How to Create and Deliver Intelligent Information

Tech comm conferences address a wide range of topics. Audience analysis, structured writing, publication workflows, translation. But available technologies to better integrate user assistance are often omitted. Such technologies can help us to connect UA better

  • With the audience it addresses
  • With the products it supports
  • With other content it complements

This oversight is pretty ironic: After all, we technical communicators excel at connecting audiences and products and at synthesizing all kinds of content. So we should be ready to apply methods and technologies that help us do our jobs even better.

That’s why the new UA Reloaded conference was such an instant success with me. UA Reloaded is the conference with all the innovative stuff that can improve technical communications! It’s serious about breaking down the silos that keep us from our neighboring professions. It is a cooperation of tekom and SAP. The inaugural edition took place in late July at SAP’s campus in St. Leon-Rot.

Prof. Andreas Dengel at UA Reloaded, photo by @UA Reloaded 17

Here’s one of my main insights, based on Prof. Andreas Dengel‘s presentation “From Artificial Intelligence to Intelligence Amplification”.

Intelligence amplification makes artificial intelligence (AI) useful for user assistance: We can use AI as a toolbox when we support humans in solving their tasks and problems – and do so even better than today, so that the technology disappears into everyday life.

Many daily workflows are still bogged down by task-switching costs every time you need a different app. Being invited to attend a conference has you switching from mail to website to contacts to mail to calendar to maps to travel sites. Amplified intelligence can remove much of the task-switching tedium.

An information model structures the available information on persons, locations, events, products, and topics. All relationships between information entities can be mapped in simple sentences:

  1. “Mail has recipient”, namely myself, who is invited
  2. “Mail links to website” about the event
  3. “Recipient attends event” when I make my decision
  4. “Event has location”
  5. “Location has travel options” to choose my travel
  6. “Travel option has website” to book travel
  7. “Location has accommodation” to book hotel
  8. “Event has date” to enter into my calendar

Most of these relationships are already established by the time you are invited. So the only new relationship you form is #3. And you select from existing relationships #5 and #7. But it’s much more cumbersome today, because we use a different app to manage most of these relationships.

Instead, you could tap into a semantic wiki to access public information in context, based on metadata and tags, from #4 on. One large initiative that offers accessible semantic datasets is the Linking Open Data cloud that includes, among other sources:

  • DBPedia, which extracts and provides structured information from Wikipedia
  • The GeoNames ontology, which manages geospatial semantic information

There are two very valuable applications for technical communicators here.

We can offer user assistance as part of the semantic web, so queries and linked data browsers can retrieve our content with the metadata and relationships we have enriched it with. This gives our content potentially unlimited reach, as users will discover products, their use cases, and knowledge about them more easily.

We can apply these methods and tools to make any content in our company more easily accessible by integrating sources regardless of their silo of origin. It basically levels the playing field of corporate content by relating any kind of entity via attributes in tags and metadata.

Granted, this is not easy – but it’s the obvious benefits that make it so exhilarating and worth pursuing!

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