Author Archives: natefellows

Please Trust Me

Spilka, Chapter 9—E-mail in the workplace seems to mean different things to different people. I think e-mail is only as strong as a company allows it to be. It seems that some companies prefer to only use e-mail when you need to involve a group of people in the communication. At my company, we are supposed to use e-mail all the time. Even if I want to talk to the person that sits next to me, I’m supposed to e-mail them instead of talking to them face-to-face. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever been a part of.

I think the most important aspect when using e-mail is to remember that the person(s) you sent the e-mail to can also send that e-mail message to other people. I think this is why it is very important to be ethical and professional in all e-mail communications. The important thing that I’ve learned is that just because I authored and e-mail, it doesn’t mean that I own it and have control over who views it.

Privacy, Trust, and Disclosure—I thought this was a great article. I pretty much shop online whenever I can and if I don’t trust the company that I’m buying from, I will not purchase anything. I trust Ebay because they’ve always refunded my money when something has gone wrong with a different company that sold me an item through their Web site.

Trust

In August, I ordered some seat covers for my golf cart. The company that I bought them from through Ebay sent me the wrong items. I e-mailed the company to get my money back. The company wanted me to pay for the return shipping and then they would refund my money. I told the person that I was e-mailing that I didn’t trust them so I wasn’t going to pay for shipping with the hope that I would get all my money back. The company told me that I can trust them but I didn’t because trust takes a long time to develop in a relationship.

If you’re a company and selling things online, you need to make sure that people get what they expect. If customers are receiving what they expect then they will trust your company and buy more items from you in the future.

E-mail–Yes Please

Spilka, Chapters 7—The way Spilka talked about how e-mail worked great in some situations but not so great with “delicate interpersonal communications” is totally true.

At my old job, e-mail was the communication of choice. Everyone used e-mail because it would track your conversation and people could view the content of the e-mail anytime of the day or night. The problem with e-mail was when you would get into an argument with a coworker.

I had a coworker that lived in Indianapolis, Indiana and I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My coworker showed a customer a confidential drawing that I was going to use in an instruction. The problem was the drawing wasn’t approved and it was going to change. I e-mailed the drawing to my coworker because he wanted to see it so he could get an idea of what was going on. My coworker then e-mailed the drawing to a customer in California to show the customer what was going on. When I found out that the customer had the unapproved drawing, I e-mailed my coworker and told him to call me. He e-mailed me back and told me that he didn’t have time to talk on a phone. The problem was this situation was a delicate interpersonal issue where e-mail would not meet my communication objective because my coworker needed to understand that what he did was completely wrong. After I finally talked to him on the phone, things got figured out and everything was okay in the end.

Spilka, Chapter 8—Writing for cyberspace is always challenging and I think Spilka covered that point. The main thing that kept jumping out to me is when you write anything (paper or digital), you always, always always always have to ask yourself two questions—who is my audience and what is the purpose. When you know the answers to both those questions, you are more likely going to write something that actually communicates with your audience.

A final question: Can someone tell me where the “Ishii, K. (2006).  “Implications of Mobility: The Uses of Personal Communication Media in Everyday Life.” Journal of Communication. 56.2, 346-365” reading is located? I checked all the books and D2L but I couldn’t find it.

Photo found at: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=e-mail&um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&sa=N&rls=en&biw=1280&bih=702&tbm=isch&tbnid=nhJ6lnxYlZ4MQM:&imgrefurl=http://ohinternet.com/E-mail&docid=kWhEyKUxI3JS4M&imgurl=http://cache.ohinternet.com/images/f/f5/E_mail.jpg&w=300&h=336&ei=mQ7ATrScGouEtgeviN21Bg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=877&vpy=135&dur=1194&hovh=238&hovw=212&tx=157&ty=145&sig=110374838443503213469&page=1&tbnh=154&tbnw=138&start=0&ndsp=17&ved=1t:429,r:4,s:0

LinkedIn, Social Media, and Search Engines–They All Work Together

Using LinkedIn to Get Work: This article seemed pretty basic. I think it’s pretty obvious to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date if you are looking for work. The thing I didn’t like was when the authors said to link to your Twitter account. My problem with that is Twitter is more of a personal account. If you link to it, your showing everyone who you follow and what you post. I think it discloses too much personal information to a potential employer. I think it’s a bad idea to link to anything where you use an online avatar instead of your real name. I don’t see that as being professional.

The other thing I didn’t like is posting about looking for work. I think that posting about looking for work can help you find a job, but it can also let people know that you’re trying to get out of your current position. If you post something that says you want to leave your currently company, there probably is a good chance that someone at your current company or someone your “LinkedIn” with will know one of your coworkers and tell them that you’re looking for a new job.

When I’m looking for a job, I never tell anyone at my work until after I get the new job. I thinks it’s a bad idea to make a new job search public because the odds are pretty good that someone you don’t want to know about your job search is going to find out.

Spilka, Chapter 6: On page 160, Spilka says, “If, as technical communicators, we make decisions based only on our understanding and not of the cultural contexts in which these activities are embedded, we run the risk of proposing documents and systems that do not fit well with the organization where we work and our goals for the future.” Truer words have never been spoken.

At my company, they wanted to create a new Web site for our customers. The company had the IT department take charge with the design and how information is loaded into it. The problem is the IT department doesn’t fill the site with content so they don’t know how any other part of the company operates. Basically, the IT people made a site that is almost impossible to use because they never asked any other departments about features they would like to see on the site.

Now the company has too much money into the site and it’s too late to start over. We’re stuck with a site that is horrible to use and horrible to load with content. It’s pretty embarrassing.

* I wanted to share a link to our new/bad Web site but it’s not live yet.

Qualman, Chapter 8: I think if search engines had a feature where users could search “real-time,” it would change the way people search the Web forever. The thing is I think that a real-time search feature would basically bring the users to social media sites rather than Web sites.

I’m not sure how it would work or how you would set it up, but I think the idea is pretty interesting and it will happen sometime in the near future. Qualman said that search engine companies are working on it right now, so hopefully we’ll see it soon.

Here’s a site that is pretty interesting: http://www.socialmention.com/#

Working with Large Writing Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcasts Don’t Need Rules

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

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

ESPN

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

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

Social Media and Online Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media–The Leader for News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are All Companies Ready for Social Media?

I’m confused as to what readings I’m supposed to respond to. The Week 4 readings start today (Sept. 25) but we have a blog post due today, too. Are each weeks blog posts supposed to be about that same weeks readings? Anyway, I’m responding to the Week 4 readings.

All of the readings were super good today, but the most valuable one was Is Social Networking for You? by Jack Molisani. The best part of the reading was the story about Frank Eliason and how he took the initiative to find Comcast customers on Twitter that were upset about the company and how he reached out to them to handle their concerns. Every company could learn something from Eliason’s story.

Many companies don’t understand that social media is an interactive tool between the company and it’s customers. Customers don’t always say positive things about the company and that’s why Eliason’s story is so valuable. If a company wants to have a social media presence, they need to monitor what people are saying about them so they can learn and prevent unnecessary negative comments. Eliason took the initiative to reach out to disgruntled customers to solve their problems. That is something pretty rare, and it would be interesting to know how many of those disgruntled customers that posted negative tweets about Comcast went and posted something positive after Eliason contacted them.

For a company to have a beneficial social media plan, they need to hire people that are technologically literate. Old-school bosses that don’t use social media are not the people to put in charge of a social media campaign because those bosses aren’t going to know how to effectively use social media. Old-school bosses think social media is free advertising so they want to use it but social media is so much more than that. Social media is a way to develop your brand in an online environment that customers haven’t seen before. Customers are used to seeing a company’s products on TV or in a printed ad, but they haven’t always seen those products in an interactive online environment.

If a company is going to commit to a social media campaign, they need to really consider if their products are right for an online environment and if they are willing to commit to the ‘up keep’ that social media requires. It seems that having a social media presence that isn’t up-to-date can be worse than not having a social media presence at all.

Mayday! Mayday!

Personal Blog:

As if right now, I’m not a fan of (personal) blogging. Hopefully this course will help me get a better understanding of why people blog and why blogging is so mainstream. For me, blogging seams like a lot of work because a blog is almost like a living thing. It needs attention to grow or else it will just sit there and die and nobody will ever see it again. Since I can barely keep myself alive, I highly doubt I could keep a blog alive. A blog also seems to fill the area between a hand-written journal and a personal Web site. Blog authors want to share their thoughts but they don’t want to do it on a personal Web site. This is what I don’t understand. Many blogs seem incomplete because they are ugly, full of typos, and don’t have too much credibility. If a blog was set up like Web site and looked professional, then I might stop and read what is there.

I’ve had a little bit of experience with blogs. By “little experience” I mean I was forced into writing a couple of blogs as an undergrad in college (this is like Déjà vu).

I’m not completely against blogs. It’s just that blogging as I know it, doesn’t interest me at all. I don’t have any desire to share my thoughts with people and I also don’t have any desire to read other people’s thoughts (unless someone has invented a good blue pen).

 

Group Blog:

I think group blogging makes more sense. For example, in a company environment, I could see a group blog as a great tool for communicating with everyone in an organization. I also think a blog for this class will work really well because we will keep it populated and current. It’s also a nice break from the redundancy of D2L.

 

Bye now!

–Nate