Letter from the UK: Locali(s/z)ing for English

There was a lively discussion recently in LinkedIn’s Documentation and Technical Writing Management group over whether to use English, American English, or a hybrid that would satisfy everyone.

In making such a decision, it’s important to be aware of the differences between English and American English that:

  • Could affect the user’s performance
  • Might annoy a non-American audience
  • Aren’t worth worrying about

Continue reading “Letter from the UK: Locali(s/z)ing for English”

Letter from the UK: Lessons from The Information Age exhibition

On the 24th October, The Queen opened a new gallery at The Science Museum, called “The Information Age”. The Information Age gallery takes visitors on a journey through the history of modern communications, from the telegraph to the smartphone. Exhibits on show include the broadcast equipment behind the BBC’s first radio programme in 1922, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which hosted the first website.

We were in South Kensington the following day and decided to have a look around the exhibition. You can see the photos here:

I spotted a number of user guides in the display windows. The earliest one was from 1673, describing Samuel Morland’s Adding Machine. Continue reading “Letter from the UK: Lessons from The Information Age exhibition”

Letter from the UK: Documentation In a Personalised World

On the 9th September 2014, Apple announced a range of health-based wearable devices that will help capture biometric data. According to The Guardian, the software will allow developers to build bespoke health apps for a broad range of medical needs. This, the newspaper states, is part of a trend to make healthcare more personalised.

Personalisation is also growing in consumer technology. The latest brochure from John Lewis (a very popular department store in the UK) includes an article looking at a day in the life of a person with all the latest automated technologies. In this person’s life, thermostats adjust to the temperature they prefer, and lightbulbs flash to warn them that a football match on TV is about to start (see the image to the right).

DunnHumby, a software company based in the UK, enables supermarkets to offer personalised and relevant shopping offers. It’s been reported some supermarkets have identified, by analysing someone’s purchasing patterns, women who were pregnant before they’ve known themselves.

I could go on with many other examples to illustrate this trend.

So are we likely to see a growth in personalised documentation for users? There are some of examples of documentation that’s moving towards this type of personalisation. Continue reading “Letter from the UK: Documentation In a Personalised World”

Letter from the UK: Writing Manuals for Paul Revere

"A new book of Ornaments" cover page by Henry CoplandOne of the things we have a lot of, here in the UK, is recorded history. Over the weekend, I discovered our family is directly related to Henry Copland (1706-1754). Henry was an engraver and rococo designer of furniture, and, it turns out, he was also the co-author of a book called A New Book of Ornaments. This book was a manual for other engravers and furniture designers, such as Paul Revere, on how to create items in the Rococo style.

According to the book American Rococo, 1750-1775 : Elegance in Ornament, Copland’s designs had a lasting influence on engravers and wood-carvers in both in England and in her colonies.

“As quickly as printed designs arrived from England, American engravers felt free to copy them, duplicating them virtually line for line on occasion, changing only the text or, in the case of bookplates, the armorial.”

Paul Revere, in addition to being famous for owning one of the oldest houses still remaining in Boston, was a silversmith engraver. According to the authors of American Rococo, Revere copied extensively from Henry Copland’s books (and others).

Continue reading “Letter from the UK: Writing Manuals for Paul Revere”

Letter from the UK: User Documentation as a Marketing Tool

Owly ImagesLife would be so much easier for technical communicators if user documentation wasn’t seen as expense, and, instead was seen as a way to generate income for the organisation. So I was very interested when I heard Michael Priestley, enterprise content technology strategist and lead DITA architect at IBM, mention the value of user documentation as a sales tool in his presentation at the Congility 2014 conference.

Michael quoted these statistics in one of his slides.

Research shows using technical content:

  • Generates 50%+ of viable sales leads  [Forbes]
  • Encompasses 55%+ of sales cycle time (vs. 21% spent talking to sales people) [Marketing Interactions]
  • 2nd most important pre-sales activity for technology buyers [IDC]

(See Findable, usable, reusable: IBM’s enterprise content strategy for smart content).

Continue reading “Letter from the UK: User Documentation as a Marketing Tool”