Book review: Conversation and Community

August 26, 2009

Anne Gentle, Book Sprint maven, long-time blogger, regular contributor to the technical writing profession, and mother to a couple of young children has somehow found time to write and publish a book. And what a topical book it is.

Her book, Conversation and Community, is almost up-to-the minute (surely a first for a printed publication — some of the references were to blog posts I read just a few weeks ago). She has some really useful, helpful and very practical tips and strategies on how technical communicators can get involved in ‘conversational’ documentation with users, and how they can lead the charge for using social media in their organization. This may be scary territory for those technical writers who don’t even subscribe to email discussion lists, let alone blogs and forums, but Anne’s book is a helping hand to guide you through the maze.


However, her ideas are also very pragmatic — Anne has obviously worked in several organizational cultures, so she rightly advises against jumping in feet first. Her advice is to take it slowly, a little bit at a time, starting with listening to what users are saying about your product, then branching into commenting, before going all out with technologies and tools such as Twitter. And all the way along, getting buy-in from management and setting the ground rules for the interactions.

This is a well-researched book and Anne has provided numerous footnotes with references to books and URLs, as well as sample style guides etc. in the Appendices.

She’s also listed all links and footnote references for each chapter on delicious.com (see http://justwriteclick.com/2009/08/20/organized-annotated-collection-of-footnotes-from-my-book-conversation-and-community/ for links to the Chapter lists).

For other reviews of this book, see Sarah Maddox’s blog post where she reviews the book, then links to further reviews at the end.

Related: Learning is Social article about how the Net Generation learn through Web 2.0 technologies and social media: http://www.astd.org/TD/Archives/2009/August/0908_Learning_Gets_Social.htm

[Links last checked August 2009]


  1. […] Bracey at CyberText Newsletter. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Linking to external blog posts from our […]

  2. Hallo Rhonda

    Nice review! Oh yes, agreed 100%, the social media can be scary. ;) Even for those of us who have already dipped our toes into the water. Surely things can go wrong so quickly? So I think you’re also 100% on the money when you say that the book gives us some excellent guidelines on getting started, as well as ideas on how to keep swimming.

    I like your link to the “Learning is Social” article too!


  3. This is a great concept for a book. Shame so many employers block social media sites because they don’t trust the employees not to abuse them.

  4. Thanks again Rhonda for posting this review! I got a chuckle out of “…somehow found time to write and publish a book.” Yes, that was a Big Audacious Goal of mine and I’m very fortunate to have pulled it off. :)

    I am glad you found the ideas pragmatic (not too lofty or impossible.) Getting started with social media may feel like a Big Audacious Goal to others and hopefully my book helps break it down into manageable parts.

  5. Rhonda, Thanks for posting the review of Anne’s book. One of the objectives of the book was it be pragmatic and immediately useful. I’m glad you agree that it is.

    Best Regards,
    Richard Hamilton,
    Publisher, XML Press

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