members to follow on our journey of a lifetime.
This is a recent picture that we received of our little guy last month. I can’t wait to love on him in a few weeks. We think he’s pretty handsome and are smitten.

Blogging : Scary, Intriguing, Unknown, …

Dear E745er of Fall 2012,

Yes, to me blogging feels like writing a letter/email to someone – at this point. As you can tell now, I don’t have any experience whatsoever with blogging, neither reading nor writing. However, I am familiar with the technical side of writing a post, creating a page, etc. (on wordpress at least) since I have an online portfolio there. But I don’t consider that to be a blog. So, let’s say, I am an absolute BB (Blogging Beginner).

However, after reading the works concerning blog literacy, it was just outpouring out of me, means, I wrote like 1000 words within a heartbeat, which I don’t even remember when that happened to me the last time. Normally, I really have to work for each 100 words I have to write. Anyways, in the following you just find my most important thoughts. But apparently something hit home.

To get started and acquainted to blogging, I would begin with reading others’ blogs. Alex Reid’s article provided a list of the top 25 blogs as of 2010. In the next week I will check some of those out and actually see for myself why they are considered to be so successful. Actually, I am wondering, how many of those would be still on that list today in our fast-paced time.

Blogging also is not like something been written in stone or even printed. I guess what I try to say is that a blog doesn’t necessary have the life span of a book or even a magazine, but it can. There are no parameters anymore about how long would a blog last.

Also, Alex Reid lets us remember in his definition of a blog that all the content published on the web, (even emails and chat) is stored on some servers somewhere in this world and can be reactivated in decades and centuries to come. Even though you might have wrote a blog for a specific audience, you can never be sure who your audience will be in the future, when they will read it and how they might interpret it. How can you be sure that your message will be understood the way you wanted it to be. But then again, Shakespeare comes to mind. Do you think he envisioned that centuries later his works are still being read?

Here’s another aspect of blogging: Since we don’t have to go through the hubs of finding a publisher and getting our works being edited, it seems everybody can write and publish – no education, no costs necessary. What I would like to ask the community of this blog (mmh, I guess I am adapting already to the ‘new’ medium), how do we find out about the credibility of the author? To answer this question myself: It is up to us. As always in life, we have to decide what to believe and whom to trust. My dad used to say, “Just because it is printed, doesn’t mean it is true”. That still applies. Just rephrase it a little. As professionals, as students in this program I consider us being lucky, since we have the education to distinguish between the different sources.

Does this sound all pretty negative, at least standoffish? Ok, let’s see, what are the good points? Because of the publishing format, a blog can be read, reviewed and commented on almost instantly. A real interaction with your audience is possible which is unique in my eyes. During my work, I always enjoyed working directly with customers, to see how they use the manuals produced for their specific needs. So this is definitely a plus. Also, I can reach people not only in my immediate physical setting, but also around the world. What is scary on one hand (not knowing who actually reads your blog) can be a real opportunity. You might reach people you thought you would have never access to. I guess, like always in life, it is all about the perspective on things. You can focus on the negatives or on the positives. Here is my promise: I will give my best to leave my fears behind, to actually overcome them and move forward into embracing the many facets of the digital age. But I know I will have to push myself.

Do Corporations Really Get Blogging?

I’m currently (informally) leading a team of people that reside in: England, Germany, Italy, China, Brazil, America, and Finland. None of the typical communication tools (email, webex, IM) could do what I needed them to do.  So, I set up a SharePoint community site for the team that has a blog.  I wanted to create a less formal environment for people to get comfortable with each other and loosen up.

The project that we’re working on requires people to be creative and take risks and that just doesn’t happen unless people feel safe.  Sharing new ideas–especially in a corporate environment with many cultures–is scary.  And, while all the corporate messages say that we need to be more innovative, we don’t really reward people for taking chances or slowing down to think about the future.  I guess it is one thing to say you value creativity and another thing to demonstrate that.

It reminds me of the Ken Robinson TED video that Alex Reid referred to in his article, Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web.  Robinson believes that while our schools are trying to maximize students’ potential, they are really killing creativity and valuing the wrong things.

I know that he is talking about schools, but I think it’s true in companies too.  It is in mine.  Maybe our schools have been so successful in quashing the creativity out of us that we can’t innovate to save our lives.

My hope was that blogging would help foster the right environment and rekindle that creativity, but I think I’m just doing it wrong.  I want to keep it loose, but somehow my posts end up reading like legal disclaimers.  I just don’t know what will fly.  Blogs are informal, but companies are not.  What is the right tone?

Zero experience with blogging

This is the first blog post I have ever written. I have heard of blogs, but have never had any reasong to particiapte in the act of blogging. At this point, writing on a blog site seems very similar to writing in the discussion board area of D2L. The primary difference (I think) is that when one posts to public blog on the internet, a broader audience may possibly read it. I am looking forward to learning more about how written communicaiton processses are changing as a result of these interactive writing portals where people can post thoughts and others may respond.

My (Somewhat Limited) Blogging Experience

Last semester, I took Rhetorical Theory (English 720) with Dr. Pignetti. In that course we used a blog for our reflection and discussion, which was my first academic experience with using a blog. Initially I was intimidated by the idea of airing my thoughts in such a public venue (particularly after reading the blog literacy articles), but it really wasn’t so scary after all. One thing I appreciate about using a blog rather than the D2L discussion board is the ease with which we can tie in relevant ideas, content, examples, etc. Including images and videos, for example, can help drive home the point you’re trying to make as you write and make for a much more interesting read. Basically, academic blogging allows for a more interactive, interesting, and dynamic experience.

My experience with blogging in my personal life has been more passive. I don’t write my own personal blog, or anything, but I do quite frequently read others’ blogs. I enjoy reading the blogs of my friends, family, and acquaintances as a way to keep up on their lives. I also appreciate blogs about cooking and do-it-yourself home projects. Annie’s Eats is one of my favorites in the realm of food, and I also just discovered Anne’s Food.

The blog literacy articles do a good job of highlighting the interactivity and sense of community blogging can build in an academic setting. I am looking forward to another academic blogging experience!

Blogging: This and That and Learning

My past experience with blogging has been limited to reading many, but authoring few. I enjoy the world of blogs very much: whether it be I am in need of a recipe (ThePioneerWoman.com), a pick-me-up (Incourage.me) or possibly just a laugh (Pinterest.com). Okay the last one isn’t a blog, and contains much more than just humor, but you get the gist: I like online content. Period. I like that it is small, bite-sized chunks of information on any topic you can think to enter into the search bar. What isn’t to like?

I also enjoyed learning via blogging with Dr. Pignetti’s Rhetorical Theory class this past spring. For me it was a very engaging way to learn and exercise newly forming thoughts on the subject matter. The interaction between students and their differing points-of-view made it all the more interesting.

This leads me into our reading Learning With Weblogs: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Knowledge Construction. The research preformed by Du and Wagner suggested that blogging enhanced the research subject’s learning in multiple ways. Included below are those I have personally witnessed:

  • Students were more actively participating in their learning, which suggests better retention.
  • The professor was able to more quickly identify students who were in need of additional help understanding subject matter and quickly respond.
  • Students engage with other students via comments and from there grows a social aspect to learning.

Although blogging may not replace classrooms anytime too soon, (despite the predictions of Epic 2020) I certainly feel they have added to my learning experience. In addition, with plans to build on and include social media skills in my professional future, my résumé is also feeling the love.

I’ll end with a picture, just for the sake of saying I posted one… and yes, I found it on Pinterest.

Creative Inspiration.

 

Blogging inexperience and relating to Heidi Glick’s article.

The only blogging I have done is for Dr. Pignetti’s Rhetorical Theory course this past Spring.  I didn’t do very well because I was overscheduled and didn’t put as much time into it as I would have liked.  My classmates produced some very professional-looking, well-rounded posts, and mine were just blah.  I’m going to use the first part of my post to make sure I can figure out how to post photos and videos.

Gratuitous photo of my son, Tucker, and dog, Trooper.

Ok, so I kind of figured out how to add a photo.  That’s my son, Tucker and our dog, Trooper. Pretty dadburn cute, eh?

And now to try a video…

This is taking longer.  My video is on Facebook and it won’t let me download it from there… Calling for backup (husband)… Backup is not helping.  Too bad, because it was going to be a cutesy video of Tucker at the pigeon park in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I’ll go to my tried-and-true, although not very nice, video:

It’s only funny because the guy wasn’t permanently injured.  And because anyone who watches gymnastics is secretly hoping something like this happens.

And I just realized the caption in my above photo has left the building.  *sigh*  Pick your battles, girl.  Pick your battles.

In regard to our readings, I can relate to Heidi Glick’s article, Four Generations of Editors.  I am 33 years old.  My boss/stepdad/educational benefactor/person who generally runs my life is 71 years old.  He moved my family from Stevens Point eight years ago so I could work for him and put me through college.  Some days I have no idea why he did this, when it seems I can’t do anything right in his eyes.  He drives me absolutely nucking futs with what he thinks is important, and I’m sure he’s wondering what he has to do to get me to do things correctly.  It’s not just our age and the “times” in which we’ve grown up, which is the article’s main focus.  We butt heads most strongly when it comes to correspondence between our company and our customers.  Government contracting is not about “customer service” in the traditional sense.  It’s about delivering exactly what the contract calls for – no more, no less.  I completely understand this, in that we are not dealing with the general public and our pricing is carefully determined so that we are competitive yet still turn a profit.  However, he insists on writing letters that come across as very “snippy,” with overwrought legalese that I can’t imagine any recipient taking the time to figure out the actual message, and a demeaning tone.  He considers this the best way to get the recipient to respond in our favor, he has been doing it this way for 40 years, and he’s not going to change.  I prefer a more friendly, “we’re all on the same team, so let’s work together to get this done” approach to customer correspondence, which he sees as weak and ineffective.  I suppose we are editors, two generations apart.  In the end, he is the owner of the company, and my job is to do things the way he wants them.  Deep down I know he doesn’t completely disagree with everything I do, or he wouldn’t let me get anywhere near our company’s correspondence.

Also, it’s funny that the article specifically mentions double-spacing between sentences as antiquated.  As you can probably tell, I still use two spaces between sentences, and I’m not going to change it.  I think I sound like someone familiar…