Monthly Archives: October 2012

Are You Content with Content Management? or Finding Your Data Doppelganger

Parts of Geoffrey Moore’s paper “A Sea Change in Enterprise IT” reminded me of Erik Qualman’s work in his book Socialnomics. Among many other ideas, Qualman’s book discusses how our internet searches, purchases, and use of social media can be traced, studied, used to predict behavior and react to trends, market to individuals, and increase profits among other things.

Moore writes, “In a world of digitally facilitated communication and collaboration, where almost all data, voice, and video are transmitted via the Internet, every interaction leaves a trace.” After mentioning the possible security and legal problems associated with mining and storing this data, he continues,

“At the same time, however, chief marketing officers are drooling at the opportunities embedded in these trace logs. Behavioral targeting is the new rage in digital advertising, anchored in the ability to infer a user’s preferences from their prior Web behavior, and to thereby present them with offers that are better tuned to their likes.”

I know this data mining is happening, and I know somebody out there has a whole lot more information about me than I care to imagine. What picture of me is shown by the digital traces I leave behind? What can a person tell about me by the pattern of gas pumps I visit and swipe with my credit card? What do all my computer keystrokes add up to? And really, how many people want to know?

EMC Corporation, one of the groups listed at the end of Moore’s paper as an AIIM Task Force member is interested in such information. They are sponsoring a project that is attempting to “humanize” all the collected data that we leave behind.

Rick Smolan is the creator of the project titled The Human Face of Big Data. According to their website, the project is “a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on humanity’s new ability to collect, analyze, triangulate and visualize vast amounts of data in real time. Briefly, here’s how it works. Download the app for Android or iOS. Spend about 10 minutes answering questions, and then give permission for the app to keep track of you, follow you with gps technology, and compare you–anonymously–to other participants. I don’t know exactly, since, as an introvert and lover of the movie Enemy of the State, I have an aversion to sharing too much information.

Besides the data collection part of the project, there’s a photo-journalism arm as well. Photographers have traveled the world to capture images of the human face of technology. Later, there will be a free iPad app to share all the information.

As an added incentive Smolan says users will be matched with their “data doppelganger.” Woohoo! Or is it more appropriate to shout “Yahoo!”?

Smolan claims that by collecting and sharing our data with the world, his project can illustrate “an extraordinary three-dimensional snapshot of humanity.”

Really? A snapshot of humans I could see, but a snapshot of humanity? Can data do that? I’d like to think there’s an element of humanity that can’t be measured and stored through an iPhone.

But I may have to try the app just to find out.

Old and New

Chapter 4 of Digital Literacy For Technical Communication presented insight on technical communicator’s ability to bridge generational differences. Salvo and Rosinski stated, “Second, technical communicators are well positioned to bridge past and future work involving information design” (105). In essence, because of the rate at which technology and communication mediums are advancing, different generations of information users are accustomed to different communication mediums and designs. Thus, technical communicators must find ways to communicate effectively with all generations—young and old, who make up the demographic of their clientele.

This concept is reinforced by the example of early web page design. Salvo and Rosinski noted, “Many new web designers, as their attention moved from communicating on the page to communicating through the screen, ignored traditional principles of page design in their eagerness to invent new design styles and practices” (106). This comment reminded me of a newspaper design class I took a few years ago. During the first portion of the class, we learned about content layout for traditional print style newspapers. The class then moved to designing layout for online newspapers. Beyond having to learn how to use Dreamweaver, we also had to design content pages for mock newspapers based on actual papers. Our professor was adamant about the need to retain some of the traditional print aspects of the layout such as headline and column font. In addition, the web version was to look fairly similar to the print version so users could recognize key aspects. Essentially, we were designing an electronic version of the print newspaper that traditional readers could, in theory, use and read.

However, within the electronic version of the newspapers, we added links to additional stories, images, and videos that readers could not access from the print version. That is, we retained certain aspects, but added features that allowed access to information only available via the internet. This concept parallels Salvo and Rosinskis’ notion that, “Since then [early web pages] many have rediscovered the value of font design and use of white space, and perhaps more importantly, the benefits of collaborating with users. . .toward the creation of readable and usable documentation,” (106). Indeed, while information design is certainly changing, communicators need to consider all possible users of information, and utilize the best methods to reach these users effectively. In terms of newspaper design, fundamental design principles are generally retained for identification purposes, (the newspaper looks the same in print as it does online) and so readers can quickly locate areas of interest.

As virtual space becomes more and more the standard for communication, technical communicators will need to retain certain aspects of tradition document design to reach all user groups. However, technical communicators will also need to develop new design layouts (such as incorporating links etc as in the case of online newspapers) to fully take advantage of the capabilities of virtual spaces. As I consider how the technology of my generation enables new spaces and practices for communication, I can’t help but wonder how things will change as future generations continue to advance information technology. At what point will my generation be the generation of old technology?

The Nuances of Information Design

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting my career as a technical communicator, it’s that content (information) is useless when the audience can’t find it. Moreover, it’s not much better than useless when the audience doesn’t know how to use or navigate it. I think Michael Salvo and Paula Rosinski’s chapter (Information Design) in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication covers some incredibly valid points about the potential for technical communicators’ contribution to information design.

Technical communicators, myself included, often have a hand in information design from micro-level sentences and paragraphs, to deliverable design and visual appearance, on up to the macro-level organization of information libraries. From my experience, an interesting byproduct of this is that, among technical communicators, skills and experience can vary so greatly. Additionally, the role of technical communicators varies significantly from organization to organization.

At my company I work in the marketing and communications department (which is definitely not always the case for technical communicators). My department consists of marketing writers and technical writers that produce client communications and supporting documentation among other deliverables. Interestingly, there is also an e-commerce department (not part of marketing) that produces the company’s website and its online tools/applications. The writers in my department regularly work with the e-commerce department. Together we aim to create the most impactful products for the audience, but I’m not going to lie, it can be a struggle at times.

By title, e-commerce doesn’t have any “writers” and marketing and communications doesn’t have any “designers,” but we both must contribute those skills—the skills of technical communicators—to perform our jobs successfully. The tricky part is knowing who is responsible for what, who has what expertise, and whose feedback or suggestions add the most value to the information and its usability. What’s clear is that there will always be information design overlap between these two groups. It’s also clear that we can provide the largest benefit to the audience of our deliverables when we successfully leverage the strongest skills of both groups.

From my perspective, a lot of the awkwardness of this arrangement stems from the fact that e-commerce and marketing and communications are two separate departments (and divisions of the company)—basically, office politics. I know there isn’t a quick or easy solution for all groups within a company to work cohesively together, but how can companies encourage an all-encompassing approach to information design? I’m not sure I have an answer.

The Key to Content Management

Content management and Content Management Systems (CMS) have been around for a pretty long time.   The group I work in has been trying to make it work–with mixed results–for more than a decade.  It is a really big change and old habits die hard in technical communication.  Part of the reason that it has taken so long for CM to take hold has to to with usability and complexity of the CMS products, but part of it might also be that it really requires social media to make it work.

Geoffrey Moore provides a bit of an explanation when he says, “What will enable this transformation are Systems of Engagement that will overlay and complement our deep investments in systems of record. Systems of engagement begin with a focus on communications” (p. 4).  The traditional CMS products that have been deployed over the last ten or more years are absolutely “systems of record”.  They cost a fortune and lack the simplicity and ease-of-use that we have all come to expect from the consumer products that we use–iPads Google, Xbox, and smart phones.

Rather than bending the technology to meet the needs of the people that were supposed to use it, we just spent a lot of time and money bending our people with training and detailed processes.  It didn’t work out very well.  And once our workforce started shrinking and the amount of outsourcing increased, it worked even worse, since no one wanted to spend a lot of money training people in India.   Also, bad internet connections to our remote locations made the systems a nightmare to use.  It was so slow that some people would check-out and download all their content and then work off of their laptop, which  totally defeats the point of a CMS.

Hart-Davidson points to improvements in networking technology and the internationalization of technical communication as trends that have lead to the emergence of CM (p. 129).  I think maybe those two things are not unrelated.  In “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, he points to the huge investments in the late 90’s that were made to stretch fiber-optic cables across the ocean.  This high-speed internet connection made it possible for this internationalization in the first place.

While all of this history is interesting, I think the most exciting thing for technical communicators is that while all of this is a threat to the traditional role of TC people as writers (Hard-Davidson p. 129), it has created the opportunity for us to expand into the field of Information Architecture.  As the content we used to write becomes a commodity that is broken down into chunks and stuffed into a CMS, we have the opportunity to design the information experience for our customers and assemble those chunks into new deliverables with new contexts.  Salvo and Rosinski describe this new role pretty well, “Applying a mapping metaphor to the act of designing, or creating sitemaps of documents and virtual spaces, encourages practitioners to ask complex questions about their audiences needs and their communication purposes” (p 115).

I think that social media can help act as a catalyst for this change by making it easier and more natural to use these brutally unnatural CMS’s.  If you haven’t read the article by Steven Whittemore that was referenced by Hart-Davidson, it absolutely nails all the reasons why today’s CM products are so ineffective (I used it in another paper).  Current systems meet the technical requirements to store and manage content, but they completely ignore the human requirements to find and make sense of that information.  Maybe social media can be the key that unlocks all this potential.

Changing role of technical communicators

To me Salvo’s and Rosinski’s article Information Design made the perfect connection to Clark’s article in our journey to explore Emerging Media and the roles that technical communicators will more than likely take on in the near future. The authors state

“Digital literacy cannot be just the ability to use certain technologies. Rather, the term must apply to the thoughtful deployment of technologies that make intervention meaningful and informed by analysis, reflection and historical representations of the field” (Spilka, p. 123-4).

This is just possible if we take Clark’s advice to heart and think and assess critically, keeping in mind the rhetoric of technology.

Content management is in this context one of many examples of work areas technical communicators can evolve their skills and qualities. Hart-Davidson defines professionals in our field as “editors, information architects, usability analysts, interaction designers, project managers, client liaisons, and more” (Spilka p. 134-5). This definition stood out to me because I just started experiencing these different roles in real life work situations. I used to be just a technical writer with some responsibilities concerning managing small projects within our department. Now, I am required to slip into all those above-mentioned roles.

After reading the article Content Management a question that startled me from the beginning of this course finally got answered. Didn’t it seem to you like I asked endless times about the role of marketing in technical communication? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. In this chapter, the authors mention when talking about the threats technical communicators face lately the “rise of user-generated content, and the broader phenomenon of Web 2.0, something that is perhaps best understood as a significant shift in user behavior from passive consumer to active contributor of content” (Spilka). That’s when it made click in my mind. Now it seems to all come together. The magical term was Web 2.0. I know we read and talked about interaction on social media with our clients all the way along, I just didn’t understand our role in it as professionals.

As of now I would consider us technical communicators as service providers for both parties (e.g. producer/consumer) in assisting them in their communication with each other – back and forth. We don’t just assist the companies anymore in providing materials that deliver information about their products. We now assist both sides in providing information, feedback and assurances or solutions. Not just the companies create content, but also the consumers. The authors summarize this in a better way:

“We must devise ways to listen carefully and move quickly to support the emerging needs of users by documenting new uses, supporting them with new features or services, and scaling-up capacity” (Spilka, p. 141).

Another step stone in my understanding was definitely the article Systems of Engagement. The table Evolution of Content was a great summary on how much has changed in the communication models throughout the last decades. I had to check out the AIIM website and found out that they offer a free webinar about ECM (Enterprise Content Management) on 10/31/2012. Might be interesting to attend.

All these bits and pieces seem to come together to redefine our current and future role as technical communicators. Emerging media changed how society communicates. These changes do already and will continue to influence our profession.

The Planet Re-wiring Itself

Geoffrey Moore’s article, Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT, was an eye opening read. The article starts by explaining (p. 1),

Over the past decade, there has been a fundamental change in the axis of IT innovation… consumers, students and children [are] leading the way, with early adopting adults and nimble small to medium size businesses following, and it is the larger institutions who are, frankly, the laggards…

And then adding (p. 1),

Our initial response might be to dismiss this trend as not really relevant to the issues of business… [The answer is] [i]n a word, No. In two words, emphatically No. What is transpiring is momentous, nothing less than the planet wiring itself a new nervous system.

And then wrapping with (p. 1),

So at minimum, if you expect [today’s digitally connected consumers] to be your customers, your employees, and your citizens (and, frankly, where else could you look?), then you need to apply THEIR expectations to the next generation of enterprise IT systems.

Wow. This frank description of the trajectory of consumer expectations and businesses requirement to meet it is far-reaching. Moore makes it clear that new and old businesses alike need to not only adapt to this new online world, but become a fluid part of it. It is no longer acceptable for a business to simply have an online presence, they must actually be present online. The new consumer expects to have immediate and personal feedback from the companies they engage with. The business that can meet this expectation will be the one best poised to lead their industries in the next decade.

So what does this look like for marketers and technical communicators in the business world? It takes the exciting shape of merged departments, whose combined talents do more to attract and retain clients than any billboard or online banner ad ever could. This new team, is not only well suited to craft a message for the masses, but to carry a company message and service into the online realm in a way that actually benefits the world’s online community. This team will need to be poised to develop and deliver the benefits that will surely be the next expectation of these growing online consumer relationships.

The online community that demands these relationships and steadily gains knowledge of their collective power, will certainly continue to require more from these businesses. As our worlds become more connected and society more aware of others’ needs and business’ abilities to meet them, the next requirement of these businesses will likely be a form of philanthropy: whether a donation toward a scholarship, the improvement of a local building, or the creation of an aid fund. Is it possible that consumer’s may be on the path to improve society’s “health” with their collective buying power and evolved expectations?

Week 9: Content Management is Never Done

(Post 2 of 2)

Content management is one of those things that we don’t really think about when it’s done well, but can make us very crabby when it’s not.  We’ve all experienced the frustration of not being able to find something we need, especially if the need is urgent.  Until I began the Tech Comm program here at Stout, I hadn’t thought of it in the least.  Now I’ve had two classes in it, and I realize how much effort goes into the initial design of a content management system.

(Forgive me for the following big ol’ reference to quality management-I’m responsible for our quality system at work and we have a big audit coming up in November, so I’m armpit-deep in that subject right now.) One of the basic tenets of a quality management system is continual improvement.  In the quality world, this means that once procedures are put into place, they are not set in stone.  We should always be looking for a better way to do things, usually through inputs from our own employees and customers.  The problem with continual improvement is that people in general don’t like change.  The original writers of the procedures can feel dejected or insulted because it can seem others don’t think their work was good enough.  Users of the procedures can be annoyed with having to learn how to do the same job a different way.  Neither of these reactions is helpful.  Everyone must buy in to the idea that they are all members of the company “team,” with a common goal of the business’s success.

I suppose continual improvement is a big part of both information design and content management.  It’s not possible to please all of the users all of the time.  Changes are bound to be suggested, even if we do all of the research beforehand, with usability studies and such.  Not all problems can arise during testing stages, and the corrective actions are one of the forms continual improvement takes.  Changes to information design concepts discussed in Spilka’s Chapter 4 are limitless, as there is no one correct answer to design issues.  Content managers do their best with usability data they can accumulate and with skills and understanding of concepts of mapping, signposting and general use of space, but they need to stay open to suggestions for bettering their project.  A teamwork attitude has to just be part of their personality in order for them to be successful, and pride can only hold the project and the company back from improvement.  Their job is never really done – they make it the best it can currently be, but tomorrow a change might come along that makes it better.

Week 9: Businesses are to Individuals as Apples are to Oranges

(Post 1 of 2 for the week – they are fairly unrelated)

I don’t own a business, but sometimes I like to pretend I own the company I work for because it helps me learn more about running a business and therefore, makes me a better employee and expands my knowledge base.  What I’ve learned while pursuing this pseudo-goal is that companies have different considerations than individuals have.  Individuals have a lot on the line, but businesses have more on the line, because bad decisions can have a negative impact on the lives of many people.  My opinion is that businesses are the “laggards,” as Moore says in his white paper, for good reason.

Or, wait until someone else breaks it and see how they fix it.

First of all, if business is good, why rush to take chances on new marketing and technological endeavors?  An established company has a lot to protect – its existing customer base, trade information, employees, reputation.  If the company is to begin openly and freely giving information to everyone, they are really giving that information to everyone, including the competition.  Of course, the extent to which this is a concern is highly dependent upon the industry involved.  Think of the companies that pride themselves on being thought of as stable, or the standard in their business – insurance or investment companies, for example. Jumping into new arenas is a big deal. My head is spinning thinking of all of the guidelines that might need to be put in place for employees entrusted with an organization’s virtual identity.  Virtual identities aren’t that virtual anymore.  The general population is going to form an impression of the company from its website, Facebook page or Twitter feed, and likely assume all of the information presented through those sources is representative of that company.  There would need to be at least a second set of eyes on everything in order to mitigate the issuance of misinformation and faux pas.  Why not wait and see how the competition goes about it, and analyze the response they receive?  I firmly believe in letting someone else make the costly mistakes and learning from others’ experiences for free.  This may make the company seem like they are behind, but once they are up and running, I don’t think people care.

E-mail Newsletter 2.0

In chapter five of Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics, he discusses social media marketing and its value to business. He also discusses the use of email marketing and its useful, but limited service in comparison to a more collaborative medium. Qualman states, “Having 12 million e-mail addresses in your database doesn’t mean much if only 1,000 open and click on your e-mails” (p. 109).


I have recently been applying this very concept to the remake of an e-mail newsletter I am working on for UW-Stout’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The current newsletter is a factual list of events sent to approximately 75 individuals in the Master’s and Education Specialist CTE programs. The newsletter has low open rates at 17 percent, and even lower click-through rates at one percent. The initial plan was to overhaul the format and invite readers to engage with the text, but this has developed into a proposal to instead provide the information via a social media group.


We have selected to best capture the professional nature of the degrees. In addition, we can leverage the Program Director’s current 355 LinkedIn contacts. The majority of these contacts are tied to the CTE program in meaningful ways. Due to LinkedIn’s invite feature, we can easily alert them as to the creation of this new collaborative group. Of course these contacts, in addition to the existing audience will all have social networks of their own that may as a result have CTE information pushed to them.


Qualman writes, “To effectively leverage the social graph, every company needs to understand that they need to make their information easily transferable” (p. 14). In other words, to best utilize the interconnectedness of social media users we must present information in a manner that makes it easy to share. This concept has essentially become the ultimate goal of the CTE e-mail newsletter: To leave the static newsletter format behind completely and transform the content into a collaborative forum that will entertain and educate the CTE audience with frequent updates and relevant information.


The challenge will be in creating content and managing discussions so that the resulting information successfully compels members to share it with others in their network.

Socialnomics as an ebook: Why not?

Erik Qualman’s book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business should be an interactive ebook. Just imagine how much easier it would be to completely understand his message–not to mention, an excellent illustration of some of the very technology he is so enthusiastic about.

If Socialnomics were an interactive ebook, there would be links to discussion groups on Twitter and Facebook. This would be a great resource for readers as well as the author. He could get immediate feedback from his readers (customers) and harness the power of his own audience. In this way, Qualman could address their concerns quickly and efficiently, making the ebook even better. We could expect frequent updates, so examples more recent than 2008 would be available. In fact, maybe readers would go back to the book with frequency to see if their suggestions made it into the most recent version.

If Socialnomics were an interactive ebook, rather than simply telling us that the word “panoply” would be linked to a dictionary, the word actually would be linked so readers could easily find the definition.

If Socialnomics were an interactive ebook, perhaps it would have a link to certain pop culture references (zombies) or “vintage” television episodes. When Qualman mentions the Happy Days “Shark Jump” episode (if I remember correctly, it was actually a two-part episode) we could relive the scene. Now that would be cool!

How about films of Qualman introducing each chapter to us by giving us his “Key Points” (currently found at the end of each chapter) before we even begin reading the chapter? Wait for the ebook version.

How about Qualman narrating an interactive view of graphs or charts that illustrate the changing trends he’s always referring to. (Use airplane icons in a graph to illustrate the number of people who “land at” the three competing travel apps he refers to.) Need to wait for the ebook for that one.

Oh, Mr. Qualman, why didn’t you take it the extra step?

Well, I know someone who did take his book that extra step. Al Gore’s (2011) ebook Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis does a great job of incorporating internet and digital technology with nonfiction text. Gore’s ebook begins with a compelling view of our rotating Earth from space. If you allow your computer to communicate its location to the ebook, a pin on the globe will indicate where you are.

Al Gore also appears to introduce the ebook, and he narrates the tutorial (or user’s guide) and interactive graphs, animated illustrations, and diagrams).

Photographs are often linked to their location on the globe. Some “unfold” to show more content, while others become video with a simple click. All pictures can become full-screen by “grabbing” and enlarging them.

Because the pages within each chapter appear as thumbnail size beneath the main art for the chapter itself, it’s pretty easy and engaging to simply browse or skim this ebook.

Image from Our Choice

I absolutely love it. While I also love to read books with real pages, ebooks can be very compelling.

If my 10th graders were reading an ebook version of To Kill a Mockingbird–one that went beyond just flashing words across an electronic screen–I bet more would actually get through it.

Cookbooks as ebooks–there’s idea.

Maybe Qualman Has a Point…

Chapters five and seven of Eric Qualman’s Socialnomics further examine the use of social media in marketing, and how social media is truly changing how companies market their products and services. My post from week four, “It’s All About Attitude,” touched on the idea that because of social media, companies lose some degree of control over what online communities say about them; but by actively embracing social media, they can at least interject a positive voice into these online communities. A similar theme stood out to me in this week’s readings. That is, sizable companies are the subject of social media regardless of whether they want to be. Qualman explains,

“Companies that think they control whether they ‘do’ social media or not are terribly mistaken. If you’re a large brand, you can rest assured that there are conversations, pages, and applications constantly being developed around your brand by the community at large. The community is ‘doing’ social media even if you choose not to” (p. 183).

I work for a student loan servicing company (which shall remain nameless) that has shied away from using social media marketing. Qualman’s statement made me wonder what I would find if explored my employer on the Internet. A simple Google search pulls in a link to my employer’s website, a Wikipedia page, and many, many more—10 pages of search results total. After doing some poking around, I read a lot of really negative things about my employer (both as an employer and a provider of student loan services). The negative reviews and comments far outweigh anything positive. I have to say, I was surprised because I’ve always thought of my employer as a generally good company that tries to do right by its employees and customers.

As far as I know, the company has avoided social media to this point because of the nature of their products and services, which seem difficult to tout on social media sites. Are student loans really all that exciting or fun? Not really. Basically, it’s just another bill you have to pay. Additionally, servicing student loans is a complicated business that the consumer doesn’t always readily understand. Many of those who most actively use social media (younger, college-aged people) know next to nothing about repaying their loans.

I can see why it would be daunting to start social media marketing under these circumstances. In fact, I used to agree with the company’s reasoning behind avoiding social media; however, I think I’m now changing my mind. Qualman’s point that “too many companies believe their problems are unique when it comes to the Web” made me feel like this reason might not be a good one anymore (p. 154). After all, there are many financial institutions that do a beautiful job with social media marketing. I understand that it would take a concerted effort as well as dedicated resources for the company to create a social media presence, but couldn’t it only improve upon the dismal Google search results I encountered? After performing my little Google search experiment, I’m a believer in Qualman’s adage that “it’s better to live a social media life making mistakes than living a social media life doing nothing” (p. 187). In the circumstances of my employer, I truly think doing even a minimal amount of social media marketing could help.

Individual Decisons?

Social media impacts how people make decisions. The ability to reach a decision withouth first reading comments seems to be something of the past. To some extent, I agree with Qualman’s notion that social media allows individuals to make more informed purchasing decisions because of user reviews and conversations regarding products. Indeed, I have read user reviews before making purchases, specifically online or expensive purchases. For instance, before I purchased a motorcycle helmet online, I read the reviews of the product. Most were good, so I felt more comfortable spending the money on the product. However, I also based my decision on the fact that the helmet was DOT and Snell certified.

While the reviews provided by one’s social network may be helpful, doing research beyond user reviews may be beneficial. Qualman’s example of “Suzy” and her purchase of a vacation package based on her social media network provides a good example of how additional research may be helpful. Qualman states, “Suzy sees two of her friends both took a trip to Chile through GoAhead Tours and rated it highly. It’s within her budget, and the same package is available. She quickly snatches it up. . .”( p. 95). Indeed, perhaps this process saved Suzy some time, but the process assumes that everyone enjoys the same things. That is, Suzy made her decision based on what her contacts enjoyed, not necessarily on what she would enjoy, or what her husband may enjoy. Of course it is normal to ask friends and family for advice, but other factors should also be considered in the decision making process.

Qualman notes that without social media, “She [Suzy] probably would’ve narrowed down her choices after hours of research,” (p. 95). The idea is that hours of research is too much time these days. However, in so doing, she would have been responsible for her own decision—or is it just easier to allow others to make decisions for us? By doing the research, Suzy and her husband may have found that Brazil really made more sense than Chile based on both of their travel desires.  For expensive and important decisions, such as a once in a life-time vacation, a few hours of research may be worthwhile. Just because my neighbor enjoyed Antarctica doesn’t mean I will like Antarctica!

Qualman notes, “What this truly means is that in the future we will no longer seek products and services, rather they will find us,” (p. 89). To some extent, advertising has always worked in this capacity. Every time we view a billboard or a commercial, products “find us” However, social media allows our “friends” to become the promoters of products. Essentially, user reviews of products can be very helpful in the decision making process. At the same time, we should also base our decisions on our own personal feelings and attitudes towards products and trips. We are individuals, and as such we are capable of making individual decisions.




A Relationship?

I’m not sure that the word “relationship” means what it used to mean.  If I’m interpreting things correctly, young people shun traditional romantic relationships–they just “hook-up”.  However, according to Qualman, “Consumers today, in particular Millennials, and Generation Zers don’t want to be shouted at, they’d rather have conversations and steady ongoing relationships with companies” (p. 141).  So, we don’t want to have relationships with people, but we do want to have a relationship with our muffler shop?

I have a couple problems with this. First, when in the entire history of humanity have people preferred to be shouted at.  Just because social media offers an alternative to traditional in-your-face advertising doesn’t mean it wasn’t always obnoxious.  Second,  do people really want ongoing relationships with the companies that make the products they use?  I don’t want to treat companies as if they were friends: It demeans the whole concept of friendship.  When I contact a company it is either because it is broken or because I can’t figure something out.  I want to locate the information I need (wherever that is) and get on with my life.

Qualman does a very good job of explaining the technological possibilities of social media, but I think that Sherry Turkle does a much better job of evaluating the moral implications in her book Alone Together.  For example, I like the examples Qualman provides about the Fantasy Football Today podcast.  The producers of the podcast integrated advertising into the content rather than just using a plain commercial.  And they also used the “Tom Sawyer Approach” to leverage their audiences’ desire to participate to provide them with free content (p. 143).   He also makes a very good point when he says that, “Users generally want to be communicated with through the medium in which you met to begin with” (p. 172).

I don’t expect him to explore the moral issues around the move to social media (it isn’t the point of his book), but he never hints at the potentially negative aspects and consistently argues for the benefits.  Yes, there are some really cool possibilities with these new media, but there are limitations and trade-offs with every media and I think it hurts his credibility a little bit when he fails to mention them. Qualman even makes this point when he says, “By pointing out your flaws, people will give more credence when you point out your strengths” (p. 138).

What does it mean for a technical communicator to be a literate user of social media?

The questions Dave Clark asked in the beginning of his article just came from my heart: “What does it mean for a technical communicator … to be a ‘literate’ user of Twitter?” (Clark, p. 86)

Does it mean just to be proficient with the tool or also to have a deep understanding for its roots and learning how the tool shapes linguistic activities?

He answers it with: Yes, all of the above. These questions couldn’t show my inner struggle any better. Privately, I am not much into any social media. Professionally, I am always intrigued in new programs and tools, as I am in social networking. However, I have to find out the practical side of them. I have to be able to use them for my work. Otherwise, I consider them to be ballast, overload. If my work requires me using new gadgets, new platforms, I am all for it to get my work done. But if it just blows up my work, if I am not efficient in reaching professional goals, then I got to stop it.

Hughes “emphasizes not the tools themselves, but their creative design, implementation, and use” (Clark, p. 89). I think that is the key feature why people adapt to new tools. Using them they magically can fulfill a desire they might have had just subconsciously. The desire to connect with others is old as humans are. We are social animals. Most of us like to socialize. Social media seemed to fulfill a desire to do so even when we seem to have no time to do so in real time. However, like with many other trends, humans seem just go for it with the wide-open throttle. It takes a wise man to keep it in a moderate volume. Situations like the breakfast table with parents on their Smart phones and children complain about not connecting with their parents should be an alert to think. In this sense, I mean literally stepping back, shutting off everything and thinking about what is important in life. We went through these phases with other new technologies and got them mostly under control after a few years of hype. So there is hope, we will do the same with social media. It should be a supplement to, not a replacement of real life. It should support not undermine our real life.

However, I know to become literate in something New you have to spend some time with the New. That is part of the process. Also, it is important to keep updated, especially when being a freelancer to know about new developments, to being able to accommodate your customers. That’s why I am so thankful for this course. However, it is not just about learning the technical parts of it, e.g. like to use it. The emphasis for professionals in our field should lie on the critical approach and the assessment of the “broader implications” (Clark, p. 87). Clark defines the term ‘rhetoric of technology’ as “the coherent category of literature that addresses specific concerns of technical communicators” (Clark, p. 87). In the following he introduces different approaches in this relative new research area. To me it would be worthy to dig deeper in this topic – just to make sure to explore the academic point of view on digital literacy from different angles.

Qualman to me delivers a very practical approach. I caught myself thinking pretty often what does all this have to do with technical communication. I get it that the boundaries are getting more blurry. However, me coming from the pretty traditional background of writing manuals, I never considered myself to be in that (marketing) branch of technical communication. I am not saying at all that reading Qualman wasn’t relevant. It is very interesting to learn about all the new ways of advertising and how companies can use social media to boost their products. It just seemed to me that both chapters were targeting the advertising industry more than our professional field. Somehow Clark’s introduction of what social media means for technical communication seemed to be more appropriate.

Please proof me wrong. 

First we were all professional photographers… now we’re all doctors, too?

Our growing dependence upon taking others’ advice is scary to me when I back off and think about it.  Seeking advice on purchases as Qualman describes on pages 89-99 is just good economical sense.  We can save a lot of time, money and frustration by learning from the experiences of others and have our eyes opened to aspects of the purchase or the item itself that we hadn’t considered.  But hmm… medical advice from Facebook friends and acquaintances?  I can see the sharing of home remedies and suggestions for minor health issues, as with the burn example on page 100 of Qualman’s book.  However, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t, say, put a photo of a mole on my arm on Facebook and take a survey as to whether or not they thought it was cancerous, then subsequently base my decision whether or not to go to the doctor on their opinions.

That being said, I do participate in exchanges like this all the time, as both the person asking the question and one of the individuals offering opinions.  Do I think I know what’s best for whatever a friend’s ailment might be?  No.  I just want to help and not seem as if I’m ignoring a friend’s concern.  We have a saying at work, “trust but verify.”  (I know, we seem to have a lot of sayings at my workplace, but they fit a wide rage of situations.)  We take our friends’ input into consideration, but I don’t think most of us take the advice of our social networking friends as seriously as Qualman makes it seem – or at least we shouldn’t.  I acknowledge that on further down page 100 he says that, “After their physician, nurse, or pharmacist, people look within their network from those they trust for good advice on medical treatments and medications.” He then further cites an iCrossing study that suggests that, “Some even list the advice from their friends above that of their physician.” Yipes.  Don’t get me wrong – I know doctors are people like everyone else, they make mistakes, they are working for a paycheck, and there are “good” doctors and “bad” doctors. But even though I have some pretty intelligent friends, I’m sure that in eight-plus years of medical school and continuing education my doctor and the Walgreens pharmacist learned something about health and illness that even my smartest Facebook friends haven’t.


Hold on, Dr. Whoever. I need to get a second, third, fourth and fifth opinion from my Facebook friends.

I suppose the basis of my concern here lies in how disturbing it is that so many people distrust the medical field in general that they would even consider taking friends’ advice over a trained professional.  Often, if we ask six people the same question, we will get six different answers.  Isn’t it likely that we will pick and choose our favored answer, even if it is subconsciously, potentially ignoring something that requires medical attention?  We can talk ourselves into and out of things and allow our friends to convince us one way or another, but hearing a diagnosis or advice from a medical professional carries a certain amount of authority that our friends simply can’t or shouldn’t provide for us. We don’t know the big picture of our advising friends’ situation, even if it seems they’ve experienced the same issue we are asking about, but doctors with access to medical records can take into account details we may not realize are related to the condition. Qualman states on page 101 that the increase in our health care and medical equipment discussions via social networking is benefitting society, but I think this is only true if we apply a healthy dose (pun intended) of common sense, and unfortunately, not everyone has that.

Turkle vs. Johnson

Just in time for your midterm: “Lonely, but united: Sherry Turkle and Steven Johnson on Technology’s Pain and Promise.” 

I can’t get the video embed code to work here, but please watch that dialogue. The 10-13 minute marks are quite interesting to me in terms of the reception of Turkle’s book and how she’s been slammed for being critical of the web.

This exchange actually reminds me a lot of the Keen vs. Weinberger “Reply All” debate from July 2007 titled “The Good, the Bad, And the ‘Web 2.0,'” although that exchange is more about the useless noise vs information filtering aspects of the web rather than people’s behaviors/online addictions.

Feel free to refer to either of this exchanges in your midterm responses.

Google Trends: It’s Cool to Stay in (Public) School

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Social Media as Community Conversation

While reading Chapter 4 of Qulaman’s book Socialnomics, I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with his arguments. On page 61, Qualman states, “It is essential that traditional broadcasters [news] embrace socialnomics, otherwise, they will be overrun into oblivion.” This statement is most likely accurate. It is probably safe to assume that every major news organization, print and broadcast alike, have embraced some sort of social media, or combination thereof to reach their audiences. The use of online newspapers and you tube broadcasts is necessary to reach younger generations who spend a lot of time on computers. Indeed, print journalists are now more and more expected to both write hardcopy and for the web. 

However, I think that the print version and the traditional TV broadcasts will continue to exist for years to come. A large portion of population in the U.S. is 50 and older are perhaps more accustomed or prefer to read traditional papers and enjoy watching the 6 or 10 o’clock news. Qualman quotes Andrew Hayward, ‘We should be careful of these zero-sum games where the new media drives out the old.’ That is, a balance is necessary between traditional coverage and coverage presented through social media. Qualman goes on to argue that social media greatly helped our current president win the election in 2008—so did the traditional media and all of the traditional campaigning and speeches. Yes social media spread the message to millions of people, but the speeches were given to live audiences. Thus, to some degree, one could argue that social media is no different than any other medium; it just restates what has already taken place. What makes social media different then, is the fact that once a speech is posted, it exists forever, and people can view content over and over and post messages about it. It goes “viral.” As such, a single speech, a moment in history, may be preserved and disseminated for criticism or praise. Individuals may base their decisions regarding the speech not only on what was said by the speaker, but also by what all the other social media users have said about it. A conversation is formed.

Social media, I believe, may offer a useful forum for facilitating on-line communities and communication. However, one concern may be that people viewing these conversations may make decisions based on the content—which may be purely opinion—or even false. This possibility has always existed, but it seems that social media and the huge volume of “views” and people who follow a topic create a large space and audience for the dissemination of misinformation.

To change topics slightly, I also found Qualman’s section entitled: Is the Flu a Virus or Just Simply Viral? I just heard on the news (traditional TV broadcast) that the campaigns use data from web searches to determine which topics to cover in their advertisements. That is, they analyze search engine word trends—if the work Medicare is a very popular search, the politicians address Medicare. Until I saw this on the news, I did not realize to what extent this data was used. Everything that is typed into a search engine is tracked and analyzed. Further, this data can be sorted by location, so campaigns can determine what a specific region is most interested in—it is their form of audience analysis I suppose. Similar to social media, I have mixed feelings on this topic. Rather than a candidate discussing what is truly important to them, or, for that matter being honest, candidates can now simply go to a state and talk about what she/he already knows is the concern. Is this good for democracy overall?

Qualman goes on to state, “Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or a member of the Bull Moose Party, you can’t deny the power of real-world community relations combined with the reach and engagement of online social communities and networks to change politics as usual.” Qualman is right—one can not deny the power of social media and online communities. On the other hand, the past few years politically have been as gridlocked and partisan as ever before. Is social media a contributing factor to the political situation we are in, or is it a means to facilitate be-partisan compromises? Or, is social media neither, but rather only a virtual place for people to talk about what is really ocurring?

Letting the Masses Promote the Brand: Is it Worth the Risk?

It was hard for me to choose what to write about from this week’s readings because they touched on a lot of interesting and valuable topics! In the end, I’ve chosen this week’s readings from Eric Qualman’s Socialnomics. Qualman chose a great example to highlight in chapter four, as he explores the successful use of social media in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Not only did Obama’s campaign actively use social media, but it embraced it, allowing social media to take the campaign further than it would have otherwise been able to go.

During the 2008 election season, it was apparent to me that Obama’s campaign readily took advantage of social media. What I did not consciously realize, though, was the extent to which the campaign built a grassroots following, and allowed that community to do some of the heavy lifting for it. Qualman uses the example of the parody on the well-known Budweiser “Whassup” commercials.

Essentially, the campaign allowed someone on the outside to “take ownership of the brand and promote it” (p. 68). The parody was a wild success and received millions of views. What I find striking about this is how beautifully it worked for the campaign, but also how risky this type of thing is. It could quickly go awry if the party doing the promoting does so in a distasteful or offensive way. To successfully leverage an online community in this way, communicators must be able to stay on top of what’s happening with their brand, and react swiftly and decisively when needed to avert crisis. Clearly, the Obama campaign of 2008 was able to do this, and it paid off—the risk was well worth it.

I have to believe, though, that the risk is not worth it for some brands, and that’s why some are hesitant to fully embrace social media to this extent. Maybe I’m thinking about this in a limited way, but it seems that allowing an online community to take some brand ownership may only work well for certain types of brands and in certain industries. The Obama campaign proved that it works for promoting a person or beliefs, but how well would this work for a product? (I’m having a hard time thinking of a parallel example for a product.) In the end, I think companies and organizations need to weigh their options: maintain near complete control of their message and brand, or relinquish some of that control and hope it pays off.

Obama – just one example out of many

Qualman’s chapter 2 and all the previous readings seem to come together. Great insights. To me this is pretty much all new. My question from before about if the position of a sales person and a technical communicator will eventually merge, found somewhat an answer in this week’s reading. Qualman says, “advertisers need to become providers of content” (p. 65). How do you market yourself, how do you create your own brand, it all have changed with social media. Actually, I was wondering if Obama would combine private with business life on Facebook or if it is all about his brand. So I checked his FB page and found mostly political posts on it. Just his and Michelles 20th wedding anniversary I found – at first. Scrolling down more, there you go there is a picture of him and his two daughters with a comment about what they did last night.

However, the wording of the comment brings it all back into perspective. You think at first there is a private moment, but no, it is about the convention speech Michelle gave. Ok, so we are back into marketing. I guess where I am heading to with this is I still wonder how do combine all these different personalities we all have on social media. Do you do it at all? Do we need to see Obama and his private life? If not, how is he sharing with his family and friends his important moments? Does he not use social media at all for that or does he use a pseudonym?

Another aspect out of these readings is: Even though I heard about it, I never looked in detail in how Obama benefited from using social network. However, one thing that stood out to me was that you could actually track down what was searched for the most at Yahoo or Google. I don’t quite understand how do you actually access the search results? How do you find out if people google for soda or pop? Literally, how do you do that?

Utilizing Search and Browsing History at a Micro-Level

Erik Qualman’s book, “Socialnomics” once again entertained with interesting points in this weeks readings. The most interesting of which to me was the described ability of a search engine to predict phenomena before its occurrence by collecting and reviewing search data for trends (p. 69). One example was Yahoo’s ability to successfully predict the fast and powerful rise of pop star, Brittany Spears prior to the actual realization of her success. Also noted was ability to predict the rise of flu season prior to the Centers for Disease Control’s ability to do so. As Qualman states (p. 71), “[P]owerful stuff.”

MIT Professor, Thomas W. Malone is quoted as saying, “I think we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible with collective intelligence” (p. 71). Although Qualman looks at this available data as a set, it seems as of late I’ve been noticing more and more instances where my searching and browsing tendencies are being utilized in a individualized manner. For example, has this occurred to any of you: An ad pops up on the banner of your email browser that just so happens to be the exact product you browsed the evening before? I know, impressive, but slightly creepy right?

What have the advertiser’s done incorrectly in those too-obvious, banner ad, product placements? Really they are advertising the very product you viewed back to you and in a timely manner. What could go wrong? BUT, what is overlooked is that those advertisers don’t know what you thought of that product. It may be that you felt the product you viewed was sub-par. It may be that you decided it was too expensive. It may be a whole host of things. In addition, their very blatant use of your search history is borderline obnoxious. Not a good first impression for any potential customer. The search history of a potential customer must be useful to companies, but there has to be a better approach! Well, I think I experienced just one such tactic this week…

Wednesday afternoon I viewed a dress coat on (It was a beautiful raspberry color, just gorgeous ladies… but I digress.) I read the coat’s reviews, checked out the details and even found my size. Ultimately though, I left the coat in the cart, deciding that it was too large of a splurge. The following day a coupon arrived in my inbox from Younkers. Now this happens very frequently, but what was unique is that the generic coupon that typically arrived had a unique title: “$50 Coupon for Coats.” Huh. Now THAT I clicked on and browsed their selection with the intention of using that tempting coupon. It wasn’t until I didn’t find anything of interest that I realized I had more-than-likely just been marketed to in a VERY powerful way.

Yes, it is possible that the Younkers’ coupon arrival and tagline was just a coincidence (being Fall anyway), but the lesson remains intact regardless. If a company utilizes search and browse results on a micro-level (as well as a macro-level, as explored by Qualman) they can craft very timely, individually-focused marketing campaigns. As Qualman teaches, by using social media to listen to an audience, a company can stay in constant contact with them. Does this sound familiar to you too? Once again, no matter whether we are discussing rhetoric, marketing, or politics – to be successful in engaging and motivating your audience you must first know them.

Obama’s Blackberry

I had almost forgotten that there was a controversy about whether or not President Obama could keep his Blackberry until Qualman mentioned it.  According to Qualman the reason they were going to take it away was that all his messages would become part of the public record, “The reason for the discussion about whether Obama would need to relinquish his BlackBerry did not center on overuse. Rather, it revolved around the fact that his text messaging, tweets, status updates, and e-mails would be part of the public record” (p. 77).

But that isn’t the whole truth I think.  This is a little off subject, but Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry, has a proprietary email service that runs on servers located in Canada.  Every single BlackBerry message flows through these servers.  That’s why when they go down it takes down the service of every single BlackBerry.  As I remember it, the bigger concern was the security issues around having the private messages of the President of the United States being sent to servers in another country and the fear that some hacker would be able to tap into it.

I don’t think that people were afraid that he’d text a mistress (cough, cough, Tiger Woods).  I think everyone believes that he is savvy enough to use a BlackBerry (or other device) intelligently, but it wasn’t as simple as Qualman made it sound.  Even with GPS turned off on your phone, the cellular provider can still determine roughly where you are based on which cell sites your device is connected to–a potentially bad thing for the President of the United States.

Ok, rant over.  Other than that, I think that Qualman made a lot of valid points about how social media really propelled Obama into the White House.  The way he was able to connect in a personal and direct way with voters energized people in a way that robo-calls and junk mail can’t.  Also, I think he is the first President to really understand and leverage the power of the internet to gather analytical data about what people are thinking about at a specific moment in time.  Why conduct polls to find out what people are saying they think, when you can go to the internet and see what they are ACTUALLY thinking and doing by analyzing search phrases and page hits?

Qualman used the flu to illustrate his point, “Comparing the CDC data to Google’s data showed that Google’s insight was roughly two weeks ahead of the CDC” (p. 71).  If Google can get a two week jump on the CDC, then how much of a jump did the Obama campaign have on McCain?

Symbolic-Analytic Work

About four or five years ago I remember having a cup of coffee with a lady I used to work with.  She had a PhD in English and was working in our group as a Writer/Editor.  We were discussing the current state of Technical Communication and where we thought things were headed.  She had spent her entire career in academia and had recently joined our company.  We had already started to go through a lot of layoffs and she wanted my thoughts on which jobs were the safest.

I told her that I thought she would be safer if she moved away from editing and took on more writing.  I told her that I thought management would start to cut anything that was not directly related to pushing manuals out the door.  She burst into tears.  She loved the English language and I think it kind of broke her heart that editors would be seen as non-essential.

She left our group and within a year we had no editors–we still don’t.  And now even the writing is going away to places like India or Poland.  I think that the group I’m a part of has shrunk by about 75% since 2000.  Two weeks ago the guy that hired me 15 years ago and the writer that mentored me both left the company.  Whatever TC was when I started, it is no more.  As Stanley Dicks explains:

Writing or editing will continue to be important activities for many technical communicators.  However, they are increasingly being viewed as commodity activities that business considers questionable in adding value and that are candidates for being outsourced or offshored.  (p. 54)

According to Dicks we need to find ways to do more “symbolic-analytic work” that has more strategic value to the companies we work for (p. 53).  This could be the old standby of doing more with less, but I think that most companies have gone about as far as they can with that.  If it can be outsourced, it pretty much has been

So what’s left then?  Where I work, there are still some people that write manuals, but they probably also lead a team of people in India that write most of the content.  These writers may also develop e-learning and flash-based tutorials.  I think that just about everyone else is dedicated to figuring out how we can use new tools and technologies to communicate to customers more effectively (and, of course, more cheaply).

That means figuring out how to make single-sourcing and content reuse work using DITA and a CMS.   For more than a year now I have been leading a team within our organization to move from a book/course based model to a topic-based model.  This includes things like:

  • Change management – How do you get people to buy-in to making such a huge change?
  • Development process – What happens to the process when we stop assigning book/course and start assigning topics or lessons?
  • Graphics – If people are reusing graphic content, how do we make sure it has a consistent visual language?
  • Metadata – How do we tag the content that goes into the CMS so people can find it, manage it, and reuse it?
  • Templates and Usage – What kinds of authoring templates and guidelines need to be created to ensure that content authoring is consistent?
  • Curriculum – What training needs to be created to bring people up-to-speed on this new way of working and all the new tools?
  • Content Structure – How do we organize all this information within a CMS so that it makes sense?
  • Pilot Project – What projects do we want to put choose for the initial testing of these new tools and processes and how do we use the findings to adjust our approach?

All of this is stuff that is strategic and that can’t be outsourced.  Doing this right could mean huge improvements for the customer as well as huge efficiency gains for the company.  Before this, I used to write books and my life was predictable, but I was so bored.  This is really scary and stressful, but it is exciting and meaningful in a way that my old job wasn’t.

I think that is what Dicks was getting at with his article.  Even though technical communication has gotten a lot smaller as a profession, for those that remain the work is going to be more challenging and more meaningful.  The club is a lot more exclusive than it used to be, but the upside is that TC will get more respect as we add more value.

Employees are as valuable as they choose to be.

For this post, I am mostly considering the “Management Principles and Practices” discussion on pages 59-68 in Spilka.

Now more than ever it is important for everyone to demonstrate his or her value as an employee, regardless of the industry or professional field. Our company has experienced an over 50% cut in our workforce in the past 18 months. Before the layoffs, I was our quality management system director. After the layoffs, I am still responsible for the quality system, but I am also taking care of all contract administration duties and some production management and executive assistant tasks with no raise in pay or any added benefit other than not having to join the unemployment line. I have taken on this added responsibility with a big freaking smile on my face because all four of those titles are considered “overhead” positions, meaning that financially they only cost the company money rather than make it money. People in these kinds of positions are easy targets for the chopping block, and being able to afford to hire individuals for these positions can be seen as a luxury when executive management is getting desperate to cut costs and ultimately save their business. However, just because the position is considered purely an overhead cost doesn’t mean the individual doing the job is doomed to provide no added value to the organization.

One recurring question in the Technical Communication bachelor’s degree program here at Stout was, “What is technical communication?” There is no single correct answer. The ambiguity of our profession really puts us at an advantage if we know how to present our answer when asked what exactly it is that we do. While simply going to work and doing one’s assigned tasks is widely accepted as a sufficient work ethic, it does not allow someone in an overhead position to add value to him- or herself as an employee. So how do we add value to ourselves? A value-added employee is always thinking of ways to do things smarter, more efficiently, more effectively. We need to always be on the lookout for areas in which we can apply our skills, even if it is outside of our comfort zone.  If attending college has taught me anything it’s that I, and everyone else, is capable of much more than we assume ourselves to be.  Our chosen field is something that can be applied in any industry, and it is difficult to think of a document we can’t generate from scratch or improve if we understand the intent and the “big picture” of the company and its goals.  The more we learn about our employer as a whole, the better we can do our job and the more work we can find for ourselves to do within the company.

The only person that can make an employee valuable is the employee him- or herself.  It is not always about learning the most up-to-date technology, but it is always about demonstrating a concern for the company and its needs and acting upon them.  With a little extra effort, technical communicators have unlimited opportunities to do so.

Me! Me! Me! Otherwise known as social networking


I’ve been discussing visualizations and infographics with my ENGL 335 Digital Humanities students [check out their course blog here], and I came across this. Relevant to this week’s readings and blog posts, right?