To say farewell to 2014 and open the door to 2015, we have key terms and concepts for some serious thought amid the silly season. You may be familiar with some of these, or you may have brushed them off when they first popped up on your Twitter feed. These concepts will impact technical communication and the way that we do our work in the coming year.
Application Program Interface (API) documentation is documentation for programmers/developers. It can be a separate document or a wiki, but it is usually embedded within the code for a software program. Wikipedia provides a detailed description, of course. API documentation work continues to ascend as a documentation specialty, and I’d Rather Be Writing’s API Documentation Survey is a valuable overview of the work communicators are doing in area.
“The Cloud”, or cloud computing, has been floating around for a few years, but it’s filling the IT sky right now. Cloud computing accesses servers on the Internet to store data or run programs – thus sparing you, the user, the expense of a large-scale server, and expanding users’ computing power greatly. This concept is established enough that PC Magazine did a detailed feature about it. Whenever you use a file sharing program, you are benefiting from the Cloud, and both apps and large-scale software programs are increasingly cloud-hosted.
Another established concept that is increasing in scope. See this Guardian article, which neatly defines information architecture as “the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.” Here at TCANZ we love information architecture so much that we had specialized workshops on it earlier this year. How much of your own work is information architecture? How much of it should be?
“Intelligent content” is another way of saying “single-sourcing” – reusing content sections for multiple outputs, often after tagging it with references. This is a concept with which most technical communicators are already familiar. But intelligent content sounds much better, doesn’t it? A description from Ann Rockley: “It’s content that is structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable. It’s content that helps you and your customers get the job done. It’s content that works for you and it’s limited only by your imagination.” Even as we raise an eyebrow at all the buzzwords around something we’ve been using since 1995, there’s no denying that intelligent content is going to have a moment – here’s a conference devoted to the topic in San Francisco.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the term for a future where most physical objects – not just smartphones and computers but refrigerators, vehicles, factory equipment, and more – connect to the Internet, and thereby to databases and other devices. Techopedia notes that “When many [IoT] objects act in unison, they are known as having ambient intelligence.” Along with The Cloud, the Internet of Things has businesses swooning over its possibilities and pundits organising. Here are nine lively examples of how the Internet of Things could change our daily lives. For a higher-level overview, this Cisco paper is excellent.
TL;DR or Too Long, Didn’t Read
This Internet meme – tossed off in response to long forum posts or even condensed into the image of a teal deer – is a useful guideline for what audiences expect in 2015 onwards. Visual communication online is swamping written communication in many forms: Instagram and Tumblr are edging out blogging, infographics replacing essays, videos taking the place of technical instruction lists, and emojis are obliterating text messages. As a result, audiences are more inclined than ever to surrender to aliteracy and say “too long, didn’t read” or to just tag it with an image of a teal deer, as visual shorthand. There are even apps out there designed to analyse and summarise text that have taken the teal deer as their logo. You can avoid TL;DR with these useful guidelines.
For more tech terms from 2014, check out Profundery’s list or, if none of these suit you – it is the silly season, after all – generate your own buzzwords! And may you aggregate the proactive paradigms of next-level rich content for a great holiday season and a productive, profitable New Year.