I wrote a guest post for MindTouch

While I was at the Write the Docs conference, I ran into some of the MindTouch product team, one of whom I’ve worked with before (and on a personal level, I like the team; they’re really friendly people). This led to an opportunity to write a guest post for the MindTouch blog, which I very eagerly agreed to.

I worked with MindTouch’s Content Strategist (and that comment about “funny new titles” comes back to bite me…again!), who suggested a very interesting topic: “what businesses / management should be doing to help their techcomm writers deliver more value to customers.” I took that idea and ran with it: 8 Ways Management can help Techcomm Writers Deliver Customer Value.

Structured writing = commodified writing

While researching doc tool and process options, I’ve been interested in developments in DITA, especially a call for simplified DITA. I’m just surprised that it’s taken this long to get started. But I’ve seen at least one DITA expert say that simplified DITA is good for engineers and other transient contributors. Again, people are stuck in the mindset that only professional technical writers can write “correctly,” and we’re doing everyone a favor by allowing them a peak into our walled garden.

But here’s the thing about DITA, and structured writing in general: It commodifies technical writing. And while that might not be a bad thing, we have to acknowledge that if we go to a fully-structured writing world, one of the consequences is that we turn tech writing into a commodified skill, making it easier for everyone to write acceptable documentation.

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The death of technical writing, part 1

For a few years now, I’ve been worrying about the future of technical communication as a career. Not that user docs will disappear (as much as most people might want that), but techcomm as a unique job title, as opposed to one of many tasks that someone might have. I remember hearing Noz Urbina telling us that we were doomed, back at Lavacon 2012. And I attended a few webinars at that time that were also very negative about future prospects.

They’re right: We’re doomed. Pack up your pens and find another use for that English degree.

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