Charting the popularity of technical communication

I was exploring Google Trends to see what was happening with tech comm and related terms and found this.

As an added bonus, if you click on Google Trends at the bottom of each image. you can open up the query in the Google Trends site and play with the variables.

Tech Comm ain’t what it used to be

Technical communication and tech comm have been declining in popularity over time. The highest point on the chart is represented as 100 and the rest of the data being relative to that. This chart shows that, the terms dropped in popularity until about 2007, after which they remained relatively stable, except tech comm continuing a slow but steady decline. The joined term, techcomm is even less common, so I omitted it because it ranged from only 0 to 6 over this time period.

Technical communication has annual peaks of activity, which could correspond to TC-related conferences. (I don’t have a database with which to correlate them, so it’s just a hunch.)

What’s moving up?

Content strategy is a likely choice for an up-and-comer as this chart shows.

It’s been showing a steady increase over time with a slight inflection in 2009 when Halvorson and Rach published their first edition of Content Strategy for the Web, now in its second edition. However, the most interesting aspect of this comparison is in the geographic distribution of interest as this map shows. Technical communication is popular in North America and South Asia, while content strategy is more popular in Brazil, Europe, South Africa, SE Asia, and Australia.

Is there a better name?

Design and engineering terms seem to be more popular than plain-ole technical communication. While the this chart shows that information design and information engineering follow a trajectory over time that is similar to technical communication, they are consistently at least twice as common.

Around the world, information engineering seems to be preferred in China and India, while information design being preferred elsewhere.

But wait! There’s also some good news!

The graph that surprised me the most was this one showing that api documentation has been more popular than technical communication over time. Not so surprising is that since about 2010, api documentation has had an upward trend, with what looks like a slight acceleration in recent months.

Those are all the terms I could think up and research before my coffee ran out. Tweet me some other/better terms at @bobwatsonphd if you think I missed some good ones.

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