Connie and I have been spending a lot of time talking about the future of stuff. The future of TechWhirl, the future of the organizing association called the STC (Society for Technical Communication), the future of technical communications / tech writing, etc.
The conversation really got kicked off through a couple of our poll questions on the future of tech comm and the wearable computers such as Google Glass and the new iPod Mini circa 2009 possible Apple watch. For those uninitiated Technical Communications is the formal name of the type of communications a company puts out to help its users better understand how to use its products. This comes in the form of guides (manuals) or quick reference materials and can extend into training courses.
My take is that Tech Comm gets set free from the bonds of the office with the new ubiquitous computing era, because we can start to get help whenever and wherever we need it. Having trouble assembling a bicycle? Load the guided instructions into Google Glasses. Need to bake a pie, use an iPad and Glasses to first determine if you need ingredients, get to the store, be guided to the products and finally home receiving step-by-step directions on how to make the crust.
I wonder if our industry would be better served by calling it user support and education communications rather than Tech Comm, or Technical Writing? That’s another conversation for another time, for now, at least for the Tech Comm of today a few future ideas pop to mind:
- Technical Communications is blending into the wider business communications paradigm pretty darn quickly. As a guess, the name will be used less and less as professional communicators who focus on customer education join marketing departments and product development teams. We’ve seen blips here and there with Voice of the Customer initiatives and the Customer Experience Movement
- Assuming that the home team isn’t too myopic, the need for great communications on how to do things has never been greater. The opportunity may not use our favorite unicorn DITA, but these new tools (glasses, watches, etc) provide opportunities to provide support outside of the cubical. That’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.
- The Customer Experience Movement is a very popular fad that will inevitably be crushed by engineers keeping control of product development. Companies even know why Apple makes superior and visionary products and they still can’t change their orientation. Never underestimate the power of a benevolent dictatorship.
The world has always needed to understand the vision of someone else. We’ve always needed guides and explanations to get the most out of products and services so that implies that the underlying concepts will never go out of fashion, but the names that it goes by will change. There’s some exciting stuff – think proactive help rather than just reactive and the rise of audio as it takes its rightful place beside video and words (voice in your ear) – on the way. Hopefully folks will think about the various creative options rather than lamenting the name of the department or title they now hold.