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April 24, 2018

Recap COMTecnica 2018:

How Can I Make My Information More Intelligent Today?

Helena Maier

To answer this question, professionals in technical communication met last week on April 11-12 at the COMTecnica conference in Bologna, Italy. In two days, participants received insights on how to improve their content by gaining professional tips and networking with experts and like-minded people. At the end, they were able to come closer to an answer: to make their information more intelligent, technical communicators should focus on implementing structured and dynamic content and consider more usability aspects.

For the third time in a row, COMTecnica was hosted by tekom Europe in cooperation with COM&TEC. The main topic of COMTecnica 2018 was intelligent information with the focus on smart processes for content delivery. The participants, mainly from Italy, were able to benefit from the great variety of international speakers and meeting new people as well as strengthening their community along the associations of tekom Europe and COM&TEC.

President of COM&TEC Tiziana Sicilia - introducing the conference COMTecnica 2018

Diving Into Intelligent Information: This Is What the Experts Recommended

Focusing on Smart Processes

Jang Graat, a known speaker at tcworld and tekom Europe conferences, started the conference with a presentation on extreme single-sourcing, or in other words: “writing once, publishing everywhere”.

The concept of repurposing content was mentioned by different experts, for example by Robert Kratky in his presentation on Going Modular: Turning Legacy Docs Into User Story-Based Content. The audience listened with great interest to his tips on repurposing existing content into user story-based content.

Presentation slide provided by Robert Kratky: The difference between feature-based and user story-based documentation explained with an easy cooking example.

Another important aspect of smart process is delivering dynamic content, so that users can access the specific information demanded in that moment. To deliver dynamic content, technical communicators should adapt metadata and taxonomies so they can integrate their CCMS in the most modern platforms, as presented by Davide Osta in his workshop.

Usability Remains the Core of TC

What do good technical contents have in common? They are understood well on the first reading. Tiziana Sicilia, the president of COM&TEC, and Nicola Mastidoro underscored in their introduction speech: “We can only know our content is good if we ask our readers”. Nicola Mastidoro asked readers how well they understood different documentation abstracts and applied a readability index. The result of the test showed that avoiding long words, reducing synonyms and spacing text with bullet points all increase readability.

A highlight for the participants was the workshop and presentation of internationally known speaker Leah Guren, who took the participants on a journey to the secrets of user compliance and good content for localization. One participant said: “I have already applied suggestions and best practices for localization; I appreciated a lot of stories and how to ‘sell’ the ideas to stakeholders.”

Leah Guren holding a presentation on Secrets of User Compliance

Chatbots: A Good Topic for Discussion

Special attention was paid to the topic of chatbots: The audience asked, for example, “Can a chatbot reuse the information I create? Do users really like chatbots?” Although chatbot conversations can be built up in a comprehensible way, as Priscill Orue and Tomasz Prus showed in their presentation, chatbots are still on the road to becoming more natural and intelligent. When working with chatbots, technical communicators can consider these conversational design guidelines:

Presentation by Priscill Orue and Tomasz Prus on conversational design for chatbots the evolution of technical communicators roles

Networking Opportunities and Italian Ambience

The interactive session, workshops and coffee breaks were a great opportunity to network with old colleagues, meet fellow participants and speakers, or make new contacts.

Interactive Session: This group discussed on the topic TC in global demand

Holding a conference in Italy, one should not omit a mention of the diverse selection of great Italian food that the participants were able to enjoy at lunch and during the networking dinner. The networking dinner was a great opportunity to enter the well-known culinary world of Bologna, while getting to know their colleagues.

Quotes to Go

  • “If the paragraph has to be reread than it is not readable enough.” – Nicola Mastidoro
  • “Teamwork across departments is important. Technical communicators should work with technical manufacturers as well.” – Tiziana Sicilia
  • “The chatbot is as intelligent as the knowledge source that it is connected to. The core of a chatbot is the decision tree that is capturing all possible situations.” – Fabrice Lecroix
  • “Keep it simple. Don’t worry about not being sophisticated enough.” – Leah Guren
  • “There are many factors that influence user compliance, such as age, culture and education. But nothing is changing user behavior more than technology!” – Leah Guren