Monday, May 11, 2009

The Freefall and Trainers and Technical Communicators

In several other blog posts, I've posted links to articles about the freefall of the newspaper business and the near-freefall of the broadcast television business.

For those of you who are trainers, instructional designers, or technical communicators, you're probably wondering, "what does any of this have to do with me?"

On the one hand, on an instinctive level, I always figured there was a link. As the commercial industry goes, so goes the custom (private) industry. On the other hand, I wasn't sure, at first, how it would play out.

Then I saw the article, "Customer Service? Ask a Volunteer," by Steve Lohr in the New York Times (Viewed at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/business/26unbox.html?_r=1&hpw) and the implication hit me like a ton of bricks: user-generated content.

So many of us are excited about Web 2.0 and the opportunity to have users generate content. But if users are generating all of the training and documentation, who needs professionals?

To be honest, I think there IS an answer to that question and some organizations will get it, and value what these two professions--ones in which I have invested years in both academic and industry environments. But I also believe that there's a similarly large group of organizations that will ask "who needs professionals?" and conclude, "certainly not us!"

And that, in turn, could have serious implications for future employment of people in both fields.

1 comment:

Claudio said...

Thanks for sharing, Saul.

I am hearing similar "buzz" around user-generated content. It can be extremely valuable addition to a company's knowledgebase.

However, with my Tech Writing students, I try to impress upon them the legal framework that documentation must comply with. Is a company willing to expose themselves to the landmines of anonymous, non-vetted product or service advice? In an era when customer retention is as vital to the corporate balance sheet as market penetration, reputation and service level are not insignificant business drivers.

When the discussion moves from the ideal to the concrete, decision-makers become more compelled to engage a professional to fulfill a company's obligation to not only produce words but to ensure that the advice they are providing their customers is both defensible and representative of their risk management comfort level.