Josh Anderson

Information Architect

Lessons From the STC Summit 2023 @ Atlanta

Joshua Anderson, Information Architect, Precision Content Authoring Solutions Inc, Toronto ON, Canada, Speaker, STC Member, CPTC. Lanyard.

This past week I was in Atlanta for the Society for Technical Communication’s annual summit. This is my second in-person STC Summit. (Last year, it was in Rosemont, where I presented “Microcontent Migration: Making the Move to New Content Opportunities.”) I thought the venue was nice and appreciated the chance to visit Atlanta for the first time. Here are some of the notes I took on the presentations that I attended:

Monday, May 15, 2023

  • Structured Strategy: How to Supercharge Your Content Analysis with XML and XPath, Josh Anderson
  • Building a Taxonomy: A Star Wars Journey, Amanda Patterson
    • Excel is good for putting your taxonomy together
    • Taxonomy conversations don’t happen linearly
    • Scope + team discussions are concurrent
    • In their taxonomy project RACI, they had a lot of people in the “consulted” category
    • Don’t be distracted by side-quests like formatting
    • “Y’all got enough questions to ask before going after secondary issues.”
    • Don’t start organizing content until the taxonomy is solidifed
    • Your team mission objective statement can help you define scope (what you’re doing and why)
    • Lean on help from others
    • Factor in maintenance costs in your taxonomy
    • To start the taxonomy, any form works (Excel, Word, etc). Don’t need fancy software.
    • Start with generic tags like “bird” and then later go back and specify “cardinal” or whatever
    • Use card sorting to determine taxonomy label names
    • Find a mentor
  • Investigating Data Analytics with AI for User Analysis in Technical Communication, Daniel Hocutt, Nupoor Ranade
    • They use Google Analytics for their data analysis
    • When Google talks about a “user”, it is looking at a device/platform pair rather than truly a singular person
    • Formulating research questions
      • Data analytics driven
      • Focused
      • Feasible
      • Specific
      • Complex
      • Relevant
    • Their slide called “AI Augmented [Data Analytics]: Planning” shows Google Analytics. You can ask a human-language questions and it gives answers, going through your Google Analytics data.
    • There’s a sidebar in Google Analytics that has machine learning-informed insights based on your previous activity
    • Data analytics should lead to testing or other metrics. Knowing the most-visited page don’t tell you why it’s the most visited.
    • Google Analytics gives information in reports
    • External validation answers “how” and “why” questions
    • Let user behavior shape research questions
    • Google Analytics 4 is coming along
  • Keynote: Andrew Lawless
    • Action –> Event –> Meaning –> Emotion –> back to Action
    • “The reason why I didn’t make progress… is that I didn’t think I was worth it!”
    • “Where are you hiding in plain sight now?” he asks. What are you not doing that you would like to?
    • He asks everyone to consider what their life would look like in 5 years/10 years if they continue to “hide in plain sight”
    • He asks: What impact do you have on people? That’s what you leave behind.
    • Joesph McClendon III, PhD coined “asstitude” –> moving your hips makes you happy
    • Faith. You must believe you are worth it. It’s not just about skills and vision.
    • Time/Talents/Treasures
    • Every family has people who break cycles. (First to graduate from college, first to get out of poverty, first to do a certain kind of career, etc.) You can be that person.
    • Brendon Burchard: 7 Dominant Frames of Self-Perception
      1. Beat Down vs. Built Up
      2. Reactional vs. Intentional
      3. Avoiding vs. Approaching
      4. Fearing vs. Believing
      5. Mimicry vs. Mastery
      6. Taking vs. Giving
      7. Forcing vs. Flowing
    • “Life happens for you, not to you.”
    • “Dark” work consists of Action –> Value –> Skill –> Experience –> back to Action
      • Others don’t see “dark” work
    • “Arena” work consists of Action –> Event –> Meaning –> Emotion –> back to Action
      • This is the work that others see
    • His talk began with him telling us to stretch… to “unlock” ourselves
    • Standing with raised fist: “You can’t feel depressed like that.”
    • He asks us to think of 3 words you felt when you have been proud in the past. I think of “I’m doing it.”
      • He encourages us to set alarms on our phone so we stop and reflect on those 3 words
  • What’s Ahead for Technical Communication?, Saul Carliner
    • He asks: What are your thoughts on the future?
      • Which products/services will we be downloading?
      • What will be the role of AI in the work of technical communicators?
      • Will technical communication merge with instructional design?
      • What will be the status of technical communicators in organizations?
      • Will we work on-site? Remotely?
      • Did the pandemic change/pause everything or not make a difference at all in the end?
    • He says he does not think TC/Industrial Design will merge because so far it hasn’t. (Personally I think there’s a big overlap.)
    • The pandemic didn’t permanently stop people from wanting to meet in person. Not everything will become remote.
    • He has a book called “Career Anxiety”

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

  • Piecing Together a Docs-as-Code Framework Without Engineering Experience, Art Berger
    • Docs-as-code defined: Writing documentation with the same tools as code. Following the same workflows as development teams.
    • Typically Git is where the source content goes
    • You might need site hosting to publish your docs. GitHub Pages might work.
    • Docs Like Code is a book he recommends
    • Their needs analysis began with a content audit
    • Pain points
      • Push to prod
      • Outdated theme
      • Content reuse
      • Link checking
      • Progressive disclosure
      • UI bugs
      • URL format
      • Versioning
      • Search
    • Analysis done with spreadsheets, whiteboards, shared docs. Affinity mapping
    • Control and version source content –> Git
    • There are arguments for and against keeping content in the same place as the code vs. in a separate doc repo
    • LwDITA is not his preference
    • SSGs –> Hugo/Jekyll/Sphinx
    • Netlify is an alternative to GitHub Pages
    • Udemy has a course for docs-as-code
  • Getting the Most Out of a Proof-of-Concept Project for DITA Adoption, Peihong Zhu
    • “Data-centric AI” –> Andrew Ng’s movement from 2021
    • Algorithm-centric AI vs. data-centric AI (Tesla’s approach)
    • The case for DITA in the age of AI
      • Structured authoring
      • Information types
      • Semantic tagging
      • Discoverable XML components
      • Metadata
      • Technology-neutral
    • Organizations that will benefit from DITA
      • High value content
      • More than two languages
      • Multi-channel publishing
      • Agile process
      • Lots of content
    • Barriers to DITA adoption
      • Lack of understanding
      • Technical difficulty
      • New skill development
      • etc.
    • DITA adoption phases
      • Investigation
      • Proof of concept
      • Secure funding
      • Pilot
      • Adoption
      • Continuous improvement
    • Proof of concept vs. pilot
      • Proof of concept asks “Will it work?” Pilot asks “Can it work for us?
      • Pilot leads to minimum viable product. PoC leads to report/prototypes
      • Pilot is where you try customization on a real-world implementation at a small scale
    • The key to a successful PoC project is a plan
    • Set goals and scopes. Define success.
    • Know your needs
      • Create content strategy
      • Put content in DITA
      • Create use cases
    • A team for DITA adoption should include:
      • IT
      • Procurement
      • Content manager
      • Key writer (someone who knows the content well, including pain points)
      • Sponsor
    • For testing the mechanics of the system, you can use lorem ipsum or ChatGPT content
    • PoC projects don’t need lots of content
    • For testing localization or specific publishing requirements, you can include real content
    • You would need a CCMS for DITA content
    • Selecting a CCMS for a DITA Proof of Concept
      1. Prepare your requirements
      2. Sort out budget
      3. Put requirements into RFP and send out to vendors
      4. Arrange vendor demos
      5. Evaluate vendors and CCMSs
      6. Select CCMSs for PoC
    • For content managers…
      • Initiate the conversation
      • Start where you can
      • Get PoC done as early and as fast as possible
      • Work with an expert
    • DITA experts can help with training and content analysis
    • DITA adopters who worked with outside experts had higher satisfaction
    • CIDM has resources on finding DITA experts and vendors
    • PoC can be a couple of weeks or a couple of months long
  • Making Access First: How to Make Aural Information Accessible in Technical Communication, Philip B. Gallagher, Marci Gallagher
    • “Inclusive art style” –> I haven’t heard that before. He’s using that term to describe his Corporate Memphis clip art. Not sure what is inherently inclusive about 2D drawings with unrealistic body shapes and green/purple skin tones. And now I’m very curious what an “uninclusive” art style would be. Is anyone excluded by 2010s-era skeuomorphic designs, for example?
    • He describes each visual element of each slide in detail before going into the content. If there is a list, he says, “there is a list” but doesn’t read it off until he’s done with the audio description
    • I was confused when he gave a long apology for referencing studies that use the word “disabled” but then didn’t seem to take issue with saying “disability.” Those words seem more or less analogous to me.
    • Aural = sound
    • He talks about “information justice” for users with hearing issues. I think that’s an interesting way to phrase it. I never could figure out if “information justice” meant accessible information or if there was more to it than that.
    • He says things like “aural exigence” and “apprehending aurality.” Feels to me like a contradiction of the presentation’s accessibility-first message given how these phrases are clearly not plain language.
    • Accessible audio design elements
      • Aural descriptions
      • Captions and subtitles
      • Synced and live transcripts
      • Sign language
    • Open vs. closed captions
      • Open: captions are part of the recording itself
      • Closed: captions can be turned on/off at will
    • There is an international sign language called “Gestuno”
    • Rhetorical analysis informs design element decisions
    • Transcripts include sound effect descriptions like “laughter” and “pause”
    • Transcripts distributed ahead of time
    • I notice he always pronounces “everybody” as two distinct words (“every body”)
    • Someone asks a question about if sign language adds anything when there are already captions and transcripts. I wondered the same thing. His answer is that for some people sign language is their first language and they are actually more familiar with signs than they are with written characters. I am surprised to hear that


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