Why did you pick the topic of your talk?
Jennie Tan (Topic: “Suggested for you”: Lessons learned in writing smart content): Last year, I was involved in a lot of smart content projects. I noticed a few common themes emerge, and wanted to share them to help other smart content writers!
Sophie Tahran (Topic: UX writing department: Adapting the voice of the New Yorker): The tech industry tends to be well represented at conferences, so I wanted to provide a glimpse into the media world. For one, UX writers in media are adapting an existing voice—one that originated in long-form print—to a digital environment, as opposed to crafting a voice from scratch. There are also more relationships to foster: the publication's editors, copy editors, and more, in addition to your product and design counterparts, many of whom have journalism backgrounds. They care about words!
John Paz (Topic: The “pipeline problem” is about belonging): After working in tech for over a decade, I started to wonder where they were hiding all the minorities. Up until very recently, many people just took the notion of the "pipeline problem" as the answer for why tech companies were making so little progress on diversifying their workforce. Then, in 2018, one Tweet about what #BlackTechTwitter looks like blew that whole excuse out of the water. It validated my suspicions all along; there are plenty of Black techies out there, just most of us prefer not to work in tech because we're treated so poorly.
After doing some research into just how dismal tech's diversity numbers are, especially when compared to other STEM fields, it was clear I had to take this message to the masses. I'm evidence that the "pipeline problem" is a myth, and ignoring the glaring disparities in recruiting, retainment, and treatment of minorities in tech is done at the detriment of not just those minorities, but also to the tech companies perpetuating the problem. I quiver when I give this talk, because so much of it is deeply personal and disproportionately important to me. But I long for the day when the content becomes irrelevant because tech will have found a way to be equitable to minorities.
Angela Gorden (Topic: Write better, faster, and with more authority): I wanted to talk about some of the non-writing skills you need to succeed as a UX writer. I sometimes think we don’t give them enough attention.
Do you think the state of our world has impacted UX writing?
Jennie: Yes, I think so. Empathy has always played a role in UX writing, but this year, it's become more important than ever. World events have led us to become even more mindful of writing with kindness, respect, and inclusivity.
Sophie: It sure feels like this year has impacted everything, doesn't it? At the most basic level, I feel extremely lucky to have a job that can be performed remotely, but working from home has its own challenges, especially for parents and caregivers.
Though it's only one slice of the state of our world, this election has continued to underscore the importance of trustworthy information and accessible language, to say the least. When Facebook adds a qualifier to a news source, or Twitter labels an inaccurate post, it's a very real reminder that clarity is key.
John: The events of today only lend themselves to increasing the perception of value UX writing contributes. In this post-truth, fake-news era of truthiness, the power of words has never been more apparent. We are in the business of pedaling words, so by proxy it only highlights the value we provide. Words shape experiences and have every bit of impact that shape, color, or texture might in influencing perception (some would argue even more).
Think of the most heated debates in the US right now, and they all hinge on slight (yet important) differences in words. Words are being weaponized to mean the opposite of their original intent (Anti-facism, or Antifa, for example). And our society is regularly hijacked by bad actors looking to sew division...with memes. These tumultuous times have only validated what us content pros have known all along: the stakes are far higher for the words we use than anyone wants to admit. I'm not sure society has come around to agree with us yet, but it's not for lack of trying. It just seems everyone is too angry, too afraid, or too apathetic to admit it, and we're all afraid of accountability for the words we use.
Angela: Now that we’re living more and more of our lives online, writing and digital products in general, are even more central to how we communicate, learn, buy groceries, get information about breaking news. The impact is huge.