12th International Conference on Technical Communication: Generative AI, Friend or Foe?

Feb 2nd, 2024 – Remote

Université Paris Cité, Department of Applied Languages (EILA)
Clillac Arp Laboratory

Artificial intelligence

As the dust settles on the ChatGPT breakthrough, technical communicators, like many other content professionals, begin to think about the impact of generative AI on their daily work. While large language models (LLMs) create more effective ways to handle knowledge and create content, AI-generated information raises many ethical questions.

For the next International Conference on Technical Communication, held by the Université Paris Cité, academic and professional speakers will share insights on the following topics:

  • Use cases for AI in technical communication: content creation, information retrieval, classification.
  • Ethics, security and environmental issues related to artificial intelligence and the way companies deal with them.
  • Attitudes to knowledge and new skills needed in the age of artificial intelligence.

View the replay of presentations on YouTube.

Program

10.00 – 10.10

Introduction

Patricia Minacori, Ismael Ramos, Marie Girard

10.10 – 10.40

Presentation of research projects

Master 2 students

10.40 – 11.10

Productive uses of AI in Technical Communications [PDF]

Dipo Ajose-Coker, MadCap Software

Crafted for technical writers, savvy documentation managers, and stakeholders looking to innovate, I want to dissect how AI is reshaping the creation, management, and delivery of technical content. Learn to leverage AI for more than just efficiency; use it to enrich content quality, enhance user engagement, and inform content strategy with data-driven insights. This presentation will get you thinking about how best to position AI as a core component of your technical communication toolkit. Let’s redefine the boundaries of technical writing and documentation management.

11.10 – 11.40
Natural born prompters: why technical writers make great prompt engineer

Maaike Groenewege, Convocat BV

So is AI going to put technical writers out of job? On the contrary! One of the most important new roles in the emerging field of generative AI is that of the so-called prompt engineer, or instruction designer for large language models (LLMs). Unsurprisingly, it turns out that what makes a great instruction for a human, also does a very decent job as an instruction for an LLM. So tech writers might well be natural born prompters! In her talk, Maaike compares technical writing and prompt engineering and shares some tips and tricks to start exploring this exciting field yourself.

11.40 – 12.10

 Interactive session: Practical uses of AI in technical communication [PDF]

12.10 – 14.00

Lunch break

14.00 – 14.30

Impacts and uses of AI within collective intelligence value creation processes in knowledge management and technical communication professions

Gaëlle Brunetaud and Hugo Deschamps, OnePoint

The growing impacts of artificial intelligence on today’s and tomorrow’s professions raises questions about the notion of “collective intelligence” in all its dimensions, as well as about the “work value” of human beings faced to technological machines. What could be the place of AI within collective intelligence value creation processes in the future, especially for knowledge management and technical communication professions ? Are there use cases that we can learn from ?

14.30 – 15.00

Gen-AI Innovation: How Tech, Real Estate, and Engineering Expertise Shaped the Founding of Botique.me [PDF]

Sarah Lasaracina, Botique.me

Embark on a journey with three individuals – tech writer Sarah, real estate entrepreneur Giuliano, and mechanical engineer turned AI enthusiast Michele. In May 2023, inspired by ChatGPT’s rise, they envisioned Gen AI revolutionizing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. Fearing larger corporations might swiftly seize market shares through AI integration, the trio united. Explore the genesis of Botique.me, their venture crafting user-friendly Gen AI-based chatbots for SMEs. Witness how this diverse team ingeniously responded to the encroaching dominance of big players. Beyond this case study, delve into broader market changes post-ChatGPT. Spotlighting the demand for a mix of soft and hard skills, the presentation offers practical strategies for grounded skill acquisition. Whether UX, UI, Neuromarketing, or SEO, it guides professionals in adapting to the dynamic landscape through continuous learning. Join us as we unravel Botique.me’s transformative narrative, explore market shifts, and gain practical insights for professionals navigating technology, business, and skill development in the Gen AI era.

15.00 – 15.30

Interactive session: Gen-AI, more of the same or creativity boost? [PDF]

15.30 – 16.00

AI Reading Assistants: Balancing Innovation and Core Competencies

Marc Watkins, University of Mississippi

AI reading assistants use generative AI to help users analyze text, identify key details, summarize content, answer questions, and more. These tools promise to greatly augment technical writers’ productivity by augmenting reading and analysis tasks. Nonnative speakers, those with disabilities, and readers with less-developed lexical knowledge, can also benefit. However, over-reliance on AI reading assistant tools risks diminishing core human competencies like critical thinking, comprehension, and close reading. As educators, we must endeavor to balance the pragmatic use of this new technology, while carefully teaching learners to employ it in a manner that supports and augments skills like reading, rather than off loading it completely to an automated process. With deliberate and ethical guidance, AI reading assistants could empower readers to reach new heights of productivity and quality. The alternative – students and the general public becoming passive consumers of AI-generated content – may undermine education instead of help making users more literate. Our challenge is developing framework to intelligently wield transformative technologies rather than be dominated by them.

16.00 – 16.30

Forging New Pedagogical Attitudes with the New Kid on the Block, AI

Cynthia Pope, Syracuse University, NY

It seems likely that in preparation for producing final artifacts in classes requiring technical writing, students will use AI to generate a surplus of written words. How this profusion of ideas can lead to original, student written, final drafts will be our next challenge as we support the intellectual development of our students. Providing students with opportunities to develop technical writing practiced encouraging the use of technological advances, but also developing their intellectual capacities will provide them with resilience needed to adapt and grow. The growing impact of AI requires we reconsider our teaching methods and course outcomes. We need to clarify the relationship between AI, technical writing, and learning, and emphasize how learning works to support the student’s ability to address problem. This requires formulating assignments to engage students in ways that incorporate new technologies, support equity, practice critical literacy and analysis, and connect students with their intellectual potential. This proposal aims to create a robust presentation around AI use and provide frameworks to guide faculty regarding AI and technical writing. Topics include course policies, course development, creating and structuring assignments that incorporate AI, outcomes, and assessment. Expect strong examples of praxis, pedagogy, and technology.

16.30 – 16.40

Conclusion

Patricia Minacori, Ismael Ramos, Marie Girard

Speakers

Dipo Ajose-Coker

After relocating to France in 2005, Dipo completed an MA in Multilingual and Multimedia Document Conception at the Université Paris Cité. He has since spent the past 18 years combining his love for language and IT skills in various roles, serving as a DITA expert, technical writer, technical editor, and proof-reader in the Fintech and MedTech device industries. In 2021, Dipo transitioned into Content Creation and Marketing. Acting as the crucial link between developers and the end users, occupying the sweet spot between expectation and delivery, Dipo represents both the voice of the user and that of the software developer, acting as the quintessential middleman. In the grand symphony of the Technical Communications industry, Dipo takes on the role of a conductor to unify and harmonize the voice of the user, industry experts, and the vendor.

Gaëlle Brunetaud

Gaëlle Brunetaud has developed a strong experience in collective and emotional intelligence as a consultant and as a coach. She helps teams and organisations to develop resilience and face difficult and complex situations.

Hugo Deschamps

Hugo Deschamps, ethnologist and cultural and leadership transformation expert at onepoint, has 13 years of experience as researcher, human resources and operations director, and consultant.

Maaike Groenewege

Maaike Groenewege is a linguist, prompt engineer and conversation designer at her own company, Convocat BV. She helps organisations leverage the true potential of conversational and generative AI. She works with Dutch companies like Independer, Kamer van Koophandel and ABN AMRO, as well as with American startups. But Maaike also brings a 25-year career as a technical writer. 14 of those, she spent writing procedures and instructions at Dutch air traffic control, working with DITA, single sourcing and component content architecture. To this day, she applies everything she learned in tech comm in her daily work, most notably the minimalist framework for designing effective procedures (Carroll & Van der Meij).

Sarah Lasaracina

Sara is a former CDMM student. After spending 8 years in IT, focusing on technical communication across various domains, she acquired essential UX design skills. These skills were instrumental in developing her own Gen AI-based solution. 

Cynthia Pope

With a PhD in Rhetoric & Technical Communication from Texas Tech U, Cynthia Pope is an assistant teaching professor at Syracuse U in New York.

Marc Watkins

Marc Watkins is an Academic Innovation Fellow, Lecturer of Writing and Rhetoric, and serves as the Director of the AI Summer Institute for Teachers of Writing at the University of Mississippi. He cochairs the AI working group within his department and serves as a liaison with other departments on campus, exploring generative AI’s impact on teaching and learning. In addition to being awarded a Pushcart Prize, Marc has been awarded a 2018 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Teaching and Learning, a WOW Fellowship, and a Sarah ISOM Fellowship. His research includes OER, open pedagogy, creative writing, digital humanities, AI in education, and grant writing.

A technical communicator’s learning journey towards expertise

By Rebecca BUKALA, Master’s student 2022-23

Technical communicators are constantly learning to acquire skills and knowledge in new fields. But, what do you do when the field in which you are trying to gain knowledge is so foreign to you that you barely comprehend the fundamentals?

The main difficulty I encountered -and still do- in my company is understanding payroll. Payroll is an entanglement of law, business, and HR, and I don’t understand most of it. I started my apprenticeship almost nine months ago, and I still feel lost when it comes to payroll vocabulary, concepts, and processes.

The problem is that payroll is the core of the company I work at. This company develops and sells payroll software, and, as a technical communicator, my mission is to pass the knowledge from R&D to Operations, that is, from the employees who create knowledge to the employees who use it. Without a good knowledge of payroll, it’s challenging to make sure the documents I review and rewrite are correct.

When I started working, I thought the knowledge I would gain on the job would be enough for me to understand payroll. However, I quickly realized that I needed to plan and seek out other resources.

Acquiring knowledge in a new field can be broken down into 3 main steps:

  1. Set clear learning goals.
  2. Find the tools.
  3. Take the time to learn and practice.

My learning goal was easy to define: I wanted to gain enough knowledge on payroll to understand the documents I was reading, and the conversations I was hearing.

Regarding the tools, fortunately for me, every new employee in the company follows online training to get into payroll and learn how to use the company’s software. Even the employees who won’t be using the software in their everyday tasks have to participate in the classes. But, because of the apprenticeship rhythm (two weeks in university – two weeks at work), I couldn’t follow the first part of the training before October, and the second part before November.

In the meantime, when I didn’t understand a payroll concept or term, I would either go on the Internet or ask my colleagues. I also noted the explanations they gave me in a notebook. Once I was able to follow the training, I took notes because I knew that, considering the amount of information I received, I would forget everything. Through the training, I studied the fundamentals of payroll and learned how to use the company’s software. This training provided me with both declarative and procedural knowledge, that is: I learned what things are (declarative) and how to do them (procedural). I was mainly seeking declarative knowledge, but the procedural knowledge I gained proved useful for a project I was assigned a few weeks later.

At the end of the training, the participants can take a test to evaluate their level. This test wasn’t obligatory for me, but my tutor encouraged me to take it nonetheless. I passed and received the certification. I was on top of the world because I thought the training had solved all my problems and that I had reached my learning goal. However, as the weeks passed, I realized the training wasn’t enough. I was still struggling with payroll concepts and processes, and I became discouraged at my lack of progress.

This constant change in the state of mind of learners is well-known and even has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Dunning Kruger effect

Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the Dunning-Kruger effect as a “cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain”.

To explain it briefly, at the beginning of your learning journey your confidence explodes at your first signs of progress, you feel like a genius. Then you are confronted with the gap between you and your peers, and your confidence crushes; what this curve doesn’t show is that many people end their learning journey there. For those who continue, their confidence will slowly rise again as they gain competency, and that’s how they become experts in their field.

Besides the correlation between competency and confidence, this curve also shows that gaining competency is a journey, and this journey always begins at zero. Nobody comes out of the womb an expert in payroll. The article The Making of an expert written by K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely in 2007 has reminded me of that. After analyzing copious amounts of studies to determine what makes an expert, the authors have gathered enough scientific evidence to declare: “Experts are always made, not born”. Specifically, they are made through deliberate practice, which the authors define as “considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all”. This is something we always have to remember as technical communicators, gaining knowledge takes time, and the experts we are turning to for help used to be beginners before.

But it is also important to remember that there is a reason why technical communicators have to work hand in hand with experts. My tutor has been working in the company for more than a decade. When I asked her how she felt regarding payroll concepts and terms, she revealed to me that she was still very confused at times, even though, from my point of view, she seemed to be an expert. It reminded me that we don’t need to become experts in the field we are working in. We just need to gain enough knowledge to fake expertise in our writing.

In conclusion, to gain knowledge in a field as abstruse as payroll, the first step is to set a learning goal. Gaining expertise takes time, so it’s important that technical communicators remind themselves of their goals to avoid getting too discouraged. As for me, I know that I will not come out of my apprenticeship as an expert in payroll, but it isn’t my goal, and writing this article has reminded me of it.

References:

Herrity, J. (2023). 10 Steps To Learn New Skills (With Tips). Indeed Career Guide. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/learn-new-skills

Indeed Editorial Team. (2022). How To Acquire New Skills in 10 Steps. Indeed Career Guide. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/acquire-skills

Tktcambridge. (2019, July 28). Declarative Knowledge Vs. Procedural Knowledge – TKT Cambridge. TKT Cambridge. https://www.tktcambridge.com/declarative-knowledge-vs-procedural-knowledge/

Bakken, R., & Dobbs, J. (2016). The relevance of four types of knowledge for leader preparation in radically different settings: Reflections on data from a case study in Qatar and teaching at a United States military academy. Creighton Journal of Interdisciplinary Leadership, 2(2), 17–23. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1152204.pdf

Duignan, B. (2023, March 27). Dunning-Kruger effect | Definition, Examples, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica.
https://www.britannica.com/science/Dunning-Kruger-effect

The transversality of a technical communicator

Lyticia KADJITE, Camille KUI, Céline NGUYEN

M2 CTM, Université Paris Cité, July 2023

Abstract

Technical communicators are at the heart of product development. They take on many different roles, but first and foremost they are the instructors, the link between the engineer and the user. For the general public, they transform technical documentation into a language that is structured, clear, precise, and, above all, intelligible to the target audience. But what are the other facets and responsibilities that qualify them as technical communicators?

From word processing to design, from website development to information architecture, technical communicators must be able to handle it all. But how transversal is a technical communicator? Do they take on the job of another profession? Or from other departments? What are the limits of technical communicators and the challenges they may face in their career? How diverse are the tools that a technical communicator must master to help in the design of product documentation? This leads us to the central inquiry of our research: to what extent does the transversality of a technical communicator impact the evolution of the job?

Through the lens of transversality, we aim to provide valuable insights on the advancement of technical communication practices and help professionals thrive. We will also take a look at technical communication as a profession, from its origins to its future, and finish off with some end thoughts about the current professional landscape based on our survey.

Read the full article in PDF: The transversality of a technical communicator

The never-ending debate: DITA or…?

Lisa MAUCHOSSÉ, Tasmiya NOOR-MOHAMMED, Alima SANOGO

Paris Cité University, July 2023

Abstract

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), introduced in 2001 at
IBM and launched to the public in 2005, has set new standards in technical
documentation practices, meeting the needs of both companies and technical
writers. Nonetheless, as the field of technical writing has evolved over the last
two decades, it is essential to assess whether DITA continues to live up to its
reputation as a universal solution in the face of the emergence of other
solutions.
To get to the bottom of this, we conducted a survey among 34 technical
writers around the world. The aim of our research is to analyze the current
relevance of DITA in modern technical documentation practices, examining its
advantages and limitations, and exploring alternative solutions. The article
looks at important considerations for the adoption of DITA, such as content
strategy, cost analysis, and tool selection. In addition, it addresses the growing
popularity of alternative solutions such as Markdown, which offer simplicity
and ease of implementation.

Read the full article in PDF: The never-ending debate: DITA or …?

The impact of a technical writer shortage within an organization

Camille Bouillard, Kenza Benhassine, Georgina Gilmore

Paris Cité University, July 2023

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to verify that well-written documentation
has an impact on the success of a brand and has an impact on customer
service costs. The methods and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that can
analyze performance will be identified and analyzed using a survey and
through research.
To examine the impact of technical writers on company performance, we
explored whether companies don’t hire technical writers when they need
them. To do this we conducted a survey.
According to our research, technical writers seem to perceive a clear link
between their work and company performance. Documentation impacts
product usage by end users and costs for companies to operate and produce.
Cost is particularly impacted through user demand for customer service.
Experts and professionals have identified ways to measure company
performance, although their application does not appear straightforward for
all. This was demonstrated when we interviewed a group of technical writers
on how to measure the impact of technical writers on company performance
in practice. In this scenario, respondents were more skeptical about the
methods mentioned by respondents of the questionnaire.

Read the full article in PDF: Impact of technical writers on company performance

Videos and minimalism, a conflict in technical writing

R. BUKALA, C. FERRO, F. VINGTROIS

Paris Cité University, July 2023

Abstract

Throughout our technical writing courses, we learned that we must
implement a minimalist approach to our writing. Technical documentation
must be straight to the point, simplify access to information, and filter out
any unnecessary details. Minimalism in technical writing has been clearly
defined since the 1980s. This definition and the advice on minimalist
practices leave out visual elements such as illustrations and videos even
though videos are becoming ever more present in technical documentation.
Thus, we decided to make the distinction between written and visual
minimalism. As visual minimalism stems from minimalism, we can define it
as simplifying technical documentation by cutting off all unnecessary visual
content.

Through this research article, we wished to study how visual minimalism
and videos are used in technical documentation. Specifically, we wondered
how technical writers perceived the use of videos in the context of visual
minimalism.

As technical communicators can work on a large variety of projects, we
wanted to reach as many professionals in technical communication as
possible to ask their opinions on the matter. Are videos and minimalist
documentation compatible?

Read the full article in PDF: Videos and minimalism, a conflict in technical writing

Can Technical Communicators Benefit from AI Text Generators?

Evan MARION, Louis DUCHAILLE, Mafalda DA COSTA

Paris Cité University, July 17 2023

Abstract

ChatGPT changed (almost) everyone’s lives this year, we all started to
worry about our future and wonder if AI could replace us in a few years.
With this article research, we wanted to see how technical communicators can
use these new tools for their benefit instead of being fearful of their future.
This paper is based on a survey of 46 professionals, with more than 50% with
jobs related to the technical communication field. The respondents were
asked about their knowledge and their use of AI text generators.

The results allowed us to determine the benefits and the limits of AI text
generators for technical communicators. Our study suggests that quite a few
professionals already use AI tools to help them gain time and be more
efficient. Technical communicators often use them for proofreading,
rewriting sentences and translation.
Although AI text generators are becoming more and more popular among
professionals, they still have a lot to prove…

Read the full article in PDF: Can Technical Communicators Benefit from AI Text Generators

Université Paris Cité partners with Adobe for technical communication training

At Université Paris Cité university, Bachelor and Master technical communication students are trained on technical communication standards, structured authoring methodology, structured languages and content transformation (XML, DITA, XSL…), using leading authoring tools.
Through practical hands-on workshops and projects, led by techcom professionals, students learn how to use the most recognized and renowned authoring tools, thus offering them a diverse set of skills highly appreciated by future employers.
Thanks to the Adobe University Outreach partnership, our students now have access to the Technical Communication Suite free of charge, for the duration of the academic year, giving them access to the most recent versions of FrameMaker, RoboHelp, and Captivate. This is a real plus for this training curriculum that attracts each year more and more candidates, whose high marketability confirms how adequate the learning curriculum is to the needs of future employers.

Adobe logo

 

11th Université Paris Cité International Conference on Technical Communication – Programme

Friday 3th February 2023 (remote)

Sponsored by UFR Etudes Interculturelles de Langues Appliquées and the Clillac-Arp research laboratory.

Measuring impact

CC BY 2.0 frankieleon

Measuring Impact: What Makes Good Technical Communication

Technical communicators strive for creating content that is usable and helpful. But how can they be absolutely sure that they’ve been successful in achieving this goal? This year, we are happy to welcome speakers from Finland, Poland, Germany, the United States, and France to  explore methodologies and tools for measuring and validating quality :

  • Systems for gathering user feedback and testing content usability
  • Metrics for measuring content performance
  • Quality review processes
  • Heuristics and standard criteria for checking quality
  • Before / after examples of content improvement initiatives
Speaker Title
Students, Master 2 CTM Presentation of research projects [PDF]
Barbara Kardel-Piątkowska (Etteplan, Poland)

Readability metrics in technical communication – useful or not? [PDF]

Dipo Coker (Componize, France)

Structured Content Reviews by SMES: Challenges and solutions [PDF]

Interactive session Who checks content quality ? [PDF]
Suvi Isohella and Juho-Pekka Mäkipää (Vaasa University, Finland) Applying accessibility heuristics in university teaching [PDF]

Craig Frayne (Palabra Technical, Germany)

The aesthetics of technical documentation [PDF]

Karissa Van Baulen (Hotjar, US)

Scaling your company with docs [PDF]

Michael Laudenbach (Carnegie Mellon University, US Pennsylvania)

Visualizing Rhetorical Moves in Statistics Writing: Write & Audit as a Revision Tool

Interactive session

What makes good technical communication ? [PDF]

Video recordings of the presentations are available on YouTube.

Speakers

Barbara Kardel-Piątkowska (Etteplan, Poland)

Barbara is a linguist and information science graduate with experience in the translation industry as well as technical writing. She has been working as a technical author at Etteplan for 3 years.

Dipo Coker (Componize, France)

With over 16 years combining languages and IT as a technical writer and editor working in regulated industries (high-end medical devices and finance), Dipo blends his experience of authoring in structured and unstructured environments; migrating technical publications to DITA; and content strategy to help develop a best in class CCMS. Dipo holds an MA in Multimedia and Multilingual Document Design.

Suvi Isohella and Juho-Pekka Mäkipää (Vaasa University, Finland)

Suvi Isohella is a university teacher in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Vaasa, Finland. She teaches courses in technical communication and web accessibility and supervises B.A. theses within communication studies. In the department, she is the leader of the interdisciplinary Technical Communication program. Her research interests include user-centered technical communication, accessibility of textual web content, technical communication curriculum development, and minimalist document design.

Juho-Pekka Mäkipää is a university teacher of information systems at the School of Technology and Innovation at the University of Vaasa, Finland. He teaches courses in the field of web accessibility, human-computer interaction and user experience and supervises MSc theses in information systems. His research interests include theory and universality of web accessibility, human-computer interaction, and citizen science.

Craig Frayne (Palabra Technical, Germany)

Craig does freelance technical communication & design and is currently an API Technical Writer for the SCAYLE eCommerce platform at About You in Hamburg.

Karissa Van Baulen (Hotjar, US)

Karissa was a nominee for the “ACE Rising Star Award in Customer Education” for 2021 and has been featured on the “Knowledge Base Ninjas” podcast, presented at Support Driven, and spoke at multiple Write the Docs conferences. Her specialty is in help center and training content strategy. She was able to increase self service for learning content in the Hotjar help center by 75% by using Hotjar.

Michael Laudenbach (Carnegie Mellon University, US Pennsylvania)

Michael is a 4th-year PhD Candidate in Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University. His research draws from corpus linguistics methods and rhetorical theory to describe the variation of genres and registers in student writing. Specifically, he uses writing in the discipline of statistics & data science as a case study to address broader questions surrounding corpus-based approaches to genre-based writing instruction.

The Advantages and Limits of Gamification Mechanisms: A Duolingo Case Study

Myriam BADER, Maya CLOAREC, Marlène GOUMY, Diane HUSSEIN

Paris Cité University, July 13, 2022

Abstract

Gamification in e-learning has become more popular nowadays, especially with an increasing demand for digital learning during the pandemic. Indeed, the benefits are apparent. Gamification creates engaging and interactive ways of learning and practicing a skill, which contribute to learner motivation. This study aims to examine the limits of gamification in e-learning. If we look closer at its mechanisms, gamified learning is still a challenging method for learners. Too many gamification elements in e-learning could lead to addictive behavior and other psychological issues. So, in attempt to understand and discuss the impacts and limits of those mechanisms in e-learning, we interrogated Duolingo users on their learning experience in the application and their thoughts of in-app gamification elements. The results showed that overall, most of the interviewees felt they had a relatively positive learning experience with Duolingo but showed alternating periods of strong engagement and total disengagement. The Duolingo gamification mechanisms that seem to be the most effective are the progress bar system, the quizzes and the streak system.

Read the full article in PDF: The Advantages and Limits of Gamification Mechanisms A Duolingo Case Study

What Inhibits or Enhances Creativity in Technical Communication?

Adeline POUMAROUX, Marina LAY, Solène CAUDRON, Néda EL HADJ-MIMOUNE

Paris Cité University, July 2022

Abstract

When we say someone is creative, we usually refer to their artistic skills. But is that really the only way people can be creative? What about creativity in the workplace? We took an interest in creativity in technical communication, and particularly if there is a discrepancy between how technical writers and the rest of technical communicators perceive their own creativity in the workplace. This paper is based on a survey of 55 technical communicators with various roles within the industry, who were asked about their scope for creativity at work, their personal approach to it, as well as its impact in building their career.
The results allowed us to determine how technical communicators define creativity, if they view themselves as creative and the tools they use at work. Our study suggests that there is a strong link between the feelings of creativity and flexibility. Associating creativity with innovation, the diversification of missions and tools at work inspire professionals to develop new solutions and skills.

Read the full article in PDF: What Inhibits or Enhances Creativity in Technical Communication

Alternatives to PDF in Technical Documentation

BISSA Corinne, BORDELAIS Anthony, HERIBI Kenz

Paris Cité University, July 2022

Abstract

Technical documentation has become an outstanding resource in the IT industry and the last decades have witnessed a boom of high-performance technical authoring tools.
Despite the multitude of innovative technical writing tools, it has been observed that the dominant output format remains the PDF file, invented in the 1990s.
In the sight of this sluggishness as far as innovative end-user technical documentation is concerned, questions arise: Why has the PDF output survived for so long and what justifies its supremacy over other formats? Another question is, can disruptive innovations be implemented on end-user technical documentation so as to bring about more sophisticated or user-centered output formats?
By discussing with subject matter experts, we are seeking answers to these questions. We are also seeking to explore to what extent modern technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence devices among other alternative formats are applicable to end-user technical documentation.

Read the full article in PDF: Alternatives to PDF in Technical Documentation

Technical Writers and Visual Perception Principles: Skills, Ability and Training

Megan CASEY, Marielle PESCHET, Anaïs TANZÉ

Paris Cité University, July 15, 2022

Abstract

As technology evolves, so does technical writing. New media is used to
convey information more efficiently and yet, technical documentation is not
always very clear. As technical writers, we have general knowledge on what
structures are expected to be the easiest to recognize and follow. We want
our documentation to be read and understood and with that in mind, we are
constantly searching for the best layout to contain our pieces of information.
These elements tie in to cognitive psychology and more specifically visual
perception. But do technical writers study cognitive psychology? And if they
do, do they apply its principles in their work?
This research article examines the relationship between technical writers
and visual perception principles of cognitive psychology.
With the use of a survey and a practical test on applied knowledge of
Gestalt principles, this study analyzes and assesses whether or not technical
writers have studied visual perception and if so, what differences there are in
identifying the principles of visual perception between technical writers who
have studied visual perception and those that have not.
The results gathered show that most technical writers have no knowledge
of visual perception principles. Nonetheless it does not prevent them from
being able to recognize when an element of a layout needs improvement for
clarity, legibility, understanding and overall ease of use. They are able to
justify their answers almost as well as trained technical writers.

Read the full article in PDF: Technical Writers and Visual Perception

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.

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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