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Tips for the Job Seeker

posted Nov 12, 2012, 11:49 AM by Jen Brass Jenkins   [ updated Nov 12, 2012, 12:08 PM ]

With a Few Little Anecdotes Thrown in for Good Measure
I just want to tell you here that I am by no means the expert on this, but I have learned a few things along my journey that have helped me in the job hunt.

Have a calling card handy.
Networking is about an exchange of information. Make yourself some cards. Technically they are business cards, since you are seeking business by them, but really they are a longstanding tradition used by people to introduce themselves. In the past if you called on (visited) someone you didn't know, you left your card. This was a polite means of introducing yourself, especially for persons who didn't have letters of introduction and needed to get business done. (If you want to get technical about it, letters of introduction were also the origin of the resume. Leonardo DaVinci is credited with compiling the first original resume, which was a letter selling himself to a future possible patron (patron = job).)

Volunteer.
This is a good way to meet people. It doesn't have to be via Habitat for Humanity or devoting hours out of your week to some form of slave labor, but it will help you find people outside your normal circles. Once upon a time, I was so passionate about sewing and all things costume, that I volunteered at as an unpaid intern at a costume shop—more than one actually. Eventually I worked in both places as a paid employee (more about those extraordinary experiences at a later time).

Try something different.
You may fall flat on your face, or you may discover you have a certain ability/style/interest that you hadn't known about before. I had written a lot in my undergrad studies since I hoped to be an art history minor (the study of art helped with costuming after all), but I certainly never thought anything more about it. Then I started a personal blog around 2008, did a few unpaid guest blog posts (I just submitted posts to sites that looked like I could develop content for), and now I write and edit copy for websites. Go figure?

Get out of the house.
Seriously. It may take a can opener get you out, but I always felt better when I did.*

Humble yourself.
It took awhile for me to reconcile myself to what other people were telling me (which was along the lines of "try something different") but eventually I started accepting what they said.

Listen.
This pretty much just follows the previous point.

Work for cokes.
This is an idea along the same lines as volunteering. In the seminar I took at the end of grad school (which was all about professional development and career counseling) one of the mentors working with us said that he didn't ever refuse a project because it didn't pay. He was willing to work for cokes. This way, when the person/company/entity you are working for needs a new, paid employee, who is the person that first comes to mind? 

All of the jobs I have ever done have, in the main, built on each other and got me where I am now. You should always have another project (or at least keep one if mind—options are options).

Exhaust the options.
I believe all job seekers are making an effort to do this already, but become resourceful. Take a look around you, and find out what is available. You have more options than you may realize.

If all roads seem closed, move on.
I watched a man sit on his porch for a week and play the harmonica because his company was moving into computer drafting, and he refused to learn the new skills, so he lost his job. I don't know what he did after that week, but I certainly didn't hang around. The truth is I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do next, but when I finally did, I was able to move forward. You just have to accept the change.

So take heart. Whether you are employed or not, we are all in this together.

*If you can't quite picture my metaphor here, let me give you a visual: we're like snails. We sit ensconced in our houses/caves/places of protection until someone forces open the door and pops us out.

Cards, Jen Brass Jenkins

Tidbits From 'Conversation and Community' by Anne Gentle

posted Jun 2, 2012, 12:13 AM by Jen Brass Jenkins   [ updated Nov 9, 2012, 6:04 PM ]

Conversation and Community by Ann Gentle
For my technical writing course, we were assigned to read the book Conversation and Community, The Social Web for Documentation by Ann Gentle (2009). I wasn't entirely sure why our professor picked this book as I felt that most of us already understood what I perceived to be the core premise: how social platforms and wikis worked. However, in order to more fairly assess it, I recently reread it in its entirety and found ideas that reverberated in my work as a content strategist writing for a less technically minded community. So, here are some thoughts on the ideas and advice that struck me in my more diligent rereading.

Community
A community is not built around content but rather around a concept or common goal. While this seems obvious in our day-to-day social activities as like gathers to like, I never entirely understood that a community is not primarily about content but about how that content is viewed, created, conceived, and received. Content does not bring the community together but is a dialogue engaged in or around by the community (p. 46).

Content Remixed
Any content or data is now being remixed in novel ways for consumption (p. 58). This is the concept on which social media is founded. The new trend of this concept is crafting this content for different mobile platforms and devices. (This insight was obtained from a recent post on I'd Rather Be Writing called When Wikis Succeed and Fail about Tom Johnson's (the blog author's) insights at the STC Summit in Chicago.)

Two-Way Communication To Foment a Community
I particularly loved a paragraph on page 66 where Gentle paraphrases Alan Porter description of the interactive nature of Shakespeare's plays: "they were modified each night based on audience participation." Such is our current experience with social documentation and online communities. For each audience we modify our communication strategy and presentation in order to retain and interact with our audience. It is also this audience that we are seeking to fashion into a community around a concept or common goal inherent in our service or product.

Company Representation in the Community
The place of writer or strategist is not consistently placed across department lines nor is it consistently defined, especially as it differs from company to company and community to community. The policies summarized by Gentle for online representation are excellent: "be genuine, always identify yourself and the company you represent, be professional, talk about what you know, cite sources and acknowledge others' contributions, obey copyright laws, offer value, don't pick fights, and respect your audience (p. 85)."

Community Contentment
What makes a community happy? Gentle quotes Tara Hunt's suggested four pillars of happiness:
  1. Autonomy: Give people the ability to personalize their experience, offer choices, be open and transparent.
  2. Competence: Let people feel like they're good at what they do.
  3. Relatedness: People want to connect with others in similar situations.
  4. Self-esteem: People who are confident in their knowledge or relationships have self-esteem (p. 107).
Also, use these four items to test your social deliverables (109).

Content Read-Wear
This term refers to the most popular or trending concepts and content in a particular community (transferred over of course as a reference to the most worn pages of a print book or other publication). I will add here that when it comes to assessing read-wear, I like news aggregates or communities that list trending articles or topics. SocialMediaToday.com does this really effectively.

It turns out that I had quite a bit to learn about content and community. While I have quite a bit of knowledge regarding the available online content platforms, I missed these excellent tidbits that define the core of community and the context in which content is placed. So here I write a belated thank you to my professor for selecting this particular text for our class. Glad I took the time to read it in total!

Steegle.com - Google Sites Tweet Button

Mentoring and Professional Development

posted Apr 13, 2012, 12:10 AM by Jen Brass Jenkins   [ updated Apr 13, 2012, 12:28 AM ]

What I've Learned in Master Track

Foster Hall, Westminster College
I've spent the last eight months in a program at Westminster called Master Track. While not entirely defined by the Communications Department, Master Track is a professional development seminar where participants discuss career goals, professional challenges, and personal, self-defeatist behaviors. We also network and receive evaluation by industry professionals (in this case mentors in the SLC marketing, agency, and writing industry). Meetings are held one Saturday a month with our seminar directors (directors sounds lofty, but I must distinguish who is who somehow), and we are each assigned another personal mentor to meet with outside of this time. Attending the seminar regularly has taken dedication and a willingness to be open and honest about both ourselves and others. What we have learned, however, bears mention, so here are a few things I have learned in the last eight months from this program that have most personally affected me.

Define your expectations. Starting out, I had no idea what to expect of this program. I had the barest outline of an idea that it offered some form of networking or career counseling. While our seminar directors asked us to establish objectives for the time we spent in the seminar and recommended we prepare questions and goals in order to get the most out of our sessions, I sincerely did not know where exactly to start. I had no expectations, which was not a bad thing, but also not the best method for taking advantage of the resources available. So I set a few limited goals and learned so much more over the course of the seminar:

  • Expectations can take the form of what you expect people to know, feel, do, or not do. 
  • Communicating these expectations, however, is what sets you apart as a manager, employee, business, and the like.
  • Learning someone else's expectations, goals, and/or priorities will help you better work with them.

This practice, defining your expectations, is also something I learned a ways back when I was a wardrobe manager for Tuacahn Amphitheater. I thought the work that had to be done by my dressers should be obvious. Apparently, not all things that seem obvious to me are obvious to someone else (example: why can't you just make sure the actors assigned to you have their socks before go-time?); as I observed the peeps that worked for me, I discovered that some were better at seeing what needed to be done than others (in my opinion). However, not everything can be done in just one particular method or manner. 

Conclusion: my team should not have had to read my mind. I needed to better set expectations of what work needed to be done and what I expected.

Conclusion 2: By better defining or examining my expectations of the world around me, I can learn a lot about communication and how I am communicating with others every day.

Do the +1. Give your work the extra push here and there: add the extra idea to a presentation; volunteer to get extra experience in something (as one mentor said, "be willing to work for cokes"); make yourself the person that everybody knows in the industry you want to be part of. 

Conclusion 3: Making this effort puts you outside the box (or the war-room or the boy's club or the clique), and that ain't all bad.

Focus on the problem, not the person. Once I had gotten the hang of this Master Track thingey, I discovered the unmined elephant-in-the-room that everyone-is-affected-by-but-few-confront that I really wanted to know about: conflict. Why is confrontation such a bad word in our culture? In my cultural context I think confrontation sounds aggressive, controlling, and, quite frankly, intimidating. That said, I have had very few positive work experiences in an environment where an effort has not been made to deal with conflict and confronting problems, meaning, in the words of our seminar director, "things just get weird."

Since conflict is an everyday part of our working life, confrontation should be too, and we should not have to think about it in a negative way. Some of this negativity can be shifted by focusing on the problem, not the person. 

Conclusion 4: Good confrontation and conflict management techniques focus on solving the problem, not the what, how, or why people did what they did.

I could be a doctor. Yah, I know. Sounds strange, but I never, ever, considered the possibility of being really successful or ambitious career-wise. Working with mentors who are 10 to 20 years down the line has opened up my eyes to the possibilities. I can be ambitious. I could work as a strategist, an administrator, a director (I really don't want to be president though <insert political joke here>).

Conclusion, Final: These few ideas don't remotely cover what our group (should I say team?) has gone through over the past few months. But it certainly presents some ideas, the kind I like to think of as the evergreen or always applicable ones, that we can constantly be thinking about in our professional, and personal, lives. 

Steegle.com - Google Sites Tweet Button

Branding, Media, Marketing, and Fashion

posted Feb 11, 2012, 7:15 PM by Jen Brass Jenkins   [ updated Feb 26, 2012, 9:16 PM ]

In Honor of New York Fashion Week #NYFW
The words 'fashion' and 'marketing' are virtually interchangeable." Mark Tungate

Prada Perfume Marketing

Recently I finished a fabulous book that analyzes fashion brands titled Fashion Brands, Branding Style from Armani to Zara by Mark Tungate (MT). It was A. maze. ing. And not just because I love fashion. Almost every topic covered in each chapter could be aptly and promptly applied to any aspect of marketing. (Of course, we all know that the fashion industry is generally the forerunner to anything novel or exciting in marketing—although there is that technology industry too.)

In the conclusion of the book, Tungate lays out his predictions regarding the direction fashion was going to take, and, though the second edition of this book was published in 2008, his predictions are right on. Because of this, I wanted to analyze each of his predictions and how they apply, not just to fashion, but also to marketing and branding. (All quotes below are from Mark Tungates' book in the Conclusion section pages 247–251.)


Consumer as Stylist

"The days when consumers were loyal to brands are long gone."

How true! Isn't this the marketer's main challenge: to somehow persuade consumers and user to become loyal to their brand, their product? But consumers seem to want to customize things their own way without necessarily buying everything at the one-stop-shop: mass customization.

Reactivity and Personalization

M&amp;M Wall
"...consumers are pushing for more choice and a faster turnover of products."

More than ever before we are seeing consumers who want to interact with brands, participate in product design, be part of a launch—just to be involved in some way. Large, successful brands, like Pepsi, Coke and M&Ms, seek to actively engage their consumers in constant conversations via social media, contests, online games, and the like. Consumers want brands that offer products in response to their feedback. Marketing communications are no longer a one-way message to the prospective consumers, but a two-way channel where consumer opinion pulls more weight.

I also think particularly here of the demand for Apple products. When will the new iPad 3 come out? The iPhone 5? The push for more, better, now is our current cultural zeitgeist.

Choice Fatigue

"Younger shoppers zap from one brand to another, playing them off in terms of quality and price. Thanks to the web, they are better informed than ever before—and they certainly won't be fooled by advertising."

Here we can specifically identify the millennial generation (AKA the "digital native"), a generation that is larger than any before it and has been brought up in a marketing and advertising-heavy world. They "get" marketing messaging, hence the increasing need to try innovative and stand-out techniques to gain attention.*

'Smart' Clothing

"Performance is likely to become a brand component."

Here Tungate's example was the recent appearance of 'faux vintage' clothes that are actually made to look vintage. In the wider world of marketing, brands are beginning to experiment with content curation where brand advocates and brand journalists emphasize the part their brand plays in the overall dialogue that is informed consumption. How products perform and how they are made is becoming just as important as what they do.

Branded Buildings
Branding via Buildings

"...shopping is no longer a functional task. It is a form of entertainment...These branded environments have become destinations..."

Ever been to Las Vegas? Visited an Apple store? Point made.

Hybrid Shopping

"The internet has not supplanted the desire to pop out to the shops."

Whether the consumer wants a branded experience, like that offered in branded buildings, or just wants to get out of the house, brick-and-mortar stores are still as viable as before. Consider your own shopping techniques: there are things you will buy online, and there are other things you will most definitely not buy online for various reasons. This means businesses will have to figure out a way to make their branding consistent across not just the digital web or a brick-an-mortar store, but both, and maybe even interactively (think QR codes, FourSquare checkins, mobile coupons).

Nomadic Designers

"...the 21st century equivalent of an itinerant salesman...He lets the faithful know when he'll be in town through his website..."

Have you heard of pop-up shops? You will. Target just announced they will host boutique shops from various high-end brands that will appear, and then disappear, in their stores in the next year. They and, it's rumored, Walmart will also start to incorporate various mom-and-pop, local operations in this fashion as well. Is your mind blown yet?

The End of Age

"Age has ceased to function as a reference point for marketers."

And hallelujah is my response to that. Tungate goes on to say it so well: "These days, a 36-year-old is just as likely to be a single DJ with a skateboard as a 25-year-old is likely to be married with two children. Mothers shop alongside daughters; fathers wear the same brand of jeans as sons."

Has branding and marketing fulfilled Tungate's 2008 predictions. Yes! Now, I have to wonder, what predictions are the fashion-savvy making now that will affect our tomorrow? I'll let you know when I get an inkling.

*Marketing to Millennials: Brand Recognition - EContent Magazine http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/ArticleReader.aspx?ArticleID=79648

Thoughts on Blogging for Business

posted Jan 25, 2012, 9:30 PM by Jen Brass Jenkins


Believe the Bloggers.
As you recall I had the opportunity to sit on the Q&A panel for the Social Commerce Exchange last week. The event was very successful (in my opinion) as there were between 300 and 400 people there, and it was packed with content. Afterward, I created two different pieces around this content: one was a post on the LIME Marketing blog, Blogging for Business, January 2012's Social Commerce Exchange, and the other was a curated list of tweets that were posted during the event that evening. 

This second piece I created through a tool called Storify, which I haven't tried before though it has been available for awhile. I find it really effective for this type of situation where just as much content was being generated in questions and answers via Twitter as was being presented by the speakers during the event. I also love the way the tool allows the user to collect tweets or other links (like so many other tools now) via a button you can install on your browser for later organization.

Excerpt from curated piece created via Storify

Since both of these pieces outline the events/content covered that evening, I don't want to rehash that here, but merely make note of some thoughts I had during the evening:

  • There are so many different kinds of blogs and so many different ways of blogging for business. What may be right for one business is an absolute no-no for others. Content and strategies that may work for one industry would look absurd if used for another. For example, for LIME Marketing I consistently write about marketing techniques and trends, case studies, new technology, and ways that small businesses can use these things. A business selling products, however, such as Zagg, which sells device accessories, will want a very different approach. Because our companies are about very different things, we have very different audiences, and very different strategies for reaching them. The blogs I write are a little longer and divided into subsections so that readers looking for specific information can scan the blog and find what they are looking for. Zagg's blog posts are shorter and tend to be about gadgets, product rumors, and apps—all things their audience might be interested in. I bring up these examples to illustrate the breadth of topic this last Social Commerce Exchange was attempting to cover, and because I think both these blogs (biased as I am) are pretty good at identifying their audience and posting useful content for that audience.
  • There is more than one style of brand ambassador. If one particular blogger insists that their way is they only way to reach an audience, they are wrong. It may work for their particular audience; it may work for their parent company; you don't have to accept that this is the only method that will work for you. Subject matter experts come in all tones and communication styles, and that is what a brand ambassador is: a subject matter expert about your brand. One presenter at the So Com Exchange gave his "secret sauce" for the perfect blog: don't talk about your product; however, for companies selling makeup, or, yes, even software, some audience members might wish to see demonstrations of that product. Part of the point of the business blog (in my opinion) is to represent the company in the digital world. This inherently involves some self-promotion or at least self-awareness that this content exists for a purpose. No content is actually free content—someone is paying for it.
  • If blog posts are subject to a consistent filtering process by a committee, this will defeat the purpose of a blog. If you are unable to post in a consistent, relaxed manner along a developed formula of editorial content that represents the company because of executive disagreement over what should be published on the business blog, the posts published there (if any) will communicate an inconsistent, mixed message. The business will need to rethink the purpose of the blog and the most effective way to implement it.
  • Blogging for profit is very different from blogging for business. If you expect to make money off of blogging, you must carefully consider the industry/genre you are blogging in, how you expect to generate traffic to your blog, and what the audience in your target industry/genre considers relevant. If you are blogging for business, you still consider what the audience wants, but the blog itself is part of a larger sales/monetization strategy, not a stand-alone money-making channel.
And there you have it. I think I have finally been able to completely juice almost every drop from the content generated in that one evening (at the So Com Exchange). Not bad, eh? It's certainly been a good exercise in how to repurpose content, because there is always more you can get out of it!


January's Social Commerce Exchange

posted Jan 13, 2012, 8:33 PM by Jen Brass Jenkins

Blogging for Business

Bio for the Social Commerce Exchange
Recently I was asked to join the Q&A panel at the Social Commerce Exchange. This event/group has started up within the last six months and is dedicated to exploring and supporting Utah business through social media. In the three events to date we have had some great speakers addressing the use of social media for business and video. This month's exchange will be about blogging for business. I am excited to see how it plays out!

The Utah Valley Business Blog published this press release about the event also (kinda' cool).

To participate, you can register at the Social Commerce Exchange website or follow the event on Twitter under the hashtag #SOCOMX Thursday, January 19 from 6-8:30 pm. I am excited to blog about how it all goes down.

Here is a copy of the previous blogs I posted regarding the Social Commerce Exchange on LIME Marketing's blog.

Social Commerce Exchange Blog Posts, 2011

Reviewing Your Reads: Are You a Consumer or a Thoughtful Explorer?

posted Jan 6, 2012, 9:08 PM by Jen Brass Jenkins   [ updated Jan 6, 2012, 9:12 PM ]

Reading as Consumption Instead of the Exploration of Ideas

Books Reviewed
Recently I was perusing Goodreads, a social platform for joining book clubs, recording the books you have read, and making lists of books you would like to read along with ratings and reviews. I was struck by the seeming illiteracy of many of the readers in their reviews. (Now by illiteracy I mainly mean inexperience or ignorance of the nuances of writing.) Obviously, tastes and reading levels will determine a person’s book choices and their reviews and ratings; however, the level of understanding and appreciation of writing by at least high-school level graduates of the books they were reading was a little surprising to me. I guess essentially what I was observing was the quality vs. shock and awe factor. If a novel or other book did not contain some sort of very fast-paced and titillating plot-line, it was not up to par nor fit for consumption.

And here is where I identify the line between consumption and reading as an exploratory experience: the reader is self-aware enough to respect the initial work it takes for a book, among other creations, to be realized. So many consumers of books or other goods and services don’t seem to have an awareness of what it means to produce. Production for consumption is hard work, and so many of us consumers today feel so very entitled.

In my scandalized state, I decided, therefore, to compile a list of standards that I believe should be included in most book reviews. (Partial disclaimer: I don’t write many reviews at all (on Goodreads) as I prefer to discuss the book rather than argue about it. (I hope this doesn’t sound like I am slamming the general populace on Goodreads.) So I don’t disparage you if you also choose only to rate your reads.)

Dissection of a Book Review

The online Bible for all things writing, the Purdue University online writing lab, has a list of what a book review is: 

  • It is a sneak preview of the book generally 500 to 750 words in length.
  • It informs your audience of the text’s premise and evaluates the main points.
  •  It summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the piece.
  •  It includes your own opinion.
  • It takes your audience into consideration. 

And what a book review isn’t:

  • It does not give a detailed description of the major plot points, characters, and other aspects of the book. That is a book report.

I find that while this list is a great template for all things book review-ish, it needs a little color added. For example, I read a fantastic book review on The New York Times website (how could the reviewers for this publication not write good reviews?) that actually made me feel immersed in the tone and style of the book itself. It discussed the reviewer’s emotional reactions to the piece, and it mused on the author’s intent.

Here are some other suggestions of things to include in a book review:

  • Develop the criteria you will judge the book on and back it up.
  • Use the compare and contrast technique to make your points.*
  • Answer the questions everyone is asking about the book.
  • Don’t over-summarize.§

As far as the third point, answer the questions everyone is asking about the book, I don’t really know who everyone might be, but, here is an example of what it could be. With the recent release of Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, you could pretty rightly assume that everyone was hunting for clues to Jobs’ success in its pages. There are literally hundreds of reviews of this book out there, yet more are being published (note: I will actually be attempting a review of this book also in the next few weeks). What makes a review memorable is what the reviewer remembers and/or takes away from the experience of reading the piece.

After all, I don’t read a review to find out the plot line—it bores me immensely to plod through this sort of sum up—and I don’t read a book review to hear platitudes, commonly held beliefs, or urban legends about the author (do you?); rather, I want to know the experience of the reader, with this grain of salt thrown in: that the reader is self-aware enough not to dismiss a book on their emotional feelings whether it be anger, hatred, or pure ennui; that they will use the review to, in some way, explore the meaning of the book for them, and it’s effect on their world-view.

 Why else read to begin with?

 

* 10 Tips for Writing a Book Review http://missgoodonpaper.blogspot.com/2011/04/10-tips-for-writing-book-review.html

§ How to Write a Great Book Review (Or at Least How Not to Write a Bad One) http://shar.es/WuqgD


Documentation vs. The Wikitorial

posted Dec 11, 2011, 8:21 PM by Jen Brass Jenkins   [ updated Dec 13, 2011, 8:58 PM ]

Worries of a Sewing Tutorialist

Yes, you read that right. You see I’m coming up on that epic experience of every individual’s life (whether you experience it formally or through the “school of life”): the Master’s Project. Because of my background as sewist (I have seen this word used and it does seem fitting), sewing teacher, stitcher (professional costume sewist), costumer, alterationist, tailor-in-waiting—you get the picture—I have a plethora of experience in teaching sewing; hence, I have decided to design a tutorial for my Master’s project, specifically a sewing tutorial. While this may not seem as technical an art as software documentation or engineering wiki management, I find it plenty challenging. Sewing, as some of you may know, is far more technical than the occasional observer may guess.

Now, it also just so happens that I am taking a class in professional and technical writing this semester as my last, ever, class in grad school. Little did I know it would become so fundamentally helpful in my tutorial crafting process! Covering such epic topics as genre revision of technical writing texts (video, screencasting, podcasting, anyone?) and the scholarly identification and analysis of the current technical evolution (Selber, 2010), this class has seriously altered my thinking on the crafting of tutorials. For example, Selber writes about the following rhetorical formats in technical writing today:

  • Self-Contained Instructions Sets
  • Embedded Instruction Sets
  • Open Instruction Sets

Incidentally, I have been able to identify each of these formats with the available methods of sewing documentation and instruction. Here are the equivalent instruction sets from the sewing universe:

  • Pattern Instructions (Heaven help us.)
  • Pattern Instructions

  • CDs and other expertly crafted instruction websites (do I really have to buy that product to make my project look that way?)


  • Nancy's Notions

  • Self-created blogs and video tutorials uploaded to YouTube (another case of: “Heaven help us.”)

Do It Yourself Tutorials

As a sewing professional and teacher, all three of these instruction sets set my teeth on edge. As a general rule, I look over pattern instructions and throw them to the side (OK, I don’t really even do that anymore unless they are complicated), I certainly can’t stand the commercially produced videos and websites (Sewing with Nancy, Husqvarna’s Sewing Room) that mainly push products (with some acknowledgement of the user), but I shudder most at the DIY blogs and tutorials that you can find on every single sewing and crafting blog out there. This wikitorial approach to tutorials is often a far more interactive experience for the user, but the quality! I often wonder if users have any clue as to what they are getting.

So here I am, stuck somewhere between hard-core, product-centered documentation and the mires of user-centered wikitorialism. What is a sewist to do? To date, with my class lessons in mind, I have identified these features as being necessary for a teaching-centered tutorial with users in mind:

  •  Written instructions delineated from project and machine actions
  •  Graphics that enhance the instruction modules
  • Navigation including easily recognizable entry and exit points
  • Video tutorial inclusion
  • Elements of information design

Hopefully, these will put me ahead of the wikitionaryists and on the more favorable side of the documentationists. I have also conducted a round of surveys asking potential users what they would like to see in a sewing tutorial and what would be of most help for them (with several more rounds of usability testing in the foreseeable future).

But still, I worry. Will I be able to maintain a balance between documentation and outright, unstructured wikitorialism? Can I craft tutorials that are compelling, consistent, and easy to use? Will I survive the video-tutorial shooting process? (Pardon the digression, but the idea of shooting video tutorials terrifies me.) These worries are, however, all the same ones faced by other technical writers today. From our background as writers of self-contained instruction sets we must set forth into the wild west of the wiki or, to remain relevant, strike a balance somewhere in between. From documentation to wikitorials, the technical communication world is in flux. Thank goodness it’s not just me caught in this evolutionary activity.

So to all of us, may the best communicator win.

 

Selber, Stuart A. (2010). A Rhetoric of Electronic Instruction Sets. Technical Communication Quarterly, 19(2), 95–117.



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