A lot of bloggers, including yours truly, have spilled a lot of ink (electrons?) pondering the question, What does the future hold for technical communication?
Sarah Maddox, one of the most insightful technical communicators you’ll ever
meet, recently turned the question on its head.
At her keynote address at the tcworld India conference last month, Sarah asserted that the future is technical communication — and then made a strong case for why that’s so.
Here’s a paraphrase of what she said.
A weird and wonderful world
Technology is moving fast, and it’s often confusing. Blink, and you’ve missed something.
At the same time, people love technology. We’re eager to apply it in our daily lives and learn to use it in new ways. In fact, we have a relationship with our technology. (I can’t count the number of emails I’ve received with the tagline “sent from my beloved iPhone” at the end.)
People absorb information differently. Increasingly we learn about the technology through the technology, sometimes becoming immersed in the technology.
“In our weird and wonderful world,” Sarah writes, “even inanimate things communicate with each other….Some people are doing things that seem way out there. Until they become the norm.”
Think about it. The things technical writers do — communicating about technology, communicating through technology — are a perfect fit for this weird and wonderful world.
A while back I took a stab at crafting a mission statement for technical writers. That article, like this one, was prompted by something Sarah wrote. (It seems that. Sarah and I tend to think along the same lines. She just thinks a lot farther ahead than I do.)
At the end of her tcworld India keynote, Sarah unveiled a new, two-part mission statement. Here it is:
- Make complex goals achievable within our audience’s context
- Deliver what the audience needs for the intended purpose, in the language that they understand, anywhere, anytime, anyhow.
I like this: It puts the emphasis where it belongs: on our audience and their goals. But then technology comes into play, for it’s the vehicle with which we deliver the right information in the right way — anywhere, anytime, anyhow.
I think Sarah is saying that we need continuously to hone the technical part of our job title, while not neglecting the communicator part.
I think she’s right. What do you think?