Tag Archives: Society for Technical Communication

Living and learning: 2016

Merriam-Webster picked surreal as its 2016 word of the year, and…yeah. At times this year I’ve felt like Alice in Wonderland, and I’ll bet you have too.

One thing remains as true as ever, though: if you’re not learning, you’re not living.

Here are some things I learned this year:

The future is technical communication

screen-shot-2016-02-25-at-6-07-54-pmTechnology is moving forward at breakneck speed. People want technology. People have different learning styles.

Who can deliver the information people need to make use of, and enjoy, the technology that’s all around them? Technical communicators, that’s who.

That’s the gist of Sarah Maddox’s keynote speech at tcworld India 2016.

I think Sarah is saying that we need continuously to hone the technical part of our job title, while not neglecting the communicator part. And I think she’s absolutely right.

We care a lot about our professional society

STC logoSome of my most popular posts this year dealt with the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and its role in a changing world. How can STC remain relevant when the traditional roles of professional societies are changing? How can it serve a community that’s growing ever more diverse, in terms of the kinds of work we do?

As 2017 begins, STC is looking for a new CEO. Whoever gets the job, and whatever things they choose to prioritize, I hope they’ll appreciate the passion and dedication of STC’s members.

DITA isn’t cheap (but it’s still worth the cost)

DITA logoEven as more organizations embrace DITA for developing their content, we hear that DITA is complex and hard to learn. Overcoming DITA’s acceptance hurdles was one of my most commented-on blog posts this year, as was my plea for greater sensitivity to the writers’ learning curve.

Yes, DITA is powerful. But it didn’t get that way by being simple. I’ve come to appreciate that writers need time to absorb the underlying principles, which happen to align closely with the principles of good technical writing, and they need time to learn the how-to aspects as well. It’s time well spent, I think.

A leader is a storyteller

monsterWe saw it in this year’s political news: for better or worse, people are drawn to the leaders who tell the best stories.

As technical communicators, we’re by nature good storytellers.

Does it follow, then, that technical writers have an edge when it comes to being good leaders? I think it does.

Don’t take things too seriously

The year truly has been surreal. Many of our deeply held beliefs — about leaders, about governments, about the course of history — have been challenged if not overturned.

Yet my most-read post in 2016, by far, was a collection of jokes. That taught me not to take things too seriously, and especially not to take myself too seriously.

It reminded me that we’re all human beings. We all need to connect with each other and, sometimes, share a laugh.

I hope I’ve connected with you, at least a few times, in 2016. I hope we’ll continue to connect in 2017. And even share a laugh or two.

Related: Living and learning: 2015

An agile STC?

How well does the Society for Technical Communication (STC) provide value for its members? For others who are studying or working in tech comm?

STC logoWe had a lively conversation a few weeks ago on this blog. I’d like to move that conversation forward.

Today’s news stream brings an article by an Australian technical writer, Swapnil Ogale, titled The ASTC is failing us. In it, Swapnil shares an idea that might breathe new life into STC.

First, by way of background: ASTC is the Australian Society for Technical Communication. Despite the name it’s not part of STC. Like STC, however, it’s a membership organization that seeks to advance the profession through published articles, events and activities, and community building.

In his article, Swapnil airs some complaints about ASTC that might sound familiar to STC members:

  • Not enough effort to attract and retain members
  • Not enough communication from the society to the members
  • Not enough workshops and events, especially for people who aren’t located near major cities
agile_dog

Hey, if a dog can be agile so can we.

Then he makes a suggestion: Instead of relying on the traditional committee structure — a structure he calls “outdated and archaic” — the organization should adopt an agile methodology like software development teams use.

Agile, or “just-in-time development,” is a set of processes designed to make software teams more flexible and able to respond quickly to the needs of their customers. Agile teams produce frequent, small software updates rather than big roll-outs.

Here’s how agile could help STC. Continue reading

Technical communication in India: a story of progress

The 17th STC India Annual Conference starts on Friday, with a great program and a great list of speakers.

1350px-Flag_of_India_svgThe enthusiasm for the event reminds me of 2011 when I presented a workshop at an STC India conference. Here, paraphrased, is what I wrote then:

India’s flag features a wheel that symbolizes three aspects of the national character: self-reliance (the wheel was originally meant to represent a spinning wheel), duty and propriety as embodied in the law of dharma, and movement.

The last of the three — movement — sums up a lot of what I’ve seen so far in India. On the street, everything is constantly moving at different paces and in different directions. But it’s moving, and somehow it all works: people get where they need to go, in one piece. Movement, or more precisely progress, also describes the many new buildings and office parks that house many of the world’s great technology companies.

Amid this progress, and certainly part of this progress, are India’s technical communicators. I’ve met several of them through social networking and in person.

STC’s India chapter, and the people in it, are definitely on the move.

Since then, the progress has surely continued. Continue reading

On greatness and elevating others

Doug Glanville, the baseball player turned author, described what it was like to play against the men who were recently elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Randy Johnson

What it looked like to bat against Randy Johnson [John Froschauer / Associated Press]

According to Glanville, playing against those great players — in particular, pitcher Randy Johnson — made him into a better player.

Glanville recalls a spring training game, very early in his career, when he hit a triple off Johnson. His confidence soared as a result: “at a young age,” he writes, “I had a tangible baseball result to go with my faith in my ability.”

He concludes by observing that “true greatness means more than a chain of personal bests. It also means bringing out the best in others — teammates and, maybe even more so, opponents.”

I never was an athlete. But I’ve long understood that I play my best when competing against opponents who are really good, no matter what the game: tennis, bowling, chess. I didn’t fully understood why, though, until I read Glanville’s article. Continue reading

Principles for a profession: technical communication

The Society for Technical Communication, an organization to which I’ve devoted a good bit of volunteer time, has always prided itself on being a professional society. STC has taken the lead in developing and promulgating those things that define a profession — for example, a code of ethics, a body of knowledge, and most recently a certification program.

Society for Technical Communication: logoYet a recent conversation on LinkedIn started with the question, Is technical communication a profession or a discipline? Continue reading