When preparing for a recent workshop on what the collaborative media and people’s use of them might mean for mobile-phone product information, I spent a little time thinking about new CPI concepts.
It turned out that the ideas sorted themselves into five nice clusters. Starting in the top right and going clockwise, the first group is called Editorial collection. Here, the general approach is that the CPI producer works mainly as an editor, assessing and collecting information created by users and others into a snappy, relevant, quality-asserted forum for users of the product in question. One interesting aspect is to create niche fora for particular user groups. In the case of mobile phones, for instance, it could make sense to create fora per activity (phone gaming, daily commuting, phone photography, etc.), per phone model or per user segment. However, the real killer for some user groups is that these fora can contain inside information from the development organization, that is most unlikely unavailable to blog writers outside the organization.
Another cluster of ideas concerns Learning and info events, including productions such as augmented reality gaming, school-oriented learning games and mobile film festivals. (These particular ideas are obviously mobile-phone-specific, but it should be apparent how similar ideas under the same heading could be shaped for other classes of consumer products.) The key here is that the events have teaching or informational purposes, even though they may not be perceived primarily as such by the participants.
The third cluster concerns the old Question and answer format for consumer support. The main ideas here revolved around integrating Q&A into the phone straight out if the box, including a personal presentation of experts in the list of contacts who would field SMS questions on different phone-related topics.
The two final clusters (Tribal aura and Location-based services) were slightly more esoteric, yet there are some moderately interesting ideas in there. For instance, there is the notion of supporting the formation of a small group of users collaborating to get the best out of their phones, by means such as sharing usage tips based on highly-regarded friends use their phones, the automatic sharing of word-completion vocabularies (to foster a tribe-specific jargon), and adaptive menu highlighting based on friends’ usage patterns.
Where would concepts like these leave technical writers and information architects? In a good place, I would argue. That place is certainly not the place where most of the time is spent producing documents, but instead there are new tasks to take on where the TW+IA skills would form a formidable basis. For instance, the Editorial collection ideas would require strong skills in sifting, assessing, structuring and packaging information. It would also require a good sense of what users find relevant and interesting. Finally, there is the liaison element of bridging between developers and users. All of this sounds more or less like job postings for TW+IA today, with more emphasis on editorial work and less on virgin production. Not an entirely horrible prospect, I guess.