Ten terms you thought you understood – ASTC 2017

I’m attending the Technical Communicators Conference 2017, the annual conference of the Australian Society for Technical Communication (ASTC). This post is a live blog of a session at the conference. In other words, I’m writing as the presenter speaks. Any mistakes are mine, and all credit goes to the presenter.

Tony Self presented a session called Ten terms you thought you understood. It was an entertaining, information-rich presentation, as usual from Tony. His theme was that our role as technical writer change as quickly as the technology that we’re writing about.

As tech writers, we cope with new techniques, new delivery technologies, reducing time and budget, and other changes. Tony covered the following terms related to recent changes in our role. He discussed the meanings of each term, and the relevant advantages or disadvantages of the related technology or methodology:

  • L10n, i18n, g11n – localisation, internationalisation, and globalisation
  • SVG – a vector graphics format that’s stored as XML
  • DITA and S1000D
    (Dave Gash remarked at this point that S1000D no doubt indicates a word of 1,002 characters, starting with S and ending with D)
  • STE – a limited vocabulary for technical documents, used widely in aerospace and defence industries

The following are terms we may think we know, but possibly don’t. For example, terms may have changed in meaning:

  • XUL and XAML – XML specialised for graphical user interface design
  • Page – this term has changed in meaning over the last 20 years, from a printed page to a web page, PDF, ebook, mobile platforms, and so on. This makes it hard to define the size of a page, for example, or its relative dimensions.
  • Screen and monitor – it’s hard to define the difference between these two terms. They mean different things in different industries, and the definitions have changed over time.
  • Pixel – this term is also shifting, due to different platforms, particularly mobile devices. Mobile devices have a high density of pixels (that is, a high resolution), which means the physical pixel is very small. So a mobile device may use four physical pixels to represent one pixel in an image. We therefore talk about physical pixels and logical pixels, to cater for the demands of hardware, and the need to provide people with a conceptual concept to work with.
  • RWD – responsive web design, a technique for designing web pages to appear appropriately on the different platforms (desktop, mobile, and so on).
  • Width – the width of a page needs to adjust for the device on which it’s being displayed.
  • Viewport – the area of a page that the reader can see at any one time. That is, the visible portion on a mobile device, for example.
  • HUD – a head-up display, such as a transparent display on a car windscreen projecting directions. You look through the HUD to see the road in front of you. There’s a mobile app that you can use to mimic a HUD using your mobile phone! Just put the phone on your dashboard so that its screen is reflected on the windscreen. So, we as tech writers need to know how to publish content to a HUD.
  • BYOD – bring your own device. Many workplaces allow employees to bring in their own computing device to work on. People walk around with many computing devices, including laptops, phones, etc. Tech communicators need to write content for multiple devices. The concept of SOE (standard operating environment) is losing power.
  • We also raced through RSS, SCORM, HTML5, CSS3,
  • And transclusion, conref (not really good terms for dinner-party conversation, said Tony), transformation, prettify,

Tony emphasised the versatility of XML formats in general. Because they’re text-based, you can edit the text, and translate terms that are visible to the reader. The text is also easily searchable.

How can we keep up to date with all this terminology and technology? The presentation included some tips, such as attending this conference. reading blogs, attending courses, and so on. We should experiment with these things, and share our knowledge.

Thanks Tony for an informative talk! One piece of feedback: There were more than ten terms. 🙂 Perhaps the term ten is one of those we don’t necessarily understand!

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 10 November 2017, in ASTC, technical writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thanks, Sarah. I couldn’t make it to the conference this year, but now I feel as if I was at Tony’s presentation!

  2. Thanks, Sarah. Did Tony recommend any particular blogs to follow?

    • Hi Michael. Sorry for the very tardy response! I didn’t recommend any particular blogs, but suggested other ways to keep up with change might be societies, lists and groups, webinars, and of course, conferences! If you are a member of ISTC (or ASTC… I think there is reciprocal access), you can find a good blog round-up in ISTC’s InfoPlus newsletter. This is edited by Ginny Critcher of Cherryleaf in the UK.

  3. Thanks a lot, Sarah!!!

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