As technology advances, processing and organizing information quickly and efficiently becomes crucial. While participating on a research project for IBM Corporation in Rochester, MN, my focus centered on simplifying information to enhance product viability.
Over the past decade, technical communicators evolved their skills from traditional writing to information programming. Usability specialist Richard Sit says, "We integrate information in programs, such as web sites or software. . . . Itís not distracting to the user. Itís there when they need to use it." Technical communicators must incorporate this new concept into their writing. Writers must evolve into software engineers or information programmers. Many writers who have earned that respect now receive the same salary as programmers and engineers.
Writers must know programming languages in order to condense information and improve user interface. Visual designer Jerome Donney states that programming knowledge emphasizes the "technical requirements to deliver the information innovatively and interactively to the user . . . because youíre responsible, basically, for creating, formatting, printing, publishing, and delivering the book to the customer. In the past, this was all done by a publishing house. Now, writers, at least online writers, have taken on that full responsibility."
Second, writers must understand their environments by considering concepts like visual design, usability, discover-ability, system requirements, and delivery mechanisms. By understanding their environments, writers can convey information accurately and effectively enough to make suggestions or write small programs that simplify complex tasks required by users. Tammy Peterson, manager of e-Business Information for IBM in Rochester, characterizes IBM writers as "CNN journalists" in their attitudes toward researching the best ways to document products by identifying and diagnosing issues surrounding them.
As complex technology increases and the amount of information continues to grow, technical communicators must become information programmers by adapting to and learning to use the latest advancements available to them.