Author Archives: oliver550
After reading through Rheingold’s book Net Smart, I have been many things. I have been confused, I have been enlightened, I have had my ‘aha’ moments and I have even been inspired. Closing in on the end of Chapter five, a disturbing question crept into my mind. What is the goal? Perhaps a question more to the point is-what should my goal be?
Rheingold has covered getting online, navigating information, how to participate and contribute online, creating social capital, gaining attention, and the inner workings of social networks. What am I supposed to do with this? Rheingold writes books and contributes to the online community for monetary compensation. He may be helping the greater good by sharing (adding value), but in the end, he does it because it allows him to make a living. Should I be blogging and tweeting in order to drive traffic to my blog in order to make a living? In order to keep the scope of this blog focused, I will use an example situation.
I have a passion for land stewardship e.g. cultivating crops, timber stand improvement, wildlife habitat improvement, soil health, and native flora and fauna enrichment. If I decide to blog about this topic, I will definitely be in the long tail…I have a feeling more towards the tip. I understand the principles of developing relationships inside this community and creating social capital. Am I doing something wrong by stopping there? Would being a bridge within that community be enough? Should I still be linked to and follow people in the tech world, politics, and the business world? Would only investing in my passion erode my online health?
I could go on with a hundred questions along those lines. The obvious answer would be “whatever makes you happy”, but I don’t think that is it. Can the concepts laid out in the book be a guide to an overall more enriched life? Is that the goal? In the end, I understand the ideas presented in the book, but I am questioning the application.
Did this book change your idea of online navigation and interaction? Will it change the way you participate within online groups? Most important, what will you do with the information that Rheingold has discussed?
Beyond Single Sourcing by William Hart-Davidson was a breath of fresh air for the topic of technical writers. Whether you are thinking about a career in technical writing, wary of your current job safety, or bored because you are stuck updating product bulletins for a conglomerate, Davidson creates an outline for the future. Granted theory is almost always shinier when it is discussed, the author lays out logical and plausible applications for expanding roles and responsibilities for technical communicators.
Davidson’s message stirred passion inside of me… my pupils dilated, my heart rate increased and my mind raced. I love an “idea-person” and the author is just that. In a world which can seem mostly cloudy, an economy that is only improving on TV, and a society where negativity is just easier, Davidson is the warm glow of a family room fireplace on a cold winter’s night. He neatly displays his vision on Table 5.1 (p136) which he organized into three rows: text-making, creation and management of information, and design and management of workflows and production models.
The first row of text-making relates to creating an environment for a company’s information to thrive and grow. The technical writer can create support processes such as templates, guidelines, and usability confirmation to help foster growth in the informational environment. The second row of the table describes how the technical writer is involved in the life cycle of the information. They are responsible for the quality, accessibility, and the upkeep of the information’s environment. The third row deals with how human interaction and the information’s environment coexist. Having intimate knowledge of the information and its environment puts the technical writer in a unique position to refine work processes, improve workflow, and develop training materials.
Davidson has presented three intertwined objectives for identifying, developing, and managing a company’s information. Each have a number of possible job titles attached to them and all of them relate to how a technical writer views, interprets, and creates information. A growing question among companies in a “net profit era” is “what does a technical writer do?”. Individually, that is a question each person must answer themselves. However, Davidson offers a clear idea of what technical writers are capable of. Personally, I would not consider myself a “glass half-full” or “glass-half empty” person, but rather a “the glass isn’t big enough” kind of guy… and Davidson fills me up.
After reading the first two chapters of Digital Literacy by Carliner and Dicks, I find myself thinking that their entire premise is flawed. Each refers to a Technical Communicator as a job title and not a skill. By doing this, they have contradicted themselves in their message or are at least naïve in their conclusions.
Carliner summarizes the impact of digital technology on technical communicators. He explains how changing technology impacted technical communicators negatively and forced them to take on new job titles or alter how and what tools they used to complete their work. He also alludes to the shrinking market for technical communicators. I disagree. The same technical communicator, by job title, may be someone such as a web designer. Instead of constructing information bulletins for easier interpretation by the end user, they are constructing a website to enhance the end users experience during their visit. He continues his negative outlook by stating “However, those who develop and produce content have been facing dwindling work opportunities.” (p44) Just two pages earlier he contradicts this statement when he quotes Shank 2008 “e.g., the home page of newspapers changing every 15 minutes”. (p42) Wouldn’t a website which changes content every 15 minutes create more opportunities? I believe this would especially be true with a content provider that needs to be clear and concise with their information and would require a professional that was capable of executing this effectively.
Here is a perfect time to insert the argument that technical communicators document or convey scientific, engineering, or other technical information. Surely you can’t document the changes in technology and how it impacts technical communicators over the last thirty years and assume that the definition of what a technical communicator is would remain static to the old industrial mindset. Clearly a technical communicator is anyone who effectively addresses the arrangement, emphasis, clarity, conciseness, and tone (Kostelnick and Roberts) when presenting persuasive or instructional information.
Dicks goes on in the second chapter to go through changing business models and their negative effect on the job outlook for technical communicators. Again, in the 1982 definition, he would be correct. However, I reiterate my opinion that “technical communicator” is not just a job title, it is a skill. The general contradiction I find in this chapter can be summarized by Dicks himself “… many communicators are seeing the nature of their work altered considerably.” (p75) I would argue that the communicators are the ones altering their work to fit their new environments. On page 60, Dicks highlights the problem of value added for technical communicators. Except for sales people’s production measured in dollars and a manufacturer’s production in units, how does any employee justify their value added? Marketing, management (except for sales and manufacturing units), lab workers, IT, and engineers are all examples of employees that must adapt and evolve to show their value to a company.
If the two author’s purposes were to inform, they should have allowed the context of the technical communicator to evolve with the world in which they work. If Dicks and Cauliner were trying to persuade, they did a poor job in my opinion and their work is more apt to gain a following in the next Yahoo article of five ways technical communicators jobs are changing.