Though it’s probably the most low-key reality show on television, HGTV’s House Hunters has uncovered an overwhelming, and heretofore unknown, passion lurking deep in the American psyche.
The show follows a set formula. A real estate agent asks the home buyers how much money they have to spend and what features they want. Then we watch as they tour three homes, commenting pro and con on each one. After the buyers choose one of the homes, we visit with them post-move and hear them tell us how happy they are with their choice.
The overwhelming passion expresses itself in the features they want. Every buyer, to a man (or woman), wants the kitchen to have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Things that look great but are pricey and don’t make the kitchen any more functional or easier to cook in.
Anyway, I got to thinking: What are the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances of technical communication? What are the things that every company, every client, wants to see in their technical and marketing communication projects — regardless of cost or actual business value?
And what should be on everyone’s wish list — but too often isn’t considered? Continue reading →
A summary of my remarks last night to the newest graduates of Duke’s Technical Communication certificate program:
Technical Communication consistently scores well in those “best jobs” rankings – in which careers are ranked according to things like income, working conditions, and potential for growth.
A recent ranking had a twist: it listed the worst jobs along with the best. At the bottom of the list? Lumberjack. I find this strange, given that lumberjacks have their own song. Nevertheless, in spite of our not having a song, Tech Comm rates as a pretty good career.
My colleague Kai Weber penned a cautionary tale about what happens when a company regards technical communication as a task rather than as a profession.
In Kai’s tale, programmers and testers are brought in from other parts of the company to help update a software product — and then they’re called on to write the documentation as well. The quality of the doc suffers, and customers complain that much of the doc focuses on features and reference information rather than on how to use the product.
Having given in to the “seduction” of reducing costs in the short term, management now finds that the product’s documentation is hard to use and impossible to maintain.
Kai’s story is all too true. I’ve seen it happen. Allow me now to write the next chapter.
The Society for Technical Communication, an organization to which I’ve devoted a good bit of volunteer time, has always prided itself on being a professional society. STC has taken the lead in developing and promulgating those things that define a profession — for example, a code of ethics, a body of knowledge, and most recently a certification program.
Yet a recent conversation on LinkedIn started with the question, Is technical communication a profession or a discipline? Continue reading →