Blog Archives

What’s in a Blog?

Have you ever noticed what makes you continue to read a blog or bounce after the first few moments?  Is it the blogger’s words?  Too many, too little, too boring, too complicated, or completely irrelevant to your search?  Or could it be the layout?  Overly cluttered or not broken up with images?  The appeal of a blog is unique to each individual.  So, how can a blogger create a product appealing enough to gain traction?

Paper on vintage typewriter with words blog typed on paper

Photo source: Getty Images

Throughout the Communication Strategies for Emerging Media course, we learn how to create relevant and appealing blogs that embody the ideal structure and flow for effectiveness. Blogging, like all forms of technical communication, has its own style and character.  What’s done on Twitter or Instagram, doesn’t have the same appeal or value in a professional blog. I’ve learned through this course and then analyzing my own interaction with blogs, that the simpler is better.  I’m much more likely to read something all the way through if it is concise and not overly wordy.


Digital Literacy for Technical Communication (Spilka, Ed., 2010) offers good technical writing practices that apply well to blogging platforms.  Granularity is a term used in technical writing that explains effective digital spaces should have a balance of text-based information chunks and multimedia applications.  However, depending upon the audience, the way that is done is not always the same.  We must understand our audience and the message we are trying to deliver. Granularity furthermore, has three levels of magnification to consider: microscopic (close perspective), mesoscopic (middle perspective), and macroscopic (far perspective). The microscopic perspective involves aspects such as text size, font, paragraph placement and length, and white space.  While mesoscopic and macroscopic perspectives consider broader matters such as, multiple document delivery over various lengths of time. (p. 111)


Mapping or blog arrangement are also very important to audience appeal.  An overly cluttered blog without a clear content menu leads to audience uncertainty or distrust.  Organization is a strategy that can build blog appeal and reputation.  The content itself should be clean and well arranged.  However, a blogger should also consider ads or the minimization of, also in the mapping schema.  No one likes to try to read a blog with ads blinking all around the content.

Simple web flowchart or sitemap with space for your content or copy.

Photo Source: Getty Images

Ambience is a critical factor in all works of art and design, including digital communication.  Ambient design allows the audience to to understand the purpose and content of a blog.  The design should be created in a way that this perspective can be gained by only a quick glance.  This allows ease of use and guides the audience through the blog interaction. (p. 120-121)  Furthermore, this overall design strategy establishes trust and audience comfort, which are crucial in a popular blog.  Images are important in creating the intended ambience.  To choose the correct supporting images, it is important to have a well defined blog purpose and to understand your desired audience well. Aesthetics are also very important to creating an appealing blog site.


This is a photograph of mine, with some filter experimentation.  It creates a unique feel that could be appealing in certain blogs involving photography, art, or even cats.


Folksonomy is also known as social tagging, social indexing, tagging, etc.  It is a method by which content can be created and managed, via tags, to categorize the content.  (p. 118) This method of tagging and categorizing content is done all over social media, the Web, and in blogging.  As we write our blogs, we choose the categories/tags we want connected to our content so that it appears in relevant user searches.  Aside from administrative blog tools, we can also accomplish this via hashtags which are trackable throughout social media (if our blogs are shared to those platforms) and the Web.


As technical and digital communication advances, we also make changes to improve the functionality and appeal of our blogs.  While blogs are still very relevant, vlogs are quickly gaining attention.  With that in mind, it will be interesting to see  how the technical communicator roles develop should consumption of media become more video based.  The technical writing practices could shift into video production.  One could argue that they already have…


Photo Source: Getty Images

Web 1.0 to Web 2.0: A Brief Evolution of Technical Writing

We are currently in the Web 2.0 World Wide Web era.  It is a concept that was developed by Darcy DiNucci in 1999 and then popularized by Tim O’Reilly.  It is the idea that the internet we engage with now is participatory of social in nature. The date of full Web 2.0 is not exactly determined.  However, we do know that this change occurred in the mid 2000s.  Prior to participatory web (Web 2.0), Web 1.0 is considered a one-way exchange of our information.  While users could search and engage somewhat over the World Wide Web, the information was pushed or projected to the user.  Even most question and answer or company managed chat forums were moderated by the company or organization source.  There were limits to the amount in which users could actually interact with each other or companies.  Web 2.0 introduced World Wide Web users to social media platforms, blogs, and other interactive technologies.  Wikipedia Web 2.0


Photo source Wikipedia

The change in internet user engagement also effected technical writing professionals.  The traditional static content of books and Web 1.0 content, now needed to be an interactive, living document.  Digital advancements in technical writing during the Web 1.0 era included creating microgenres of content such as Frequently Asked Questions or online forums and also the PDF that allowed content to maintain its intended form for printing.  Fast forward to Web 2.0, and technical writers are finding themselves becoming technological experts.  Some of the ways technical writers have had to evolve their knowledge and specialties are: learning the digital publishing software tools to create user friendly and accessible content, understand web content and be able to use those platforms to create user-engaging content such as embedded maps, videos, calendars, etc., and to also be able to create engaging micro-content for webpages as opposed to writing long documents or novels.

In additional to content creation and management for general World Wide Web users, e-learning has also opened up many opportunities in technical writing.  In Rachel Spilka’s book, Digital Literacy for Technical Communication (2010), she references that in 2008, the Society for Technical Communication (STC)’s Instructional Design and Learning Special Interest Group has grown significantly and 20% of all STC members belonged to it.  Some technological knowledge required by technical writers in this field include: authoring tools used to create e-learning content such as Dreamweaver, Flash, Captivate, and Illustrator, learning content management systems (LCMS), and learning management systems.

Many other specialty avenues exist for technical writers thanks to the development of Web 2.0.  Although the transitions over the most recent decades have been an uphill battle at times, technical writers have also gained the ability to diversity their career and have more interaction with content consumers.  Web 3.0 is beginning to be rumored about.  This will mean much more Artificial Intelligence involvement into our World Wide Web.  It will be very interesting to see how the technical writing career field evolves involving Artificial Intelligence.  Could it mean more new opportunities or could Artificial Intelligence take over some technical writing roles and responsibilities?  I sure it won’t be long before we begin to transition to Web 3.0 given the rapid advancement of internet technologies.

Technically Speaking On Technical Writing

To be honest, I found this week’s readings to be rather troubling and discouraging. Granted, it’s possible that I’m overthinking the content, which may have quickly taken my brain to a place of angst and frustration. However, as I digest and reflect, my general takeaway is that social media is slowly but surely pushing the technical writing profession towards irrelevancy.

Technical Writing

Image courtesy of Campus Commerce

This notion rings similarly to that of blogging ultimately replacing journalism, a topic we covered previously. However, that topic was hardly troubling to me for two reasons. For starters, though I appreciate and enjoy quality journalism, it’s not a field I specifically aspire to enter. Second, I feel like this ‘blogs are the new beat’ trend has been progressing for several years now, so it’s something I’ve come to terms with. Though often unqualified to create and publicly share written content, bloggers do have a voice, as projected through the web.

Robot Journalist

Image courtesy of Springer Link

However, as one who aspires to build a career in technical writing, I am heavily disheartened by the thought of social media overshadowing and/or replacing technical writing. With the latter requiring a combination of intense focus, natural skill, and endless practice, it seems unfair for any unqualified yet self-proclaimed ‘social media specialist’ to take over and hog the spotlight.

While a ‘quantity over quality’ approach is seemingly becoming the status quo of web content, I’m also seeing a ‘speed over quality’ approach, which may be more frightening than the former. Traditional journalism emphasizes that it is far more important to publish accurate, credible content than it is to be the first to break a story. However, social media seems to contradict this age-old approach, with users racing each other to post something even remotely coherent and believable. This is partially because posted content can be edited a later time. However, this approach is rather transparent, with users largely taking into account their own egos, as opposed to the best interest of their audience.

Save Technical Writing

Image courtesy of

Will technical writing ultimately be negatively impacted by social media, just as journalism has been impacted by blogging? Say it isn’t so, fellow communicators!

TPC: More than a Writing Degree


Technical writing is misunderstood. Reproduced: Scott Adams, Dilbert, United Feature Syndicate (1995)

Technical and Professional Communication vs. English Degree

Stuart Blythe, Claire Lauer and Paul Curran’s (2014) article, “Professional and Technical Communication in a Web 2.0 World,” reaffirms the breadth and depth of communication and web 2.0 knowledge that is needed in many job positions. However, this article specifically took account of Technical and Scientific Communication as well as Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing degrees, but English degrees could also fall in this category. Since English majors potentially are doing the same types of writing, collaborating, and web 2.0 work, I’m not sure if employers valued a technical communication degree more than another English or related writing degree.

Methodology and Results of Survey

The authors surely provided an extensive methodology to discover the types of communication that TPC graduates used in their lives and the graphics equally supported their results of the study. Surprisingly, TPC graduates are employed (or studying) in “education, technical and scientific communication, and publishing and broadcasting” (p. 271) as well as more women were employed in the software, hardware, and network industries. However, the authors did say these numbers were “skewed” based on the number of male vs. female respondents. Other noteworthy statistics from this article was the most types of writing done and the ones most valued. These numbers were from the respondents; however, I wonder how their supervisors/managers’ opinions would differ? For example, Grants/proposals was eighth on the list of type of writing and sixth as most valued (proposal was not included on most valued list) and Definitions was fifth on type of writing and did not appear on the most valued list (I’m not sure what definitions means anyway). Would supervisors/managers agree with these statistics?

More Technologies Used in Writing Process

Email, not surprisingly, is the most popular type of communication written and most valued. Does this mean that colleges should teach students how to write effective email more and less about blogging? According to Russell Rutter (1991), college graduates discover that what they learned in college do not always correlate to the writing type/purpose/audience in the workplace (p. 143). On the other hand, as Blythe, Lauer and Curran (2014) noted, technical communication graduates use a multitude of technologies during the composing process from pencil and paper to social media (p. 275); likewise, Rutter noted, “technical communicators must know how to do more than write –  do more than inscribe, type or keystroke” (p. 145).

I still argue that English and other related writing degree graduates could accomplish similar tasks with a similar amount of success. Writing skills can be taught, but writing seems to be a natural ability. Rutter (1991) asserts, “Education should seek to create sensible, informed, articulate citizens. Some of these citizens will want to become technical communicators…” (p. 148).


Blythe, S., Lauer, C. and Curran. P. G. (2014). “Professional and technical communication in a web 2.0 world.” Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:4, 265-287. DOI: 10.1080/10572252.2014941766

Rutter, R. (1991). “History, rhetoric, and humanism: Toward a more comprehensive definition of technical communication.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 21:2, 133-153.

My goal is to be unemployed

I work for a company that provides outsourced employees for a variety of industries.  I report to one company, but I represent another.  I am comfortable with this.  My loyalty can be bought for the price of my paycheck.  I can assume the culture, goals and procedures of the company that I represent, although ultimately I am not their “employee.”

My long-term goal in becoming a technical communicator is to be an outsourced employee, but without a larger “umbrella” company sending me my W-2’s each year.  I want to dictate the companies I work for and have some control over the projects I accept.  I am comfortable putting on that “company’s uniform” for a temporary time and then moving on.

I felt such joy when I read R. Stanley Dicks discuss the prediction that “many more technical communicators will be officially unemployed but constantly working.  They will be following the consulting/temp agency model that already characterizes the work of many communicators (Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, p. 59)”.  I am hoping to open a fortune cookie with just that prediction for my future:  “You will soon find yourself unemployed, but always working.”

The expansion of telecommuting opportunities is, in part, one of the catalysts that finally pushed me back into school.  I currently follow several job sites that focus on home-based and freelance work. and consistently have an extensive list of job opportunities for telecommuters in all aspects of the technical writing field, primarily ones with technological competencies.

In 2001, I was on the verge of enrolling in a “technical writing” program, when a job offer–in an unrelated field–removed me from that path.  I went to work for a company I loved and put that plan on the “back burner.”

While I am disappointed that I allowed so much time to lapse before entering a graduate program, I am grateful for that derailment.  The technical writing program I was set to enter was very solid and respected.  But in 2001, it wasn’t very focused on digital media.  Within a few short years, their “technical writing” program became their “Technical Communications” program. It was completely revamped several times over the next few years, as they slowly began to focus the program more on the emerging use of technology.

Had I enrolled back in 2001, I would have been “getting to the party a little too early.”  Now, I don’t know that a 14 year lapse between degrees was quite necessary but…. At any rate, I cringe to think of how many competencies I would have been scrambling to learn within a year or two (maybe less) of earning that degree.

As I do work-from-home and spend a lot of time following web sites and blogs devoted to such work, I have come across many people who are constantly working as technical communicators, but as independent contractors.  I see a flood of freelance job openings in the field.  I have yet to find one person that lacks or job that doesn’t require technical skill.

I feel certain that the degree I was going to begin in 2001, is not the same degree that I will be getting now.  This is what gave me the final push to go back.  As I researched schools this time around, it was interesting to see how every strong program focused on digital media.

As R. Stanley Dicks pointed out in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication (p.52):  “It is important to remember, when discussing current and coming trends in the discipline, that they largely have to do with the tools and technologies associated with the discipline, and not the core competency skills that the discipline continues to require; that is using words and images to inform, instruct, or persuade an audience Schriver’s (1997).”  That program I was set to start 14 years ago would have given me “core competency skills,” but not what I needed to achieve my current goals.  Of course, I realize with the constantly evolving landscape of technology, there will always be new things that I need to learn to “stay on top” of the field.  I am reassured, though, that the evolution in technical communication as a whole, and the changes that have occurred in academia as a result, will enable me to start with the foundation I need.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.


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:

“ 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.

Do you believe in magic?

Content managers face the twin pressures of simultaneously reducing the total investment a company must make to produce content and increasing the quality, quantity, and sustainable value of that content. – William Hart Davidson

There it is, black and white, plain as day; the centerpiece of the modern business structure.  We must create more with less while making our creations higher quality than those before them.  Logically, it makes no sense.  How can you create more things with less materials and resources?

Magic, of course.

Thankfully technical communicators are not only trained in various technical disciplines, but the Arcane Arts as well.  Some of their specialties include time travel (yes, travel, not management) and The Impossible.

From the beginning, Hart-Davidson’s article struck a chord within me.  Primarily, I liked that he got right down to the heart of the matter: the expectation to do more with less.

It boggles my mind that companies truly believe that this model works and that their employees are getting their degrees in magic on the side to keep up with the workflow.  Newsflash: Everyone does not get a letter to Hogwarts.  I would know since I’m still waiting.

I recently started a new job at a startup ecommerce web design company and I already feel the pressure of this expectation.  I’m supposed to split my mind in three different ways simultaneously and accomplish several tasks at once.  These tasks vary in nature and focus, but somehow I manage to get them all done.  I just internally worry about the quality of my work, but not for long, because the fast pace always forces me to keep moving forward and not dwelling on what has already passed.

I don’t foresee this issue getting any better with time, but worse.  I can understand the need to be competitive, but realistic expectations goals need to be set.  Like I said before, not everyone was lucky enough to get their Hogwarts letters to study magic.

A Lighthouse in the Fog

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.

Who is my audience?

Technical Writing is what I like to do. Many people do not understand what I do, but I found this really neat image describing it.

technical writer2

What does this image have to do with this weeks reading? Not much I just wanted to show this neat graphic.

This week the topic was audience. Who is our audience and how to we make sure that we are writing to this audience. I started my job at Sansio in 2002. In 2004 I started working in our Solution Center (Call Center), by 2005 I was working with the in house trainer and maintaining the training powerpoint. Throughout my use of the powerpoint and through my stint as Implementation Coordinator, this one powerpoint turned into 3 with an average of 300 slides a piece.In addition, the training manager had me create checklists to support the learning. The maintenance of these materials was very time consuming, but still was not the main portion of my job. When I was promoted to QA Specialist in 2007 training was changed to be online training and the Business Analysts who took over training no longer used the PowerPoint. At that time I no longer did technical writing. It wasn’t until I took my Technical Writing Practiuum in 2010 that I started writing. My supervisor found that I was good at it and I have been creating/updating User Guide Pages, creating Release Notes and updating other user materials.


Its always important to understand our audience. I have special knowledge of our audience because of my experience with our Solution Center and as Implementation Coordinator. I spent years talking to customers during and after their initial training of HomeSolutions. The image below gives a nice description of what I should be thinking about what I start my writing.


Analysis – HomeSolutions Users

Understanding – When I write, I assume the person has a basic knowledge of HomeSolutions and the terms that we use.

Demographics – Most HomeSolutions users are women around 40 and most do not have a formal degree. There is the occasional user who is a nurse with an advanced degree.

Interest – They are reading the document because they want to know how to use a specific piece of the product.

Environment – The document will be viewed in the users office, most likely online within the application.

Needs – They need to know how to use a piece of the application

Customization – Needs may be to provide an overall description of the page/features that they will be accessing.

Expectations – The ability to use the piece/feature in the future without having to reference the educational resource again.

When it comes to the other product I write for, RevNet, I take a little different approach. The RevNet product is new to everyone. The product has only been around for a little over a year, so everyone who uses this product is brand new. I spend more time on this product line documenting definitions of words and places within the application.

I sometimes worry that I am not writing to the exact needs of the audience. We do not get a lot of feedback on our writing, even by internal customers, and I have not been able to find the time to make sure I get usability testing done to make sure. One thing that would probably help would be creating a persona. A Persona is a very detailed description, including name, age and picture, of a person who will be using the resource being created. In Spilka’s book, Chapter 8 Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age by Ann M Blakeslee they also describe using the persona with the development staff so that they have a better understanding of who they are developing for. One reason I may not do a persona is that I feel I have a very good understanding of our audience because of my experience with our customers in the Solution Center.

How important are personas to writing for an audience? Do I really need to do them, since I have first hand experience with them in the past?