August 2018
Text by Trisha Kovacic-Young

© Franz Steiner

Information Delivery by Apps & Co.

Changes in technical communication and localization are everywhere. But what are the latest trends? The day-long event at the Károli Gaspár University in Budapest on May 28th demonstrated how emerging technologies can be used to deliver technical information.

The event was the second part of a series launched in 2017 in Vienna by tekom Österreich (Austria) and tekom Magyarország (Hungary) as well as the AATC and Proford. The long-term goal is to encourage networking and collaboration among the professionals from these two industries and countries.

How to become a profit generator

Klaus Fleischmann (Kaleidoscope) kicked off the morning with an overview of changes in the localization and technical communication industries and a discussion about how LSPs and end customers should work together in the mobile age. He highlighted three kinds of translations that we will see in the future: FAUT (fully automated useful translation), neural, and high-quality human translation. He outlined terminology, managing smart content (because not all content needs top quality translation), and defining collaborative globalization processes as fields in which technical writers could work together with translators. Technical writers could also contribute to the TAPICC efforts – the Translation API Class and Cases Initiative. Fleischmann urged us to pay attention to the data on localization: If we can convince clients to monitor their translated click rates we might be able to interest them in localization "return on investment" and we could become a profit generator instead of a cost item!

"It’s all about people!"

Ágnes Czinkóczki, user assistance developer at SAP, underlined the importance of the quality of documentation because it reflects on the respective product: If it is poor, users will also question the quality of the product itself. Great user assistance not only wants to inform and motivate, but wants to provide the user with an excellent experience. It is at its best when the user doesn’t realize that it’s happening! Her tips for documentation: Work with developers, get on board early. Leave enough time to create good texts and develop consistent terminology. Decide who owns the user interface (everyone along the chain seems to think they own it…), make a style guide – and even write a different one for mobile apps. Keep the development simple and useful, ensure translatability (always send an open format to your translators!), and test the product in every language. When writing error messages, make sure that you do not blame the user, for example by avoiding explanation marks. The bottom line is that people want empathy.

"Creativity is our privilege; let chatbots do the rest!"

Chatbots are another trend that is gaining rapidly in popularity. There are already 300,000 active chatbots on Messenger. Nikolett Nagy from the start-up Talk-A-Bot provided a fascinating introduction into the world of chatbots. In general chatbots can be divided into five types: fully scripted, guided, NLP-based, context-aware and Artificial Intelligence. To achieve the best user experience Talk-A-Bot combines different types. This hybrid type is rather popular and operates with human backup (when the bot states "I can’t answer that" several times in a row, you are transferred to a human). Nikolett’s intriguing tales of what happens when chatbots are combined with AI truly captivated the audience. However, most bots today are still pre-programmed and are not based on AI.

Dynamic content

In his presentation Márton Klausz from DTC Enterprise demonstrated how to improve the search experience of the modern user. His focus was on dynamic content, i.e. personalized content for every user. Dynamic content is at work "when the software notices that you are returning to a website and the airline prices go up the second time you log on." We all want specific content based on our actual needs. Of course, Google is tempting here. However, companies should try to make their content searchable so people will access them directly.

Image 1: Márton Klausz focused on dynamic content
© Franz Steiner

 

Márton stressed the importance of using filters correctly to find specific documents. In addition, he offered a number of helpful tips such as: involve developers in technical documentation and empower your documentation with metadata. He also gave a glimpse of the future of dynamic publishing, when the repair person climbs into the broken elevator, scans the barcode and is immediately directed to the correct repair manual. Márton also explained predictive support that brings you to a website where other people discuss similar problems. When blended with human interaction this might lead to a scenario where you get a phone call stating: “If you have that problem, don’t start your car or it might blow up!”

A paradigm shift from supply-side to demand-side

Rob Gillespie, from Pearson Professional Development & Educational Consulting, is working on Information 4.0. Smart factory dictates that technical writers don’t have lead time anymore; the order-to-delivery cycle has become too short. Molecular content can be formed and reformed into larger structures. Gillespie explained that we have gone through a paradigm shift from supply-side to demand-side. Thus, the new reality technical writers have to live with is: "Content as a Service".

Lots of things are changing

The day closed with a lively panel discussion hosted by Zoltan Riesz including all presenters and a very active audience. The discussion focused on how future technologies will influence our day-to-day lives. Some say the changes will be slower than we think, but the consequences more severe. As far as content goes: we shouldn’t have to be involved in tiresome or repetitive tasks as this can be automated.

Image 2: An alert audience – right after lunch
© Franz Steiner

 

The good news is that as companies rarely decrease their budgets, it is likely that money earmarked for processes that are now being automated will soon be spent on more creative things. Change is also expensive for large corporations. Thus, it may well come from small companies. 
We should tell our clients how we are using new technologies and not try to hide them. We discussed that regulation is certainly needed to keep some new technologies in check.

Many of the participants worry about protecting and training our children – and our parents – to deal with it all, to find value in the offers but avoid the dangers. For example, it is important to tell customers when they are dealing with a chatbot and not a person. István Eke joked that in the future he would write "I am a real person!" at the bottom of his translations. 
Takeaway of the day from Péter Ács’s (DTC Enterprise): "The new technologies we heard about today aim to bring things together." We are not so much creating, as organizing content and directing it to the right users. Klaus Fleischmann commented facetiously: "All these devices and apps are just a hassle. Let’s skip it all and go straight to telepathy." The discussion ended with plenty of laughter as we decided on the perfect topic for our next event: "Telepathy and more!"