“Well researched, well written, and timely but relevant to classic concerns of the field.”
—Rebecca Walton, Utah State University
Technology users are compulsive integrators, hybridizers, and bricoleurs, whose unpredictable applications and innovations create a challenging task for support-documentation writers. In Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain, Jason Swarts shows how to document technologies that may hybridize into forms that not even their designers would have anticipated and offers insight into the evolving role of a technical writer in an age of increasing user reliance on YouTube tutorials, message boards, and other resources for guidance.
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.