Category Archives: Article Reviews

Warnings in Plain English—but if no one reads them, will they help?

This blog post is in reaction to the USENIX/Google research titled “Alice in Warningland: A Large-Scale Field Study of Browser Security Warning Effectiveness.”

https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity13/technical-sessions/presentation/akhawe

The overarching questions I have are:

1) how and when should the notifications be displayed to users and
2) how should the notifications be written

For additional commentary on how Google Chrome is reacting to the findings from the research, see the WeLiveSecurity post Google Chrome security warnings – now in plain English.

It would be interesting to see the results of clickthrough rates with antivirus dialogs when combined with the browser dialogs. Users don’t purchase/use a web browser to have dialog warnings as a primary feature, but an argument can be made that by purchasing antivirus these users prefer an extra layer of security and additional warnings/notifications – this could inform whether this will impact if those users visit more malicious sites. As the study indicated as a limitation, we need to “consider user behaviors that are indicative of attention to warnings” (258). Continue reading

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Article Review: “The Textualizing Functions of Writing for Organizational Change”

Anderson, Donald L. 2004. “The Textualizing Functions of Writing for Organizational Change.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 18 (2) (April 1): 141–164.

Contents:
Logic, organization, and argumentation strategies
Are the claims logical interpretations of the data?
Significance to the field of technical communication

This research paper combines a literature review with an ethnographic study to examine “how change is accomplished through language” (Anderson 2004, 142).

Anderson introduces his two research questions at the end of the introduction and literature review and immediately preceding the methodology section. The rest of the paper is the presentation of the study results along with concurrent analysis.

The Anderson’s conclusion (and theoretical perspective) is that an idea, or series of ideas—whether it’s from meetings, voicemails, IMs, etc.—can’t effect change unless they are “textualized”, written down or otherwise transformed into an “object”; this object is the agent that allows change to occur.

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Article Review: 350-word summary of “A Question of Ethics: Lessons from Technical Communicators on the Job”

Dragga, Sam. 1997. “A Question of Ethics: Lessons from Technical Communicators on the Job.” Technical Communication Quarterly 6 (2): 161–178.

The questions of how useful, desirable, or effective ethics instructions is for professional technical communicators has been visited and revisited for decades. Most of the literature concerning ethics instruction focuses on the analytical perspective rather than on narratives. In this article, Dragga offers a claim based in part on Continue reading

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Article Review: 350-word summary of “The Big Chill: Seven Technical Communications Talk Ten Years After Their Master’s Program.”

Wilson, Greg, and Julie Dyke Ford. 2003. “The Big Chill: Seven Technical Communications Talk Ten Years After Their Master’s Program.” Technical Communication 50 (2) (May): 145-159.

This “Applied Research” study uses an interactive qualitative method and what the authors define as an “autoethnography” to critically examine the culture of technical communicators. The authors posed questions to stimulate an unstructured conversation on how technical and professional communication (TPC) Master’s programs prepared students for the workplace.  The four topics addressed in this survey were Continue reading

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Article Review: 350-word summary of “Do Curricula Correspond to Managerial Expectations? Core Competencies for Technical Communicators”

Rainey, Kenneth T., Roy K. Turner, and David Dayton. 2005. “Do Curricula Correspond to Managerial Expectations? Core Competencies for Technical Communicators.” Technical Communication 52 (3) (August): 323–352.

This research article uses survey data to analyze the curricula at undergraduate technical and professional communications programs (TPC) and interviews with technical communication managers to evaluate which competencies they desire in workers.

The research takes a broad view and only looks at which competencies (skills or knowledge) programs focus on and which ones managers desire—it does not determine the value of these competencies outside of these two perspectives.

The findings

Similar to other research of TPC program curricula, ethical considerations rank in the 50-percentile based on the qualitative content analysis curricula correlated to the surveyed manager expectations. The findings are not representative of all technical communication managers, as noted by Rainey et al. because a large enough random sample could not be found and instead a “sample of convenience” was used to draw some general trends. The top competencies and trends that managers desire from TPC graduates are interpersonal skills and a general knowledge of technology—the ability to learn new technologies is valued more than specific knowledge of technological tools.

Application of research

There are a few ideas that I thought were interesting when applied to my own research. Related to this paper’s methodology, I thought that using a “pre-survey” at the beginning of the survey to gain unbiased results before presenting the managers with a selection to choose from is a good idea. And whereas my research will focus only on ethical considerations, this research did present findings that support my research topic—namely, how approaches to “skill building” versus “depth of cognitive insights” (Rainey, Turner, and Dayton 2005, 323) are important TPC curricula to prepare graduates to understand the impact technology has on people and on their own work.

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Article Review: 350-word summary of “Linking Ethics and Language in the Technical Communication Classroom”

Sims, Brenda R. 1993. “Linking Ethics and Language in the Technical Communication Classroom.” Technical Communication Quarterly 2 (3): 285.

This essay combines a literature review with case studies to examine what communication-ethics principles students are learning and to demonstrate how technical communication courses should approach ethics instruction. The author discusses current literature (as of 1993) and suggests that the current pedagogy structures ethics learning around actions, or what I call the industrial approach, instead of by

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Article Review: 350-word summary of “TPC Program Snapshots: Developing Curricula and Addressing Challenges”

Allen, Nancy, and Steven T. Benninghoff. 2004. “TPC Program Snapshots: Developing Curricula and Addressing Challenges.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13 (2): 157–185.

This article combines quantitative data from the results of surveys of technical and professional communication (TPC) programs along with a literature review of humanities and technology literature. The surveys examined what the core program curricula were for TPC programs—the authors examined the courses using a quantitative scale to rank the frequency and breadth of the courses within a program.

The examination itself (more so than the results) provides a background that helps frame my research on ethics in TPC programs and whether the curricula adequately prepare students for the workplace. Continue reading

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