Technical writers: beacons of “intelligent” information
A technical writer’s image may once have seemed introverted, socially withdrawn, always hunched over a desk. However, this stereotype is now a thing of the past. Definitively oriented towards the future, technical writing specialists must now ensure optimised, economical and accurate content management. During the tcworld conference in Stuttgart on 13-15 November, various technical writing experts will present the latest developments in the field of intelligent information production.
When it comes to technical documentation, for example, technical writers are not just expected to write a product description sheet, they must also put themselves in the shoes of the consumer. For example, a customer in an urgent situation may need need to quickly understand how to interpret an error message, how to solve a problem or correctly operate a piece of equipment. In order to make information more digestible, writers must restructure the given information. This is done using recyclable sequences or modules that can be reused in multiple contexts, such as for different languages or for various types media. These tasks require a minimalist approach that involves a strict reduction of semantic content to just the bare essentials.
Technical documentation in the world of the Internet of Things
Technical writers could be considered as the link between different industries and users who are connected to the Internet of Things. From this point of view, an architect of technical information can serve a greater number of potential readers. The increase in automation of “intelligent” information (metadata read by computer robots), may lead us to question the overall advantages and risks of using artificial intelligence. Referring to the possible ‘explosion of intelligence’, as described by Stephen Hawking, choosing to encode the information could help to solve a problem quicker. It could however influence the user negatively and thus unintentionally cause a potentially disastrous outcome.
The production of technical documentation requires serious amounts of processing, selecting and structuring. According to Ray Gallon, DITA expert and lecturer at the TCLoc master’s program at the University of Strasbourg, technical writing professions contribute to richer learning networks. Learning networks, therefore, play an essential role in the organization and transmission of knowledge in general. On an ethical level, the recent development of new AI – based technologies places the writer at the forefront of human-machine interaction. What a great challenge!
Technical communication standards: XML, DITA, iiRDS
While the principle of information modularisation has existed for several decades, the emergence of web languages has considerably influenced its progress. Nowadays, technical communication is mainly based on XML and DITA standards.
For instance, machine manufacturers or software publishers aim to provide their users with an intuitive and ergonomic online troubleshooting pages, because let’s face it: No one likes to read though a long pdf file in order to find information. With this in mind, a tekom working group recently designed the new iiRDS standard for technical documentation, which stands for Intelligent Information Request Delivery System. The idea is based on adding a type of standardized encoding to the information which will allow the exchange and combination of data from different sources. This the case for car or train manufacture, where the final product is an assembly of components manufactured by different companies. Each of the individual companies produce their own technical documentation using different methods or standards. New insights into the Bigdata jungle are emerging regarding the widespread transmission of user-friendly knowledge. With the help of metadata from web semantics and HTML5, computing is turning and distributing world knowledge into a structured and accessible encyclopaedia.
Would you like to learn more about the subject and train for the job of technical writer? The University of Strasbourg offers a unique training course, at the end of which students graduate with the official ‘International tekom Professional Level “Technical Communicator” certification’.