On influence and Tech Comm

Mindtouch has updated its list of the most influential Tech Comm experts, and I’m flattered once again to be on it. Especially when I find myself sandwiched between two of my favorite colleagues from the UK: David Farbey and Colum McAndrew.

Shepherd leading sheepMy enthusiasm is tempered, however, because the list omits some pretty bright luminaries — people like Sharon Burton, Mark Baker, Danielle Villegas, and Julio Vazquez. By any measure, these people are influencers in Technical Communication.

Which leads to a couple of questions: How do you measure influence? And why don’t we do a better job of it?

They’re not idle questions. Google uses influence as a factor in its search rankings, and I believe that Mindtouch’s product does the same thing. So, in this era of collaboration, when content comes from all over, a lot rides on influence — or, more accurately, on perceived influence. It can decide whether your content rises to the top of the search-results page or gets lost below the fold.

First, I applaud Mindtouch for creating and curating this list — imperfect as it is. I’m not aware of anyone else skilled enough or courageous enough to compile and publish such a list. So I’m not picking on Mindtouch. I just wish the science of measuring influence were a little more fully developed.

Second, the science — as good as it gets — will never be perfect. Influence by its nature has a significant component that’s intangible and very human. The people who influence me most — those whose work I find witty and insightful — won’t always be the same people who influence you. Influence can never be measured purely in terms of statistics, and I can live with that.

What’s your take? How important is influence in developing and publishing content? Can we find a way to better measure it?

Postscript: Prompted by the Mindtouch rankings, David Farbey wrote an excellent article in which he raises broader questions about influence and the Tech Comm profession as a whole. I commend it to you.

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6 thoughts on “On influence and Tech Comm

  1. juliovaz

    Thanks for the mention, Larry. I think the reason my name got dropped is because my Twitter presence has diminished. That said, I don’t worry much about that sort of list but am honored that some of the leaders actually listen to some of my ramblings.

    Reply
  2. Aaron Fulkerson

    Hi all,

    In the past, MindTouch has used http://www.getLittleBird.com to curate the list. This year, Ari and team used LittleBird to seed the list then there was a panel of judges who narrowed it down. So, it was both machine and human curated for the first time.

    As for the honor being “tarnished”…that’s peculiar. I hope you mentioned this to the team. Ari in particular can clean up any typo or mistaken reference of past experience.

    More importantly, regarding Farbey and the diminishing role of the techcomm professional. Well, I’ve been helping to build software that’s used by this field for 6 years now and it’s been interesting watching the role diminish, which it absolutely in my estimation, because the focus of those remaining relevant in the field has shifted from CONTENT communicator/strategist to CUSTOMER strategist. The latter is surely about content, but requires an emphasis on buyer and customer insights and analytics.

    Congrats on the accolade. It’s surely well deserved.

    Reply
  3. Larry Kunz Post author

    Thanks, Aaron. I appreciate your describing how this list and previous lists were constructed. I like how this one was “both machine and human curated.” Part of the problem with earlier lists, I think, was that the machines counted what they were told to count — and the algorithms couldn’t account for all of the things that make up influence.

    Shifting the focus from content to customer: I like that too. I’ve said for years that content isn’t king. The customer is king.

    I tweeted to @mindtouch about the editorial issues; haven’t heard a response. Maybe I’ll try tweeting directly to Ari….but I don’t think he follows me.

    Thanks to MindTouch for publishing the new list. Although the lists are never perfect — as I said in the original post (above) — I applaud you for doing them.

    Reply

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