on-the-go recording of discussions with SME's

Subject: on-the-go recording of discussions with SME's
From: T K <tvk_tw -at- yahoo -dot- ie>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 20:16:52 +0000 (GMT)

Hello Technical Writers

I am pursuing a postgraduate diploma in technical
communication. In addition
to the core technical writing subjects, I am taking an
elective in Human
Computer Interaction. As part of this elective, I have
been tasked with an
assignment on the following:

Create a concept design for a new mobile phone GUI
(Graphical User
Interface) OR input device for use by people in the
field of technical
Thre assigment has two parts
Part 1: Requirements specification process
Part 2: Scenario-based design

I am considering a device that will enable a mobile
phone to function as a dictaphone for recording of
(brief) conversations. This could be face to face
conversations, or conversations on the phone itself.

You may well ask why not use a dictaphone instead of
having such a feature on a mobile phone? The advantage
would be that such a device would allow for accurate
recording on-the-go. Not many of us carry a dictaphone
around with us, whereas mobile phones are almost
ubiquitous nowadays.

There may be many situations that technical writers
find themselves in (brief, chance meetings with
developers or subject matter experts on the
corridor, at the coffee dock or in the company
restaurant) when an impromptu discussion ensues, but
the technical writer has to rely on memory to recall
the discussion when back at his or her desk. If a
subject matter expert is in very informative mood when
you bump into them, you may not want to interrupt them
mid-flow to run back to your desk for a notebook and
pen. In a casual encounter, to start writing notes may
well put the speaker off a little and also, unless
adept at shorthand, your note taking may fall behind
and interrupt your train of thought.

Could such an input device be useful in field tests or
usability tests? Or even in environments such as large
plants where you need to talk briefly to an engineer
to glean some information but you discover that,
although they can give you a few minutes, they are
based on the plant floor for the afternoon and you
don't want to drag them off to a meeting room.

I would like to get the opinion of some of you guys
who are already working as technical writers. Could
you see yourself making use of such a device if it was
available on your mobile phone? Do you consider this
idea to have any usefulness, or would it be just too
intrusive in a (casual) conversation? This device
would not be a replacement for more
established means of recording, especially formal
meetings, where minute-taking, follow-up e-mails and
maybe a dictaphone are used. I see it as
something to assist technical writers in their
day-to-day work. The speaker's permission would be
sought before starting to record.

As this is only going to be a concept design, issues
such as whether the battery of the phone would be able
to support such a device, storing large audio files on
a mobile phone etc. are not critical.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. While I do
not presently contribute to this forum, I do read a
lot of the discussions. It gives me a great insight
into what is happening in the world of technical

Thomas Keogan.

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