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Web 2.0, Multimedia, and Help
2011, Q2 (July 20, 2011)
By Preran Kumar

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." - William Shakespeare

Even as we were busy writing content in the comfort of our cubes, the way information is handled around the world changed forever. From being the domain of a few content experts, content is now being authored by everyone from complete novices to experts. Direct authoring in HTML has provided users the power to create and modify content, who surprisingly, are being encouraged and rewarded for doing so. The web as the hub of all information has also ensured better search algorithms, better metrics, and better ways of interacting with each other.

Creating multimedia is no longer the fiefdom of a select few. Better and more intuitive multimedia authoring tools have ushered in a generation of authors that create and distribute media like it was their second nature. Community generated content has a fan following that rivals, and sometimes, matches content being produced by companies.

The web, as it exists today, and as it evolves provides exciting opportunities to authors on various fronts. Authors now have the opportunity to become multimedia experts, write user and metric driven content, and work with the various organs of the company to ensure better products while helping reduce customer support calls.

This paper takes a quick look at what was Web 1.0, how it has evolved, and how it is going to change the way we write and interact, possibly forever.

Why did text prevail all these years?

  • Web 1.0 generation comfortable with reading text.
  • Printed books don’t allow for multimedia.
  • Can scale readily.
  • Cost-effective in terms of creating, editing, and publishing information.
  • Versatile in the number of ways it can be published and reproduced.
  • Time from creation to publishing is minimal.
  • Search does not work very well with multimedia content.
  • Text editors are more standardized than software available for multimedia.
  • Standardization of text based material cheaper than that for multimedia.
  • Cross-platform, cross-browser compatible.
  • Minimum hardware and software requirements.
  • Workarounds available for visually handicapped people – text readers, alternate text.
  • Dismal internet speeds do not allow for use of multimedia files.

How has the world changed since Web 2.0?

  • Web 2.0 generation reads less, views more.
  • HTML 5 increases the popularity of multimedia.
  • Multimedia can be inserted within PDF files and other text outputs. Text combined with multimedia in the same output file is now possible.
  • Multimedia editors are now simpler and more intuitive. Web applications that can quickly create content out of movie clips and photographs available.
  • Better e-learning tools helps users with no knowledge of multimedia to create multimedia content if they put in minimal effort and learning.
  • If authors do not provide multimedia, users create their own and upload it to video sharing sites.
  • Accuracy of information is more important than style, standardization, and presentation.
  • Metrics readily available for viewed content.
    Closed captioning and better voice content help users with impaired vision and hearing
  • Better content aggregation using RSS feeds.
  • Better search mechanisms are available for movies and graphics.
    • Search uses the geometry and color of objects in a picture.
    • Metadata can be inserted into movie clips.
  • The web is now a friendlier place for video - HTML 5 aims to make media players redundant.
  • People access help on mobile devices as well – mobile devices more suited for multimedia than plain text.
  • Hardware is not a big issue – most times, the hardware is good enough. Cloud computing will drive down hardware requirements further.
  • Better Internet and mobile bandwidths ensure better speed.

Writing (Creating) Help

  • Authors create graphics and multimedia – illustrators required only in special cases.
  • Automated text to speech converters reduce costs for simple movies, make localization simpler and more cost-effective.
  • Better search algorithms and paradigms reduce dependency on text for search.
  • Closed captioning and better voice content help users with impaired vision and hearing.
  • Authors work more with HTML editors than text editors – Wiki pages growing in popularity and reach.
  • From being personas, users are now actual people with individual personalities.
  • Authors use search engine optimization techniques to popularize better content.
  • Book model of writing on its way out – individual, wholesome, searchable articles prevail over itemized content.
  • Metrics drive data – content with more page views gets better attention.
  • User-driven data – Authors reach out to users and ask them information that has to be improved rather than focusing on content no one uses. Use rating and feedback on help content to identify lacunae (or gaps).
  • Authors act more as content facilitators and less as content generators – encourage users to create content that can be leveraged across a community.
  • Authors use metrics to work with product team to improve product and drive down customer support calls.
  • Data driven writing ensures better metrics for judging writers and rewarding them – technical communication division becomes a profit-generating center.

About the Author

Preran Kumar is a senior technical writer at Adobe Systems, Inc. Anything that affects people and their interactions with themselves and each other catch his fancy very well. In his years as a technical writer, he has been particularly delighted when working with content related to networking, multimedia, and e-learning. He fancies software that helps people work with their imagination to create content that they take pride in displaying to the world. In his free time, he likes reading books on cognitive psychology, evolutionary biology, and poetry by various Urdu poets.

Preran can be reached at preran at adobe dot com. End of article.

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