There’s no excuse for withholding information

I was recently approached by a company that recognizes that they have a knowledge management problem. They’ve just realized that there’s a lot of information held by individuals, and they need someone to solve the problem of insufficiently distributed information before it gets too big to handle.

This is great, and I love it when companies realize this (not least because it keeps me employed). But then I thought about times I’ve encountered people who zealously guard the information they’ve collected. This is bad. This is expensive. And there’s no excuse for it.

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Working well with others

A big part of a technical communicator’s job is research. The information we use to create content comes from a wide variety of sources: technical specs, product research documents, business proposals, white papers, internal wikis, customer support tickets…

And even from actual people. There’s lot of good info locked away in our coworkers’ heads. Getting to that info isn’t always easy, but I’m honestly surprised how often one question comes up both in interviews and in discussions with other tech writers: “How do you work with engineers?”

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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.

Ratings, comments, and collaboration

A requirement for any documentation that I create is that readers can rate and comment on the docs. I’ve been publishing documentation to systems that support this for about 10 years now, with a short gap in there. Not every tech writer agrees that these are necessary, or even desirable, so I’d like to analyze my reasons for being so stubborn about it.

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Overcoming the tyranny of the blank page

I realized that since I keep encouraging writing groups to collaborate with other teams, I should provide some advice. It’s one thing to say “Go do this!” But that does require work, and the least I can do is give you advice that’s helped me.

So here’s one: Don’t present your would-be collaborators with a blank page. If you’re a writer, or if you’ve written anything, ever, you know how daunting a blank page can be. For someone who doesn’t write that often, it’s even worse.

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