DocTrain: Social Media 101/Now Everyone’s a Technical Writer

Sarah O'Keefe / ConferencesLeave a Comment

Darren Barefoot, “recovering technical writer”
Capulet Communications

User-generated content is not new…Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was reconstructed based on a sketch made by a random Dutch person who attended a play at a contemporary theater and drew a sketch.

Most of human history is “few-to-few” communication. Humans sitting around the camp fire and grunting.

Then came broadcast media: “few-to-many” communications.

But now, we have “balkanization” and “diversification.” The model is now “many-to-many” communication.

(I have a very similar discussion in our Web 2.0 white paper. Link below.)

Free and cheap tools (blogging software, cheap digital cameras) have made “many-to-many” communication possible. This is sometimes called the “rise of the creative class.” People are shifting from being consumers to creators.

Seven concepts that differentiate social media:

  • conversation…two-way communication rather than a broadcast model
  • collaboration…obvious example is Wikipedia
  • sharing…micro-broadcasting, perhaps just to family and friends
  • scope…column inches and 42-minute hours on television are gone. Tools are easy, distribution is easy; don’t need to be constrained by traditional approaches.
  • Community…we are constructing affinity groups, which can be “thin-sliced.” Can gather together in ways that were never possible before because geography is eliminated as a constraint.
  • Transparency and authenticity…blogging and social media tend to encourage these. However, both of these are perhaps problematic. Examples: LonelyGirl and FakeSteveJobs. Perhaps these are less critical than before?

Social media components (the usual):

  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • Brightkite
  • Twitter
  • FriendFeed
  • Video Streaming
  • StumbleUpon
  • Blogs
  • virtual Worlds
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Flickr
  • Ning
  • Mashups
  • and more

Who make social media? “the people formerly known as the audience”

Why do people blog?

  • Talk to friends and family
  • keep personal history
  • emote
  • experiment with technology
  • practice writing
  • make change
  • follow trend
  • and more

Corporate blogging is a tiny slice of social media.

Great video on Wikis in Plain English

More examples of social media being used for technical documentation tasks.

Very interesting presentation, with quite a bit of intersection with our Web 2.0 white paper (PDF, 1.7 MB). (Sorry to keep linking to it, but this is clearly the current hot topic.)

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

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