CIDM Information Management News June 2015: Technical Writing Conference in Israel with Emphasis on Disruptive Innovation
Technical Writing Conference in Israel with Emphasis on Disruptive Innovation
Adam Dales, Siemens PLM
This past February I attended what was my 9th consecutive annual Israeli technical writing conference with lecture workshops. It’s gone under the name of MEGAComm these last several years, organized by the CEO of one of the Tech Writing service companies in Israel – Paula Stern of Writepoint.
Emphasized this year was the inescapable chase after innovation, in general all around us (see an earlier CIDM article about creating patents), and specifically in our professional challenge of keeping up with, and mastering new technologies in documentation.
A sampling of session topics:
The daylong event is typically based on the twin values of increasing professional knowledge and networking with peers. Speaking of innovation, this year the event was hosted at Cinema City in Jerusalem, so the lecture auditoriums were actually small movie theaters.
Here’s a short take on the four lectures that I attended out of the total 15 or 16 presentations. The first was called Visualizing the Hidden Story in Data (as in Big Data), presented by Aaron Friedman, independent consultant for digital marketing and social media strategies. The lecturer wanted to show that new search mechanisms are moving beyond simply throwing out the results as hits, and instead, crunching massive data and picking out the “story” by revealing patterns and trends. He then provided a more detailed explanation of the steps toward “visualizing” data: speculating—impressions, catch the terms really being searched for, use companion key words, dropping the terms into a word cloud in order to identify the concepts of interest; communication with associates or clients to present findings and then re-input their reactions to further hone the results; accurate reporting of the entire story, for example, at the same time a client experienced a drop in traffic to their site, there was an upward spike in revenue, and they needed an explanation; and finally, creating content from anomalous data—digging out and piecing together the hidden trends.
The second presenter, Sarah HaLevi, director of communications at Gigawatt Global, argued that blogging is to Social Media what commercials have been to TV. She spoke about what blog readers expect and about their limitations, and she gave a number of tips about constructing a title for a blog, doing research, providing emotional hooks, engaging the audience, effectively illustrating points, proactively circulating your blog content. And, not to forget to include some of “yourself” to enhance the blog’s appeal and empower it to reach perhaps even beyond your target audience. Another tip: beware of TMI—providing Too Much Info. She brought nice examples of effective campaigns.
The third session I attended, given by Charlie Kalech, director of J-Town Internet Services, was about Google Analytics for Marketers. It was pretty technical, but a well-organized and clear presentation of the tools available: customized reports, segmentation, metrics, dimensions, filters, tracking, and site comparisons. The lecturer also recommended learning how to incorporate additional Google assets, like Webmaster, Solutions Gallery, Widgets, and Dashboard Gallery. Clearly, gaining mastery of these tools could open up new professional opportunities for us.
The fourth session was a panel about the Future of Technical Writing, moderated by Miriam Lottner, COO GanglySister with five panelists—a start-up leader, three documentation managers/doc company owners, and Dustin Vaughn, the visiting Adobe representative from Texas. They discussed the changing expectations of users about consuming documentation—today there’s Stackoverflow, of course YouTube, and the emphasis more and more on the community as a primary source of information. Tech writers should see our paradigm of work also shifting to user experience, and we should consider moving to the management of communities, coordinating community-sourced content (see an earlier CIDM article about putting authoring in the users’ hands), and engaging in blog administration. Social media has broken the normal channels to information. Just about nobody waits for the next version of the User Manual. Instead, they may just tweet the CEO to get the info now. Tech writers need to be more social media and tech savvy. One panel member recommended that we turn to tech support to understand better what the users really need to know. Then we should use this information to improve the product, its messages, and of course, the documentation. Go further—open a direct channel with the users themselves and use the connection with them for even more input. Another developing direction—using video bots to answer users’ question. The bots seem personal but users may not realize that bots are canned videos. Also, stake out users where they are having their conversations and try to influence companies to make it a policy to reach out– to spend our time producing the content users want and not waste time writing irrelevant content. Keep ahead by seeking out kickstarters (pre-startups) to help them attract backers and raise interest among future users. Watch hashtags to keep up with the ‘conversation’ and trends. In general, we should be moving away from the view that we are the guardians of knowledge to whom customers turn with their questions and start adapting to become organizers of communities that answer their own questions using our professional abilities to support them.
All in all, MEGAComm was a day that opened horizons and caused us to give more thought to the not so distant future of our profession and to locating ourselves in the picture.