Is writing an art (illustrations, skills, and ability) or science (discipline, knowledge, and precision)?
I have observed that technology takes center stage in every public discourse. Those well versed with current trends are voted as “Information geeks”. With focus shifting to technology to ease the publishing process, amidst all this is content not given enough weightage?
Experts weigh them equally and opine that both work in tandem. Some say that technology explosion is great for the industry. It will better the entire documentation process (Really – ?). I agree that R&D is great in any field and it reaps long-term benefits (human clinical trials). Industry leaders should join hands to deliver groundbreaking products.
Technology makes life easy for- publication team. However, in the end you have to organize content to suit the user needs. For me, content is like raw materials, where as technology is like a machine. Those who discard the “content thesis” view it as routine as “coming to work” and often ignore the intricacy involved.
In India, scenario in mid and smaller IT companies is appalling. A recent job posting focused mainly on number of tools with little mention of writing. Why do tools precede writing? As far as I know writing, simplified English is the heart of this profession. I feel that organizations can train employees on the latest technologies, but not on writing instructions. The latter is a pre-requisite and time consuming. What is the use of technology, if it supplements poor content structure and quality?
In this computer literate age, users find manuals/help boring, unless the product is sophisticated. As a result, content quality suffers. Does that mean services companies value output (sign offs) more than detailed input (what, if, and how). Some of the online helps that I read recently make little sense, including my own. Without any project plan, new writers are given the mantle to deliver manuals (installation, user, FRS, and others) and face the chin-music. On the contrary, this can be advantageous; writers can take the challenge and deliver goods effectively.
On a recent discussion about the subject, my manager pointed; “Nobody reads manuals, just focus on formatting”. He went on to say that, with Camtasia and Captivate (video capturing tools) in picture, so lot of written documentation could actually take a visual trip.
I was aghast on hearing such a remark, but it summed up the harsh reality of the documentation world. As, for videos being the new form of communication, he was spot-on.
Big industries such as Aviation, Pharmaceuticals, and Engineering value the importance of content. I see a stark difference in the body of the documents vis-à-vis software documentation. In such cases, margin of error is nil, leading to organizing content with minute details.
Technology automates processes. I feel that writers have to adapt to different conditions. Irrespective of the deliverables, we still have to write effectively. Research on new means developing content needs- high attention. I am sure with high accessibility; information delivery funnel (online shopping, retails) will go through a sea change.
It is difficult to draw a conclusion, which is better of the two. However, one thing is certain that content will never lose its charm.
Appreciate your comments!