April 2011 Meeting Review

Dynamic. Informative. Entertaining. Scott Abel, the Content Wrangler, challenged the 35-member crowd on Thursday evening, April 21st, to change the face of technical communication in today’s evolving world of social media and content gathering. As he aptly stated, “In order to ‘future-proof’ your job you need to be hyper-aware about adapting to changes. Consider what’s possible versus what you’re willing to adapt to.”

The question is, “How?” For Abel, in this current economic climate, the most important change for technical communicators is to focus on end user interaction. Our focus should be on the best user experience; no longer is text enough. New delivery methods, new definitions for what success looks like, and considering the quality of reusable content should now be at the forefront of discussions with our clients. And, because of the complexity of language, Abel recommends discussions should begin with terminology management – that is, caring about the words we use so that we position the discussions appropriately for global audiences and the impact language will have on translations for those applicable global audiences.

From a technical perspective, Abel shared XML as the premium method of content reuse and syndication that extends itself to multi-channel publishing with tools such as social media icons, Facebook and Twitter, and eBooks. These tools create an audience of participation and equality where 10% participate (of which 1% dominate discussions) and the remaining 90% listen. Understanding this new technology and its impact on today’s audience challenges technical communicators to stretch into a new role where they can spend more time selecting content to share and creating reusable exhibits for a wider sphere of influence.

Abel proposes this new role is possible with a new strategy he coins “The Content Curation Process.” Outlined below, this process offers a chance for clients to target a select demographic, a demographic self-selected and based on personal subscription, which performs half the job for sharing information quickly and easily.

The Content Curator’s Duties:

  1. Combine content sources into a single RSS news feed.
  2. Select content to share.
  3. Feed content to a delivery engine for processing.
  4. Apply rules to shared content.
  5. Deliver content to social networks.
  6. Monitor access to shared content and collect metrics.

Content management is about people, process, and change – are we ready for this consulting model? Abel insists this is so:

We have to give up the idea that we are in control and that [technical communicators] are the only humans on the planet capable of communicating solutions to problems. Today, the power of the crowd rules!

So, will technical communicators be willing to grab a change of clothes and dance with Lady Gaga on the stage of reusable new media? It’s certainly worth trying on, Abel encourages, but you’re not alone, so check out the following resources.

Resources
http://thecontentwrangler.com
http://www.w3.org/
http://www.w3schools.com/
http://dita.xml.org
http://managingenterprisecontent.com/

Discussion Question
Social media appears to be mainstream or at least validated by traditional marketing venues. For example,¬†Facebook logos appear everywhere on the Internet and show up on TV commercials where companies ask you to “like us” or join their community. These external marketing references make sense, but what will it take to transform the use and reuse of content for internal purposes? Are company-wide¬†wikis and Facebook-like internal sites paying off with a social investment? What do you think?

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