The limits of video implementation in technical communication

Jordan Bernardi, Thomas Jarillon, François D’araujo

Paris Diderot University – 07/18/2021

Abstract

Technical communication follows the perpetual advances in technological trends. It leverages every tool at its disposal to efficiently develop and propose the most relevant technical content to reach its critical target audience. Videos constitute a highly effective medium for capturing and conveying a wide array of information to achieve this goal. The immediacy brought by videos as well as the comprehensive sensory experience they propose are tributes to their demonstrative strength. But if videos constitute such a powerful tool, why are they not used everywhere in technical communication?
This research article examines the pertinence of videos in technical communication by exposing their potential limitations according to several criteria: People in charge, univocal set of best practices, narrative aspect, and comparison with written documentation.
Reviewing generic existing literature on the subject of videos constituted the first step of this study.
A survey and a heuristic evaluation were then conducted to analyze and assess the position of videos in the technical communication landscape while exploring the different limitations to video implementation in this specific framework.
The results gathered through the heuristic evaluation and the survey effectively completed the bibliography by providing more recent data on this rapidly evolving medium. These served in identifying some of the current practices and limitations that we can observe in today’s technical communication environment.
Although videos are recognized as a real added value to software documentation, they have limitations that all have a common denominator: Lack of time. While one of the biggest challenges of technical writing is to best reflect the products being described, written documentation still seems to be the only one to predominate due to its unmatched ability to be quickly updated.

Read the full article in PDF: The limits of video implementation in technical communication

The impact of technical writing on accessibility

LABATTE Johanna, L. M., MOREIRA Aurélien, USLUCAN Sena

University of Paris, 15/07/2021

Abstract

Accessibility addresses solutions offered for disabled people to have the same use of an object as an able person. Most people associate accessibility with physical objects that physically disabled people cannot use. However, accessibility actually accommodates a much larger group of users and is relevant for any product, including the web. Anyone at any point in their lives can become disabled, even temporarily. Furthermore, accessibility improves usability. Accessibility aims to make web content usable by as many people as possible.

Over the past decades, accessibility has become a matter of law in many different countries such as the United States, France, China, India, or Germany for example. Accessibility has also become a way for companies to improve their brand image while it allows people with disabilities to access web content. In the end, everybody wins.

Read the full article in PDF: The impact of technical writing on accessibility

Inclusive writing and user-centric strategies in technical communication

BEAUVALLET Mathis, BERANGER Charlotte, HIBON Gaëlle

Paris University, July 2021

Abstract

Documentation and technical communication have gone beyond the stage of secondary support, to become a necessary product while creating a product that reflects its target users is now a common strategy. Then, could inclusive writing be relevant in technical communication to meet users’ expectations?
By interviewing technical communication professionals on their products and experience, cross-checked with research, we are seeking to answer this question. From technical guides to marketplace interfaces, we were able to identify how inclusivity could be integrated into their products and learn when it added value.
While businesses take every precaution to be seen as inclusive, we could imagine that it would show in the content they create. Inclusive writing is the ultimate lever to women and men’s equality in language. Yet, its cultural and political association added with the variety of its form can make any company think twice before incorporating it.
Technical communicators are confronted with a brand-new way of writing content that can sometimes go against the sacred rules of Technical Communication1. At the same time, it implies great change management, not only for users but for collaborators as well. Even though technology might answer most of the drawbacks and complications, is inclusive writing worth the risk?

Read the full article in PDF: Inclusive writing and user-centric strategies in technical communication

10th International Conference on Technical Communication: Time and Space

For the 10th anniversary of the International Conference on Technical Communication at Université de Paris, as deep changes are ongoing in work practices, we explore the right time and space for technical communication.

Technical communicators often work with teams that are distributed geographically and need to manage different timelines. During this conference, academics and professionals shared the methods, tools and best practices for highly collaborative and fast-paced activites, teamwork across different locations and timezones, as well as changes in work practices during the Covid crisis.

Remote work

Speaker Title
Gaspard Bébié-Valérian Half-documentarian, half engineer, and a hint of hacking: docOps, an in-between figure to implement docs as code [PDF]
Master 2 CTM Presentation of research subjects [PDF]
Interactive session ContentOps with Rahel Anne Bailie [PDF]
Petra Herbst Docs-as-code explained – what, who and how? [PDF]
André Tran Feeling constrained by your CMS? Docs-as-code could be a solution [PDF]
Barbara Kardel-Piątkowska How the pandemics influenced the work of technical communicators in Poland? [PDF]
Julia Unis Good Morning, Good Night: Fostering Connections with a China/US Documentation Team [PDF]
Interactive session Technical communication in times of crisis
Saveena (Chakrika) Veeramoothoo Trans-Atlantic & Pacific Project: International collaboration challenges across time during the COVID crisis [PDF]
Laura Gonzales and Valentina Sierra Nino Visual Translation and Language Access Research in North Central Florida [Video]

The conference was held remotely on Zoom on January 28th, 2022.

Video recordings available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRsfMsVg38nBYl-wG3gLAAqjEcQADVVEb

Information Processing and Technical Writing: The Importance of Optimizing Users’ Working Memory

Mélanie PIERRE, Amélie CARON, Coline MAGNIER, Margaux ZANINI

Paris Diderot University, July 15, 2021

Abstract

The simpler the better, you have probably heard this sentence many times. It is  particularly true in technical writing. It has been proven that having more than seven chunks  of information or using useless information in a technical document can affect users working memory as well as an unstructured document. However, there is little research on the nature of the link between working memory and technical writing.
Our article examines the correlation between cognitive psychology and technical writing and more especially the importance of optimizing the user’s working memory when writing technical documents. To understand the impact of an altered procedure on the realization of a task, we conducted an experiment which consisted of a comparison between two drawing procedures: one which aimed at optimizing working memory and the other which aimed at altering it. Participants shared their drawings and told us the difficulties they faced for eachof the procedures.

Our research and the analysis of the conducted experiment allowed us to draw the conclusion that technical writers should always consider their user’s working memory to ensure that the instructions are easy to follow for every age and capacity range. The structure and content of documentations can help users to group information together and thus help improve their working memory while reading instructions.

Read the full article in PDF: Information processing and technical writing

The adaptation of e-learning to the learner’s preferences: What are the benefits and the limitations of personalized e-learning environments?

Inès Lavandier, Julie Jacquelin and Héloïse Huet

July 2021

Abstract

This study explores the personalization of e-learning environments. The main
question we would like to answer in this research article is: What are the benefits and the limitations of personalized e-learning environments? This question encompasses both ends of the spectrum. The results of our research suggest that personalized e-learning environments should provide a better learning experience because it encapsulates the learner’s preferred methods of learning. While traditional e-learning focuses on mass-learning, standard methods with few variations and interactions, the personalization of e-learning should facilitate knowledge retention and be more user-centric.

Read the full article in PDF: The adaptation of e-learning to the learners preferences

Action in E-learning

Clothilde BASCOU, Tingting JIANG, Sofia MOISEYEV, Adeline RITO

Paris Diderot University, July 14th, 2021

Abstract

To have a qualified workforce, companies invest in new digital strategies to develop their employees’ skills. The effectiveness of the training content is at the heart of their concerns. Contractors sell them interactive training content with the argument that it is indeed effective for knowledge retention and skills development. But companies need to know the validity of that argument to invest in the right direction.
This research evaluates the impact of action in e-learning processes on the effectiveness of online training. The data was collected through the completion of two e-learning modules (action-oriented and actionless), and surveys. Kirkpatrick’s training evaluation model was used to measure the results.
The study results suggest that the effectiveness of e-learning can be improved through the use of neurosciences, personification of training, application of e-doing, eye tracking and social learning.

Read the full article in PDF: Action in E-learning

 

 

 

What have they become? Career evolutions after graduating in technical communication at Université de Paris

As part of the theme for the 9th International Conference on Technical Communication: Evolutions of the Discipline, we have ctarried out a short study to find out what technical communication graduates had become. Here are the insights we gathered from this study.

The study

A survey was sent to alumni of Master and License Pro alumni at Université de Paris. We received:

  • 15 responses from License alumni
  • 60 responses from Master alumni

We received more responses from alumni who had recently graduated:

  • 38 graduated between 2020 and 2015 (within 5 years)
  • 23 graduated between 2014 and 2007 (within 10 years)
  • 14 graduated in or before 2006 (within 15 years)

The survey ran throughout January 2021 and was communicated to Université de Paris alumni through the alumni association ATCDIL, and through LinkedIn groups.

What have they become?

We have grouped job titles into 6 categories:

  • Data: Business analyst
  • Direction: Manager, Director, Product manager, Product owner, VP, CEO
  • Design: Technical architect, Learning Experience designer, Curriculum architect, Content designer, UX writer, Instructional designer
  • Development: Copywriter, Scientific writer, Technical writer, Translator, Proposal writer
  • Delivery: Content manager, Documentation engineer, Project manager
  • Dialogue: Consultant, Knowledge manager, Support engineer

The categories apply across business functions, such as documentation, training and digital learning, change management, operations, technical support, or marketing.

The following chart shows the percentage of respondants for each job title within 5, 10, and 15 years or more after graduation.

Only 2 respondants took a job outside of the technical communication field after graduation, and were not included in this chart.

Evolution of tech comm job titles

We can see that within 10 years, jobs become more diverse, and then consolidate into leadership roles within 15 years and more. A quarter of alumi still hold Development roles after 15 years.

Initial skills applied in current position

We asked participants to list the skills that they had acquired during their training at Université de Paris, which they were still applying in their current position.

Within 5 years, top initial skills are:

  • Writing
  • Website development
  • Information architecture

Within 10 years:

  • Writing is by far the top skill that prevails above all others.

Within 15 years:

  • Writing
  • Website development

Initial skills

Skills acquired since initial position

We asked survey participants to list any additional training they followed after landing their first job.

Added skills

It seems like people currently in Direction roles are the ones who have acquired most skills since their initial training, followed by people in Development roles.

New skills to acquire in current position

We asked survey participants to list any new skills they thought they needed to acquire in their current position.

Within 5 years:

  • Programming languages
  • Video production
  • Domain knowledge

Within 10 years:

  • Domain knowledge
  • Project management
  • Business management, customer relations
  • UX Design

Within 15 years:

  • Content management (XML, CMS, LMS)
  • Management
  • Change management

New skills

Evolutions of the discipline

We asked survey participants to share their thoughts about the future of technical communication as a discipline. They listed the following points:

More varied media formats, more tools

Only evolution possible is to move to a management position

Responsibilities become more varied (jack-of-all trades)

APIs and docs as code, Git

Data analysis, to elaborate a strategy based on facts

Agile methodologies (Scrum) and Design Thinking

Evolution towards roles in quality testing, editing, or project management

More user centricity : UX design and content strategy

AI-generated text involves a move towards domains where human interaction remains crucial (education, health, Human Resources, crafts…)

Better recognition of the profession, improvements in tools for user research and information architecture

Process automation coupled with content management

More online training

 

 

9th International Conference on Technical Communication: Thank you!

It’s a wrap! This year’s International Conference on Technical Communication was a special one, as it was the first time we were holding it online. From this constraint came a fantastic opportunity, with an amazing panel of speakers, great interaction between attendees worldwide, and insightful discussions about evolutions of the discipline.

A lot of fun was had by all at the event, and to keep the momentum going here are the much awaited conference takeways:

Developing a network for professional development when STC or other organizations aren’t available

It’s important to have conversations with tech comm practitioners in different contexts/spaces. We can learn so much from each other that way

Listening to what’s happening in Europe in terms of research and industry was great!

Updating a layer instead of adding a layer = minimalism well defined

Rething what you’re going to create and design it in a smart way.

Alexandre’s notion of recycling.

It is great to bring together our research findings

I liked the concept of information literacy. We may not think of it whenever we’re crafting content.

How will technical communication careers evolve?

During a networking session at the 9th International Conference on Technical Communication: Evolutions of the Discipline, we asked attendees to discuss how technical communication careers will evolve. This is what they said.

Dissolution: a core competency for many different careers

Product Manager, Consulting (e.g. tooling), support positions, UX positions, Education, Management and Leadership

More e-learning

Technical writing becomes a core competency

Tech Writing is design and the positions are absorbed by design groups

The careers may become even more multifaceted, involving UX, customer-support.

Or technical communication may become an extra skill for engineers, in a cost-cutting, systemic crisis context.

Testing (product, data…?)

Consolidation: acknowlegement as a competitive advantage

More direct-to-consumer communication (back and forth commenting/updating)

Better acknowledgment of the profession among other teams

It will be more about the way we interact with the user, the techniques we’re using to help the end-users assimilate content just-in-times support.

Tech wirting is a competitive advantage

More collaboration with other disciplines like marketing and development

More collaboration and integration

Technical writing will become more present in all companies, mostly because data is increasingly easy to handle and also because people are specializing a lot, so I don’t think an engineer could craft a better job than a technical writer (but that’s just my point of view).

Apocalypse: the bots take over

Writing for bots

Worst case scenario : a software is designed to enable technical data extraction. Engineers and technicians are trained to use it. Technical communicators disappear per se, superseded by low-cost technical communication made by outsiders: it follows the same fate as translation.

Technical communication apocalypse

We still need to train the robots

We’ll be writing the human conversations and figuring out tools that we’ll need to write for machine learning applications and automation

Extension: fact-checking for a society in need of information literacy

Pam and Alexandre brought up something really interesting on how TW could help providing information to people who are less at ease with traditional media

Checking the validity of data as a profession

Specialization: domain-specific branches

Supervising of Distributed contributors around the world (increase)

Continuing need for domain-specific writing skills – for developers, for healthcare etc

What brings technical communicators together?

During a networking session at the 9th International Conference on Technical Communication: Evolutions of the Discipline, we asked attendees to discuss what brings technical communicators together. This is what they said.

Community

The struggle ! 😉

Joining professional organizations such as the STC.

Team cohesiveness

Newsletters, meetings

A shared sense of community as we are a reduced group of professionals

Culture of humanities

Background

Many of us come from different backgrounds such as language, art, archeology. Surprisingly few have engineering or technical backgrounds.

Love for languages

Interest in words

Common desire for understanding and sharing

Knowing how to structure ideas

Love for knowledge, desire to share knowledge/access info

Love of communication

Love for knowledge

Tech writers share the same goal, to bring the information in a way that is accesible to certain audiences.

Technical writers are some sort of teachers as we have to convey info

“All of us share the same goal: to simplify the complex matters – adapt to the audience – being accessible/understandable”

Empathy, caring for others

User-centric approach

Empathy

Tools and techniques

Using different kinds of technology to communicate with our end-users,

Curiosity and continuous learning

Update and progress made in technical communication

Great to share ideas and compare the ways of working with non-writers (in my case, software developers & engineers).

Professional Weaknesses and Strengths sharing

To discuss new and emerging trends

Meta reflections, continuous improvement, interest for processes and optimization

Mediation

Technical communicators stand at the intersection between an object/a product/content and the users. They’re some sort of “unifying mediators”/translators between various worlds/moderators or translators of different cultures, popularizing bribes of info, making them accessible to different audiences by adapting your writing.

Bringing people together: helping collaboration, understanding, and knowledge sharing

Being generalists in a specialized world

We also feel the need to see a broader perspective of communication of information

 

 

Program and tickets are now available for the 9th International Conference on Technical Communication

You are invited by Patricia Minacori, Marie Girard, Clillac-Arp Research Laboratory and the EILA Department of Université de Paris on

Friday 29 January 2021, from 10.00 – 17.00 Paris Time (UTC+1)

Evolutions of the Discipline

During this videoconference (Zoom), in English only, we will explore the job market, training curricula and evolutions of the trade. Check out the programme: 9th International Conference on Technical Communication: Evolutions of the Discipline

The conference is free – register on Event Brite.

 



Why do technical writers have to justify their existence?

Louise AGERON, Tanguy CACHIN, Marina FERREOL

Paris Diderot, July 15th, 2019

Abstract

With the way new technologies are evolving nowadays, technical writers appear to play an important role. Their mission is to help users understand and use a new product or software. They create content that is easy to understand to all and adapt their discourses depending on whom they are addressing their message. We noticed that technical writers, however, still struggled to justify and explain their existence. We wondered whether the profession was widely known, and realized that it was not. We then retracted a brief overview of the profession and realized that being a technical writer had many definitions to it, and the job associated with the terms were broad and different, which reinforces the identity and existence crisis. We also wondered how technical writers were seen by their colleagues, and we found out that they were not seen as a priority by many, probably because of the influence of the old workflow system where technical writers were placed last.

Read the full article in PDF: Why do technical writers have to justify their existence?

What makes or breaks a user-centric approach from a UX and technical writing perspective?

Perrine Palfray, Isabelle De Abreu Teixeira

Université de Paris, July 2020

Abstract

The term ‘user-centric approach’ steadily gained momentum over the last two decades, to become a popular professional standard in the digitized industries.

The simplest way to define user-centric is in contrast with a product-centric approach: the focus of the technical content is shifted from the product and what it can do, to the user and what they want to do.

The end goal is to make technical content more digestible for users, making them feel that the content is tailored to their individual needs.

Upon closer investigation, it becomes clear that user-centric technical content and the definition given to this approach to content creation varies greatly due to several environmental and individual factors.

What seems to have become an industry standard, is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of practices that are sometimes difficult to pinpoint with precision and accuracy.

What does this approach actually mean to professionals? What are the facilitating and the challenging factors that come with this new way of thinking technical content creation?

Read the full article in PDF: What makes or breaks a user-centric approach from a UX and technical writing perspective?

Are technical communicators the secret asset of a healthy enterprise culture?

Alexandra ATES, Eléonore CASSAGNE, Richard DEBRABANT

Université de Paris, 2019-2020

Abstract

You spend one third of your life at work. You see your colleagues much more often than you see your friends or family, which is one of the reasons why it is important to be part of a team where you feel happy and motivated enough to carry out projects throughout your professional career. Several elements lead you to nurture —intentionally or unintentionally— these relationships within your own firm either in a positive or negative way, and greatly affect your productivity.

Technical writers are employees who communicate with customers or people in their firm. They collect as much information as possible to document projects and be aware of the modifications to be made in case of plan changes. Thus, with experience, they have learned how to behave so that professional conversations go smoothly, contacts last for a long time and they make progress in their work.

This position might suggest that they have a fairly important role in their company’s activity in addition to their daily tasks… But to what extent?

Read the full article in PDF: Are technical communicators the secret asset of a healthy enterprise culture?