“Everything is on YouTube.”
So stated my son the other day, in response to a comment about looking to see if something might be there. I’d have to agree with him. Every time I look for something there, I’m surprised. The fact that younger kids think of YouTube as a primary source of information also gives pause.
For a while, I’ve been looking at videos on YouTube and other sites with tech writing in mind. What jumps out is that people use videos in varied, unexpected ways (to me, at least). It’s not just that people are creating videos and putting them up there. They’re also taking news broadcasts and movies and making them their own. For movies, I’ve seen videos where people have taken their favorite scenes, put them together, and added music. While some are similar, you can see that each person gives theirs a slightly different slant or uses different music. What’s important to one person is not so much to another.
Now think of that related to tech writing. You’ve researched a topic, talked to SMEs, and written something up. Still, it’s your slant on what’s most important. You’ve been trained what to look for, how to organize content, and how to prepare the info. With this usage in YouTube in mind, someone could just take what you’ve written and make their own version. Assume that users will (a) make their own videos, and (b) take something already made and create a new version. In may be from something in-house. Perhaps it may be from an external source. This has tremendous potential. Combined with comments, it could provide a wealth of information.
By now, I imagine (I hope) that companies are either using or already in the process of setting up an internal video site along the lines of YouTube. For documentation departments, I believe now is the time to try and move that along. The process may take a while to run through a company. There could be a number of issues to work out: technology requirements, security, processes, and usage guidelines are possibly a few.
We’re always the voice for the users while an app is in development. I believe that we now must be the voice for the users coming in that will expect to be able to post and review job-related videos.
I believe that the role of tech writers will change. We may shift more into content management and development of enterprise information and moderator of user-generated content. There will still be procedures to write and doc sets to create. We’ll just need to make room for whatever comes so the voice of the user is heard. All can participate. I’m looking forward to it.