How Social Media Will Make You A Better Technical Writer

by Ivan Walsh

twitterGina Blednyh launched the Technical Communication 2.0 group in Facebook in 2009. It explores the interplay between Web 2.0 and technical communication. It’s a terrific place to exchange ideas about collaborative technologies and new approaches to delivering information.

In this interview, I ask her how Technical Writers can use Social Media and the types of content they are likely to deliver.

How Social Media Will Make You A Better Technical Writer

Ivan: Could you tell us about how you got started in technical writing?

Gina: I majored in English, but prior to that I worked for a software company. The field just seemed like an excellent fit for me.

Ivan: You’ve setup a new group for technical writers on Facebook. Could you tell us about this group? How does it differ from a BBS, for example?

Gina: Truthfully, I never participated in a BBS, though I used to lurk. For me, one of the primary differences is the openness and ease of use of a Facebook group–it’s not “just for geeks.”

Since I just began the Technical Communication 2.0 group recently, I’m not sure yet if it’s the best way to go. For example, perhaps a group on another social networking site would be more effective. But we’ve had some good discussions already and people are posting useful information.

Ivan: Brian Solis recently said that Social Media will soon become Media. It will no longer be seen as a fad. What impact will Social Media have on how technical writer work?
Gina: Wow–this is a big question! And folks far more knowledgeable than me can provide a better answer. My take is that we technical writers might need to abandon certain ideas of who participates in developing good documentation.

We might also need to expand our ideas of where technical documentation resides.  For example, a community centered around a product might include documentation, conversations between users, and feedback (positive and negative) from these users about the documentation. I don’t see this as “bad” for technical writers, however.

If a community includes both positive and negative comments and is well managed, the result can be more customer satisfaction and far better material. I don’t believe that traditional Help systems and documentation will go away entirely, though.

Ivan: What other technical writers inspire you or help give direction to the way you work?

Gina: I’ve been lucky to work with some wonderful writers and mentors! The ones who inspire me actively engage with the profession but also think about opportunities outside of it.

They embrace change and think about ways that technical communicators can better partner with other departments. Basically, they look forward and don’t waste time reminiscing about how things were done “back in the day.”

Ivan: Looking into your crystal ball, how do you see technical writing changing in the next five years?

Gina: Oy Vey! Another big question! I do see technical communicators producing more videos. And in general, I think that we will need to embrace the “technical” part of our job titles more than ever. Offering specialized knowledge will likely be an important quality to offer employers.

Technical Communication 2.0

You can find Gina in the Technical Communication 2.0 group in Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=208713908443

Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Does Social Media pose a threat to the future of technical writers or can we use it to our advantage? Share your thoughts below.

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