Wednesday, 12 March 2008

On wranglers, and other fancy titles

What's in a name? More particularly, what's in the name of a profession? Some professions are easy to identify by a one word name: tinker, tailor, soldier, spy. Other professional designations are longer: civil engineer, cloakroom attendant, sagger-maker's bottom-knocker, or Lord Privy Seal. (Job titles can get silly - Lois Wakeman has collected some from her local supermarket such as "Oven Fresh Manager", and I have spotted nice ones in Social Services departments like "Teenage Pregnancy Team Leader".)

For my particular professional activity there is no single agreed term. I like to call myself an Information Design Consultant, because what I can do goes far beyond just writing the right words. But I have been called a technical writer, a technical communicator, an information developer, a technical author, a documentation specialist, or more fancifully, a font fondler and a member of the word police (and of the Word police as well). Scott Abel goes by another term - he calls himself the Content Wrangler.

At the University of Cambridge a wrangler is a student who gets first class honours in mathematics; it's also the name of a brand of jeans; and in the US in particular it's someone who handles animals, particularly cattle and horses, professionally. I think it's this meaning Scott had in mind - a content wrangler herds words and content elements together, selecting the best ones and coralling them into the places they need to be. Not an easy job, but immensely satisfying if done well. Scott is a content management specialist, a conference organiser, and a first class speaker himself, and his Content Wrangler web site and newsletter are extremely popular amongst us technical writers/authors/communicators.

Less than two weeks ago Scott launched a social networking website for anyone interested in "content wrangling" called The Content Wrangler Community, and yes, it is one of the groups on Ning that I was invited to join last week.

According to Scott:
The Content Wrangler Community is the new social network dedicated to people who value content as a business asset, worthy of being effectively managed. This is the place where technical communicators, medical and science writers, marketing pros, content management gurus, indexers, online community managers, document engineers, information architects, localization and translation pros, e-learning pros, taxonomists, bloggers, documentation and training managers, and content creators of all types hang out. It's much more than a blog. It's a place to join peers, to share, to collaborate, to contribute, to find information.
"Social networks are about connecting people and ideas," said Scott Abel, manager of The Content Wrangler Community. "Web-based social networks are the natural evolution of the web from a passive broadcast medium to a multi-directional communication platform that more closely supports the way humans interact in the physical world. We congregate. We join others like us. We interact with birds of a feather. Until the advent of social networking tools, the web failed miserably to connect people in meaningful ways."
I think this community is a great idea, and so do about 680 others, at the last count. I certainly need all the help I can get when I am "wrangling" words and pictures and information content into the right size and shape and format for my clients' needs, and I am sure I'll get a lot of inspiration here.


Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler said...

Thanks, David. I appreciate your kind words and mentioning the new community. So far, we're growing like wild. I expect we'll top the 1,000 member mark soon. It's truly an interesting experiment. And, an international one. Professional content creators from many nations are represented and the individuals that have joined are a friendly and very helpful lot. I invite your readers to join us.

Thanks again!

Scott Abel
The Content Wrangler

Join our new community:

Lois Wakeman said...

Sounds like an interesting community David - thanks for drawing it to my attention.

Sorry to be a pedant, but with my potter's hat on, it is a "saggar" whose bottom one knocks!

For those without my encyclopaedic knowledge of all things ceramic, a saggar is a fireclay container with a lid, in which fragile items are placed to protect them from the flames in a gas, coal or wood-fired kiln. They were essential to fire fine china in the traditional bottle kilns of the Potteries, for instance.

Knocking them was a way of deciding if they were sound enough for re-use in the next firing; they ring if whole, and sound flat and dull if damaged.

In modern ceramics, they can also be used in the opposite way, to add chemical or combustible material to parts of a firing in an enclosed space without damaging other items in the firing (or the kiln elements of an electric kiln).

And that's the end of my educational talk for today!