In December, I started a discussion in a few LinkedIn groups titled, “Most technical writers are not embracing Web 2.0.”
It stirred up a lot of feedback. Most people seemed to agree, noting that they haven’t had time to research Web 2.0 when wrestling with challenging projects, such as setting up documentation in XML and DITA.
Some members, however, responded by saying that Web 2.0 is just a “marketing concept,” implying that it has little value for technical writers.
I strongly disagree.
Here’s why I think Web 2.0 is relevant for us:
- Social media is not just a fad and it’s not going away. Quite the opposite—more and people appear to be using it. Here’s one startling fact about Facebook: it has more than 500 million users and people spend “700 billion minutes per month” on the site. In case you’re counting, Facebook users outnumber the combined population of Canada and the U.S. (Check out Facebook’s statistics page.)
- We’re no longer the gatekeepers of content. In decades past, technical communicators wrote the technical documentation for a product and it was the official content for a company. These days, we no longer have a monopoly on support content. Online discussions may abound about your product, and most of it is indexed by Google and is readily accessible. It’s not uncommon to find that this “unofficial” support content (i.e. forums) is often displayed before our official content in search results. This poses a challenge to writers—how do we ensure that our content is easily found by all users?
- People are already sharing their thoughts on your products. With Web 2.0, online communities and discussions are something we all take for granted. Online communities are rating books on Amazon. Vacationers are rating hotels on TripAdvisor. And they may be rating your product and your documentation. In short, discerning online users have never had so much control over their purchasing decisions. For writers, we should monitor if users are writing feedback on our products using technologies like Google Alerts.
- Writers are already using Web 2.0. Anne Gentle’s book Conversation and Community documents a few examples in which companies are using technology like wikis for technical documentation. The Adobe Labs wiki, for example, targets developers using Adobe technology and is apparently one of the top wikis for daily-use.
I believe that Web 2.0 is one of the trends that will forever change how we do our jobs. Ignoring it or suggesting it’s just for marketing folks is seriously underestimating its importance.