After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Apt Guidance from a Pseudonym

Posted on December 15, 2015
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imgresHere’s a survey from an evidently active technical writer of today’s tech writing market. We say “evidently active” because he uses a pseudonym – “krypted” – to disguise his identity on BuzzFeed. That’s excusable, though, because it’s a candid, informative post.

The technical writing market, krypted advises, has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. “That was before everyone had a blog and a dozen different revenue streams,” he notes. People aren’t “just writing books and letting publishers market them” any longer. There are new routes to prominence as a self-supporting technical writer.

The new “routes to the writing market” include:

• Corporate technical writing – Writing manuals and blog posts for companies.

• Advertising on your website – Be careful here, but if you’ve got “a decent amount of content, and get a good amount of traffic” advertising running alongside it “can be a great revenue stream.”

• Self-publishing – You can self-publish books on sites like Amazon and Apple’s iBooks. “There are also print on demand publishers out there that will let you upload your book and then print the copies required when people purchase books.”

• Magazine articles – “You can make about half as much as many books pay, while only writing around five pages of content.”

• Writing articles for websites – This form of writing has replaced “most magazine publishing efforts. Many websites with niche markets can pay pretty well.”

• Writing books – “I decided to keep this in here. Because you can still find a publisher who wants to publish your book…”

• There are other avenues for income, like: Consulting, Training, Conferences (speaking “to get your writing brand out there”), and Kickstarter (crowd funding).

You’ll note that most of these avenues have digital foundations; sure enough, that’s increasingly the nature of today’s writing world.

Don’t expect, krypted advises, to make a bundle right off, if at all. But exposure, primarily digital exposure, counts a lot. “At first, it’s all about exposure. If you’re a seasoned author who’s been focused on one medium, hopefully this article gives you some ideas for other things to go after. The world is changing, getting more interconnected…”

And so, indeed, it is. “There’s value in all of our efforts. Picking the ones that you focus on is just a matter of choosing which you value most.” That’s krypted’s much appreciated closing thought. – Doug Bedell   

From Off the Shelf Onto a Screen

Posted on December 9, 2015
Filed Under Communication, Technology | Leave a Comment

The annals of TC World hold a piece that we enjoying coming back to, as a reminder of the noble lineage of technical communication and how it’s been developing into the digital age. End-users have always needed guidance materials, but now they’re using them in an ever-more screen-centered, collaborative environment.

“A technical writer,” Monalisa Sen and Debarshi Gupta Biswas note, “has truly become ‘an honest mediator between people who create technology and who use technology.'”

fd5da91df4And the print industry has lost its exclusive hold over technical materials. “The demand of the day was mobility, optimum use of digital space, and accessibility. Most of these were lacking in a user manual, which now became a product best suited for a bookshelf.” And they provide an evolutionary table of the craft’s development.

The broad application of technical materials, of course, depends on the industry you’re in, and how specialized its requirements are. But the crisp style, formatting and ready accessibility of operational material is applicable everywhere.

You turn to a technical manual, or sheet of instructions, for guidance – clear, tested instructions – on how to to something safely and efficiently. That’s a noble aim for any kind of writing, but it’s imperative in a technical context.

Shaping the nature of today’s technical materials, Sen and Biswas note, is the pervasive nature of their transmission, through such means as YouTube, on-screen texts and other means of digital formatting.

“An analysis of the emerging technologies,” they conclude, “suggests that software products in the future will have well-designed and intuitive user interfaces, with a reduced need for detailed reference manuals but crisp on-screen instructions to facilitate transfer of information to the users.” And text-intensive formats will decline.

So if you want to be in the forefront of the field, think about how information is best displayed digitally and without turning page-after-page. No great revelation, but certainly the trend of our increasingly screen-centered times. – Doug Bedell 

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