Vol 44, Issue 4

March/April 2005

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From the Guest Editor

Expand Your Horizons with Blogs

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard

After a particularly frustrating day working on a large group project, I complained to my sister that one of my colleagues just wasn't seeing the bigger picture. I said, “She has such a 404 mind in a broadband world.” When that comment was met with a suffering silence, I glanced up to my sister's blank stare. She looked me over and just said, “You are such a geek. Even your insults are web-based!”

Folks, I'm here to tell you that being a geek isn't so bad. In fact, you can use it to your advantage! One of the many ways to geek out and benefit from it is to patrol the Internet for blogs related to your interests. Blogs, short for web logs, are web sites formatted much like a diary by one or more authors. Most often, you'll find a series of postings arranged in descending date order. Blogs range from personal and small to corporate and large. I was introduced to blogs by Wil Wheaton, the object of my teenage idolatry. After all, to a teen-aged geek, Ensign Crusher (on TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation ) was the ultimate in dreamy!

Blogging quickly became a phenomenon in personal publishing. Everyone had a way to reach out to the world with the click of a mouse. But there's more to blogging than reading about what Wil Wheaton spoke about at his last convention appearance. Blogs have become a cheap and effective way of sharing knowledge. Software companies, like Macromedia, have used blogs authored by their software developers as a technical support forum. Hewlett-Packard recently launched a few executive blogs to help educate users on the company's software development strategy. Magazines and news services use blogs authored by their premiere journalists to attract a loyal readership. Blogs are now a way to conduct business and educate the masses.

As it's a research interest of mine, I was shocked to see how little mention blogs have received in our STC technical communication community. A quick search of Technical communication and Intercom reveals only two basic mentions of blogs, one in an Intercom Editor's note and another in an article introducing blogs as a basic tool for Internet research. Some of you may have visited the STC Transformation blog, which was started by the STC Transformation committee to solicit feedback from and offer updates to STC members. (Note: The Transformation blog has since been retired.) Beyond this, I have seen no mainstream STC attention to blogging as a tool for technical communication.

As professional communicators, our interest in blogs should be as potential contributors, researchers, and trendsetters. With the explosion of the Internet, we became experts on writing for the web. While blogging becomes a standard means of communicating, we will need to become experts in this mode of communication as well. As researchers and learners, blogs will be become a device in our learning toolkit. More and more blogs are devoted to technical writing and communication topics—they're just out there for the finding. As user advocates, we are in a unique position as a profession to establish expertise and guide the technology and usage standards as they evolve. For example, knowledge management is a natural focus for technical communicators. Blogs offer an exciting platform for knowledge management—it's up to us to make the connection and advance the possibilities.

Join me in the STC Forum “Learn about Tools & Technologies” to discuss blogs.

Blogs mentioned in this article

Technical writing blogs

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