We Are All Content Providers Now

My final “Managing Up” post for Steyer Associates offers an abbreviated look at earlier trends in technical communications. Here’s a longer medication of being in the trenches over some of the most life-changing technical advances in the past quarter century.

Photo of Lascaux painting by Prof saxx from wikipediaA decade out of college, I first asserted in a job interview that I was a writer. Previously, my job roles had included editing—for solar designers, conservation policy advocates, and a couple of dyslexic physicists. During that “editorial” apprenticeship, I typically tossed 90 percent of what I received and rewrote it. That made me a writer, correct?

I faked my way through that interview and went to work for a local power utility, where I learned the basics of tech writing, before the profession had degree programs or professional associations.

The tech writing basics? Forget what your English teacher said: There is no practical use for creative, complex sentence structures in tech writing: Continue reading

I’d write less, but there wasn’t time in the schedule

This month’s Managing Up post “You Want How Much Done? By When?” introduces scheduling fundamentals for contract #tech-communications workers.

Work Breakdown SchedulePatty at Steyer Associates reported that their research showed that ~300 words was the right size for a blog post. So I had to pare from the 950 words I’d already drafted. I’m providing the whole article here—since scheduling for a program manager is a whole discipline. A 300-word peek won’t give you much insight into a manager’s compulsive, continuous thinking about schedules.

This topic is of interest if you are anywhere in your technical communications career where you need a deeper understanding of the scheduling processes. Continue reading

Making Lists that Matter – Intro to PM

ThinkingMy latest Managing Up post for Steyer Associates — Program Management 101 – Session #1  — takes a peek at how techcomms managers tackle program management, especially for content projects in the tech sector.

Part 1 focuses on getting agreement (and documenting it) with cross-team stakeholders.

I’m writing this series for Steyer with a focus on providing insights for contract workers into how and why techcomms managers do what they do. The next article in the series is “Drafting and Refining Work Packages and Setting Schedules,” so please leave comments or write to me if you have specific questions about that aspect of planning.

I try to provide parallel insights between the Steyer posts for technical communicators and similar activities for fiction professionals. The related posts for writers and editors are:

Checklist for Writer/Editor Collaborations [PDF]

Notes for Indie Publishers [PDF]

Docs Ready for Tech Review?

Show MarkupPenny Orwick and I completed a series of posts for Steyer Associates on peer reviews for technical documentation.

A point we both made in our example peer reviews was that the original draft content wasn’t ready for review, much less for publication. To wrap up our series, Penny suggested a checklist.

Today’s Ready for Review? A Checklist provides the basics, plus some cautionary notes about what you risk losing if you send poor docs for tech review:

  • Discrediting yourself with your technical experts
  • Discrediting yourself with your peers

Typically I link to my tech-communications blog topic with a parallel for fiction writers. But it seems like there are a lot of models out there. So this time I’ll just link again to my Checklist for Writer/Editor Collaborations.

Other topics in our “peer review tips” collection:

 

“What If They Fire My Boss?”

AbideThis article is for my peers and comrades who are technical-communications professionals that work in vendor contracting agencies, rather than working as full-time employees of a technology company.

Here in Seattle right now, you can’t innocently browse the Web, glance at your Facebook feed, or check scores in the local newspaper without a fearsome speculation jumping out to grab you:

“Layoffs of up to 5,642 Reportedly Expected”
“With Merger, Local Layoffs Are Expected”
“Will Wall Street Still Love this Company When It Lays Off 20% of  Workforce?”

Then your mother or sister or best friend from college calls and asks, innocently, “Will you lose your job with all these layoffs?”

… that haven’t actually happened …

Those of us who choose to work as contract employees are always steeped in uncertainty:

What happens if this contract is cancelled?

Will this contract be renewed when it ends?

Have all contracting jobs dried up?

Let me share some manager’s experience about the issues that can affect contract works when the “permanent” supervisor’s position seems to be in jeopardy. Continue reading

You Get What You Measure: Technical Communications Edition

You Get What You MeasureMy Managing Up post for Steyer Associates this month — You Get What You Measure — touches on the difficulty with most metrics for productivity and quality in technical writing. I offer ideas for how to create personal measures to increase your satisfaction as a writer, editor, or other working in the content publishing chain.

Making progress on quality goals, working toward expertise—I believe these are fundamentals for personal ambition.
Sure feels like metrics for corporate tech-comms consistently undermines those personal metrics these days, doesn’t it?

What can we do, oh noble content providers, but go forth and meet our daily word count?
My related post on metrics and productivity in fiction writing is here.

Raining Green Ink

Richard BennettWestern Washington beat its old February – April rain record. Hunkering down inside to avoid the deluge, I’ve been providing reviews for other writers or begging beta reviews of my own draft fiction.

During this damp spring spent in fiction and nonfiction reviews and editing tasks, I repeatedly provided writers and reviewers with guidelines for how to review a manuscript. The tasks of a beta review for fiction or a peer reviewer for technical communications are different from an editor’s work.

1.
My April Managing Up column for Steyer Associates is live: Lions and Tigers and Peer Review—Oh No!

Lions and Tigers etc. offers tips for 3 basic kinds of peer reviews in technical communications:

  • Peer review as quality check
  • Skill building through peer critique
  • Mandated reviews as editorial replacement

As you might imagine, Continue reading

Editor/Writer in Tech Comms: No fighting, No biting

I have a new Managing Up post up for Steyer Associates that reflects on editor/writer relations in technical communications: Writer vs. Editor = Spy vs. Spy?

SpyvsSpyThis time, I’m emphasizing what a manager wants to see—and yes, I’m brutal:

  • Tech Writer: Your Job #1 is to please the Subject-Matter Experts who own the technology you’re writing about (or who own the business strategy) by preparing correct, clear content. Job #2 is to follow the style guide. If you’re worried about the editor marring your personal voice and style preferences, you aren’t doing your job.
  • Tech Editor: Your job is to drive the corporate voice, enforce consistency in terminology and presentation, complete the legal edits, and serve as first, best reader to ensure clarity.

Read on for my specific guidelines in relation to the basic rules of collaboration: no fighting, no biting.

…and if you missed it, earlier notes on fiction writer vs. editor relations:
Is that Blood on My Manuscript? Or Are You Just Happy to Ream Me?