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Pair writing: how to collaborate effectively with subject matter experts – Confab Intensive 2017

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One of the great challenges of user experience design - and especially of content production – is getting ideas from the heads of subject matter experts into the heads of content designers. Often the people with topical expertise are too busy to produce content or unable to communicate their expertise in a way that serves the intended audience, but their input is crucial to make sure we write knowledgeably and accurately about a subject.

Enter pair writing. Inspired by the agile technique of pair programming, pair writing brings together subject matter experts and content designers right from the start to create clear, concise, accurate content that meets user needs.

Workshop presented at Confab Intensive in Denver, CO on 13th September 2017.

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Pair writing: how to collaborate effectively with subject matter experts – Confab Intensive 2017

  1. 1. how to collaborate effectively with subject matter experts Pair writing: Confab Intensive Wednesday, 13th September Embassy Suites Downtown Convention Center, Denver, CO
  2. 2. Richard Ingram Content Strategist and Information Designer @richardjingram geckoboard.com
  3. 3. Richard Ingram Content Strategist and Information Designer @richardjingram geckoboard.com
  4. 4. Where you are right now is perfect. 
 Principle 1
  5. 5. Process over product. 
 Principle 2
  6. 6. This is *your* workshop. 
 Principle 3
  7. 7. Activity 1 What are the challenges of writing alone?
  8. 8. Activity 1 What are the challenges of writing alone?
  9. 9. 5 minutes Task: Briefly write down the different challenges you face when writing alone. 🕑
  10. 10. Time’s up! Question: Which recurring themes emerged? 🕓
  11. 11. 5 minutes Task: Take your sticky notes and chart them 🕑
  12. 12. Time’s up! Question: Which challenges were deemed harder than others? 🕓
  13. 13. Inspired by the agile technique of pair programming. What is
 pair writing?
  14. 14. Designing content together with another person from the same source document. What is
 pair writing?
  15. 15. We need input from subject matter experts to ensure our content is accurate and meets user needs.
  16. 16. We need input from subject matter experts to ensure our content is accurate and meets user needs.
  17. 17. Subject matter expert
  18. 18. FINAL Subject matter expert
  19. 19. Content Designer
  20. 20. Content Designer
  21. 21. Content Designer Subject matter expert
  22. 22. Content Designer Subject matter expert
  23. 23. Content Designer Subject matter expert
  24. 24. Pair writing encourages collaboration right from the start of the content design process.
  25. 25. Pair writing encourages collaboration right from the start of the content design process.
  26. 26. Pair writers put a positive form of pressure on each other. They don’t want to let their partner down. 
 Pair pressure
  27. 27. Pair writing encourages effective negotiations between partners with their own set of skills, experience, opinions and assumptions. 
 Pair negotiation
  28. 28. Pair writing encourages effective negotiations between partners with their own set of skills, experience, opinions and assumptions. 
 Pair negotiation
  29. 29. Receiving support and approval from each another gives writing partners the confidence to do things they might be afraid of doing alone. 
 Pair courage
  30. 30. Pair writing ensures that knowledge is constantly being passed between writing partners. They, in effect, take turns being the teacher and the student. 
 Pair knowledge
  31. 31. When we practice pair writing, we won’t remember who wrote each line. We have shared ownership of the content.
  32. 32. Activity 2 Pair drawing
  33. 33. 2 minutes Task: Draw a face on the sheet of paper provided 🕑
  34. 34. Time’s up! Stop drawing! 🕓
  35. 35. Task: Find a partner. Each of you should have different coloured markers.
  36. 36. 2 minutes Task: Draw a face on the sheet of paper provided 🕑
  37. 37. Time’s up! Stop drawing! 🕓
  38. 38. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What did you think of pair drawing?
  39. 39. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What did you think of pair drawing?
  40. 40. Activity 3 Establishing a pairing dialogue
  41. 41. Would you like to go on holiday with me? No…
  42. 42. Would you like to go on holiday with me? No…
  43. 43. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What was that like for you?
  44. 44. Would you like to join me for a coffee? Yes, but…
  45. 45. Would you like to join me for a coffee? Yes, but…
  46. 46. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What was that like for you?
  47. 47. Would you like to go for a picnic with me? Yes, and…
  48. 48. Would you like to go for a picnic with me? Yes, and…
  49. 49. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What was that like for you?
  50. 50. Activity 4 Quick-fire pair writing
  51. 51. Activity 4 Quick-fire pair writing
  52. 52. •Say “I think…” to propose an idea •Ask “Do we agree…?” to confirm agreement •Say “We agree…” to discuss progress towards goals •Avoid saying “No, but…”; Instead try saying, “Yes and…”
  53. 53. 2 minutes Task: Find a partner and decide on roles. 🕑
  54. 54. 2 minutes Task: “Subject matter expert” chooses a subject matter they have a good knowledge of. 🕑
  55. 55. 5 minutes Task: Start pair writing, with the “Writer” at the keyboard. 🕑
  56. 56. 5 minutes Task: Switch roles. 🕑
  57. 57. 5 minutes Task: Switch roles back again. 🕑
  58. 58. 5 minutes Task: Switch roles again. 🕑
  59. 59. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What did you think of quick-fire pair writing?
  60. 60. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What did you think of quick-fire pair writing?
  61. 61. Try to focus on content that supports the completion of top tasks. Getting started with
 pair writing.
  62. 62. Try to work with your allies to prove the technique works. Getting started with
 pair writing.
  63. 63. Try to practice in an experimental environment, where failure is seen as part of the journey. Getting started with
 pair writing.
  64. 64. Pair writing cuts the hours subject matter experts will spend alone on unedited drafts.
  65. 65. Pair writing sessions ensure tangible progress.
  66. 66. Pair writing encourages subject matter experts to fully take part in user research.
  67. 67. Activity 5 Pair writing
  68. 68. Scenario: You and your partner are representing the content team for a soon-to-be-launched ‘smart’ tech product.
  69. 69. Scenario: You and your partner are representing the content team for a soon-to-be-launched ‘smart’ tech product.
  70. 70. Actor: As a… [who is the user?] Narrative: I need/want/expect to… [what does the user want to do?] Goal: So that… [why does the user want to do this?]
  71. 71. Actor: As a… [who is the user?] Narrative: I need/want/expect to… [what does the user want to do?] Goal: So that… [why does the user want to do this?]
  72. 72. Time’s up! New task: Vote on each other’s user stories that seem the most interesting and relevant to you. 🕓
  73. 73. Time’s up! New task: Single-out the user story with the most votes. 🕓
  74. 74. • Unique selling point (USP) ★ Main headline ★ Supporting headline ★ Reinforcement statement ★ Closing argument • Benefits of your offering ★ Bullet point list summary of benefits ★ Benefit and features in detail ★ Description of multimedia content • Proof ★ Social proof • Call to action
  75. 75. •Say “I think…” to propose an idea •Ask “Do we agree…?” to confirm agreement •Say “We agree…” to discuss progress towards goals •Avoid saying “No, but…”; Instead try saying, “Yes and…”
  76. 76. 20 minutes Task: Switch roles. 🕑
  77. 77. Time’s up! New task: Offer feedback on each other’s drafts. 🕓
  78. 78. 1. The benefits of this product for you (or the reason you’d buy it). 2. Questions or concerns it throws up for you (or the reason you’d hesitate to buy it).
  79. 79. 20 minutes Task: Write another draft based on the feedback you’ve just received. 🕑
  80. 80. 🕓Time’s up! Question: What did you think of pair writing?
  81. 81. Returning to Activity 1 What do you find difficult about writing alone?
  82. 82. Returning to Activity 1 What do you find difficult about writing alone?
  83. 83. Returning to Activity 1 What do you find difficult about writing alone?
  84. 84. @richardjingram Thank you, Denver! geckoboard.com

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