June 4, 2009 STC Trends

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On June 4, 2009 at the Crow Canyon Country Club in San Ramon, the East Bay STC held a panel discussion on Trends in Technical Communication. Gwaltney Mountford moderated panelists DJ Cline, Jeff Gardiner, Louise Galindo, Joan Lasselle and Linda Urban.

The dinner was held in the Eugene O’Neill room, but he wasn’t there. He was busy tweeting John Steinbeck about how they named a room after him at a country club. We would have met in the Gertrude Stein room but there was no there there. All you lit majors can stop laughing now.

I was on the panel so I wasn’t taking notes. If you have strong basic writing skills you will be able to create content in any format or platform. While wikis are appealing they are not as structured as much as you would like. We need “structured wikis”, or as I call them “stikis”(tm).

Here are the issues I found important.

1. The death of the distinct reference manual. Software programmers who need code or tips look it up on Google. They cut and paste. Any documentation exists in the comments and that is not written by a technical writer. Of course the better it is commented, the more likely the code is to be used.

2. Social media is the way to visibility and finding work. LinkedIn is the standard. Traditional people skills are still useful. Writing clearly is still important. Brevity is crucial with Twitter.

3. Any lame discussions about Web 2.0 must give way to the rise of cloud computing. Hadoop, MapReduce, Cascading and Cassandra will transform the way companies use IT and less structured data. Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems to gain control of Java because so many of its applications need it for web services. Mobile devices will become the computing standard for three billion people to access the Internet. Your content must fit on it. Google’s Wave with simultaneous translation could dramatically simplify and accelerate international collaboration.

4. Traditional education channels for technical communication like DeAnza Foothills Community college and UCSCX are under attack from budget deficits. Support them. Online training will be the norm. Encourage people who are not necessarily technical communicators to enroll. This leads to my last point.

5. In many ways STC has achieved its goal of raising the importance of technical communication. Rather than be seen a a distinct profession, I see it as providing a set of basic communication skills in a high tech society.

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Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.