Category Archives: Technical Communication

“Big Al” Peladeau – A tribute to my sensei and mentor

The world lost a great man recently. My Karate-Do sensei and mentor passed away after battling cancer for many years.

Today is his wake. Tomorrow I am one of the pallbearers that will walk “Big Al” Peladeau to his final resting place.

I miss you “Big Al”.

Click here for  “Big Al” Peladeau‘s ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Pd8zZHUDQ ) video tribute

 

Tom Aldous

What I learned from my Millennial daughter

I was speaking with my youngest daughter yesterday about a client project. She works for The Content Era in a technical role. Throwing that laptop into my two daughters cribs was a wise move.

Considering that we consult in the Technical Communication Space, being able to print out our client’s documentation before and after our engagement has been a simple rule of mine. Doing a visual inspection on paper is my final check after inspecting the XML source. When I asked her if she has printed out the catalog we just converted from Interleaf / Quicksilver to DITA / XML using Structured FrameMaker, she responded that she does not have a printer in her home office. Everything to her is about screens (cell phone, tablet, and laptop) in either pdf or HTML5. It never even entered into her mind to own a printer.

I have long enabled multi-screen HTML5 publishing, and mobile application builds, but I never considered letting go of my paper publish. The train is moving. The Millenial Generation is driving our future.

Is it time for me to throw out my laser printer or should I force the old tech on her?

Is The Technical Communication Market Really Shrinking?

Over the last decade, I have heard the warnings that “the TechComm industry is shrinking” and could slowly fade away. I also heard that no young people are joining our vocation. Also, the presentation does not matter, now that DITA XML is our savior … and more.

Let me speak to “The TechComm Industry Is Shrinking” alternate fact. I would like to quote a past co-worker and friend Chris Jastram to start to frame my stance.

“So I’ve recently come to a rather concrete understanding of the odd distinction between “facts” and “truth.” A lot of us have been taught to value facts, myself included. Unfortunately, this is a bit naive. Facts can get you in a lot of trouble. It is a fact that smoking lowers your blood pressure overall. Smoking helps you lose weight (and keep it off). These are facts, shown by science. But the truth is that smoking is bad for you. Facts are a part of discovering truth, but if you only satisfy yourself with knowing facts, you may not find truth.”

We have heard “The TechComm Industry Is Shrinking” from many software manufacturers, tradeshow presenters, consultants and bloggers in our industry. With a very limited scope, this fact could be seen as truth. We may go to tradeshows and see fewer people. Consultants may see less prospect client opportunities. The usual TechComm attendees come from large Companies that can afford to send them to these events. Their Technical Writer ranks may be shrinking due to the efficiencies of implementing structured authoring, managed content, automated workflow, and publishing. Tradeshow presenters come from both the consulting and named Company ranks. They talk about what they see in front of them. They speak about some facts, but not the truth.

I ask you to consider the possibility that most people that currently go to industry events (Tradeshows and Webinars) are the same Companies and individuals year after year. They may bounce between events, so some events may expand while others contract. We do get some new faces, but more older ones fade away. Does this mean the industry is shrinking?

No. I believe this group represents just a minuscule sampling of our industry and substantially under-represents Companies that have yet to move away from manual unstructured authoring or are still stuck in legacy structured authoring environments like ArborText with some modified version of XDocBook. Just because we do not see this group at many events, does not mean they do not exist. These are the groups that will drive our industry moving forward if we find a way to engage them. If we do, these non-early adopters are the reason I believe we are on the verge of what we will perceive as explosive growth. It is just the normal change in processes at these non-visible sites that will lead them to structured authoring, but this time in volume.

If you are experienced in XML creation, management, and repurposing, get ready for the next big new wave of opportunity!

Thoughts?

“Thought Leader Thursday” Recorded Videos and Registration Links For May And June Sessions

Here is an easy access list to all Free recorded videos of our “Thought Leader Thursday” Webinars held by The Content Era. Hosted by Tom Aldous. We have also included links to TLT Webinars scheduled for the remainder of June.

 

Thought Leader Thursday – June
June 16th 1PM EST Neil Perlin Presenting – “How Mobile Will Affect Tech Comm” http://bit.ly/Neil_Perlin
June 23rd 1PM EST Scott Abel Presenting – “Cognitive Computing” http://bit.ly/ScottAbelTLT
June 30th 1PM EST Noz Urbina Presenting – “Journey-Mapping for Personalization Across Multiple Channels “ http://bit.ly/NozUrbinaTLT
Thought Leader Thursday – Recordings
Air Date – June 9th 1PM EST Jang Graat Presenting – “Content is Dead – Long Live Content” http://bit.ly/RecordedTLT_JangGraat
Air Date – June 2nd 1PM EST Dustin Vaughn Presenting – “Modernizing Documentation Through Rich Media: Is It Too Late?” http://bit.ly/RecordedTLT_DustinVaughn
Air Date – May 26th 1PM EST Alex Masycheff Presenting – “DITA For All” http://bit.ly/RecordedTLT_AlexMasycheff
Air Date – May 19th 1PM EST Joe Gollner Presenting – “Content 4.0″ http://bit.ly/RecordedTLT_JoeGollner
Air Date – May 12th 1PM EST George Bina Presenting – “Web Based Authoring: The Way of the Future” http://bit.ly/RecordedTLT_GeorgeBina
Air Date – May 5th 1PM EST Kit Brown-Hoekstra Presenting – “Communication Catalysts – Changing The World by Doing Our Jobs” http://bit.ly/RecordedTLT_KBH

Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Robot

It does not take too much imagination to visualize the world in the near future where Robots and Artificial Intelligence replace most positions within our society. The Swiss just voted down a “Basic Salary” for all its citizens. The thought was that if Robots and Artificial Intelligent Entities are going to replace human beings, Governments have the obligation to redistribute some of the Corporation’s wealth that benefit from this Mega Trend back to it’s Citizens. Due to its wealth, if Switzerland was an island, the experiment could have worked. Swiss borders are not closed but are open within the European Economic Union. Until all of the European Union Countries adopt a similar strategy making unwanted migration a non-issue, the time will not be right for the “Basic Salary” concept.

Although we always need to prepare for the future, we very much have to live in the present. The jobs shift cannot be stopped but what we can do is make ourselves more valuable within our corporations while the transition is happening. We need to ensure that we are one of the last people out the door.

Let’s look at how corporations assign value to individuals. Boards Of Directors provide goals to their CEOs. Depending on the industry, those goals could be revenue growth, profitability, market share, brand strength to name a few. Most corporations are built like a pyramid organizationally. These goals parse down to individuals that report directly to the CEO. Marketing may be charged with future revenue growth and brand strength. Sales with current revenue, Engineering with new product development and so on. The Executive Team that reports directly to the CEOs parses their goals to their direct reports and so on until it rolls down to where you are in the organization. Once you understand what’s required and what’s needed by your superiors, you can now align yourself towards those goals.

I’ve had the opportunity to lead organizations and to report to CEOs. The most frustrating thing that I had to deal with was the disconnect between the people who reported to me and their alignment to our goals. I have written them down. I have spoken to them verbally. I have tried to be creative in getting the people to understand and align. Most of the time I am successful, but sometimes I am not. The people that can’t or won’t align are the ones that get replaced.

Should we resist change or should we embrace it as an opportunity? In most cases resistance means job loss.

As the adoption of robots and artificial intelligence begin to replace our jobs. It is more important than ever to understand how we can perform our jobs in a way that aligns with our Corporate goals.

“Thought Leader Thursday’s” Webinar June Schedule

This month we will be covering a wide range of topics which affect your business in many ways. Our goal is to keep you questioning the assumptions. We want to hear your feedback. Do you have a suggestion?  Are there any topics you want to hear more about? Do you have a concept you’d like to share with our audience?

Send us your comments or your proposals. Email me at info@thecontentera.com

June 2016 Schedule

June 2nd @1pm EDT - Dustin Vaughn, Solutions Consulting Manager, Adobe

 Topic: Modernizing Documentation Through Rich Media: Is It Too Late?

 Recording:http://bit.ly/TLT_Rec_DustinV

June 9th @1pm EDT - Jang Graat, Chief Technologist, The Content Era LLC.

 Topic: “Content is Dead – Long Live Content!”

 Registration: http://bit.ly/TLT_JangG

June 16th @1pm EDT - Neil Perlin, President, Hyper/Word Services

Topic: “How Mobile Will Affect Tech Comm”

Registration:http://bit.ly/TLTNeil_Perlin

June 23rd @1pm EDT - Scott Abel,  Content Strategist and Intelligent Content Evangelist, The Content Wrangler

 Topic: “Cognitive Computing”

 Registration: http://bit.ly/TLT_ScottA

June 30th @1pm EDT - Noz Urbina, Founder, Urbina Consulting

 Topic: “Journey-Mapping for Personalization Across Multiple Channels”

 Registration: http://bit.ly/TLT_NozU

Find a full list of The Content Era’s events including all TLT recordings atwww.TheContentEra.com.

Reminder: All of our Thought Leader Thursday sessions and recording are free. Let your friends and co-workers know.

Thought Leader Thursday Free Webinar – Changing the World by Doing Our Jobs

Register here

This week's topic: "Communication Catalysts: Changing the World by Doing Our Jobs" The Content Era’s “Thought Leader Thursday” hosted by Founder and CEO, Tom Aldous, brings up intriguing, concepts with industry’s top Thought Leaders to keep you questioning the assumptions. Tune in Thursdays at 1PM EST as Tom picks the brains of some of the brightest minds we’ve come across. For the kick off to our very first “Thought Leader Thursday” webinar, hear what Tom Aldous and Industry’s Thought Leader, Kit Brown-Hoekstra have to say about how technical communicators can act as catalysts for postive change in the world, just by doing their jobs. Technical Communicators touch basically every product, process, and service on this planet. Without them production, sales, revenue etc. would come to a screeching halt. However, since it’s part of company’s infrastructure technical communicators may not get the credit they deserve. Come along as Tom and Kit delve into their thoughts on what kinds of change technical communicators can provoke and how.

Single Source All Your Content

The authoring, editing and publishing workflow does not have to be disrupted.

In the Technical Communication (TechComm) Industry, we have been promoting single sourcing your content workflow for a while now. What we mean by single sourcing is that source content should be authored and edited in one universal format that eventually gets published in its various output formats like HTML5, PDF, ePub, Mobile Applications, etc. You should never edit the published content directly. If a change is required to the published content, the source should be updated and republished.

This sounds good in principle, but sometimes you need variations of the same content for different publication types. The best way to handle that is by using XML with metadata for conditional publish, managed in a Component Content Management System (CCMS) with Release management and Workflow capabilities. All XML structures are not the same, so which one should you standardize your organization’s content on? Standardize is the key. Using the popular XML Standard that is built from its foundation for content reuse and customization is the right step. That XML Standard is DITA.

If you buy off on this logic, you should have a few open questions.
Can more than Technical Communication Content be single sourced? How about Market and Sales Content?

How do we convert our existing content to the DITA XML Standard without disrupting our current authoring and publishing cycle? Without TechComm, Marketing and Sales Content most products can not be sold.

I heard Component Content Management Systems (CCMS) are very expensive. How do I create an ROI case for purchase? Worse yet, what if we simply do not have the budget for an expensive CCMS? Does that stop us from being able to Single Source our content in the DITA Format? The short answer is that there is a DITA CCMS vendor that is disrupting the current market. Their CCMS costs less than $1,000 for the server license and one user license. Now you can afford to pilot an XML DITA implementation. Prove out the Return Of Investment with real data. The low Total Cost Of Ownership also makes reaching the ROI numbers your Senior Managers require easier. That CCMS is DITAToo HTTP:\\www.aldousCMS.com. Full disclosure I am an equity partner in the firm the owns DITAToo.

When it comes to … can DITA XML content being used to create Marketing Content? Visit my Companies Website at http://www.TheContentEra.com. The complete website is published from DITA topics tied together by a master DITAMAP.

If you are interested in discussing anything about this, please feel free to reach out to me at tom.aldous@TheContentEra.com.