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Tweet Stream from the STC Summit 2010: “Hearing” What Real Technical Communicators Think

Vanessa Wilburn
Vanessa Wilburn
by Vanessa Wilburn, Co-Manager of the Technical Editing SIG

A motif throughout the STC Summit 2010 was the idea of technical communicators as curators. Technical communicators pull together various content areas, select the ones of interest to their audiences, and provide that content to their users.

What’s in the #stc10 Tweet Stream?

With that in mind, I thought that the #stc10 hashtag stream could be interesting to other technical editors. (For more about hashtags, see: http://help.twitter.com/entries/49309 .) The #stc10 hashtag acted as a collection point for tweets about the 2010 conference. For example, while I was at the conference, I tweeted for the Technical Editing SIG and included the #stc10 hashtag.

My analysis of the #stc10 hashtag was limited to the days that the conference ran, trying to catch the gestalt of the conference in motion. But hashtags can have different “lives” before and after an event. Rochester Chapter President Ben Woelk notes, “I also think that the use of Twitter surrounding an event is very different than we'd see watching a hashtag on a regular basis. There has been some continued tweeting using the #stc10 and #stc11 tags, but there hasn't been the content richness that occurred at the conference.”

After the conference, I waded through the #stc10 hashtag stream by using tools like Twapper, TweetDeck, the Twitter API, and Ben Woelk's resources to collate the stream before it disappeared (although you can use Google to pull older tweet streams). Following is the result of my curation of that list—I looked for tweets that hopefully are of interest to technical editors and might give a flavor of what people were "talking" and thinking about during the conference.

After removing the chit chat, tweetups, and other content not relevant to editors, I used Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/ ) to analyze the content. What's interesting is that no frequent keywords popped out (beyond obvious ones like "STC," "2010," and "tweet"). Of the 3,003 words, only a few words occurred in the teens, and most were below five occurrences. For example, "Interviewing" appeared 10 times, "Gentle" 12 times, and "design" 10 times.

Editorial Themes from the Tweet Stream

So what themes stood out among all those tweets and represented the "collective consciousness" of the conference?

To start, content strategy came up often and generated many retweets (definition: http://retweetist.com/howto ). As editors, we are intimately enmeshed in content strategy through outline edits, templates, reuse decisions, and content modeling. The conference influenced this tweet discussion by including a track dedicated to content strategy and its advanced topics (http://www.softconference.com/stc/slist.asp?C=3145#TID11295 ). As Rachel Peters (twitter: @rachelhpeters) stated, "Content is the only corporate asset that companies still squander." In other words, content is dramatically important, but still undervalued.

Another theme was usability and how it relates to technical communication. Although this theme might not seem to have a direct relationship to editing, it does demonstrate that all technical communicators, including editors, need to wear multiple hats to bring a quality information experience to our customers. As editors we help make content decisions, so usability can help.
  • "Too much usability testing looks at finding content; not enough tests the efficacy of the content."
  • "If you create graphic-only docs, usability test to make sure they're understandable across many people."

Terminology drove the tweet stream as well, due in part to the keynote speaker, Erin McKean, lexicographer. Her passion about word usage created spikes in tweets during and after her talk on May 3. A couple of choice tweets summarized her points:
  • "Dictionaries are the Greatest Hits of great writers."
  • "Dictionary editing is an elaborate hobby."

In their session later during the conference, Linden Lab reported that the most-viewed article in the Second Life Viewer online help was the glossary. Clearly, terminology is important as newer technologies, such as virtual environments, rise in usage.

Last, social media and community enablement can help an editor analyze what customers are thinking about products, including their opinions, their own documentation, and their sentiment about the documents and the products. Reuse of content, through either user-authored content or RSS aggregation, can make editing decisions trickier as multiple content streams are incorporated into traditional documentation. For example, Ben Woelk (twitter: @bwoelk ) shared, "Lessons learned Community Roundtable report. User generated vs. professional content. Repurpose content. Accept imperfections. A. Gentle."

So if you wonder what you might find in Twitter, consider following a conference hashtag for your industry, a professional organization such as the Technical Editing SIG, or experts in the field. These new streams of information are packed with the latest off-the-cuff thinking.

For curated tweets from the STC Conference 2010, see the attached file below.

Page last modified on Monday, August 23, 2010 09:36:14am EDT
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