Tuesday, October 13, 2015

20 Surprising Things About Content Professionals

Paul Chen

On October 8-9, 2015, the 3rd edition of soap! took place. soap! is a conference organized for mostly technical writers. However, I feel content writers, like me can benefit quite a lot from the conference as well. During the two days, techincal writers and content strategist of software companies as well as hardware companies gave talks to inspire technical writers to reach higher levels of excellence. Pawel Kowaluk, a learning product designer from Motorola Solutions told me,” The average age was late twenties and the air was sparkling with ideas.”

I asked the organizer, MaƂgorzata Radymiak, what was the best thing from this edition of soap!? She answered,” The best thing about this edition of soap! was definitely the vibe of the conference. Apart from discussing issues that bother us and solutions that will work for us, we had honest, mind-opening, and heart-warming discussions. You could feel that people not only got to know each other but they really did build a relationship. That was wonderful!”

Erin Vang, the technical publications manager from Dolby Labs in San Francisco observed that,” You don’t often see speakers at conferences piggy-backing on each others’ talks. We got that here. This had a massive community building effect.”

Here are 20 things I learned at the 2015 edition of soap! Conference:

20. Context gives content importance and a reason to exist. 

19. Most of the views from Instruction and Informative videos come in the mornings. And it is ok to produce longer educational videos.

18. Controlled vocabulary allows the user to understand, find, and organise the content. 

17. Writers should be aware of all your audiences and understand their perspectives and needs.

16. Writers should create a close working relationship with developers and tell them what the customers want. 

15. Because the writer knows what the customers want, they should be able to explain how the customers can accomplish their goals with the product.

14. In order to give your work value, writers should explain the risks of not having the content.

13. Company accountants can be your best friends as they can assist you in justifying your work by providing financial statistics.

12. In an ever changing product development cycle, providing updated content is like chasing a rocket with a skateboard.

11. Relevant content when coupled with better findability can result in fewer calls to your support staff.

10. A high level content strategy will show how the target audience’s needs will be met.

9. A good writer should become an advocate for the user, in creating better solutions for the user and meeting their needs.

8. Tech and software development departments within big corporations should act like startups to increase their own independence.

7. Tools are meant to help you, they aren’t meant to solve the problems for you, sometimes you have to do the hard work yourselves.

6. Every human being can experience some degree of disability in their life. Learning can help you overcome these disabilities.

5. We design to fail if we don’t listen to our users because we fail to design to their needs.

4. Sometimes you don’t need to change the whole design or content, just a small change can do wonders. It is the miracle of microcopy.

3. Users are the reason you provide content so make them your top priority. Studies show that they actually read the documentation.

2. Documentation is not the cherry on top of the cake (product), it is the cream and the icing holding it all together.

1. To get the cooperation from people of all departments and levels you need to demonstrate the ROI of not doing anything.

I asked Malgorzata, what her goals are for the next edition that will be held in JUNE, 2016, she told me:

Goal 1: Ensure everybody knows that soap! is not a conference and community for technical writers only. Creating a conference and community for technical writers only would end up creating nothing more than another silo. soap! is a conference for all content professionals and people they work with: UI, UX, media (e.g. video, visual language, graphics, interactive content), e-learning, and technical documentation.  All of them work with content, so with everything in and around the product that “speaks” to the end user.
Goal 2: Make people realize that there is no “we vs they” in the process of creating a product & product-related content. It’s always and only “us”.

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons below and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23.  If you haven’t done it already, please like my Facebook fan page by clicking here!  And if you like the content you have read, and are looking for a content writer for your team please go to www.contentfarm.org for details. See you next time!

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