What I learned about our profession while creating a Tech Comm Jeopardy game

Whew! Long title for this post.

Alternative (but not necessarily shorter) titles I considered:
“What is the question to which Technical Communication is the answer?”
“There are no facts in this field”
“Technical communication is an art, not a science”

jeopardy1Here’s the back story:
For the last three years I’ve volunteered to organize our Atlanta STC chapter holiday party.
I like to plan a couple of games to make it fun and to prevent it from degenerating into a pure drinking activity. (I can hear some of you saying “What’s wrong with that?” but I’m ignoring you.)

Last year I created a simple Jeopardy game around the theme of Atlanta since that’s where we are and that’s where the STC Summit will be this year. I don’t know Flash, so I did a down and dirty, yet still electronic game using Word. (More on that later.) Using Wikipedia and my husband’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city, it was easy to create categories and questions (or in the case of Jeopardy — answers).

This year, I announced we’d have a “Tech Comm Jeopardy” game at the party. I quickly amended that to an “Atlanta/Tech Comm”  theme, because I couldn’t come up with enough solid FACTS about our profession to populate an entire game. Sure, you can come up with “insider” questions about personalities in the field and software trivia. But name one universal truth in our profession that can be summed up in the Jeopardy format.

“Know your audience.” Yeah, OK. But what is the answer to which “Know your audience” is the question? You see where I’m going with this? There aren’t even, to my knowledge, “schools of thought” in our profession that can be referenced such as “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” or “Garner’s Multiple Intelligences.” The best I could do in the theoretical realm was a question/answer on “information mapping” for Pete’s sake. Did I just use “theoretical” and “information mapping” in the same sentence?

I challenge you, my readers, to tell me what are the Truths (and here I capitalize intentionally despite my disparaging remarks on this subject in the last post) of our profession? There are many word of wisdom out there, but can they be distilled down to a Jeopardy question? I say NO.

Should we be concerned about this?

PS.

If anyone is interested in how I created the Jeopardy game in Word, let me know and I’ll send you the file. I just created a table and then layered shapes on top of each cell with the “answer” and the dollar value.

As it turned out, I was unable to attend the holiday party this year. I’m dying to hear if the handful of Truths that I inserted into the game were acknowledged or widely debated and bashed. The party should be breaking up just about now. So if anyone sees nerdy people fighting in the streets near Holcomb Bridge Road, tell them to sober up, go home, and read my blog.

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3 Responses to What I learned about our profession while creating a Tech Comm Jeopardy game

  1. I’m confused or I haven’t seen Jeopardy in a while. It seems that “Know your audience” is the answer and we should be defining what the question is that would have that as the answer.

    If that were the format, then the question would be, “How do you keep from writing fluff that does not serve the needs of the user and do it at a level that matches the abilities of your user?”

  2. Holly says:

    In Jeopardy, you are provided the answer and you have to guess the question.

    For example, the answer might be “He was just elected president of the United States.” The contestant would produce the question, “Who is Barak Obama?”
    It works well with facts, but not with concepts.

    There are many different questions to which “know your audience” is the correct answer. That makes it difficult to reduce tech comm principles into a snappy game show format where contestants are competing to guess the “right” question for each answer.

    Anyway, just got a note from my stand-in MC, Julie, saying that the game went well and the party was a huge success!

  3. Gil Vinokoor says:

    Hi Holly,

    I’d be interested in seeing the game you created.

    Heck, I may even use part of the game at my work! (If you don’t mind.)

    So, can you please send me the Word file?

    Thanks,

    Gil
    Technical Writer
    Israel

    vinokoor(at)gmail(dot)com

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