My manager attended a conference for technical content creators last week and brought back some interesting insights on tools, techniques and people issues. Her observations dovetail with some other recent conversations and reflections. For example, I sometimes struggle to explain to upper management why blogs are important to IT Pros.
I decided this week to think of it as:
”Communicate with customers in a way that is meaningful and valuable to them."
It is the "to them" part that continues to be problematic. Some folks know only one way to communicate. Blogs can help them hook up with the particular audience for whom that communication style "clicks". My advice for those writers is "write about what you know, and write in the way that feels comfortable to you." It is not reasonable to expect them to do anything other than this, and really, they don’t need to do to any thing else to succeed under this definition.
But, if we dumped all the content from blogs.technet.com and blogs.msdn.com into buckets and analyzed it, what percentage of total content would be able to identify as "audience-specific"? How would we calculate the return on investment for the cost to develop and publish that content? If we could perform such a calculation, we could compare it to, say, the cost to produce the fabled 5 inch thick user manual for a server product that no IT Pro ever reads.
Perhaps we should assume that only IT Pros can write effectively for IT Pros? "Programmer Writers" are the only ones who can write for developers?
Is it reasonable to expect that Microsoft can hire enough IT Pros or Devs who are also good writers to fill the need?
Wel the, who should write the help text for a product-specific Windows PowerShell Command Shell? An IT Pro, a developer? Or perhaps, since it is a new shell and the majority of folks using command-line help will be new to it, a writer with experience in education?