Volume 42, Issue 9

May 2003


Features

Determining Your Ethical Duty as a Technical Writer

by Aubrey L. Hardman, Graduate Student, Texas Tech University

In the field of technical communication, professionals encounter ethical dilemmas every day; however, many of these dilemmas go unnoticed because they are blanketed under "large" dilemmas that many people define as more serious. Nevertheless, these "small" ethical dilemmas require more of our immediate attention simply because of their frequency, even though we are often oblivious to the decisions we are making.

Premise

Dr. Sam Dragga, professor of technical communication at Texas Tech University, posed seven different ethical dilemmas to 500 technical communicators in a survey to determine the types of ethical decisions being made in the field and the basis for these decisions. The result of this survey shows that many technical communicators are uninformed about the reasoning behind the ethical decisions they make, which is problematic because there is no principle guiding their ethical decisions. According to Dr. Dragga, "Without this principle of `considered practice' to guide their decisions...technical communicators have the virtually impossible job of continuously adapting their individual ethical practices to the rapid advance of computerized technology and the new rhetorical powers that such advances never cease to offer" (p. 263).

Let's analyze the responses to one of the seven ethical dilemmas posed in Dr. Dragga's survey, attempting to educate technical communicators about their decisions and options when faced with ethical dilemmas. In the dilemma technical communicators make ethical decisions based on a deontological philosophy (that is, not based on consequences) as opposed to the consequential philosophy suggested by Dr. Dragga. Although many of the technical communicators in Dr. Dragga's survey made the same decision in this specific situation, there is nothing that ensures another technical communicator would make the same ethical decision when faced with a similar dilemma.

Dilemma

In the survey, which was published in Dr. Dragga's 1996 article, "Is This Ethical?," 76.1% of 455 participants considered the decision in the following situation unethical:

"You have been asked to design materials that will be used to recruit new employees. You decide to include photographs of the company's employees and its facilities. Your company has no disabled employees. You ask one of the employees to sit in a wheelchair for one of the photographs. Is this ethical?" (p. 256).

Furthermore, 243 participants of this 76.1% justified their decision based on a consequential philosophy. However, when this ethical dilemma is analyzed under a consequential philosophy such as utilitarianism, the decision is actually determined to be ethical.

Therefore, the following questions remain: Why did an overwhelming portion of the 455 participants in the survey justify their decision based on a consequential philosophy? If a consequential philosophy determines this decision to be ethical, then are all 243 technical communicators wrong in their decision? If these technical communicators aren't wrong, then what is the underlying principle in the participants' decisions? And what action(s) should technical communicators choose when faced with a similar ethical dilemma?

Analysis--Consequential Philosophy

According to Dr. Dragga, the consequential categorization of the participants' replies was based on the understanding that the decision in the dilemma "misleads the reader and does not factually represent the situation" (p. 261). However, according to a consequential philosophy such as utilitarianism, the ethical dilemma wouldn't be in the deception. Instead, the ethical dilemma would be in a cost/benefit analysis where the number of people negatively or positively affected would determine whether or not the decision was ethical. According to John Stuart Mill, "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness [or pleasure]" and "the estimation of pleasure should be supposed to depend on quantity alone" (pp. 7-8). Based on an initial understanding of Mill's concept, I would assume that this decision would be considered ethical according to utilitarianism because more people would benefit, or gain pleasure, from the photograph than those that would be negatively affected.

For instance, assume that the photograph is taken and sent out to local colleges to recruit new employees. Many students normally apply to work for this company because it is a well known and respected company. On the other hand, disabled students are somewhat reluctant to apply to this prestigious company because they don't feel that the company would hire them over someone without a disability. However, the photograph gives the disabled student reason to believe that the company does hire disabled employees, which encourages the disabled student to apply. Given that the company wants to diversify, hence the reason for the picture, the picture contributes to the good of the company, the employees of the company, and disabled students (or any disabled person, for that matter).

Furthermore, the possibility of someone actually discovering the deception is small. Even if someone does find out about the deception, the number of people negatively affected by the deception would be far fewer than the number of people who would benefit from the decision (for example, company employees, disabled persons, etc.).

Analysis--Deontological Philosophy

However, the challenge still remains in the fact that an overwhelming portion of the participants in Dr. Dragga's survey determined this decision to be unethical. Are the 243 respondents who deemed this decision unethical based on consequence wrong or unethical? I would argue not. Based on the majority vote that this decision is unethical, the 243 respondents' decision must be correct. Then, the question is, why did 76.1% of the participants in the survey vote that this decision was unethical? I argue that the participants' decisions were based on an imperative duty not to deceive, even if the participants aren't fully aware that this was the basis of their decision.

This latter argument follows the deontological philosophy posed by Immanuel Kant, which suggests that one should act only when one can will that the act "should become a universal law" (p. 14). If the act cannot become a universal law, then it must be rejected. This is not to suggest that the act is rejected because of any disadvantage accruing to the one performing the act or any others. Instead, the act is rejected because "it cannot be fitting as a principle in a possible legislation of universal law." (p. 15).

The decision in the ethical dilemma being discussed in this article should be undoubtedly rejected because the maxim destroys itself as soon as it is willed as a universal law--as soon as we will as a universal law the maxim that every company may deceive the public to get what it wants. This maxim is obviously the case in the decision because the company is falsely placing an employee that is not disabled in a wheelchair for the specific purpose of deceiving the public into thinking that the company has a diverse workforce. After we will our maxim as a universal law, it destroys itself because a company cannot deceive the public when it is willed that every company can deceive. If all rational beings will that every company can deceive, then all rational beings (that is, the public) will not believe that what companies say or show is true. Hence, the maxim destroys itself when it is willed as a universal law.

Because the purpose of deception is to mislead people into believing things that are untrue, the moral dilemma in this case study is comparable to lying. Therefore, our ethical dilemma is very similar to Kant's example of making false promises, which he uses to explain why lying is unethical. Kant writes, "For by such a law [making false promises] there would really be no promises at all, since in vain would my willing future actions be professed to other people who would not believe what I professed, or if they over-hastily did believe, then they would pay me back in like coin" (p. 15). As Kant argues in this case, the act of lying cannot be willed as a universal law because if everyone lies, no one would believe what anyone says, which creates a logical conundrum.

Furthermore, Kant would also argue that our decision in the moral dilemma is unethical due to the proposition that everyone has a duty to others. If a technical communicator faced with this ethical dilemma chose to deceive the public by having an employee without a disability sit in a wheelchair for the picture, the technical communicator is using everyone who sees the picture as a means to an end. The end, in this case, is the desire to mislead people into believing the company's workforce is diverse.

Kant argues that every rational being is an end because rationality (or the will) exists objectively; therefore, it is unethical to treat a rational being as a means to an end. Kant writes:

"In this way man [or woman] necessarily thinks of his [or her] own existence; thus far is it a subjective principle of human actions. But in this way also does every other rational being think of his [or her] existence on the same rational ground that holds also for me; hence it is at the same time an objective principle, from which, as a supreme practical ground, all laws of the will must be able to be derived." (p. 36)

In this excerpt, Kant argues that every rational being has the same will (for example, the ability to contemplate existence or the ability to have goals, dreams, and plans). Hence, because every rational being has a will, then it is illogical--or unethical--for a rational being to universally will that all rational beings should treat rational beings as means to an end. Therefore, we can conclude that our ethical dilemma is unethical not because of consequences but because of an imperative duty that all rational beings have to others not to deceive (or treat rational beings as means to an end).

Conclusion

The 243 technical communicators' decisions in Dr. Dragga's article are based on an imperative duty not to deceive rather than a consequential philosophy. However, many of the survey participants justified their ethical responses according to a consequential philosophy. This leads me to believe that most technical communicators are unfamiliar with the justification(s) behind their ethical decisions, which is problematic because there is no guiding principle behind the ethical decisions technical communicators make.

Technical communicators have a grave responsibility to develop an objective guiding principle to direct their ethical decisions because technical communicators are rhetoricians. As rhetoricians, technical communicators are powerful because they interpret external realities to users who take action based on those interpretations. To consciously or unconsciously mislead someone into taking action for selfish gain is simply unethical, and technical communicators should strive to act ethically because all rational people will to be treated ethically. Therefore, this article should encourage technical communicators to take the initiative to understand the reasoning behind their ethical decisions; however, understanding the justification is simply the beginning.

Based on a deontological philosophy and the 243 technical communicators' decision that the decision in the dilemma is unethical, the only option in this case is to not have the person without a disability sit in a wheelchair for the picture. However this decision can quickly become much more complicated if we consider additional variables into the equation such as maintaining job security, supporting a family, and recruiting competent employees to ensure the future success of the company. Determining whether a moral dilemma is ethical or unethical is often the easy part; the more difficult part is choosing what to do.

References

Dragga, Sam. "'Is This Ethical? A Survey of Opinion on Principles and Practices of Document Design." Technical Communication , Third Quarter 1996: 255-265.

Kant, Immanuel. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: On a supposed Right to Lie because of Philanthropic Concerns. Ed. James Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.

Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism . Ed. George Sher. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1979.

 


Technical Communication Job Market

Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We're Going

by Rahel Anne Bailie, Region 7 Director-Sponsor

Before I launch into my opinions about present trends in the technical communication field, I feel I should provide a bit of context for my comments. I entered the technical communication industry in the late 1980s, when the personal computer market was just taking off. In fact, I worked for a PC manufacturer—working on the documentation launching of their line of 286 computers.

I've worked in the field through the economic downturn of 1992, the boom years of the late 1990s, and the recent downturn of 2002. My experience has given me a long look at where we've been, which is important when looking at where we're going.

Major Industry Trends and Shifts

The number of technical writers seemed to grow exponentially in the 1990s. It was the "weatherproof" profession that grew, first because of the proliferation of software programs being created for personal computers, and later because the need for technical communicators grew as the presence of the Internet became as ubiquitous as the presence of the personal computer itself.

Four important industry shifts took place during the 1990s. First, technical communicators working in the software industry radically shifted the focus of the profession by establishing new trends such as single sourcing, visual communication, and document design.

Second, technical writers were expected to increase their breadth of skills: learning word processing to input our own text, learning desktop publishing software to design our own documents, and even drawing our own graphics using graphic programs. We became technical communicators with a stronger skill set--with a steeper learning curve. Third, these changes brought new ways of working: shorter publication cycles with consolidation of tasks, and an increased breadth of skills. Fourth, many of us moved into spin-off professions and, though we stayed under the STC umbrella, we became content developers and translation coordinators, defining ourselves in broader terms.

In the early 2000s, the downturn began in the telecommunications industry and seemed like it would never bottom out. Companies made deep cuts, and technical communicators moved into adjacent career spaces to continue working in the industry: marketing communication, instructional design, or new work such as interaction design, usability analysis, or information architecture.

Employment Trends

Today, the biggest single issue seems to be unemployment. Technical communicators are looking for jobs, but the jobs aren't coming. They're not being listed on the job banks, and they're not being published in the newspapers. And though the job market in North America seems to have turned the corner, far too many technical communicators are still looking for jobs instead of working. So where is the disconnect?

One of the shifts I see in the marketplace is that, while there is much work available, there are few jobs listed for such work. Companies don't want to post an ad on a job board and get bombarded with hundreds of resumes. Right now, they don't even want to commit to having a job. The software industry tends to be a young industry. Some of the engineers I've worked with are younger than my own child. I've reported to engineering directors and VPs with children the same age as my grandchildren. These professionals may have their first economic downturn, and are still smarting from the heavy lay-offs of the past couple of years.

They aren't ready to commit to hiring new employees, and their CFOs aren't confident enough about the company financial picture to commit to the expense of a new salary. Also, documentation has traditionally been seen as a burdensome expense, a cost that takes away from profits, much like accounting and human resources.

Our Strategies for Success

To meet these new shifts in perspective, we need to shift our perspectives. Technical writers and communicators need to think more like entrepreneurs, "free agents," and prove to potential employers how investing in us will bring a profitable return on investment for the product. We need to prove this, not just in "soft and fuzzy" terms, but in arguments that business people understand. We're more likely to find freelance, contract, and consulting opportunities than we are to find a regular job.

We know that the users' point of view is important, and that we can affect the quality of the entire product, not just the documentation. But we haven't been very good at proving it in ways that can be quantified for the bean counters.

I can hear the next question in your minds: "Where are these opportun-ities, and how do I tap into them?" Herein lies the conundrum. By nature, perhaps, and by numbers, certainly, technical communicators are introverts. On the Meyers-Briggs scale, the number one profession for INTPs is writer. This doesn't mean that we're shy or retiring, but it does mean that we tend not to like to engage in professional socializing. We shun small talk and would rather communicate by e-mail than by schmoozing with the executive crowd. In other words, we don't like to network. Ah yes, there's that word again, and here's how it plays out in the marketplace today and in the future.

We need to be able to look at our offerings differently, explain what we can contribute, and show how we enhance the product. We need to become comfortable with volunteering the cost-benefit analysis that makes companies want to write us a contract on the spot.

We need to rewrite our resumes as profiles to highlight what we can bring to the table, instead of documenting where we've been. Once we've done that, we need to network with the people who can lead us to the opportunities that exist and the opportunities that are still just a gleam in a software developer's eye.

Networking

I notice that we tend to organize get-togethers with our peers and other communicators and job seekers in technology professions. This is socializing, but it's not networking. These encounters rarely lead to meeting the decision-makers.

We need to work our professional selves into the same rooms where arguments and decisions are made. We need to develop relationships with people who want to know more about what we do, not because they are doing something similar, but because they can assess whether their companies need our services or not.

Statistics published by various governments continue to point to technical communication as a growth profession, and as the market becomes more stabilized there will again be more jobs. But we may never return to the heyday of the 1990s when employers faced such a shortage of professional staff that they wore their desperation on their sleeves. Meanwhile, we are in a perfect position to learn yet another new skill: marketing ourselves like the professionals we are.

Resources

Free agents: www.fastcompany.com (keywords: free agent, entrepreneurship)

Options in technical communication: www.stcsig.org

Networking: www.bailie.com/archives.htm

Showing ROI: www.computerworld.com/managementtopics/roi?from=left

 


STC Houston Competition Roundup

by Deborah R. Crockett, Documentation Project Manager, Hewlett-Packard Company,
and Deborah Silvi, Technical Publications Manager, BMC Software

This year's STC Houston Technical Art, Publications, and Online Communication competition offered several new activities. In light of the economy, we lowered our entry fee. In appreciation of our corporate sponsors, we treated them to the banquet, at no cost. And we also developed and initiated a judging survey.

The survey was developed to find ways for improving the way STC Houston manages the competition judging. The survey was sent to all competition judges, and it asked the judges to provide information such as which competition they judged; whether they attended the judging workshop and/or the judging party; and their level of satisfaction with those activities.

STC Houston wanted also wanted to know the number of entries judged by each team; the number of times the teams met to discuss their evaluations; the level of communication the judges felt they received from their team lead; the level of support judges received from their judging manager during entry distribution and return; as well as the usefulness of the judging and award forms. The survey ended with a request for suggestions.

The survey revealed the following information:

In addition to providing suggested questions for next year's survey, those surveyed gave ideas for improvement. The suggestions included:

All in all, the 2002 STC Houston Technical Publications, Art, and Online Communication competition was a success. Looking forward, there is always room for improvement.

 

Regular Features

Volunteers of the Month

Nominating Committee and a Student Member

by Dorothy Murray, Senior Technical Writer, Sercel, Inc.

STC Houston is honoring three senior members and a new student member as Volunteers of the Month for May. As the 2003 Nominating Committee, Suzanne Stuckly-Taboada, Verna Dunn, and John Reynolds III recruited candidates to stand for election to the STC Houston Administrative Council. Angela Livingston, a senior at the University of Houston, who joined STC in November, enthusiastically helped both the Employment Committee and the Community Service Committee.

Suzanne, the nominating committee chair, is a technical publications manager at BMC Software in the Enterprise Service Management business unit. Previously, Suzanne was an accountant who conducted audits.

Verna, an information developer at BMC Software, develops hardcopy manuals and online Help for Database Knowledge Modules. Previously, Verna was a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, a legal secretary, and a paralegal. She has a degree in professional writing from the University of Houston-Downtown.

John, a freelance technical communicator, was honored as STC Houston Man of the Year in 2002 for developing the chapter database. Previously, he was awarded a Distinguished Chapter Service Award.

Incoming president Jocelyn Williams explains that "It's not easy to recruit people for office, because you need to understand the duties of each position, recognize members' backgrounds and capabilities, and communicate how they can contribute to the chapter in a leadership capacity. The nominating committee worked for several months and presented a strong slate of candidates to the membership."

Outgoing president George Slaughter concurs: "Being a council member is a big commitment, and many people shy away from the challenge. The nominating committee must convince prospective candidates that they can make a difference for our active, award-winning chapter."

Angela Livingston will graduate in May with a B.A. degree in history and a minor in English. While looking for a job as a technical communicator, Angela heard that Gary Foster, manager of the Employment Committee, was also looking for a job. When she found an interesting lead, she sent it to Gary. Eventually, he asked Angela to join the Employment Committee so that other members would benefit from her job-search skills and enthusiasm.

Together with Ann Liggio, manager of the Community Service Committee, Angela represented STC Houston as a volunteer at KUHT-TV during a recent pledge drive. Angela is also learning piano, karate, and XHTML.

STC Houston salutes its senior members and welcomes its newest members. We are pleased to honor Suzanne Stuckly-Taboada, Verna Dunn, John Reynolds III, and Angela Livingston as May 2003 Volunteers of the Month.


Letter from Linda

Conference Going 101

by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor

Did you know that approximately half the attendees at each STC Annual Conference are first timers? So, when you think you're the only one who's lost, look around. The confused look on your face may be reflected from more places than just your mirror!

STC's 50th Annual Conference is my 20th. Over the years, the annual conference has become the most rewarding and fun part of my STC membership. Read on for a few tips on how you can make it yours as well.

How to Plan Your Time

Choices, choices, choices! How do you decide? For each time period available, you must choose from five areas of information (stem), from five styles of presentation (format), and from a myriad of topics. Check your final program for descriptions of each symbol, format, and stem. If you still have questions, ask your stem manager or a colleague. Look for someone who looks comfortable. He or she probably has it all figured out.

As you plan your sessions, keep in mind these questions and answers: Do you want a hands-on experience? Choose a workshop. Do you want to see how a new product or technique is used? Choose a demonstration. Would you like a small variety of information on a general topic? Choose a panel discussion or a group of paper presentations. Do you want a lot of information about one area of communication? Choose a progression.

Some of us enjoy particular topics, some look for particular presenters, and some relate to particular formats. I even know a few folks who stake out a room and just wait there all day taking whatever comes into the room. Now that's a truly laid-back way of experiencing a conference!

But if you want a little more structure, check the program. You'll find that many topics have been purposely "streamed." Streaming means that special care has been taken to book similar topics at different times so you can go to several sessions on the same topic. If you have a particular interest in "Online Help," check the "Streams" section of the program. You'll see that several sessions on this topic occur each day of the conference and you can plan accordingly.

All in all, the time will speed by. Don't forget to make time to visit the Exhibits area where you'll find vendors and products on display, as well as winning entries of STC competitions. And if you're really smart, you'll attend some of the STC functions such as the network lunch and the awards banquet. To really get your value out of STC, you have to support all those who work hard to make it the great organization it is!

How to Get What You Need

What is your area of expertise? Do you want to learn how to do what you do better and faster with newer tools, or do you want to return to basics and get a refresher for the things you tend to forget because your deadlines get first priority? What is an area you'd like to learn more about? Figure out what you want, and I'm sure you'll be able to find it!

The one tip that overrules all your decisions is to be flexible. If what you had planned to see is cancelled or full, just go to the next room or across the hall. Find something nearby that you would never have planned to see. You could be surprised! Stay open to new ideas and listen to people you may never see again. Realize how impressive it is that we have this conference, and that more than 2000 people are in the same place--all ready to share what they know about what they do for a living.

Don't forget to network . Take advantage of all the knowledge around you. Talk to those in the hallways, on the elevators, at the refreshment tables, and in the Exhibits area. Smile and ask folks where they come from and what they do. Ask for help if you need it. Offer help if you can. Share what you know and how you feel, and you'll have a conversation going in an eye's blink! Revel in the excitement of the conference. Let yourself learn all you can!

How to Help

As in any other venue, STC conferences have their rules of etiquette. They are simple and follow standards of good taste:

Be a sponge. Soak up everything. Help yourself to new opportunities, new ideas, new people, and new technology. You just might go home a more capable you!


From the President

Honoring a Mentor and Friend

by George Slaughter, Senior Technical Writer, The Integrity Group

This month I'd like to introduce Dr. Carolyn Rude of Texas Tech University, someone who has played a role in the STC Houston that we know today—even though she's never been a member of our chapter.

I first met Dr. Rude at the May 1999 STC Houston program meeting. She spoke about Texas Tech's online Master of Arts in Technical Communication degree program and encouraged me to apply. I did, and expect to earn my master's degree this month.

Texas Tech and STC Houston

My graduate school coursework has influenced the STC Houston you see today. To cite one example, the chapter's www.stc-houston.org web site began as a proposal in Dr. Rude's Technical Reports class. At the time, the web site needed a redesign and, with Dr. Rude's encouragement, my classmate Joelle Hallowell and I worked with then-webmaster Gerri Huck to create a winning proposal. April Cooper McAnespy and Kate G. Compton took the proposal and created the web site, and Theresa Dunson oversees it today.

Another example is the STC Houston Style Guide. The guide began as an assignment for Dr. Rude's Technical Editing class. The style guide has helped us ensure quality in our chapter publications. This fall, Rebecca Taylor, Seth Massey, and I, among others, will be revising and expanding the style guide.

Tipping My Graduation Cap

Dr. Rude is an STC Fellow, the highest designation someone can receive in the Society. She has mentored many in our community and elsewhere. This fall she will be leaving Texas to take a teaching position at Virginia Tech University. We in Texas will miss her greatly.

For me personally, there is no way I can summarize, much less repay, the debt I owe her. I cherish her friendship and wish her all the best in her new role.


From the Editor

STC Houston Presenters at 50th Annual Conference

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Analyst, Hewlett-Packard Company

The 50th Annual Conference of the Society for Technical Communication is coming up fast! This year's event in Dallas promises to be the best conference yet.

Before you arrive at the conference, you can search all of the available sessions on the conference web site at www.stc.org/50thConf/index.asp. However, I have compiled a partial list of STC Houston presenters so that you can look for your peers at the podiums.

If you're a presenter and we didn't get you on this list, please let us know at newsletter@stc-houston.org. We'll keep this list updated on the chapter web site (www.stc-houston.org).

I hope to see many of you in Big D! Here are some of the STC Houston presenters and their topics:

Single-Sourcing with Word and Transit

Sylvia Emanuel and Paul Mueller

This demonstration presents a solution to single-sourcing that uses Microsoft Word and HTML Transit for print and HTML deliveries.

Using Automation to Increase Document Accuracy

Gary Cordrey and Wayne Schmadeka

This session explains and demonstrates the adaptation of scripted automation technology to the documentation of technically complex software, thereby

Technical and Professional Communication in China

Melanie G. Flanders, Carol A. Hidinger, Nancy G. House

This progression shares the experiences of 11 technical communicators who visited China in 2002 and met with their Chinese counterparts. This was the first meeting of Westerners with the Society of Chinese Technical Communication.

Demonstrating the Financial Value of Technical Communication

George Slaughter

After a brief review of the literature about measuring value, this panel will describe a practical approach for demonstrating financial value and present two case studies of this approach.

Sentence Diagrams: Schematics for Correct Sentences

Ann Jennings

Learn traditional sentence diagramming in this workshop, and perk up your writing and editing skills.

Return of the Mystery Panel

Ann Jennings

This demonstration takes a lighthearted look at the sometimes tenuous link between the mystery novel and technical communication.

Using JavaScript So Writers Can Write

Paul Mueller

Writers can quickly create autoruns and product reviews without writing JavaScript. These methods also apply to embedded help. This demonstration shows how to use JavaScript to set up standard layouts and variables.

Professional Development through Technical Communication Programs

Christiana Birchak

This panel discussion focuses on how today's technical communication programs help advance one's career, current knowledge, and skill sets.

Grow Your Practice by Managing Business Relationships

Ryan Bernard, Melanie G. Flanders, Rob Moschak, and Nicole Wycislo

Learn some of the basic issues surrounding business relationships from this experienced panel, including planning (estimating and bidding), formalizing project-based contractual relationships, and exploring more permanent partnership arrangements.

Chapter News

In Memoriam–Milton W. Crusius

1922-2003

Milton W. (Milt) Crusius was born May 9, 1922, in Mobile, Alabama, and died on April 15, 2003. He joined STC in 1971. At that time, he was a newcomer to technical writing, having joined Exxon's Documentation Group in July 1970. Sandra Coulter, his editor at Exxon, recruited Milt into the Society. A U.S. Navy veteran, Milt was a crewman aboard the fleet flagship U.S.S. Pennsylvania at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He left the Navy in late 1946 to attend The University of Texas at Austin and received a B.S. in geology in 1949. Milt worked as a geophysical interpreter (subsurface mapper) for 20 years in the Texas Gulf Coast area, in South Africa, and in Oklahoma. In 1963, Milt co-authored a guidebook titled Geology of El Rancho Cima for use by Boy Scouts in earning the geology merit badge. In 1968-69, his biographical sketch appeared in Leaders in American Science; in 1977-78, he was included in Who's Who in the South and Southwest. Milt's hobbies were rock hunting, gardening (especially roses), oil painting, fishing, and amateur photography.

Milt's STC contributions began as art chairman for the 1972 seminar. In 1973, he was chapter publicity manager and managed the industrial exhibits committee for the 20th Annual ITCC Conference. In 1973, he was elected vice chairman. He served as chapter president 1974-75. In 1975-76, Milt was a director and also newsletter editor. He continued as a contributing editor of the newsletter through 1978. When Milt became newsletter managing editor, he reintroduced member biographies, which had been been published briefly during 1967-68. The chapter continued to provide member biographies through 1985. Milt received the chapter Shoulder of Giants award (similar to today's Distinguished Chapter Service Award) in May 1977.

If you have any memories of Milt that you would like to share, please contact Deborah Silvi, chapter historian, at deborah_silvi@bmc.com.


May Program Meeting

Conference Preview

The STC 50th Annual Conference takes place from May 18-21 in Dallas. To help speakers from our chapter get ready for the excited throngs of technical communicators, we've asked some of them to give us a preview of their conference sessions.

Ann Jennings, Paul Mueller, and George Slaughter have signed on to give you these previews. Each of them will give a two- to five-minute summary of their conference session. After each summary, we'll open the floor for your questions. Use this opportunity to clarify muddy points, delve into mentioned points, and propose additional points.

For more information about this session, send your questions to Cindy Pao, director of programs, at cindypao@earthlink.net, or take a look at the chapter's web site at www.stc-houston.org.

Raffle changes!

Starting this month, raffle tickets will be sold separately from the meeting registration. Tickets are now sold on a cash-only basis, so please be prepared! Look for the table inside the meeting room, where you can see the prizes and purchase tickets. Proceeds benefit the Marx Isaacs Student Scholarship Fund.

Send your questions to Cindy Pao at cindypao@earthlink.net.

Place:

Hilton Houston Westchase and Towers
9999 Westheimer Road

Date:

Tuesday, May 13

Time:

5:30 p.m. networking (hors d’oeuvres)
6:20 p.m. announcements
6:30 p.m. program

Cost:

$10 (members)
$13 (nonmembers)
$3 (student and unemployed members)
$6 (student non-members)

Drawing:

A drawing for various prizes is held at the end of each general meeting. Proceeds benefit the Marx Isaacs Student Scholarship Fund.


Photos from the April Program Meeting

 

 

Society & Industry News

STC News

STC's 51st Annual Conference Call for Proposals

The call for proposals for STC's 51st Annual Conference was mailed as an insert with the April 2003 issue of intercom, and is posted on the STC web site at www.stc.org/51stConf. The deadline for the Society office to receive proposals is August 1, 2003.

The conference will be held May 9-12, 2004, in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference theme is "Navigating the Future of Technical Communication."

For more information, please contact Buffy M. Bennett at buffy@stc.org.

Nominating Committee Seeks Candidates for Society-Level Positions in 2004

Would you like to help STC remain a vital organization? You—and other members whom you know and respect—can perform this important function. How? By being a candidate for a Society-level position in 2004.

Ask yourself these questions: Are you good at listening for and implementing ideas? Do you think you can help direct and administer Society-level activities? Would you like to represent our membership on ceremonial occasions? Could you help coordinate an array of programs beneficial to our profession? If your answers are "Yes," tell the STC Nominating Committee that you would be interested in running for office. If you know another member who should be considered a candidate for a position on our international board, please mention that person's name also.

A healthy international board needs a combination of seasoned Society leaders and new senior members (those with at least five years of STC membership) with fresh perspectives. So whether you're a veteran member or a new senior member, consider stepping forward.

The Nominating Committee will consider all recommendations as it draws up the 2004 slate. Part of the committee's process involves contacting potential candidates to confirm that they are interested in running for STC office.

The members of this year's Nominating Committee are Michelle Ratcliffe (manager), Suncoast chapter; M. Katherine Brown, Snake River chapter; Nan J. Fritz, Boston chapter; and two others to be determined in this spring's election. Please feel free to discuss your ideas with any of these people.

Open Positions and Qualifications

During the STC year ahead, the following positions will be filled by election:

All candidates must be senior members. Candidates for second vice president must have extensive leadership experience, preferably in positions at the Society level. Candidates for secretary should have strong communication skills and leadership experience at the chapter or regional level. Candidates for director-sponsor should have a history of successful STC leadership, preferably at the chapter or regional level.

Nominating Committee candidates should have excellent judgment about people and wide acquaintance with members at all levels of the Society.

The Nominating Committee welcomes your suggestions about potential candidates for the positions listed here. If you think that you or someone you know should be considered, please fill out the accompanying form and return it to STC by August 1, 2003.

Alternatively, members attending STC's 50th Annual Conference in Dallas, May 18-21, may turn in their forms at the program booth in the Wyndham Anatole Hotel.


Networking Opportunities

If you have a networking opportunity to share, please tell us! Go to www.stc-houston.org/contacteditor.htm.

Volume 42, Issue 9

May 2003