Social Media, Social Networking, and Social Relevance in Tech Comm


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Presented at the Technical Communicator's Association of New Zealand in October 2012.

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  • Cover slide- when I look back at the last five to eight years of experimenting and finding the future of tech comm, these are the two themes that emerged for me.I’m Anne Gentle and I work at Rackspace, the open cloud company.
  • I believe in it so much I’m willing to work in open source, have faith that the community will eventually deliver exactly what we need, and persevere through uncertainty and doubt. This work is so exciting right now because there is a shift and we are working through it, with it, around it.
  • I am a content stacker at Rackspace, here’s where I think we’re going
  • So where are we today? This is computer scientist Barbie. When Mattel surveyed thousands of little girls asking what careers they are interested in, they said computer scientist – and also journalist! Guess what, that is what we are heading towards today. While news delivery and sourcing is changing, actual professional journalism is still in demand. The same goes for professional technical writing – we report on the indepth stories behind the technology to help everyone understand what they need to know. I believe we can be heroes of the technology world by working with social web techniques.
  • collaboration, instant communication, project tracking, and data gathering
  • there are challenges to using these tools – social media amplifies errors and heightens drama in communities while also enabling more voices and sites.AmplificationDramaToo many channelsToo much datamap represents the number of unique authors in each Usenet newsgroup who appeared in the current year, 2003.Making it work anyway.I’m going to walk through three areas: Sharing information and collecting feedback via social media techniquesGathering information from social networksMaking it relevant and collaborating closely with users, advocates, customers
  • Comments and workflowCommenting toolsMobile considerationsTranslation considerationsCategories of comments
  • Incorporate comment moderation and responses into your workflow. Use comments to create doc bugs (if they are bugs).Treat docs as code- manage content like an asset.
  • Embedding into output – where? How does each persona accomplish their goals?Identity and connection to existing sites?Spam protectionExpiration - How do releases work? Bulk operations for moderators?Notifications (and for whom)Analytics
  • Instagram only went for mobile platforms, not even the web.Twitter made an API that third party apps use.Niche – Instagram and Pinterest have specific features
  • Comments are the start of community, so you may need to build a community around the discussions
  • ■ Typo or minor edit suggestions: Log a documentation bug reportand tell the commenter about the report.■ Conceptual questions: These are questions like, “Why does itwork this way?” Give the commenter the additional informationhe or she needs. Then, if you think the question is of generalinterest, log a documentation bug report suggesting a revision.■ Troubleshooting or help requests: If you can, provide help directlyin the comments. If not, direct the commenter to anotherplace to receive help, perhaps support. Take ownership and followthrough to make sure the problem is resolved.■ Feature requests: Let the user know the current status if this isa feature that is in the works or has been rejected. If the featuredoesn’t yet exist, let the user know that. If there is another systemwhere the user can request the feature, either redirect the commentthere or let the user know about that system.
  • Listen in, be conversationalMine the data goldResearch existing channels
  • Interact but don’t get fired: know the policiesRackspace policy: be helpful
  • Technical writers are good at reporting their findings about users (Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff agrees). Write a monthly email summarizing what you see on the social web after listening for a while.If you see a troublesome spot based on feedback, fix it, or report it to someone who can.
  • This is where LinkedIn comes inI also advocate for a Community Content Audit – who are your members, what are their motivations? Who is blogging? Why?
  • I think of social relevance as the final frontier: creating documentation with the community. Collaboration, resource sharing, shared goalsIt’s like having a giant docs team with just as much cat herding – the only way to manage is to treat docs like code: adopt developer-like workflows and version control
  • Publishers want OpenStack content. I feel like I’m in a fight to be an acquisitions editor some days. Everyone wants an OpenStack book, or blog entries about OpenStack to publish on their site. I was surprised at this.
  • Originally had doc sprint during design summit, moved it to earlier dateExpectation – to hold these regularly, reality, releases dictated when to hold themTiming has changed again to six month releases with milestone releases in between. Doc sprints need a rethink.
  • Eric Holscher – read the docs - said at Pycon, Devs need to write for other devs – strongly believe what guy preaches now. This is a 180 degree turn for me.
  • OpenStack-doc-core reviews and decisions to publish docs to the live production site100 doc bugsOver 500 options in Compute now, nearly 300 in Object Storage* While Rackspace has the highest number of code contributors, it has the lowest number of writer contributors.Badge wearersAT&T IBMNebulaNiciraNimbis ServicesNuageRackspaceRedHatGrad StudentsUniversity of MelbourneUniversity of Tokyo
  • TryStack and DevStack – working environments for writersWADL to API ReferenceTry it out for APIBug triagingSpreadsheets of gaps in docsEntire outlinesGoogle Doc SprintExtensions are challenging – API docs are challenging
  • Curated search engine plus search analyticsWorking on loyalty, bounce rateProof of the PDF popularity
  • So, how can you take these ideas and put them into practice?Everyone’s a writer, so we need to tap the power of conversation and community to add value. To be better at any job, you can use social technologies to seek info. In your job, you are helping others be better at their job by giving them info matched to what they seek. Find ways to provide value with strategic social technologies.
  • Social Media, Social Networking, and Social Relevance in Tech Comm

    1. 1. Social Media, Social Networking, and Social Relevance inTech CommAnne Gentleanne.gentle@rackspace.comTechnical Communicators Associationof New ZealandOctober 2012
    2. 2. Flickr: seier+seier
    3. 3.  OpenStack – OpenSource CloudComputing Rackspace – FanaticalSupport in all we do
    4. 4.  Not always atechnical writer Wanting to makean impact▪ 72% of companies usesocial technologies▪ Writers are useradvocates▪ Need a plan andexecution
    5. 5.  Never before have we had tools for media, networking,and relevance that help us meet our goals How do we harness the power of the social web for documentation?
    6. 6. Flickr: thegentles
    7. 7.  Social media Social networking Social relevance Sharing content,feedback loops,discussions,and destinations Gather information byinteracting with youraudience and users Collaboration, resourcesharing, sharing goals
    8. 8. Flickr: marc_smith
    9. 9.  Close the loop Track doc bugs that arereported in thecommentsFlickr: myklroventine
    10. 10.  Personas Commenters Readers Moderators Administrators
    11. 11.  Why not mobile first ormobile only? Consider immersiveexperiences Consider when andwhere you search –from your phone? Responsive web designexamples:
    12. 12.  Comment in theirlanguage Build communitieslocally Think: is English the“source” or anotherlanguage?
    13. 13.  Many comments atonce to gain furtherunderstanding Pointing out typos orsmall errors in code Want specific examplesand specific help Request for a particularfeatureFlickr: theilr
    15. 15. INFORM RESPOND
    16. 16.  Listen where users are;select channels Mine data gold Daily/weekly blogsearches Career- and job-relatedsearches Get to knowcommunity contentmembersAnne Gentle
    17. 17.  Think like anacquisition editor Everyone’s a writer(but not all of themhave a coach) Files as the basis arekey to treading docslike codeFlickr: gruntzooki
    18. 18.  Originally had threemonth release cycles Design Summit in-person meeting Apriland October Now six month releasecycles with milestonereleasesFlickr: plenty
    19. 19.  Devs write for devs Admins write foradmins This is a completeturnaround for me Some people can onlyreview (and it’s notworthwhile to convincethem to write)Flickr: kholkute
    20. 20. • 66% Site visitors stayinstead of leaving• 100 Doc patches andreviews a month• 10,000 uniquevisitors a week• 6 months beforecommentersanswered each otherFlickr: dno1967b
    21. 21. • Logged doc bugin afternoon,came in to a fixthe next day• Glossary out of“nowhere” froma wiki pagestarting point
    22. 22. Bam. Site Launch.
    23. 23. Doh. Release date.Hey! Release date!
    24. 24.  Acquisition editor Web stats analyst Writing coach Project manager Bug tracker/triager Editor Advocate Writer
    25. 25.  Media: Encourage conversation Networking: Listen and learn Relevance: Build a team and community Iterate repeatedly
    26. 26. Anne candelabrumelabrumdanse