Online Help Summit at Google

Filed Under: Documentation & Help Manuals, Google, Google Products, Software & Tools, Technical Communication/Writing
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The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

I got to attend Google’s annual Online Help Summit this week. This is like our own STC Summit except it’s only for Googlers (nickname for Google employees) who work with Google Help Centers. People who attended the summit included technical writers, editors, webmasters, designers, engineers, customer support, and a few other roles I don’t remember. Our focus is on how we integrate help and support into all Google products and the tools we use in the process.

This is my first time attending the summit because previously, I was based in Shanghai and didn’t have as many opportunities to attend these types of conferences and collaborations. It was really neat to meet the different people working on the different components of the Google Help “ecoystem”. It was quite an eye opener to realize (not that I didn’t know already) how massive a task it is to manage, maintain, and transform help/support for Google products. Come to think of it, Google has hundreds of products and services, serving both consumers and businesses. Each product or service has its own help center. Each help center has many components such as the design/layout, help articles, tutorials, quick start, feedback system, contact forms, troubleshooters, communities, developer forums, videos, search, analytics, bug reporting, etc. Each help center is also translated to all the languages that the product supports!  In addition, help is not just limited to the help centers. You can find help within the product UI in the form of tooltips, guided help, help/search widget, etc. Then, there are many tools we use in the process which are mostly built by Google designers/engineers! When you put all that together — every product’s help center, every component of the help center, every tool we use, and every person working with help/suport — that’s the Google Help “ecosystem”. You can probably imagine the sheer size and number of people working in this area!

Our annual summit helps us to sync up on what we’re all doing, what we’re learning, what we can do to improve, and the roadmap going forward. Google has the unique job of organizing the world’s information and making it accessible to everyone. Our job (those who work with Google help/support) is to do the same with respect to using Google products! It’s indeed a daunting task to create, organize, and maintain all that information both on the front end as well as the back end! That said, I really want to start blogging more about what I do. I can’t nor do I want to represent the entire company, but I do want to share some interesting thoughts about how Google tackles some of the challenges we face in providing help/support to our users. People often ask me questions about what I do, the tools we use in the doc process, and other questions related to working as a technical writer at Google. I think people are just curious to learn more about the world’s biggest Internet company (and #1 Best Company to Work For).

I know I don’t get to update this blog much anymore due to my life being completely taken over by two kids (three if you count my husband), but I do have many topics I’d like to share. So I’m just going to start posting streams of thoughts. Excuse any incoherency or editorial/grammatical issues. I’m a technical writer, not an editor, plus this is my personal blog. It’s supposed to be a brain dump of my experiences working in the field of technical communication.
So stay tuned, more to come.


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