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Kai Weber - Getting ahead as a lone author

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Slides of my talk at TCUK10, the ISTC conference at Oxford, on September 22, 2010.

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Kai Weber - Getting ahead as a lone author

  1. 1. GETTING AHEAD AS A LONE AUTHOR 5 BEST PRACTICES Kai Weber 22 September 2010 TCUK 10
  2. 2. WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I KNOW ?  1988 – Technical writer  2001 – 2008 Employed lone writer  2008 – Senior Technical Writer, SimCorp  Coach, trainer, mentor  M.A. in American Studies
  3. 3. GETTING AHEAD AS A LONE WRITER? Carl Rakeman: “Pony Express” http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/
  4. 4. GETTING AHEAD AS A LONE WRITER Benign neglect ▼ Learn to run the job (more) like a business 5 best practices ▼ Raised profile
  5. 5. 1. HOW TO BUY YOURSELF TIME  Eliminate internal inefficiencies.  Move to(wards) topic-based authoring.  Consider temporary skimping.  Fight external inefficiencies.  Resist or budget time-consuming tasks, such as testing.  Plan and schedule documentation.  Plunder time-saving methods and tools. ► Take charge of your time and your schedule.
  6. 6. 2. HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SKILLS  Assess and emphasize your (relative) strengths.  Add people skills.  Collaborate with colleagues and trade skills. ► Do what you do best and collaborate.
  7. 7. 3. HOW TO TREAT DOC AS A BUSINESS  Estimate your documentation efforts.  Account for efforts, past and future.  Estimate writing, reviewing, editing by topic.  Use past efforts, averages and experience.  Embrace cost metrics.  Resist seductive, but misleading metrics.  Attribute efforts and costs to specific developments.  Turn topic reuse into a corporate asset. ► “You can’t control what you can’t measure.” - Tom DeMarco
  8. 8. 4. HOW TO MAKE DOCUMENTATION AN ASSET  Serve the customer, not the product or company.  Address user tasks, not product features or intentions.  Become the users’ advocate.  Verify with surveys and user analysis.
  9. 9. 4. HOW TO MAKE DOCUMENTATION AN ASSET Kathy Sierra Creating passionate users
  10. 10. 5. HOW TO COLLABORATE  Provide a clear interface  To your sources: Engineers, developers, SMEs  To stakeholders: Customer service, product managers, etc.  To your manager  Stand up for documentation and yourself.  … and don't whine about language, grammar, etc. ► Learn from your topics: Collaborate!
  11. 11. GETTING AHEAD AS A LONE WRITER 1. Buy Yourself Time 2. Optimize Your Skills 3. Treat Documentation as a Business 4. Make Documentation an Asset 5. Collaborate Thank you!
  12. 12. KEEP IN TOUCH!  I blog at http://kaiweber.wordpress.com/  I tweet at @techwriterkai

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