Volume 43, Issue 5

February 2004


Features

What's in a <FrameMaker tag> Name?

by Shlomo Perets, Founder, MicroType

There are many considerations behind the names you choose for various FrameMaker items, especially paragraph, character, and conditional tags and variables:

Shlomo Perets formed MicroType in 1989 and provides training and consulting in FrameMaker and Acrobat, FrameMaker-to-Acrobat integrated solutions, and online documentation services. Shlomo will present his advanced FrameMaker seminars in Houston in February. For details, see www.microtype.com.


Making the Most of Our STC Houston Forum

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard

The STC Houston Forum has been online for a few months and has already gained over 80 registered users. The forum is a replacement to our stchou-l discussion list, allowing easier archival and searching of posts. The stchou-l list will officially become an announcements-only list at the end of February, so now is the time to see what our Forum has to offer!

Reasons to Use the Forum

The STC Houston Forum, powered by an application called phpBB, is a powerful new communication tool. The graphical user interface makes reading, posting, and searching messages a breeze! You can send a private message to any member of the board to request clarification on a post without divulging your e-mail address to anyone. If you post a message to the board, you have the option of receiving an immediate e-mail notice when someone replies. Discussions are organized into categories, making it easier to find information.

STC Houston Forum Layout

The Forum is divided into categories: STC Houston Forum Info, Employment, Satellites and SIGs, Discussion, and Chapter Business.

The STC Houston Forum Info category contains forums about moderators, tips for using the forums, and general rules and guidelines.

The Employment category is devoted to our job and employee seekers. You'll find forums to post an opening if you're hiring and apply for jobs if you're unemployed. We also recently added a“General Employment Issues” forum for questions regarding interview etiquette, resume preparation, job resources, and anything else regarding employment.

The Satellites and SIGs category is where we connect based on our location or SIG affiliation. The Satellite forums are devoted to our satellite members in Bryan/College Station and Louisana. This is a place for them to meet and talk online, but this is also the perfect opportunity for some Houstonians to introduce themselves. We have a couple of active SIGs in Houston, which are represented on the forum. But we also have local members of our national SIGs who like to find fellow SIG members and chat amongst themselves.

The Discussions category is all about interacting. Do you have a question about how to set up image frames in FrameMaker? Repaginate a complex document in Word? Deconstruct a colleague's poorly written sentence? Or, do you have a story about your STC experience that you'd like to share in our STC@50 forum? This is where you go to mingle and talk about the issues that are important to you and other technical communicators.

Finally, our Chapter Business category covers all chapter announcements, events, and networking opportunities. If you're looking to get more involved in STC Houston, you'll find a Volunteer Opportunities forum so you can find a task that is suited perfectly to your tastes and expertise.

First Step: Register and Log In

If you haven't already logged on to the STC Houston Forum, it's easy to do! You can view all forums and postings without registering as a user, but you must be registered in order to post. This helps us reduce SPAM and inappropriate posting.

Go to the STC Houston Forum (forum.stc-houston.org) and click on the Register link near the banner at the top of the page (see Figure 1). When you register, you have several options from which to choose to protect your privacy. You can opt to display or hide your e-mail address in posts. You can also choose to include your instant message handles and personal or business URL in your user profile.

The only information that is required on the registration form is your username, password, and e-mail address (whether you choose to display it or not). You create your own username and password, so make it something that's easy to remember!

Once you have registered, log in to the forum and post to your heart's content! When you are logged in to the system, the“Log in” icon in the banner changes to say “Log out” with your username in brackets.

Getting Around the Forum

Figure 2 shows a screen shot of the STC Houston Forum. There are many things to do on the Forum, but I've highlighted 10:

1

Use this link to go back to the STC Houston home page.

2

You can search all of the forums by keyword. You can also limit your search to specific forums.

3

Use this link to Register for the STC Houston Forum.

4

Click here to log in. There's an option to "remember me" so you don't have to log in every time you visit the board from the computer. Alternatively, you can also log in at the bottom of the screen (see #9).

5

Click on "STC Houston Forum Index" to return to the forum home page. This is the fast way to get back to the top if you're done reading a thread.

6

Use this link to view all unanswered posts. This is a helpful way to make sure that everyone's inquiries are being answered. This link shows you all posts with no replies.

7

The gold cells indicate that this is a category. Categories hold forums.

8

The gray cells indicate that this is a forum. Forums hold topics or threads.

9

Use this section to log in. Alternatively, you can log in using the link at the top of the page (see #4).

10

This legend shows you the icons that indicate which forums have new posts since your last visit.

I hope this article helps you get started with our new Forum. This is an exciting opportunity to create and foster a strong online community for our chapter.

We will be adding some new features to our board, so watch the“STC Houston Forum Info” forum for updates.

Please visit the STC Houston Forum at forum.stc-houston.org. I'll see you online!


January STC Meeting Report

Pearls of Wisdom from Suzanna Laurent

by Deborah Long, Principal, Long Communications

STC Houston starts off the New Year with a visit from Suzanna Laurent, second vice-president of the Society.

Suzanna, who has earned the status of an honorary member of our chapter after frequent visits over the years, was the much-welcomed guest speaker at January's program meeting. She brought us up-to-date on what's happening with the Society's emerging transformation plans, reminding us that we can speak up and contribute our ideas to help shape the inevitable organizational changes expected to occur over the next few years. Our profession must respond to the fast-paced shifts occurring in the global workplace to ensure that technical communicators survive and flourish.

Continuing with the evening's theme of change, Suzanna went on to present her personal take on the "Jungle Out There" and how we can choose to respond to change as an opportunity. According to Suzanna, we can and should make change work for us—not against us. She shared poignant anecdotes about her personal experiences with drastic, unexpected changes in her life—both at work and at home. She also gave us instructions on stress-buster techniques from a true survivor! It turns out that laughter is the very best antidote to stress, right up there with exercise.

Suzanna left us with many important coping strategies to put into practice. It is up to each of us, however, to find out what works best. Regardless of our various challenging situations in the new millennium, the fact is that the "fittest survive," and the old adage "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" still applies. So, follow the advice not to get caught in the underbrush!

Many thanks to Suzanna for her inspirational presentation. I, for one, went home motivated and ready to face the "jungle out there" with renewed vigor!

More Photos from the January Meeting

Regular Features

February Volunteer of the Month

by Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

Can you guess:

Who has been a technical communicator for eight years?

Who revised the evaluation form for this year's program meetings?

Who helped at the registration desk at the September meeting?

Who earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry and used all that knowledge to teach?

Who created the treasure hunt game, featured at the October and January meetings?

Who revised the sign-in sheet for registration at the monthly meetings?

Who designed this year's Programs postcard?

Who has been the chapter's manager of Share the Knowledge (STKs) sessions for many, many years?

Who is currently a contractor with The Integrity Group and is on assignment at Hewlett-Packard, where he writes online and hard copy documentation for server hardware and software?

And the Winner Is...

STC Houston is pleased to name John Turner as the Volunteer of the Month for February.

Thank you, John, for working on the Programs committee this year and in past years, too!

Friends Weigh in About John

One member said, "John's such a great guy! He's so friendly and enthusiastic. His attitude really makes newcomers feel welcome and oldtimers glad they stayed!"

And another said, "John has many years of quiet yet active chapter participation. His leadership of the share-the-knowledge sessions has helped people master technical knowledge crucial to their success."


Letter from Linda

"At First"

by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor and STC Fellow

At first, the year stretches ahead with possibilities. At first, we see it as a blank slate, a white canvas waiting for our words or drawings of wealth and success and humor and health. Yet, January is just another month. The newness, the opportunity, and the excitement are all in our heads. We can make any day a new day, any month a new month, any moment a moment of possibility.

If I have learned anything over these last months of unemployment and personal loss, it is that I am blessed. I found strength and friends and funds that I didn't know were there. And I found hope and confidence in myself. I had new things to learn, new places to go, new ideas to embrace. But, above all, I learned to trust.

At first, before we really can do anything well, we must believe in ourselves and know who we are. I have a friend who is a marriage and family counselor. She says we each have "our story." When someone asks about you, what do you say? Do you identify yourself by what you do? By how many children you have? By how much money you make? Or do you identify yourself by the influence you have on your world? How do you share that story?

We in technical communication have a blessing in our job titles. Because most people don't know what a technical writer or information developer does, we are forced to explain it. My mom never did understand my job, yet she was proud of me. As I look back, I realize her pride came mostly from the success I achieved through STC. She could see those successes. She could read about them. She understood about me mentoring others, giving speeches to folks who were attending their first conference, and helping people write better resumes. She never did understand what I did to make a document more readable or better designed.

I recently took advantage of an outplacement agency. One exercise was to develop a 15-second introduction. In 15 seconds, we had to explain to a stranger what value we brought to others through our work. Can you do that? Practice it. "Hi, I'm Joe Bagadonuts, I help people use and understand technology by providing them with clear, concise, and complete printed and online guides that are built with simple words and easy-to-understand pictures." As you can see, even after months of practice, I still can't get it quite right! And is that really the value I bring to the workplace?

So, what is your story? At first, you might have to think about it. What are you known for? What do you want to be known for? I don't want to be known as an editor or writer. I want to be known for helping others attain their goals. I want recognition for helping others understand what their value is and for manifesting it in their work, in their play, and in their hearts. But telling others that's what I do isn't the answer. I have to show it. I have to do it. Then, from at first to at last, no matter what "job" I have, the recognition will come, but it really won't matter because I will be doing what I love. My actions are my story. They are my first and my last. And it won't matter if it's January or July.

 


From the President

Next Order of Business

by Jocelyn Williams, Independent Consultant

Congratulations to all of the STC Houston Competitions award winners!

The competitions judging is over and our awards banquet is past. What's next for STC Houston? The next item of importance is the nomination and election of new chapter officers and directors for the coming year.

Verna Dunn and her committee members (Paul Mueller and Pat Bishop) have started recruiting prospective candidates.

Opportunities Galore

Experience, though important, is not a requirement. You can learn by doing. What is required is a passion for technical communication and an eagerness for new challenges. If you're asked to run for a chapter position, I recommend that you take the opportunity to serve and keep an open mind.

Service within STC is hard work. However, you have the opportunity to touch lives, inspire new members, implement changes, and help chapter operations and events run smoothly for another year. The hard work is worthwhile!

Nominating Details

For questions or to recommend a candidate to fill the roles of chapter president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, or director, contact Verna Dunn, nominating manager (Verna_Dunn@bmc.com). Our nominating committee will announce the slate of candidates in March. Chapter members will vote on candidates at the April program meeting.

Society-Level Elections

Elections for society-level officers are also held in the spring, so watch your email or mailbox for voting information. In addition to the hardcopy voting ballot, an online voting ballot will be available. Check the STC web site (www.stc.org) for candidate profiles and online voting ballots. To vote, you must renew your STC membership by February 28.

Make your voices heard!


From the Editor

Check Out the New STC Web Site

By Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard

The Society office has released a new version of its web site this month. The announcement sent to STC leaders and editors offers a good chance for some basic instruction on Web design.

Many web designs these days heavily rely on tables to accomplish delicate spacing and column designs. The new STC web site has moved away from relying on tables and has instead used Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to perform most of the formatting. According the Society announcement, the advantage of CSS is that it "separates site content from presentation" and offers the following benefits:

The STC web site has also enhanced the following features:

The new design is based on member feedback and usability testing. According to the Society office, the STC staff plans to continue making improvements based on member feedback, so I encourage you to visit the new site (still at www.stc.org) and send your input to the STC webmaster.

Chapter News

March Program Meeting

How do we measure value in technical communication? Much has been written about the topic because of the uncertain economy and the growing focus on offshoring. Yet not many models exist that people can use to identify and measure ways in which their work benefits their organizations.

George Slaughter, STC Houston immediate past president, will talk about how technical communicators can use the Balanced Scorecard model to measure value in technical communication.

The Balanced Scorecard, a business goal model used by a number of companies worldwide, helps companies set their performance goals in a number of areas, including finance, customer relations, internal business process, and training.

This model benefits technical communicators in that they learn how their work benefits their companies in those areas. As a result, technical communicators, their colleagues, and their customers, develop a greater awareness of the value technical communication brings.

George is a senior technical writer with The Integrity Group and earned his M.A. in Technical Communication from Texas Tech University. He is a senior member of STC, served as the STC Houston president from 2001-2003, and his work has appeared in numerous publications.

Place:

Hilton Houston Westchase
9999 Westheimer Road

Date:

Tuesday, March 9

Time:

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

Cost:

$10 (members)
$15 (nonmembers)
$ 5 (student and unemployed members)
$ 10 (student nonmembers)

Drawing:

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


Member News

New Member Luncheon

by David Remson, Information Developer, NetIQ

Mark your calendars, new members—the new member luncheon is Saturday, March 13!

Each year STC Houston hosts an event to welcome new members and introduce them to the STC community. This is an opportunity for new members to spend time with chapter leaders, make new friends, and get active in STC Houston. The informal lunch is Dutch treat, but the opportunity to meet and enjoy lunch together is free.

We need to get a count before the event, so please RSVP if you plan to join us.

When

Saturday, March 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Where

Logan Farms Honey Glazed Hams
10560 Westheimer
www.loganfarms.com

RSVP before noon, March 10, to:
membership@stc-houston.org

Member Spotlight

Congratulations to Jeff Staples who has been inducted into the Society's Sigma Tau Chi honorary fraternity for students of technical communication. Learn more about Sigma Tau Chi at www.stc.org/honoraryFraternities.asp.

New Senior Members

According to the STC Bylaws, the grade of senior member is conferred upon those who have held the grade of member for five consecutive years. The following STC

Houston members have recently achieved senior member status:

Congratulations on these achievements!

If you have news to share about STC Houston members, please tell us by going to www.stc-houston.org/contacteditor.htm.


Employment: The Necessity of Self-Promotion

by Steve Shriver, Contract Technical Writer, Baker Hughes

Sales is a bad word for most writer types, and it shouldn't be. It's OK to be assertive or even aggressive in seeking to fulfill your career goals.

"Now is a good time to show boss why you deserve a raise," was the headline of a good article in the Houston Chronicle on January 12, 2004. (You can access this via the newspaper's archives if you're a subscriber, or you can e-mail me and I'll send you a soft copy.)

Realize that you're going to have to do some brainstorming and come up with a sales campaign for a raise or a promotion. That's right, a sales campaign. You don't want to harass your manager, but you've got to be persistent. You need some ammunition—the objective type, not subjective.

Employees are not generally good at initiating this process and management is rarely going to take the lead. If you get your plan on paper and refine it to make your point, you'll have the confidence to mount your campaign. This process could be up to a year long.

Here's another opportunity to use the Ben Franklin balance sheet, a variation of the T-letter I wrote about last month. As the story goes, Franklin was having difficulty making a decision. So, he drew a line down the middle of a blank sheet of paper and listed the pros in the left column and the cons in the right column. He slept on it, and the next morning, the answer was easy—the decision made itself.

Make a Ben Franklin balance sheet, but this time, list the minimum requirements of your job in the left column. In the right column, list your accomplishments since you've been on the job. Try to quantify these achievements in terms of dollars or time, saved or made, whenever possible.

Now you can approach your boss with a win-win proposition: happy and well-compensated employees are very productive, and you want to be as productive as possible for your company.

This will help you when it comes time to update your resumé, too. Accomplishment statements are one of the most powerful things you can do, to get a job or to keep the one you've got.

Society & Industry News

Educational Opportunities

Phone Seminars

Details about the following STC telephone seminars have been posted on the STC web site at www.stc.org:

Thursday, February 26

Wednesday, March 10

Wednesday, March 24

All seminars are from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Houston time. Members can register online and view announcements for the seminars on www.stc.org.

Because you pay only for the connection, not the number of people participating, telephone seminars are a cost-effective way to train groups of technical communicators.

The cost is $145 for telephone seminars and $160 for Web-and-telephone seminars.

An additional $10 will be charged for registrations received less than five business days before the seminar. You can find registration information for these seminars on the STC web site.


Networking Opportunities

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

Volume 43, Issue 5

February 2004