Saturday, December 13, 2008

Of crystal balls and a view

Last month, the STC India people made the following announcement:
We are pleased to announce a Writing Competition to coincide with STC India's 10th Annual Conference to be held in Pune.
Topic – Technical Communication in India: A Look into the Crystal Ball
Word Limit – 550 words
Style or Form – Open (essay, parable, fable, tale, poem…)
Format – Plain Text
Deadline – November 21, 2008

I can resist everything except a writing contest so I sent in my entry. It won a prize :-)

================= MY_ENTRY_BEGIN =================

Good evening, and welcome to Crystal Ball. Our guest today is Mercutio Hermes, who shares with us his view on Technical Communication in India. Welcome Mercutio.
Thank you. I notice you said "view", not "views". May I ask why?

Our show is about looking into the crystal ball. We share what we see there, and what we see is only a view.
So, you'll ask me questions, and I'll look into the crystal ball and respond with what I see?

Great! Let's begin.

What do you see about technical communication in India?
I see a lot of writing.

What kind of writing?
Someone waving a bunch of APIs and yelling, "Robots can’t code; only humans can. It takes a human to decode a human".

What else do you see?
I see lots of rocket-science documents and aircraft-maintenance documents, and not all are in English.

They aren’t? What language are they in?
Oh, several languages, actually. Tamil, Urdu, Assamese, Dogri.

So, do you see translators becoming more important than writers?
Nope. I don’t see any translators at all. I see specialist technical writers writing in their native languages.

Interesting! Do look in again and tell us what else you see?
There’s a long line of teachers waiting to get themselves e-learning certified, and there’s a line of students - a line of which I see no end – waiting to get their hands on the latest tutorials and voicecasts.

You say you see podcasts in India? That’s interesting.
Yes, I see podcasts entering mobile phones and radio channels. The ones that go into the mobile phones also have annotated pictures to complement the voiceover.

You mean like the Google Chrome release notes?
No, not exactly. These are on-demand doc-support. Techwriters have fed their task modules into a NASSCOM-managed repository that is programmed to read the metadata embedded call-for-help-SMSes, fetch the matching task-module from the repo, and SMS it back to the mobile phone. Techwriters are writing e-modules that are have 10 sentences or fewer.

What else do you see?
I see a child writing an essay "When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. I will study neuroscience and design user interfaces."

What kind of user interfaces do you see?
I see these touch-screen interfaces, mostly not in English, that farmers are using to buy fertilisers and sell wheat. I also see box-like devices where villagers are swiping their bio-cards and doing their mobile banking; and even these interfaces are not in English. I see companies have inserted spy cameras into these devices. Whenever a user is stuck and calls up support, the techwriter who wrote the UI text is penalised.

Okay, so what you’re saying is the market for tech-writing services has gone domestic? It’s no longer international?
No, it’s not that Indian techwriters are no longer writing for international markets. But what I see in this ball is that many of them are writing solely for an Indian market for applications developed indigenously, and customised subsequently for the international market.

What about techwriters in non-Indian MNCs operating from India?
Well, what about them? I see them all there, writing DITA-based topics for Eclipse-based help systems, and predicting the death of Microsoft Word.

Thank you Mercutio. Your view has been interesting indeed.
Thank you for letting me see.

================= MY_ENTRY_END_550_WORDS =================

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Ani!
I enjoyed your crossword too!