One of the things that I like about this book is that it makes a solid point of recognizing that “technical communications” is so much more than just writing. I remember realizing that when I was going through my undergrad courses and we had to learn desktop publishing programs, such as Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, because they aided in the presentation of our information by making the information more easily accessible and, dare I say, more interesting. In looking at the text clouds designed in Chapter 1 as well as the work patterns in Chapter 2, both speak back to that point. Presentation of information helps it to be better understood, which is one of several items that makes technical communication so important. One of the things that I found so interesting about the ideal of creating text clouds is that they can be designed to show a large picture by including many terms or a smaller picture by limiting the focus of the terms (the book calls this “adjusting the granularity”).
When I worked in Oil and Gas, my position was titled “Information Developer.” I have never seen that title used anywhere else before I read Chapter 2 of this book. I actually had a hard time using that title outside of my workplace, because people kept guessing that it meant something akin to software developer and I got tired of explaining that was incorrect. My job as an Information Developer was very much like the example in the book: we were in charge of taking reports written by geologist and geophysicists and placing the text and any supporting media into the company’s report template. When I read the portion in Chapter 2 that discusses Technical Communicators work as information designers, that is exactly what we were doing. Working with the company’s template, we would have to format the text and images, make sure the text made sense in that placement, as well as manipulate any photographs and seismic charts the authors had accompanying their report to maintain the integrity of the image, but have the image still fit into the actual physical copy of the report. Sometimes this would prove challenging, as the charts would vary in size and not always be presented on a nice, neat, 8.5”by 11” page. “Making something new and adding value are the hallmarks of distributed work in technical communication.” (pg 53). Making the author’s paper into a company report added value to the company as these reports would be used in different stakeholder engagements as well as published in scientific journals.
I see my experience with that job as also relating to the second pattern of Technical Communicators work as user advocates. When I eventually began editing the reports, as well as when I was formatting the reports, I had to make sure that the information was user friendly. The audience was primarily other scientists and people in the oil and gas field, so usage of jargon that would ordinarily be frowned upon was allowed, as it made the report more attractive to the audience for which it was intended.
While I do not have any real world experience with the third pattern of Technical Communicators work as stewards of writing activity in organizations, this is a concept I would like to learn more about. I support any instance in which I can help my community or my workplace become stronger writers/communicators.