PATTERN RECOGNITIONFOR TECHNICAL COMMUNICATORS      Kai Weber (@techwriterkai)   & Chris Atherton (@finiteattention)      ...
WHO ARE WE AND WHAT DO WE KNOW?            Kai Weber                         Chris Atherton            @techwriterkai     ...
OUR MISSION   Helping you understand what you do …   … so you can do what you do, better.
WHAT IS PATTERN RECOGNITION?http://livinglifewithchemobrain.blogspot.com/2011/03/apparitions-on-toast.html
WHAT IS PATTERN RECOGNITION?   Don’t believe that your brain is optimised to    create patterns from apparent chaos? Watc...
WHAT IS PATTERN RECOGNITION?           Examples  rules
TOO ABSTRACT! HOW ABOUT AN EXAMPLE?  Aardvark, J.R. (1980). Ants, and how to eat them.    Journal of Orycteropodidae Studi...
RECOGNISED PATTERNS AND RULES  Aardvark, J.R. (1980). Ants, and how to eat them.    Journal of Orycteropodidae Studies, 80...
SO HOW DO WE ACQUIRE THESE RULES?   By rote    or   By acquiring data (a.k.a. experience)
IMPLICIT VS. EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGE   Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. London: Penguin.    http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html
WHY SHOULD TECH COMMUNICATORS CARE?We do it anyway…1. When we gather information      Reading specs and designs      Int...
WHY SHOULD TECH COMMUNICATORS CARE?We do it anyway, so we might as well do it smartly!   If we make sense of our subjects...
THE PATTERN RECOGNITION EXPERIENCEM   T   W   T   F   S   S   M   T   W   T   F   S   S   M   T   W   T
BUT HOW DO WE REACH THAT “AHA!” MOMENT?   *    * *     * *   !
PERCEIVING PATTERNS                        d        *      d d             d                                   t       * *...
PERCEIVING PATTERNS                        d        *      d d             d                                   t       * *...
PERCEIVING PATTERNS                        d        *      d d             d                                   t       * *...
PERCEIVING PATTERNS                        d        *      d d             d                                   t       * *...
HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Bottom-up processing Experiencing Acquiring Matching Segmenting… building up a repre...
WHAT IS THIS? HOW DO YOU KNOW?
HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Top-down processing Knowing Generalising Contextualising Applying… searching for con...
HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Bottom-up                   Top-down   No prior knowledge         Uses prior knowledge...
WHAT IS THIS?
WHAT IS THIS? IT’S ART...Martin Boyce:Untitled, 2002.
WHAT IS THIS? IT’S PART OF THE SAME CHAIR!Martin Boyce:                          Arne Jacobsen:Untitled, 2002.            ...
HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Bottom-up                   Top-down   No prior knowledge         Uses prior knowledge...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMM   To make sense of unknown subject matter   To overcome tech writer’s block and start w...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo make sense of unknown subject matter If you have scattered, unreliable information…  ...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo make sense of unknown subject matter If you have structured legacy documentation…   G...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo overcome writer’s block and start writing If you lack full, consistent information…  ...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo chunk topics and find reuse opportunities If you have a bunch of similar information o...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… orient themselves in your documentation.Tables of contents, no patte...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… grasp individual topics quickly   Structure similar items similarly...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… get the most out of navigation aids   Table of contents is a top-do...
PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… in ways only you know how!   <audience brainstorm>
FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE AND WARNING   Keep your customers – and your job – safe!   Apophenia: Humans are addicted to meani...
THANK YOU! KEEP IN TOUCH!            Kai Weber                     Chris Atherton   @techwriterkai               @finite...
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Kai Weber & Chris Atherton - Pattern recognition for technical communicators - tcuk11

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Pattern recognition is one of the essential mental strategies for acquiring and disseminating knowledge, though most of us are not aware of it. This presentation aims to help technical communicators think about how they can employ pattern recognition processes to develop their own documentation and user assistance.

The presentation combines the wit and wisdom of a cognitive psychologist and a technical writer who draw on examples and evidence in their respective fields to show:

What pattern recognition is and how it works
Which mental strategies we employ without knowing it
How technical communicators can employ those strategies
Making sense of new subject matter
Starting to build new documentation
Designing and structuring documentation
Supporting users efficiently

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Kai Weber & Chris Atherton - Pattern recognition for technical communicators - tcuk11

  1. 1. PATTERN RECOGNITIONFOR TECHNICAL COMMUNICATORS Kai Weber (@techwriterkai) & Chris Atherton (@finiteattention) 22 September 2011 TCUK 11
  2. 2. WHO ARE WE AND WHAT DO WE KNOW? Kai Weber Chris Atherton @techwriterkai @finiteattention Technical writer since 1988  User experience consultant Senior Technical Writer at  Mendeley, Skype, academia SimCorp, CPH, since 2008  Incurable cross-disciplinarian Coach, trainer, mentor  Ph.D. in Cognitive M.A. in American Studies Neuroscience
  3. 3. OUR MISSION Helping you understand what you do … … so you can do what you do, better.
  4. 4. WHAT IS PATTERN RECOGNITION?http://livinglifewithchemobrain.blogspot.com/2011/03/apparitions-on-toast.html
  5. 5. WHAT IS PATTERN RECOGNITION? Don’t believe that your brain is optimised to create patterns from apparent chaos? Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVkdfJ9PkRQ
  6. 6. WHAT IS PATTERN RECOGNITION? Examples  rules
  7. 7. TOO ABSTRACT! HOW ABOUT AN EXAMPLE? Aardvark, J.R. (1980). Ants, and how to eat them. Journal of Orycteropodidae Studies, 80, 11-17. Barker, R. (1982). Rum babas, and what to do if you’ve got them. Reading: Goodnight From Him. Haley, W. (1955). Rock Around The Clock. New York: Decca. Izzard, E. (1998). Cake or Death? Gateaunomics, 10, 195-196. Lemur, R.-T. (2010). Strepsirrhinoplasty. Antananarivo: Raft Press. Leonard, E. (1996). Out of Sight. New York: Harper. Shorty, G. (in press). Okay, so they got me. Los Angeles: Cadillac.What is this? What are the structures and rules here?
  8. 8. RECOGNISED PATTERNS AND RULES Aardvark, J.R. (1980). Ants, and how to eat them. Journal of Orycteropodidae Studies, 80, 11-17. Barker, R. (1982). Rum babas, and what to do if you’ve got them. Reading: Goodnight From Him. …1. Last name, initial(s).2. (Year of publication).3. If journal article: 1. Title of article. 2. Title of journal, volume number, page numbers.4. If book: 1. Title. 2. City: Publisher.
  9. 9. SO HOW DO WE ACQUIRE THESE RULES? By rote or By acquiring data (a.k.a. experience)
  10. 10. IMPLICIT VS. EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGE Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. London: Penguin. http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html
  11. 11. WHY SHOULD TECH COMMUNICATORS CARE?We do it anyway…1. When we gather information  Reading specs and designs  Interviewing subject-matter experts2. When we create and order information  Write topics  Structure topics into deliverables
  12. 12. WHY SHOULD TECH COMMUNICATORS CARE?We do it anyway, so we might as well do it smartly! If we make sense of our subjects more efficiently… If we structure better what we need to convey… … we can provide better documentation!
  13. 13. THE PATTERN RECOGNITION EXPERIENCEM T W T F S S M T W T F S S M T W T
  14. 14. BUT HOW DO WE REACH THAT “AHA!” MOMENT? * * * * * !
  15. 15. PERCEIVING PATTERNS d * d d d t * * d dd * ** d t t t t * * * d t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t
  16. 16. PERCEIVING PATTERNS d * d d d t * * d dd * ** d t t t t * * * d t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t
  17. 17. PERCEIVING PATTERNS d * d d d t * * d dd * ** d t t t t * * * d t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t
  18. 18. PERCEIVING PATTERNS d * d d d t * * d dd * ** d t t t t * * * d t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t
  19. 19. HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Bottom-up processing Experiencing Acquiring Matching Segmenting… building up a representation.But that requires lots of “data”, so…
  20. 20. WHAT IS THIS? HOW DO YOU KNOW?
  21. 21. HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Top-down processing Knowing Generalising Contextualising Applying… searching for confirmation.
  22. 22. HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Bottom-up Top-down No prior knowledge  Uses prior knowledge Elements  concepts  Concepts  elements Emphasises relations  Emphasises context Slow; usually correct  Quick; sometimes wrong
  23. 23. WHAT IS THIS?
  24. 24. WHAT IS THIS? IT’S ART...Martin Boyce:Untitled, 2002.
  25. 25. WHAT IS THIS? IT’S PART OF THE SAME CHAIR!Martin Boyce: Arne Jacobsen:Untitled, 2002. Chair 3107, c.1952.It is the back side of the chair where the back restturns into the seat, with two holes cut in and turned by 90°.
  26. 26. HOW DOES PATTERN RECOGNITION WORK?Bottom-up Top-down No prior knowledge  Uses prior knowledge Elements  concepts  Concepts  elements Emphasises relations  Emphasises context Slow; usually correct  Quick; sometimes wrong
  27. 27. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMM To make sense of unknown subject matter To overcome tech writer’s block and start writing To chunk topics and find reuse opportunities To help your readers
  28. 28. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo make sense of unknown subject matter If you have scattered, unreliable information…  Gather all puzzle pieces and work bottom up.  Tease out similarities until you have segments.
  29. 29. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo make sense of unknown subject matter If you have structured legacy documentation…  Go through topic structure and analyse top down.  Test reliability and completeness top-down.
  30. 30. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo overcome writer’s block and start writing If you lack full, consistent information…  Start bottom-up with similar “seeds” as templates.  Describe first what hangs together well. Making caffe latte About Italian coffee 1. Grind coffee. 1. Espresso 2. Steam milk and ¾ fill a latte glass. 2. Cappuccino 3. Make the espresso and pour it in. 3. Caffe latte 4. Top the drink with steamed milk. 5. Clean the steamer. Making hot chocolate 1. Pour chocolate into glass or cup 2. Steam the milk and pour in.
  31. 31. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo chunk topics and find reuse opportunities If you have a bunch of similar information or topics  Identify how you can segment topics for reuse.  Especially for similar procedures and reference info. Making caffe latte About Italian coffee 1. Grind coffee. 1. Espresso 2. Steam milk and ¾ fill a latte glass. 2. Cappuccino 3. Make the espresso and pour it in. 3. Caffe latte 4. Top the drink with steamed milk. 5. Clean the steamer. Making hot chocolate 1. Pour chocolate into glass or cup 2. Steam the milk and pour in.
  32. 32. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… orient themselves in your documentation.Tables of contents, no patterns left, with patterns right.1. General Settings window 1. Setting up the Trade Manager1.1 Assets in a portfolio 1.1 Set up a portfolio1.2 Different bank accounts 1.2 Set up bank accounts1.3 About counterparties 1.3 Set up counterparties2. The Transaction window 2. Registering transactions2.1 Transaction window 2.1 Enter common transaction data2.2 Stock trading 2.2 Enter a stock transaction2.3 Trading bonds 2.3 Enter a bond transaction2.4 Futures and other derivatives 2.4 Enter a derivative transaction
  33. 33. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… grasp individual topics quickly Structure similar items similarly for easy recognition. Use the same order of elements, e.g., in procedures:  Introduction Enter a stock transaction  Prerequisites Open the Stock Dealer window.  Procedure 1. Enter common transaction data.  Results 2. Enter the stock exchange. 3. Optionally, enter the stock series.  Exception handling Apply parallelism in lists
  34. 34. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… get the most out of navigation aids Table of contents is a top-down aid  Offer a coherent, consistent structure  Assume and honour trust in the system Search and index are bottom-up aids  Support not only exact matches, but also similar terms  Make search results indicative by heading alone
  35. 35. PATTERN RECOGNITION IN TECH COMMTo help your readers… in ways only you know how! <audience brainstorm>
  36. 36. FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE AND WARNING Keep your customers – and your job – safe! Apophenia: Humans are addicted to meaning. Some patterns refuse to be recognized Pattern recognition occurs in contexts Creating tech comm is often a top-down process… ... but using it is often bottom-up!
  37. 37. THANK YOU! KEEP IN TOUCH! Kai Weber Chris Atherton @techwriterkai  @finiteattention kaiweber.wordpress.com/  about.me/cjatherton

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