Monthly Archives: November 2014

Written items: Most often vs. Most valued

I enjoyed Blythe, Lauer, and Curran’s (BLC) article immensely because it directly ties into my post from last week that discussed the value of a writer.

In one section of their study, BLC display a graph that shows the most often produced written materials as well as the most valued written materials.  The first four items in each graph (email, websites, instructions/manuals, presentations) are the same, which did not surprise me because these seem to be the standard documents any tech writer is responsible for in a modern workplace.

However, a trend began to emerge after the first four.  I noticed that it seemed as if the writings that had more value were written the least often.  This appears to be true, save for the top four items, which may require further exploration and research to find out why these four things are mirrored on both lists.

For example, press releases are not highly-valued yet they are written quite frequently.  Research papers on the other hand are written less frequently, but have a high value.  The most interesting aspect of this article was the inclusion of fiction, which I found odd for an article regarding tech writing.  What is even more interesting is that fiction is listed as being valuable, but it is nowhere to be found on the most often written chart.

These graphs and discussion of the value and frequency of different writing types was a small section in this paper, but a very important one that I think has the potential to be explored in more detail in future research studies.  BLC may be well on their way to pinpointing exactly why writers are often undervalued and understand what makes other types of writing more or less valuable than others, even if it is written at high frequencies.

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Grammar Girl

Pigg (2013) uses a case example to explain how one writer, Dave, was able to successfully use social media for employment. In my career, I’ve spent four years as a contractor for different projects and corporations. While I enjoyed reading about Dave, I was slightly jealous of the fact that he is able to use a coffee shop as his office. As a contractor, I was never allowed to work remotely. In fact, even the full-time employees were discouraged from working from home. It would be awesome to get paid to work at a coffee shop, just like Dave did in “Social Media’s Role in Distributed Work.” My most important takeaway from reading Dave’ case study on using social media for employment is that he used social media at two levels: project or task work and an ongoing professional trajectory to network with others for future work (p. 82-83).

As a contractor, most of Dave’s writing assignments are short-term, and I find it interesting that he uses social media as a way to find future writing opportunities. Because he works hard to get a large following on his popular blog, he is able to find additional work. I live in Austin and since it is the capital of Texas, there are a lot of technical writing contracts available at the various state agencies. I think it’s cool that I too could use social media (Twitter, Facebook, and blogs) to find employment.

Dave’s story reminds me of Grammar Girl. I have “liked” Grammar Girl on Facebook for several years. Grammar Girl posts frequently on Facebook; uses a cute avatar; and posts videos, links, and hashtags to promote her books. Several of her posts appear to be well thought-out ways to link back to her book –her background photo indicates that she has seven books. With almost 500,000 likes, she too has been able to successfully use social media to network and find employment opportunities. Can you imagine how long it took her (and how many hours at a coffee shop) to get that many likes?

This article taught me that to be a great technical communicator, I must also be a bit of an entrepreneur. Hence, if I am passionate about something, am willing to invest time, and treat social media as a project/task and plan long-term goals on how to use it to professionally network for future employment, I too can be successful. Dave had an idea to blog about fatherhood and Grammar Girl had an idea to provide tips on tricks on language and grammar. Both have used social media to generate income. I am passionate about running and CrossFit. Maybe I should start blogging about it and one day I could have a following. And in my wildest dreams I could get advertisers or sponsors one day. What about you, what ideas do you have to use social media for profit?

 

Special Agent Pigg

I had a tough time reading Pigg’s “Coordinating Constant Invention: Social media’s role in distributed work.”  Although I found the majority of her article to be convoluted and lacking conciseness, it was her observation of participants in a coffeehouse that I couldn’t look past.  I questioned everything from her description of the coffeehouse to the participants she used and how she chose them.  I will go through her process and ask the questions I had when reading Pigg’s article.

http://www.amsterdam-advisor.com

1-Pigg picked an independent coffeehouse, on major avenue, which links the university and government districts-

Q1-Where is this establishment?  Certainly people in Minnesota would have different habits from people in California which would have different habits from people in New York.  What season was it?  Again, this would dictate behaviors and which clientele frequented and stayed at this establishment. Why an independent coffeehouse?  Isn’t Starbucks the most prestigious coffeehouse?  Was the study looking for anti-establishments types that avoided chain restaurants?

http://www.tvtropes.org

2-Pigg observed for 6 weeks, 5 days a week, at varying times of the day-

Q2-Where these observation times random?  Did she do it in her spare time?  If she observed before work, after work, and sometimes on lunch or breaks, she would fail to see a true representation of people frequenting the coffeehouse.  Was there a systematic approach to observing the patrons?  Did she creep around and spy on people?  Did she sit in a corner?  Was she in the same spot every day or different spots at different times?  What happened when someone confronted the creepy lady that kept staring at people all the time?  Surely this would have altered people’s behavior.  The necessary explanation by Pigg to keep people from asking for her removal from the building would have changed their behavior.

Parature.com

3-Pigg selected four patrons that would be ideal case study participants-

Q3-How many did she select initially?  Did she select four and all four were willing to be part of the study?  Did she select ten and only four gave consent?  Were these people professional writers getting paid for their work?  Were they black, white, Asian, affluent, poor, single, or did they have kids?  Did they have an option to go to an office and chose to go to the coffeehouse instead?

http://www.safetysign.com

4-Pigg videotaped the participants to see the interaction between the bodies and technologies-

Q4-Have you ever been in a coffeehouse and had to fart, pick your nose, scratch your wherever places, or just sit and space out for 15 minutes?  If you were being recorded, would you participate in any of the activities mentioned above?  Regarding the camera pointing at the computer/phone screen.  Would you visit a naughty site, sext a significant other, look at a racy email, post an inappropriate picture, or carry on an extremely personal Instant Messenger conversation knowing that it was all being recorded and you had signed your rights away?  Would you go out for five cigarettes an hour or spit your Copenhagen into a cup knowing you were being recorded?  It’s absurd to think that the recordings were a 100% truthful representations of the participant’s day.

These are just four small pieces that bothered me.  They may seem trivial and petty, but I think an honest answer to any of them could have far reaching implications for the study.  The lack of scientific methods in this study brings its credibility into question.  The basic point that I got from this article was that Pigg maintains that workers, technical writers in particular, are moving more towards non-conventional freelance roles.  In doing so, they use social media to create the conventional “office space” around them.  By using social media, they can essentially carry their office with them no matter where they choose to rest their laptop that day.  They use social media to replace the office chit chat, the exchange of ideas and suggestions, and the personal interaction that they all go without due to the writer’s ever changing locations.  I agree with her conclusions, but I don’t believe the study helped me get there.

 

How do we manage contextual mobility in the workplace?

Ishii’s article is somewhat dated, as the statistics for mobile telephone conversations have probably increased sine 2006 when the article “Implications of Mobility” was published. However, Ishii’s implications have merit eight years after publication. I was particularly struck with the three types of mobility (spatial, temporal, and contextual) outlined (p. 347).

newgirllandline2

A recent New Girl episode deals with the spacial mobility of a landline phone. Source: http://emertainmentmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/newgirllandline2.jpeg

 

Contextual mobility, while potentially liberating for users–as they can turn off their phone if they wanted–is a double edged sword. In the workplace, with mobile phones, the expectation is for all employees to be “on” at all times, no matter the hour. I have gotten emails from work at 9:30 at night. This mobility and the implications of so much mobility and accessibility is something that we must be aware of, and intentional about creating boundaries.

I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but after reading Turkle’s Alone Together, I’ve been reading all our assignments through the lens of whether or not we’re allowing the technology to dictate our attention spans and stress levels. Perhaps I should get a landline and an answering machine to cut down on my accessibility. But then again, how could I read that 9:30 pm email from my coworker right when she sent it if I didn’t have my cell phone near me (and synced with my email account)?

Necessary Networking

While reading “Social Media’s Role in Distributed Work”, I began to realize how essential social networking has become in the workplace during these past few years. It is true that many of these once “personal” forms of communication and entertainment have recently become the primary method of communication in many workplaces. Most employers are now looking for experience with social networking when hiring new employees, so I was motivated to research the pros and cons of this trend. I ran into an article on CeraIt.com titled “5 Problems with Social Networking in the Workplace”, and found these points highlighted:

The Benefits

Expanding Market Research

Social networking sites give businesses a fantastic opportunity to widen their circle of contacts. Using Facebook, for example, a small business can target an audience of thousands without much effort or advertising. With a good company profile and little in terms of costs, a new market opens up, as do the opportunities to do business.

Personal Touch

Social networks allow organizations to reach out to select groups or individuals and to target them personally. Businesses can encourage their customers to become connections or friends, offering special discounts that would be exclusive to online contacts. This personal touch is not only appreciated but may give the business access to that customer’s own network of contacts.

Improve Your Reputation

Building strong social networks can help a business to improve its reputation with as little advertising as possible. Social networks can boost your image as thought leaders in the field and customers/contacts start to acknowledge your business as reliable and an excellent source of information/products that suit their requirements.

Low-Cost Marketing

Once social networks have become established and people become familiar with the brand, businesses can use the sites or applications to implement marketing campaigns, announce special offers, make important announcements and direct interested people to the specific Web sites. It is mostly free advertising, and the only cost to the business is the time and effort required to maintain the network and the official Web site.

The Concerns

Social networking sites are applications and, as such, are generally not a problem for organizations. It is the people who use them that are a cause for concern. Social networkers, if one can call them so, are the root of five problems for an organization that allows social networking at work.

Productivity

One reason why organizations on social networking in the workplace is the fact that employees spend a great deal of time updating their profiles and sites throughout the day. If every employee in a 50-strong workforce spent 30 minutes on a social networking site every day, that would work out to a loss of 6,500 hours of productivity in one year! Although this may be a generalization, organizations look very carefully at productivity issues, and 25 hours of non-productive work per day does not go over well with management. When you factor in the average wage per hour you get a better (and decisive) picture.

There is also an effect on company morale. Employees do not appreciate colleagues spending hours on social networking sites (and others) while they are functioning to cover the workload. The impact is more pronounced if no action is taken against the abusers.

Resources

Although updates from sites like Facebook or LinkedIn may not take up huge amounts of bandwidth, the availability of (bandwidth-hungry) video links posted on these sites creates problems for IT administrators. There is a cost to Internet browsing, especially when high levels of bandwidth are required.

Viruses and Malware

This threat is often overlooked by organizations. Hackers are attracted to social networking sites because they see the potential to commit fraud and launch spam and malware attacks. There are more than 50,000 applications available for Facebook (according to the company) and while FaceBook may make every effort to provide protection against malware, these third-party applications may not all be safe. Some have the potential to be used to infect computers with malicious code, which in turn can be used to collect data from that user’s site. Messaging on social networking sites is also a concern, and the Koobface worm is just one example of how messages are used to spread malicious code and worms.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is becoming a fine art and more and more people are falling victim to online scams that seem genuine. This can result in data or identity theft. Users may be convinced to give personal details such as Social Security numbers, employment details and so on. By collecting such information, data theft becomes a serious risk. On the other hand, people have a habit of posting details in their social networking profiles. While they would never disclose certain information when meeting someone for the first time, they see nothing wrong with posting it online for all to see on their profile, personal blog or other social networking site account. This data can often be mined by cybercriminals.

Employers must be on the lookout for information that their employees may post, as this may have an impact on the company. People often post messages without thinking through what they’ve have written. A seemingly innocuous message such as “I’m working this weekend because we’ve found a problem in our front-end product” may be a spur-of-the-moment comment but could raise concern among customers who may use that system, especially if the company handles confidential or financial detail.

Reputation and Legal Liability

At then time of authorship, there have been no major corporate lawsuits involving evidence from social networking sites. However, organizations need to watch for employees who may be commenting publicly about their employer. For example, one young employee wrote on her profile that her job was boring and soon received her marching orders from her boss. What if a disgruntled employee decided to complain about a product or the company’s inefficiencies in his or her profile? There are also serious legal consequences if employees use these sites and click on links to view objectionable, illicit or offensive content. An employer could be held liable for failing to protect employees from viewing such material. The legal costs, fines and damage to the organization’s reputation could be substantial.

Do you guys think this trend is a beneficial one that should be continued considering the pros and cons?

References:
Kelleher, D. (n.d.). 5 Problems with Social Networking in the Workplace. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.cerait.com/5-problems-social-networking-workplace

What’s Wrong with the Landline? We Prefer Text.

Imagine this: You are at a dinner with friends, either out at a restaurant or in someone’s home, and know only one or two people in the room. Although you’ve had a lovely conversation with one young woman, she has excused herself to the restroom and you are no longer tethered to a conversation. What is your first reaction?

More than likely, you turn to your phone either to check the time or fill time.

Welcome to the world of contextual mobility 2.0.

While reading “Implications of Mobility” by author Kenichi Ishii (2006), I could not help but trace the eight-year-ago paper’s summary to new examination of mobility, as described by Turkle (2012) and Rheigngold (2014). The author’s work seems almost a forshadowing of current social forms of communication. The idea of contextualized communication has, since the paper’s publication, become a norm. For example, the author gives an overview of young people using mobile phones to maintain social networks beyond parental grasp, and that mobile phones “…[are] used to obtain freedom from family grip” (Ishii, 2006, p. 348).

With the decline of landline usage, the contextualization for youth using mobile phones has shifted to a norm of communication, leading to Turkle’s (2012) point that humans expect more from technology and less from each other. This, perhaps, rising from the idea that contextual mobility has “….enable[d] mobile phones users to communicate more freely from an existing social context” (Ishii, 2006, p. 350). Published shortly after the birth of Facebook, I see the author’s paper as forbearance of future events.

Perhaps most prophetical is the author’s illumination between low social skills and mobile use. Today, millennials hate getting voicemail, and prefer text over actual phone conversations. This hyper-contextualization of communication is pointed out in the author’s note that “…it is hypothesized that people with low social skills prefer mobile mail to mobile voice phone as compared to people with higher social skills” (Ishii, 2006, p. 351). Taken in context of Turkle’s point that “…Some of the things we do now with our devices, only a few years ago we would have found odd. We would have found disturbing” (Turkle, TEDtalk, February 2012), such as prefering text over voicemail

What do you think? Is Ishii’s (2006) work a foreshadowing of contextual communication mentioned by Turkle (2012)?

The value of a writer

Zachry and Ferro’s article, Technical Communication Unbound, helped me organize my thoughts on a topic that has been circulating in my mind for some time: the value of a writer.

This particular part of their article was the source of inspiration for the topic of this post:

“..it now appears that the tasks of those working in the profession are necessarily expanding to include such concerns as real-time monitoring of texts and other communicative performances that circulate in the network of social media.”

Since the responsibilities of a writer are evolving and expanding, I would hope that this means that the respect and appreciation for tech writers is increasing with it.

In my own personal experience, this is not so.  At my place of employment, more importance is placed on skills such as design or coding, which has been made completely clear to me from recent conversations with my boss.  In fact, I’ve been told that my position as a content writer, “requires no real skills.”

With the emergence of social media and its emphasis on shorthand writing forms, it is easy for one to think less of writing or not even think of it as a useful skill at all.

I suppose that I worry that, with the increase of responsibilities, tech writers will be thought of more as an administrative assistant with a laundry lists of tasks to accomplish and less like a professional with useful skills.

#SocialMediaToolkit

In “Technical Communication Unbound,” Ferro and Zachry discuss survey results on the use and prohibition of social media among technical communicators from 2008 to 2011. It was interesting that just a few years ago, many participants surveyed claimed that their employers had restrictions and policies which prevented communicators from using social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Ferro and Zachy end their article with “Students need to learn to communicate effectively through services, and not only to operate the sites that are currently most popular in their network.”

This is now happening, as corporations are actively encouraging employees to develop a social persona on behalf of the company around an area of expertise. Moreover, corporations are also removing obstacles (fear of social media or permission to access it) and are providing tools, processes, and training on how employees should simplify content and curate topics. In fact, companies now have engagement strategies in which they have identified and prioritized social media platforms that should be used for primary content engagement. They also provide tips and tricks, checklists, toolkits, and recommendations on how to build a network, how to build a following, and how to audit an  existing social media account.

My husband was recently selected as a social media subject matter expert for his company. As a result, he had to go through a week of training and was given a handbook on how to develop a social media persona on behalf of his company. In the 103- page handbook, specific guidelines dictate:

  • Which picture to use in an avatar (every picture/avatar must be the same across all social media platforms).
  • Details on how to write a bio that tells a story (about who you are and what you do).
  • Which usernames are allowed and which usernames are prohibited.
  • A list of popular hashtags to use in conversations on specific topics.
  • Accounts on third-party analytic sites (e.g., Klout) that must also be created and maintained.
  • How to create a content plan that also includes procedures on how to map out content ideas and tips on how to “write killer content.”
  • Templates to use to write a blog.
  • Which browsers to use (i.e., Goggle Chrome is the preferred browser).
  • Minimum activity to be held accountable to: one LinkedIn post per week and one Twitter post per week.

In just a few short years, companies have shifted from discouraging or prohibiting social media, to embracing it (with specific guidelines, of course). As social media and the Web 2.0 evolve, it will be interesting to see how companies will continue to respond. What will the next five years bring? Will there be more specific guidelines on the dos and don’ts of using social media or will companies relax their rules?

I’ve Fallen and I’m Going to Tweet

When I read the article “Tweeting an Ethos” by Bowden, I couldn’t help but think of the early 1990’s Life Call commercial of the grandma laying on the floor of her bathroom.  While laying next to the tub, Mrs. Fletcher hits the button around her neck and the receiver by her phone turns on.  The guy at Life Call answers and asks what her emergency is, she says “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”.  Parodies, songs, and spoofs ensue and good times are had by all.  What if Mrs. Fletcher hit a button and a tweet went out?  Would this work?  Is it more or less effective than trying to yell to the voice box?

Regardless of Mrs. Fletcher’s options to make her emergency known, the topic of using social media during emergencies seems like a legitimate future.  If I think about what I currently have at my disposal to get updates on a severe weather event, there are only a few options.  There is the news, the emergency broadcast system on both TV and the radio, and there are the sirens outside.  If the power goes out, the TV is not an option, the radio is gone without a battery backup option, and the sirens warn, but carry no other information.  As long as your phone has batteries, and even if the power goes out, your vehicle can always charge the phone, you are linked to a stream of information.  The only problem would be how to sift through all of the information and get to what pertains to you.

In the article, they broke down different categories of tweets for Hurricane Irene.  The question I have is how would you get to the information that helped you most at the moment that you needed it.  Its nice to have road closures tweeted, but how many roads were closed?  I would guess more than a few.  Its wonderful to be able to donate or help out, but how would you know where to go (assuming it was time sensitive)?  Twitter and the tweeters may have already figured this out, but it would seem necessary to put something a little more specific than #hurricaneirene on your tweet.  For a midwest weather event, would it make sense to go by county, city, neighborhood, or could you break it down by street?  Are there enough people on Twitter to give an accurate and helpful account to all areas?

#stpaultornado

#eaststpaultornado

#lowertowntornado

#billysgrandavetornado

If I remember correctly, most people in this class don’t have twitter.  If your city tweeted weather events, road closures, or news that would impact the city’s citizens, would you be more apt to subscribe and set up a Twitter account?  If they used Facebook, would that make a difference?

Our View of Social Media and Technology

Technology art

While reading Ferro and Zachry’s “Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge Making”, I ran across the statement that:

 Technology ranks high on the worldwide list of tools promising to foster economic growth, social well-being, and environmental sustainability, especially in the global south.

I began thinking of my personal “northern” view of social media and technology, and I personally view it as essential part of my lifestyle. Although I’m sure technology plays it’s part in the economy, I see it on a more personal level. I did some research to see how people in other countries viewed the social media and technology, and ran across this article titled “Around the World, Net Neutrality Is Not a Reality”. The article examined the general view of technology and social media in developing countries, and mentioned that in Kenya:

In the United States it’s practically free for you to get on Google and Facebook, as Wi-Fi is almost everywhere or cheap relative to income. Here, that’s not the case, It’s a different relationship to the Internet when you only get it on your phone, and you don’t have a traditional Internet connection at home or work.

For poorer people, Internet access will equal Facebook. That’s not the Internet—that’s being fodder for someone else’s ad-targeting business. That’s entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination—a crucial limitation on human life.

I found this article incredibly interesting and was wondering what technology and social media meant to you all?

References:

Talbot, D. (2014, January 20). In Developing Countries, Google and Facebook Already Defy Net Neutrality | MIT Technology Review. Retrieved November 10, 2014.

A Changing Social Field

What I found most interesting in Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge (Longo 2013), was the author’s articulation that face-to-face interaction will not necessarily be replaced by social media. For technical communicators, at this point, this may be true. However, as “New technologies for making and sharing information in a variety of media have made it easy for users to tell their own stories” (Longo, 2013, p. 22), perhaps a more anticipatory view may give readers pause.

While currently this statement may be true as of now, it cannot be denied that technical communicators (in general) work for corporations or organizations. As the rising trend of creating a corporate social media presence rises, what pressure will this place on technical communicators? If software development trends continue at their current pace, easily re-writeable document software may change the traditional claim technological communicators have had. Namely, that of “…audience analysis and user accommodation” (Longo, 2013, pg. 23), since audience collaboration is not limited to social media platforms but in writable software as well.

What do you think? Will audience collaboration in social media transpose to document writing? Will the ‘social’ aspect of social media morph into technical communication fields of document writing? 

Inclusive Design for Social Media Tools

I was interested in the global aspect of Longo’s article and colloquium and the desire to bring the cultural implications of the internet and social networking to the fore. It was important to me that the needs and considerations of the globally disenfranchised were so strongly considered. Truthfully, I find myself often forgetting that so much of the world is generally without the networked capabilities I take for granted.

Longo had a point that spoke to me especially as a designer interested in the best communication practices between all types of people, across cultures:

However, as we embrace and use these tools to open communication and design processes, we need to look at cultural assumptions underpinning the design of these tools and how we envision  people using them. Through this mutual analysis of our audience, our tools, and ourselves, we are able to devise technology design and diffusion practices that profoundly include the perspectives and feedback of people whose lives are affected by those technologies. (pg. 26)

Especially in a hyper-connected world where the latest designed artifacts are largely of the digital, interactive variety, there are incredible opportunities to design interaction in the most inclusive and universal ways possible. Designers and writers today should assume that their works can be accessed and used by people in widely differing cultures and create with the goal to successfully reach as many people as possible. This is such a challenging aspect of design today. It is challenging to design for the entire range of participants in our own culture, much less cultures we are wholly unfamiliar with. The desire to create universal works needs to be accompanied by a drive for intense research and an abstract way of thinking that can allow the creator to place themselves in another’s shoes. It is a balancing act between clearly communicated content and accessible design.

Think about your own favorite social media technology, and think of yourself as someone from the Global South. How does the technology translate? Is the technology primarily word-based? This clearly creates limitations. Maybe there’s extensive use of icons, some of which have come to represent technology in a universal way (think of a “settings” icon, often represented by a gear shape, or a “location” or “GPS” icon, wholly derived from graphic interface of the technology itself). Some social media tools are very minimal in prompts design, relying on swipes and taps to function.

As we begin to collaborate and seek feedback from across cultures and continents, we may find ourselves thinking in terms of the most basic forms of communications. The universal solution might rely on a design of simplicity to facilitate and negotiate the complexity of the inner workings.

Branding and online communication by people, not machines

I had a thought about something B. Longo said in her article, “Using social media for collective knowledge-making: Technical communication between the global north and south,” when she said that technical communicators first began writing content for the web with an authoritative voice, and then changed it to a more approachable, interactive platform (p. 4). My question that I pose to you, my smart-as-a-whip classmates is this: How does a company remain authentic, keep up its brand, and stay somewhat colloquial when writing for the web?

Can we as technical communicators help our company maintain its brand when we create the approachable content–that must come from us and our experiences at some point? (Or do all employees contribute a certain bit to the brand of a company?) Just a thought I wanted to throw out to you guys.

LinkedIn for Employment

Job Search

I have been actively seeking employment since early this year and have tried all of the job boards (Monster, Indeed, Career Builder), numerous temp agencies (KForce, Robert Half, Jaci Carroll), and have been visiting company websites for open positions with no luck. A good friend of mine who is an aspiring career coach always tells me to try LinkedIn, but never gave me any solid instruction. I created a profile a few years ago, but deleted it when I realized my cell phone number and address were showing up in Google searches along with my picture. I definitely need a new approach, but I was very uncertain of how LinkedIn may help.

One day while researching the benefits of LinkedIn vs. Indeed, I ran across this wonderfully titled article on ZipRecruiter called “LinkedIn vs. Indeed: The Apply Button Smackdown!” The article recounted how ZipRecruiter added both “apply buttons” for Indeed and LinkedIn and tracked the number of applicants that used each. The monthly results:

FEBRUARY
Indeed Apply: 6.9% (12,564)
LinkedIn Apply: 6.4% (11,599)
ZipRecruiter Apply: 86.7% (157,589)

MARCH
Indeed Apply: 10.1% (22,003)
LinkedIn Apply: 6.6% (14,377)
ZipRecruiter Apply: 83.3% (180,616)

JUNE
Indeed Apply: 16.0% (38,610)
LinkedIn Apply: 5.4% (13,017)
ZipRecruiter Apply: 78.6% (188,747)

The article went on to ask why the Indeed apply button outperformed the LinkedIn button, and came to the conclusions that:

  1. When someone gives their resume to Indeed, they do so with the explicit intent of finding a job or changing jobs. Even though LinkedIn has a multi-year head start collecting resumes, the majority of their users are not engaged in an active job search.
  2. Indeed is RAPIDLY building the size of their resume database. We asked Indeed for a run-rate and they told us they are adding more than 1 million new resumes a month. That’s a staggering volume of active job seekers set up to use the Indeed Apply button.

I found this article interesting as it seems more serious applicants are using Indeed and probably similar search engines. I have gotten most of my job interviews off Indeed.com and I truthfully think it’s an excellent resource. Rich Maggiani and Ed Marshall’s article seemed like a how-to for LinkedIn, and I appreciate the concept of connections. However I wonder how far connections of connections who are virtually strangers would go to act as a job reference for you. It seems very abstract and absurd, but it is worth a try.

Have any of you had any luck with finding work on LinkedIn?

References:
Siegel, I. (2012, July 18). LinkedIn vs. Indeed: The Apply Button Smackdown! – ZipRecruiter. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from https://www.ziprecruiter.com/blog/2012/07/18/linkedin-vs-indeed-the-apply-button-smackdown/

Image:
(2011, 10 02). Job Search [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://mbahighway.com/2011/10/top-10-mba-job-search-websites/

Digital Communication: Accomodate differences or establish a universal standard?

Barry Thatcher’s article, Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures, brings up one of the most important, but rarely discussed aspect of digital communication: cultural differences.  No matter where we are in the world, we can access the Internet from the same types of devices, but not always the same websites.  Or, sometimes one website is adapted to display differently according to region and native language.  We are using the same Internet, but not always viewing, absorbing and processing the same things.

I work for an ecommerce web design company that is based in the US but works with several contractors in Pakistan and India.  Aside from working with people overseas on a regular basis, we get clients from all over the world.  Lately, I have been noticing that a lot of our clients want bi or multilingual websites, which, from a coding and design standpoint, can be complicated and ultimately expensive.  Additionally, a lot of the major ecommerce platforms we work with will allow multi-language support, but only with a lot of custom coding, which, again, can be quite expensive.

One of the most complex problems we have yet to find a solution to is the ability to create a bi or multilingual ecommerce store with the checkout process to be in the language of the shoppers’ choosing.  Yes, even with custom-coding and advanced functionality, it is incredibly difficult to translate the checkout process in a language other than English with a hosted ecommerce platform.

Thatcher’s article had me thinking of this particular issue because we are able to translate every part of the online shopping experience except for the most important: the checkout.  This is where actual money is exchanged and people want this to feel the most comfortable, but we are unable to do that for them.  I’ve been doing some research on this for work and I have discovered that many international shoppers simply accept this as the norm, but I feel like it is unfair for this to be so.

Ultimately, cultural differences on the Internet have led me to contemplate the benefits and downfalls of ignoring cultural norms an instead create a universal, digital culture with its own set of beliefs, language and functions.  Some may argue that this already exists, but as Thatcher has us realize, we have only been viewing the Internet through a North American lens.  The Internet is different everywhere and we need to take that into consideration more often.

Audience Analysis: Who are we writing for and who is using this?

Audience analysis is something that I’ve always struggled with in my career. As a technical communicator who has spent more than seven years documenting various software products, I often wonder why it is so difficult to understand the users of a particular product or why it is impossible to have contact with them. Since documentation is so important, why does all customer contact and audience analysis come from product management, marketing, or support? If we are providing information to customers, shouldn’t we as technical communicators be the first line of contact? I understand that the main reason is to respect customers’ privacy and time, but that just seems like an excuse.

Similar to cases three and four in Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age, my company also provides enterprise network security services and products. We produce 500+ page PDFs and HTML help. We want to improve our documentation, but we don’t truly know our reader’s needs. Like most linear-based PDFs, our content is not chunked and some of the important tasks are buried in paragraphs. We are also interested in providing tutorials, but since we have absolutely no contact with our customers, we don’t know if creating these tutorials would be valuable.

Blakeslee explains that there are three things writers need about audiences:

  • How readers will read and interact
  • What context will readers use the information
  • What expectations do the readers have before using the information

The chapter then gives detailed examples in the case studies of the strategies and methods writers use to analyze their audience. Some use bulletin boards, personas, and support call logs. Others use industry conference proceedings, whitepapers, or training materials. At my company, we get some feature request information from product management. We also receive software bugs that are logged if customers or employees find issues in our documentation. While our current methods aren’t the best, I feel encouraged to apply some of the questions listed in Appendix A to improve our documentation and to provide the best user experience possible.

Task-based communication: Should we change the online infrastructure?

Where do we come off knowing how a user will access the web? With Google, I can find something that’s deep within a site, and avoid all the crumbs to get to the page I wanted. In Spilka’s book, Ann Blakeslee makes the good point that technical communicators need to shift from “developing documentation based on what writers think their readers need,” to how they “will actually use the information to complete a task” (p. 216). Luckily, we expect repetition in both communication and online. So we can have the same information on more than one page on a website to make sure someone sees it, even if they skipped the two pages leading up to the page they sought.

That is the science. The art is how much to say and what to omit so as to keep the added value of visiting the site (so it’s not just ten pages of the same information over and over again). But, I think that’s a secondary concern. The first concern is to have a task-based infrastructure so that the audience can find what they’re looking for, and not have to sift through paragraphs of information. About the ‘how much to add where’ question, I think it’s a constant challenge to keep tweaking. From my personal experience, I’d rather have a straightforward answer to my query, and then I can dive into the hyperlink tunnel to find more answers if I so wish. That way I do get to know what the website has to offer, just not in a linear manner.

So should we change to a task-based communication? Yes. If you think not, I’d love to hear why; I am open to changing my mind on this if I hear a compelling reason.

Communicating Across Cultures

I was especially interested in the topic of cross-cultural communication in Chapter 7 of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, titled “Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures” by Barry Thatcher. I personally have always enjoyed the research portion of communications work, and learning about the audience and applying that knowledge to convey information to a particular demographic is an indispensable part of designing and writing successful communications.

It is because of this research interest, paired with a fascination of world cultures that I found the information in Thatcher’s chapter of particular value. I think it can be easy as an American to feel isolated from international culture, especially for Midwesterners and people who live outside of major metropolitan areas, so this article also serves as a reminder that our communication methods are particular to this culture and not always directly applicable to others.

My favorite part of the article was Thatcher’s research into websites of 27 universities around the world, looking at purpose, audience, information, organization and style in terms of the cultural values of “how a single person relates to others” (pg. 175), universal or particular approach to rules and norms (pg. 176) and the “degree of involvement across different spheres of life” approach of diffuse or specific (pg. 177) as illustrations of these cross-cultural communications considerations. When reading about this research and Thatcher’s case study involving Texas Tech University, I couldn’t help but think of Stout’s website and how, not surprisingly, it embodies many of the same cultural communications values Thatcher describes as particular to Western cultures.

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Like the Texas Tech website, the homepage emphasizes cultural values of “individualism, universalism, and specific orientation.” (pg. 190). This is shown by the featured image of a lone, individual student in the header as well as links that are specific to types of users the website aims to serve. The purpose is to give users quick and direct access to whatever information they seek.

The audience for the Stout website is those disparate individuals looking for quick access to specific types of information. Like Texas Tech’s site, it is “designed for the reader’s specific needs at the moment.” (pg. 191)

The information presented is, again, all about the individual user’s needs for specific answers. Collective and historic information about Stout and the Menomonie community is buried within the site. Many photos do include collaborative themes and groups of students, but the relationships are often vague. Language is at a universal level, designed to be easily understood by most potential users.

The organization of the Stout site is based on the specific needs of the audience mentioned above. The site as a whole is “highly templated”, much like Texas Tech’s site (pg. 193). The overall organization follows strict guidelines which dictate menus, headers and hierarchy, dividing information immediately along user types like “Future Students”, “Current Students”, “Parents”, etc.

Looking at these cultural values evident in a familiar website has made me realize how much I am oriented to think along these lines when organizing information in publications and website design without much thought about how else it could be done, certainly not in terms of how international users might prefer to be communicated to. As world cultures become more connected through the network, cross-cultural considerations become increasingly relevant during the design process, and I certainly plan on applying the concepts presented in this chapter in my work. Did this article make you think about the cultural assumptions you make in your work?