“Well researched, well written, and timely but relevant to classic concerns of the field.”
—Rebecca Walton, Utah State University
“Swarts provides a fascinating rhetorical analysis of different types of user support, from work-arounds to work throughs to best practices.”
"If you’re a technical communicator engaged in user support, you’ll want to grab a copy of Jason Swarts’s Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain. . . his deepest and most satisfying probe into the shift that we technical communicators are facing, the many devils in its details, and the immense opportunities that we can enjoy."
"The primary strength of the book lies in the tools it gives its readers to think about the nature of our problems. . . . we have an opportunity as writers to be the people who step back and look at problems collectively, holistically, and humanely, and facilitate the work to meaningfully address these problems."
—Communication Design Quarterly
Technical writers traditionally create large volumes of idealized tasks and procedures in help documentation, but this is no longer the only approach, or even the best approach. Shifting responsibility for user support to users via crowdsourcing is a risky alternative. Just as with other mass-collaborative enterprises, contributors to a forum may not be aware of the kind of knowledge they are creating or how their contributions connect with those made by others. Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain describes the kinds of writing and help practices in which user forums engage, why users seem to find these forums credible and appealing, and what companies can learn about building user communities to support this form of assistance.
Through investigation of user-forum activities, Swarts identifies a new set of contributions that technical communicators can make—not only by creating content but also by curating content, shaping conversations, feeding information back into the user community, and opening channels of discovery and knowledge creation that can speak to users and software developers alike.