Raising awareness of the value of technical communication: Different contexts, but a common challenge

Lisa LOPES and Loïc GODEFROY
Paris Diderot University, July 2017

Abstract

In spite of many attempts to enhance the value of technical communication, it remains hidden in the background. There is a wide gap between how people perceive technical communication and what it is exactly. Which tools or methods could be used to raise technical communication awareness, when technical communicators work in various professional contexts? We investigated how technical communication is perceived within a company. Then we set up a strategy to define tools that could be relevant to our work context, some of them being metrics or internal communication, for example. In the
end, these tools proved to be efficient but may not give the same results in other contexts.
If any case, the best lesson we take from this research is use what we know best: to
communicate. Just like cobblers do not make good shoes for themselves, technical communicators have a great skill they often misuse. In order to change the way we are perceived and break silos in whatever company we may be working for, it is up to us to reach out to others, using our experience. This paves the way for an emerging type of communication: Information 4.0.

Read the full article (PDF): Raising awareness of the value of technical communication

Technical innovation: what impact on quality in technical writing?

Deepa HANS, Cécile LEANG, Anne RIVIÈRE
Paris Diderot University, July 2017

Abstract

Nowadays, innovation is considered as a race for companies. Companies need to win this race in order to stay ahead of the game. In this frantic pursuit of innovation, it is important to keep in mind that innovation for innovation’s sake is pointless. To bring value to companies, innovation must lead to quality improvement and cost reduction. Like any other profession, technical writers are compelled to innovate in order to stay relevant. The most obvious expression of innovation lies in the introduction of new tools in the documentation process.
This article explores the impact of technical innovation on the documentation process and product. To be valuable, technical innovation needs to enhance the quality of the process or the product. This article aims at answering the following question: to what extent does technical innovation impact the quality of the documentation process and product? To a lesser extent, we also analyze the role of innovation-driven companies in fostering innovation for technical writers.
In addition to reading articles on innovation, quality and the relationship between the two, we also carried out a survey aimed at technical writers. From the results, we found out that while technical innovation improves both the documentation process and product, the most significant impact may actually come from rethinking information flows and team organization.

Read the full article (PDF): Technical innovation: what impact on quality in technical writing?

CDMM Research: A seminar with Ray Gallon and Andy McDonald

Ray Gallon and Andy McDonald are leading professors and experts, with multiple-decade experience in the fields of technical communication and information. In 2016, they joined forces to create a consortium, aiming to promote “information 4.0”, a reading grid to the accelerating evolution of information.

Students of CDMM Master 2 have been familiarized with Ray and Andy’s presentations at Paris’ 2017 Documation Data Intelligence Forum, and they met again on May 31st, to discuss information 4.0 and elaborate around it, in the context of their technical communication, information architecture and content management program.

CDMM: What is information 4.0?

Ray Gallon and Andy McDonald: Our research revolves around the general theoretical question of the role of information in the context of technological progress.

On a practical level, information 4.0 aims at ensuring we take this evolution into account.

In other words, it provides help to anticipate the evolution of the technical communication industry, and it outlines reasons why this industry needs to evolve.

For example, software developers think around functions or groups of functions, while users are concerned only with the tasks they have to carry out. The role of technical communicators can therefore be broadly described as translating an approach by function into a logic of tasks: it is obviously much wider than designing user manuals.

Information 4.0 also takes into account and capitalizes on the rapid growth of chatbots, augmented reality (AR) devices and applications, the Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Is AI truly intelligent?

As of today, even the most powerful AI, such as the ones that beat chess or go masters, only simulate intelligence: they do not begin to approach consciousness, which is a prerequisite to “human-style” intelligence.

Current AI can accumulate data and use it in the most relevant way, in relation to a particular task or series of tasks, however complex, but they cannot learn: they are not able to perform a task they have not been designed to perform, nor to take initiative outside of their functional envelopes.

However, AI is already very useful, notably to carry out repetitive actions, better than humans – for a cost that is quickly soaring.

What are the risks of AI?

The main risk of AI is for humans to give up control over tedious and recurring tasks, without a possibility to go back – just because we might soon forget how to perform them. In general terms, AI obviously raises numerous governance, interoperability, and ethical issues. To maintain control over AI, its very concept and the questions it poses must be well understood, and the aim of each AI solution has to be precisely defined. For example, don’t pretend you are trying to build an intelligent city if what you are actually working on is a bandwidth wide enough to accommodate three interoperating networks…

How do you see technical writing evolving?

It is evolving quickly and deeply, around the issues we have already been talking about, which will become ever more present.

The emergence of the agile method of code maintenance is a good example of ongoing changes: pseudo-real time adaptation is an actual goal for many companies. Information is becoming obsolete much faster already, which emphasizes the need for contextualization and interactivity, notably with regards to the development of IoT and machine-to-machine communication.

In the span of five to ten years, from writing instructions, procedures or manuals, the role of the technical writer will continue to evolve towards information retrieval, sorting, filtering and distribution, in relevance to the needs of the target audience. As very important vectors of information, you need to embrace this evolution to prepare for it.

You have been stressing the need for information contextualization. Can you elaborate on this?

Context is key, indeed. Information is only valid in a certain context, and contexts change in an increasingly fast manner. Hence, in some companies, personas are designed, only to be used for a single hour. Other contexts are already tracked and even materialized by RFID beacons, which directly link information to its potential user; the aim is to offer information, rather than deliver it.

Imagine you are in Cairo. Your need for information will change considerably, depending on the fact you are a tourist, a local, or an Egyptologist. Ideally, offered contextualized information addresses your specific needs – which raise the issue of context granularity, a whole other challenge in itself.

In that respect, adopting the molecular information approach we are advocating with our information 4.0 logic can be helpful.

What is molecular information?

We believe breaking down information into molecules facilitates information reuse.

Molecules of information are autonomous, self-sufficient, fundamental blocks of content. In that logic, the sense and nature of a document depends on the way its information molecules are assembled.

However, just like in the field of chemistry, in that of information, mixing molecules can carry surprising outcomes. It can even be dangerous. That is why information molecules need to be precisely organized, defined, and tagged to ensure their sensible use and to avoid meaningless or erroneous documentation.

Bearing this paramount rule in mind, information molecules can prove a powerful tool in tackling the issues of contextualization and context granularity. Molecules can indeed be used in a great variety of contexts, providing they are governed by a clear and precise editorial policy.

As a summary, what is your vision of the current work of a corporate information specialist?

In a context where, as we saw, the value of information becomes increasingly doubtful, an information specialist’s main task is definitely to maintain and increase the value of the company’s information base.

Information is, indeed, one of the most precious intangible assets of any company. It needs to be retrievable, organized and up to date.

Information specialists therefore have to force their way into scrum and marketing meetings, for example: wherever they are located in the organization chart, they literally stand at the center of any firm that values its history, its products and services, and its customers.

Finally, information specialists need to adapt to the idea of a world where, in the foreseeable future, software will be able to read users’ facial expressions, and to respond to them.

5th International Conference on Technical Communication – Beyond Silos (2017)

Patricia Minacori, Marie Girard
Research Laboratory Clillac- Arp, EILA Department, at Paris Diderot University
Technical Writers Without Borders

5th International Conference on Technical Communication

Beyond Silos

Friday 3 February 2017, 10.00-17.00
Paris Diderot University Lecture Theater Buffon
15 rue Hélène Brion, 75013 Paris, FRANCE.

This year’s theme was about collaboration between technical documentation teams and their partners in engineering, training, support, user experience, marketing, translation, change management, and so on. Collaboration beyond silos implies tools and methodologies that support new ways of working, innovation, as well as changes in the role of technical communicators.

10h00-10h10 Opening

Patricia Minacori, Marie Girard

10h10-10h30  M2 CDMM research projects [PDF]

Marie Girard and M2 CDMM students

10h30-10h50 Connecting silos through design thinking: radical collaboration in the Wearables Research Collaboratory [PDF]

Ann Hill Duin et al, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

10h50-11h10 Increasing student access to client information in the service learning technical communication classroom: results of three client contract strategies. [PDF]

Sarah Gunning, Towson University, Baltimore, MD, USA

11h10-11h30 Creating collaborations: an interdisciplinary pedagogy for professional and technical writing students [PDF]

Rhonda Stanton and Leslie Seawright, Missouri State University, Springfield, MO, USA

11h30-12h15 Discussions
12h15-14h00 Lunch break
14h00-14h20 Intersection of technical communication and marketing genres: spanning silos through product documentation [Recording]

Scott A. Mogull, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA

14h20-14h40 Breaking silos by building highly coupled cross-functional teams [PDF]

Fanny Bischoff, IBM  

14h40-15h00 Content for Industry 4.0 : content is software is content [PDF]

Ray Gallon, Transformation Society

15h00-15h20 Break
15h20-15h40 Intra-organizational communication without barriers: a case study of a technical communications team within a large organization [PDF]

Fabrizia Poli, Docunet

15h40-16h00 Les bienfaits d’une collaboration réussie  entre communicateurs techniques et traducteurs [PDF]

Vincent Bidaux

16h00-17h00 Discussion

 

 

Brainstorming the future of technical communication

M2 CDMM students have been busy this semester, identifying ideas for their research projects. They had a very creative 3-12-3 brainstorm on the future of technical communication, and the result is amazing!

This mind map (PDF) gathers all the ideas that were raised in the session (in French).

We’re now looking forward to hearing them present their research projects at Paris Diderot’s 5th conference on technical communication on Feb 3rd, 2017. Check out the conference program.

Digitalization in professional learning and education

Jennifer Frederic, Blandine Paulet, Manon Di Vozzo, Austeja Varvuolyte

Paris Diderot University, July 2016

Abstract

Nowadays, new technologies play a fundamental role in industrialized  societies and have become essential in everyday life. They also have a growing impact  on education and training, insofar as they have revolutionized the way people learn. However, some areas of knowledge seem to be incompatible with this new learning path. Therefore, we asked ourselves if every area of knowledge is suited for digital broadcast, and whether or not traditional education can be replaced with digital teaching methods. This article questions the influence of technology on education and comments on how electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers can help the learning process. Our findings confirm that new technologies have an increasing impact on education and training strategies both in the professional and educational field: e-learning represents a significant share of training solutions in large companies, and digital trainings help increase productivity as they are more accessible and contribute to saving time.

However, the efficiency of IT is limited in practical fields in which virtual training is impossible, as they require manual practice or application in everyday life.

Read the full article (PDF): Digitalization in professional learning and education

Gamification in e-learning: a game-changer?

Gaylord CHESNAY, Sutarni RIESENMEY, Matthieu ROCHE

Paris Diderot University, September 2016

Abstract

According to the Oxford dictionary, gamification “is the application of typical elements of game playing”, such as point scoring, competition with others or rules of play, to other areas of activity to encourage engagement. Gamification is a critical methodology in education and yet, many consider its implementation as a mere source of entertainment. Our modern society has been drastically influenced by the technological revolution that began in the late 1990’s. New forms of training have emerged, in the shape of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or e-learning courses hosted on Learning Management Systems (LMS).

This article explores the use of gamification in e-learning for professional training. It aims to shed some light on the underlying causes, the needs, and the reasons behind its implementation. It also analyses the motives that provoke skepticism on some people’s part and why some companies are therefore reluctant to invest in this type of training.

In addition to readings from experts, we interviewed specialists, and we conducted our own research comparing a gamified e-learning deliverable with its standard equivalent and analyzed their completion rates. We discovered that the learners who followed the standard course were not totally put off by the lack of game elements.

Read the full article (PDF): Gamification in e-learning: a game-changer?

Infographics: A toolbox for technical writers?

Armelle BURSI-AMBA, Aline EA, Romain GAULLIER, Manoela SANTIDRIAN

Paris Diderot University, 01/07/2016

Abstract

Over the last few years, visual elements have grown in importance and sophistication in technical writing. According to scientific literature, the inclusion of visual elements in technical documentation has resulted in a greater accessibility. Yet, technical writers tend to use visual elements not only to present numbers and help users to understand the meaning of those numbers, but also to explain a procedure, a concept, a reference, or another topic. The impact of this trend aroused our interest for infographics. Infographics is the abbreviation for information graphics. This visual representation of  information or data is used to convey information, and this information can be presented in a literal or more metaphorical way. As delivering a message in technical writing is not an easy task, implementing infographics in this context is particularly convenient. This article explores the compatibility between technical writing and infographics, and the limits of infographics implementation in technical writing. The difficulties of establishing a unique definition of infographics, and the differences between infographics and data visualization are also discussed in this article.

Read the full article (PDF): Infographics: A toolbox for technical writers?

Innovation and training: Targeting, designing and broadcasting

Alizée Caudron, Auriane Desbois, Samantha Neller, Julia Ory

July 2015

Abstract

This article deals with how innovation has revolutionized current teaching methods, especially from the point of view of the people creating educational content. There are three main steps to creating good training materials: targeting, designing and broadcasting. The first step, targeting, consists in analyzing the training project before its conception, by targeting the audience and preparing the content, in order to set up the best learning strategy. The second step is designing. Today’s technology gives instructional designers an array of different ways to create and present learning content. In addition to the attractiveness and the physical aspect of training materials which is now crucial, technologies such as 3D, games or Big Data also influence training designers’ work as well as learners’ opinions on learning. The final step is broadcasting. This part of the training material producing process is probably the most innovative of all. Indeed, nowadays new broadcasting methods keep appearing every single day. From Learning Management Sytems to the “Bring Your Own Device”, connected learners have a multitude of ways to access the educational material at their disposal.

Read the full article (PDF): Innovation and training: Targeting, designing and broadcasting

Controversy mapping, 3D animation, gaming: New media to transform education and cognitive experience

Sandrine Guillaume, Samar Mansour, Mathilde Rémignon

July 2014

Abstract

This article aims at demonstrating how new media offer different ways of learning that fully involve learners. Controversy mapping, 3D animations and gaming make learners able to better express themselves and to progress at their own pace. This new learning process involves a certain adaptability to change from learners and educators. Due to a major shift in communication, learners are willing and able to learn by themselves. We will expose the huge contrast between the traditional ways of learning and the new ways that new media bring. These new learning media help better manage information overload,  improve position stand in public space, and add interactivity. Thanks to them, deep transformations are led: learners become self-learners and benefit from customized teaching enabled by bottom-up education – and therefore become more and more active in their cognitive experience.

Read the full article (PDF): Controversy mapping, 3D animation, gaming: New media to transform education and cognitive experience

Documentation for the Y Generation

Ghislaine Borenstein, Danielle Purpura, Vanessa Voisin

July 2014

Abstract

This article demonstrates how technical writing will need to evolve to better suit the Y Generation (the “Millennials”). A brief definition of the millennial generation will be outlined, followed by a comparison of past, present, and future means of sharing information. The ultimate goal of the article is twofold. First, to present the emergence of new communication tools and digital media such as QR codes or e-learning publications, and how using the Internet is an effective means of enabling and developing collaborative communication. Second, to demonstrate how this media could be used to improve technical documentations’ user accessibility, mobility and interactivity. To conclude, we will highlight the pros and cons of these new media resources.

Read the full article (PDF): Documentation for the Y Generation

Tablet, 3D, video: the impact of these new information technologies on teaching and customer education

Meriem Ben Zaiedaied, Cécile Luft, Miriam Richki

July 2013

Abstract

Lately, we witnessed the rise of new information technologies such as the tablet, the 3D and the video. These technologies quickly popularised, and today they can be found in the teaching and customer education sectors. They are used at different levels: some use them massively, whereas others are only starting to implement them.
This article deals with the changes caused by the implementation of the tablet, the 3D and the video in the teaching and learning processes as well as the training materials design. In this prospect, we will focus on this phenomenon and its extent in the last decade by establishing a State of Art.
We will then study the impact of the tablet, the 3D and the video through 3 case studies: new teaching practices using videos in controversy and debate at Sciences Po, the implementation of the tablet in the Customer Education Service of a company, and the integration of 3D models in digital textbooks at Dassault Systèmes.

Read the full article (PDF): Tablet, 3D, video: the impact of these new information technologies on teaching and customer education

4th International Conference on Technical Communication – Big data, cloud, analytics, collaboration, social networks, and remote work (2015)

Nous vous invitons au quatrième Colloque international Communication technique de plein champ de l’Université PARIS DIDEROT

4th International Conference on Technical Communication

Big data, cloud, analytics, collaboration, social networks, and remote work

Vendredi 30 janvier 2015

Université Paris Diderot, Amphi Buffon 15 rue Hélène Brion, 75013 Paris


9h30 10h00 : Accueil des intervenants et des participants

10h00 10h10 : Ouverture des travaux

10h10 10h40 : Jean Paul Bardez, Bernard Soukoff, Françoise Jouan, CRT – La communication technique : il n’y a pas que la technique

10h40 11h10 : Michael Fritz, Président Tekom Europe : The Tekom Taxonomy for Technical Communication

11h10 11h40 : Fabrice Lacroix, Antidot – Quand les utilisateurs deviennent acteurs de la communication

11h40 12h10 : Marie Girard -Choppinet, Sarah Chaoui IBM – Définir une stratégie globale du contenu à l’ère du Big Data

12H10 12h40 : Denis Florean, IBM – Big Data and Cognitive Computing: IBM Watson Analytics

12h40 14h00 : Déjeuner libre

14h00 14h30 : Guillaume Séjouné, Cloudmark – Cloud Computing: Where to start?

14h30 15h00 : Fanny Bischoff, IBM – Documenter pour le Cloud ou la livraison perpétuelle

15h00 15h30 : Sarah Baillot, SAP – KM People Heading for the Cloud at SAP

15h30 16h00 : Questions réponses : la parole est à la salle

16h00 16h30 : Présentation des projets de recherche des étudiants de Master 2 CDMM

16h30 17h00 : Forccast : Innovation pédagogique Sciences Po -Paris Diderot

17h00 : Clôture des travaux