Volume 43, Issue 5

March 2004


Features

Using Dreamweaver for Web Page Updates

by Jeff Staples, Information Developer, Kitba Consulting

You have just inherited a Web site that contains outdated information. Your boss wants the information updated as soon as possible. You are familiar with HTML but don't want to update all the pages manually.

Recently, I found myself in a similar situation. To enhance my Web development skills, I took on the Web duties for my local STC chapter. After
I initially updated the HTML files manually, a colleague recommended Dreamweaver.

This article describes how to use

Leaving Manual Updating Behind

Manually updating HTML code is not hard, and it worked well initially. However, manual updates can be time consuming, especially if you are responsible for a large Web site.

Inadvertent changes often occurred when I saved the HTML files. For example, the formatting of a header might change, or the HTML code became a jumbled mess. I couldn't determine what was causing these changes. (The jumbled code did not affect the output of the file, but it did make the code more difficult to read.)

Dreamweaver makes updating text as simple as cut and paste. In addition, you no longer have to scroll or search through endless lines of code to find the information that you want to update.

Creating a Local Website

You can get started by using Dreamweaver to create a local (offline) copy of your remote (online) Web site. By having a copy of your Web site files on your hard drive or network, you have a test environment for making updates without affecting your remote site. Then once you are satisfied with the updated files, you can move the files to your remote site. The local site provides a backup of all files on your remote Web site.

Tip: Make a backup copy of the entire local site. This backup copy might come in handy if the files on your local or remote sites become lost or damaged.

Before you begin, assemble the following information:

To create your local Web site, perform the following steps:

  1. From the toolbar on the main Dreamweaver window, click Site > New Site. Dreamweaver displays the Site Definition dialog box (Figure 1). The Local Info pane is displayed by default.
  2. Enter the name and directory location of your local site and the URL address of your remote Web site.
  3. From the Category list, select Web Server Info. The Web Server Info pane is displayed (Figure 2).
  4. From the Server Access pull-down menu, click FTP to display the FTP-related fields.
  5. Enter the access information that Dreamweaver will use to access the server that hosts your remote Web site. Click OK. Dreamweaver creates a local version of your remote Web site.

Updating a Web Page

Now that you have created your local Web site, you are ready to beginupdating files. Dreamweaver offers a multitude of capabilities to help you update and enhance your site. Some tasks, such as updating text, may require only a simple cut and paste.

The following section describes tasks that you will perform often: updating embedded links and referencing text through embedded tags.

Updating Embedded Links

Your Web pages will contain embedded links such as URL and e-mail addresses. Because these addresses often change, you will probably update embedded links on a regular basis.

To update an embedded link, perform the following steps:

  1. From the Dreamweaver toolbar, click File > Open to open your file.
  2. Place your cursor on the text with the link that you want to update and right click.
  3. From the pop-up menu, select Edit Tag. The HTML code for the link is displayed (Figure 3).
  4. With the link highlighted (as shown in Figure 3), press Delete. The link is removed (Figure 4).
  5. Type the correct URL (Figure 5) and press Enter. The Edit Tag box is closed, and the new URL is saved.

Removing Text without Deleting

While updating text, you may find information that you no longer need but want to keep for reference or later use. Converting the information into a comment will keep the information in the file but prevent its display to users.

To convert existing text into a comment, perform the following steps:

  1. Highlight the text that you want to convert and click Edit > Cut.
  2. Place your cursor where you want the comment text and click Insert > Comment.
  3. In the Comment pop-up box, right-click and select Paste. Click OK. The text is still visible to you but will not be seen after the file is posted to your remote site and accessed by users.

Referencing Text through Embedded Tags

To save your users from having to scroll through large volumes of text to find the detailed explanation of a bulleted item, you can embed a tag to link the detailed text to the bullet. Dreamweaver provides the Anchor option to implement this functionality.

To implement embedded tag (anchor) links, perform the following steps:

  1. Place your cursor where you want the bullet list and click Text > List > Unordered List. Type the text for the first bullet and press Enter. Repeat for each bullet in your list.
  2. Place your cursor where the expanded text that is associated with the first bullet will start and select Insert > Named Anchor.
  3. In the Anchor Name pop-up box, type a name for the anchor. For example, bullet1 (Figure 6).
  4. Return to the bullet list and place your cursor on the text of the first bullet. Right-click and select Edit Tag.
  5. Repeat Steps 2 through 5 for each bullet text and its expanded text.

ETip: You should also give the user the option to return to the bullet list after viewing the text for a particular bullet topic. To do so, place an anchor at the top of the page (or at your bullet list) and then add text (such as Back to Top or Back to Bullet List) at the bottom of each text block and make it a link to the anchor at the top of the page (or to your bullet list).

Previewing an Updated Page

Once you have updated a file, Dreamweaver gives you the option of checking the updates with the Preview option. With Preview, you can see what the page will look like to your users.

From the Dreamweaver toolbar, click File > Preview in Browser > (your browser). If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer, you will see iexplore . Dreamweaver displays the file (Web page), and you can check whether all the information is correct. If more updates are required, close the browser. Your file is still open in Dreamweaver, and you can continue making updates. You can preview the file as needed.

Uploading Files to Your Remote Website

After making updates to files on your local site, you will need to upload the files to your remote site so that your users can view the updated information. You can use the following Dreamweaver functions (on the site toolbar shown in Figure 8) to move files between the local and remote sites:

Advancing Your Dreamweaver Skills

This article has presented some basic tasks that will help you to start updating your Web site. However, Dreamweaver has much more to offer.

As you become familiar with the software, you can enhance your Web site with features such as interactive forms for collecting data and behaviors for implementing actions such as causing a pop-up window to display when the user moves the mouse pointer over a specific link. These capabilities and more will help you bring more viability to your Web site and will enhance your Web development skills.


STC Houston Celebrates Another Successful Competition

Jump to award winners:
Technical Publications
Online Communication
Technical Art
See also:
Banquet Photos
by Phaedra Cook, Director of Competitions

Thanks to 138 entries, 42 volunteers, 9 corporate sponsors, and a wonderfully cooperative partner chapter, STC Houston has just completed another successful Competition.

Competition preparations got off to a rocky start, as we discovered that several large STC chapters were not holding competitions this year. After a great deal of searching, a smaller chapter, Snake River in Idaho, enthusiastically stepped up to the task of judging our large number of entries. Snake River's judges were remarkably in sync with Houston's judges, as both chapters judged all entries strictly by the criteria set down by the STC international organization.

Competitions Award Recap

Of the 138 entries submitted, 65 were selected as award winners by Snake River. Because the Austin Chapter was not holding competitions, entries from Austin were submitted with the Houston Chpater entries. The big winner this year was Yvonne Wade, who won the only Best of Show award for her Online entry, PIMSEE Help. In fact, Houston's online entries were the big story of this competition, as a higher percentage of the entries in this category won awards than in the Technical Publications category.

Eight online entries, including PIMSEE Help, won an award of Distinguished, the highest honor given in the chapter-level competitions. These entries have gone on to the International Competitions and will be considered alongside some of the best technical communication entries in the world.

Houston Art entries were also quite successful this year, with 60 percent of the entries submitted garnering an award.

New Tools

Getting more in tune with the times, we managed many of the Competitions activities online this year. For example, we distributed the Call for Entries as a PDF even before it was mailed out. For the first time this year, STC Houston accepted credit card payments online for the STC Houston Competitions Banquet. Competitions announcements and reminders were posted on the new STC Houston Online Forum (http://forum.stc-houston.org).

Volunteers

Over the past five months, over 42 volunteers assisted with the Competitions and the Banquet, performing tasks ranging from managing individual competitions to creating beautiful, handmade centerpieces for the banquet tables. (A big thanks to Melinda Patrick for using her creativity, talent, and smart shopping for the centerpieces.) While every volunteer's efforts were outstanding, a few went above and beyond the call of duty and received special recognition at the banquet:

A Competitions Brand

The STC Houston Competitions are always exciting, but this year marked a remarkable harmony of elements. The STC Houston colors this year were burgundy and gray. Jennifer Ruyle with Aesbus Knowledge Solutions started with these two colors and added a silver accent when she designed the "Providing Value" program year theme logo. The same color scheme was carried through in all of our Competitions design efforts—from the Call for Entries mailed last September, to the black napkins, silver tablecloths, and burgundy chairs at the banquet. Jennifer was recognized for her outstanding contributions to this year's graphic identity, including designing the Call for Entries, banquet invitation, RSVP card, envelopes, and sponsor poster. All other design elements were created to follow the standards established by Jennifer's work.

Sponsors

Without STC's Corporate Sponsors, our Competitions would not be possible. We had an outstanding lineup of corporate sponsors this year:

Thank you to all of our entrants, sponsors, and volunteers who made the Competitions possible this year. I hope that everyone is looking forward to participating in next year's Competitions! Look for the next Call for Entries in the fall!

Technical Publications Awards

Category

Title

Award

Contributor Name (Contributor Company)

Promotional Materials

HP Lifecycle Kit

Excellence

Kelly Wheeler (Jump2 Group)

Dale Blackmon (Jump2 Group)

Diana Jaques (Jump2 Group)

 

Kitba Gamut Brochure

Excellence

Kitba Media Solutions Consulting Services, Inc.

 

Halliburton Service Tools Catalog

Merit

Kitba Documentation Solutions

Informational Materials

PCI Bus Implementation in HP ProLiant Servers

Excellence

Bob Nicholson (Jump2 Group)

Moe Guertin (Hewlett-Packard)

 

Best Practices for Integrated Lights-Out

Merit

Cynthia Ramirez (Jump2 Group)

Linda King (Hewlett-Packard)

 

Halliburton Completion Solutions Catalog

Merit

Kitba Documentation Solutions

 

ProLiant BL p-Class System Technology

Merit

Cynthia Ramirez (Marketing Studio, Inc.)

Linda King (Hewlett-Packard)

 

Tips and Tricks for eDirectory

Merit

Kerry Britt (Jump2 Group)

Crystal Rawls (Hewlett-Packard)

Quick Reference Guides

HP Compaq Notebook Series Getting Started

Excellence

Melissa Britt

Dianne Fielden (Hewlett-Packard)

 

HP iPAQ Pocket PC h4000 Series Getting Started

Merit

Carey Gregg (The Integrity Group)

Ana Ferragut (The Integrity Group)

Emily Perlman (The Integrity Group)

 

M-Series Rack Rail Option Installation Instructions

Merit

Aesbus Knowledge Solutions

 

SmartDBA Performance Solutions for DB2 Universal Database Quick Installation Guide

Merit

Emily Kaplan (BMC)

Kelly Holcomb (BMC)

Software User Guides

EXTENDED BUFFER MANAGER User Guide: Snapshot Processing

Excellence

Vickeylynne Morrow (BMC)

Joanne Saathoff (BMC)

 

IBM Scalable Systems Manager 4.11 Installation and User's Guide

Excellence

Ramona Hendren (IBM)

 

PATROL Express User Guide (Version 3.0)

Excellence

Melody Locke (BMC)

Melanie Boston (BMC)

 

CATALOG MANAGER for DB2 User Guide

Merit

Alfred Watkins (BMC)

Kris Horgen (BMC)

 

Directory Security Administrator User Guide

Merit

Lee S. Turner (NetIQ)

Veronica Acevedo

 

IBM Director 4.11 Installation and Configuration Guide

Merit

Kristen James Eberlein (IBM)

Karen L. Mobley (IBM)

 

Receivables Master User's Guide

Merit

Royce Hoggan (Lewis, Inc.)

Mary Knobloch (Lewis, Inc.)

 

RECOVERY MANAGER for DB2 User Guide

Merit

Janice Hamrick (BMC)

Joanne Saathoff (BMC)

 

Space Expert for DB2 Universal Database Getting Started

Merit

Linda Davis (BMC)

Jim Middleton (BMC)

Kelly Holcomb (BMC)

 

SQL-BackTrack for Microsoft SQL Server Getting Started

Merit

Mary Gwynne (BMC)

Joanne Saathoff

 

Utility Products for DB2 Trialing Guide

Merit

Beth Roddin (BMC)

Computer Hardware Guides

VSX 7000 Administrator's Guide

Merit

Jan Child (Polycom, Inc.)

Karen Mulholland (Polycom, Inc)

Carol Marsh Hobday (Polycom, Inc.)

Training Materials

Train the Trainer

Excellence

Kitba Learning Solutions

Documentation Sets

The NetIQ Security Manager 4.0 Library

Excellence

April McAnespy (NetIQ)

Jewel Darby (NetIQ)

Susan Tacker (NetIQ)

Eric Mallory (NetIQ)

 

VSX 7000 Documentation Set

Excellence

Karen Mulholland (Polycom, Inc.)

Jan Child (Polycom, Inc)

Carol Hobday (Polycom, Inc)

Mona Cocciardi

 

HP Compaq Business Desktop user Documentation d530 Ultra-Slim Desktop Model

Merit

Holly Jahangiri (Hewlett-Packard)

Martha McGee (Hewlett-Packard)

Sherri Smith (Hewlett-Packard)

Karen Joers (Jump2 Group)

Greg Costanzi (Independent)

Online Communication Awards

Category

Title

Award

Contributor Name (Contributor Company)

Help

PIMSEE Help

Distinguished and Best of Show

Yvonne Wade (AspenTech)

 

Dell Dimension 2350 Microsoft Windows XP Operating System Reinstallation Guide

Distinguished

Alfonso Davila (Dell Inc.)

Wayne Schmiesing (Dell Inc.)

Kristina Young (Dell Inc.)

 

Help for xThink Calculator

Excellence

Teresa Shu (xThink Inc.)

xThink Team (xThink Inc.)

 

PATROL Express 3.0.00 Online Help

Excellence

Melody Locke (BMC)

Karen Farrell (BMC)

 

HP StorageWorks Library and Tape Tools Help

Merit

Aesbus Knowledge Solutions

Ken Holtgrewe (Aesbus Knowledge Solutions)

 

Policy Inventory Reconciliation 2.0 Help

Merit

Melissa Britt (LANDATA Systems, Inc.)

 

Space Expert for Oracle Help

Merit

Jim Middleton (BMC)

Linda Davis (BMC)

Kelly Holcomb

 

System Explorer for z/OS Help

Merit

Mary Cameron (BMC)

Kris Horgen (BMC)

Cathi Biagi (BMC)

Demonstrations

High Density Server Deployment Video

Distinguished

Cynthia Ramirez (Bayou City Productions)

Julie Saurage (Hewlett-Packard)

Bayou City Productions

 

HP Linux Clustering Technology Demonstration

Distinguished

Cynthia Ramirez (Bayou City Productions)

Julie Saurage (Hewlett-Packard)

Bayou City Productions

 

HP ProLiant BL Line Technology Demonstration CD

Distinguished

Lisa Harlan (Bayou City Productions)

Julie Saurage (Hewlett-Packard)

Bayou City Productions

 

Information is Power!

Excellence

BMC Software ESM Information Design & Development

BMC Software EDM Information Design & Development

BMC Software Media Production

 

Sequence Stratigraphic Models for Exploration and Production

Excellence

Gail Bergan (Bergan et al., Inc.)

Leann Wagerle (Bergan et al., Inc.)

Norman Rosen (GCSSEPM Foundation)

 

IBM UpdateXpress

Merit

Heath Sides (IBM)

Rebecca Postupack-Slifer (IBM)

Technical Marketing

Directory Security Administrator Quick Preview

Excellence

Lee S. Turner (NetIQ)

Eric Mallory (NetIQ)

Paul Mueller (NetIQ)

 

Spectrum Quality Standards Web site

Merit

Kitba Media Solutions

Tutorials/Training

HP StorageWorks Enterprise Backup Solution Design Guide

Merit

Aesbus Knowledge Solutions

 

HP Tablet PC Tutorial

Merit

Diana Jaques (Jump2 Group)

Howard Lee (Jump2 Group)

Kelly Wheeler (Jump2 Group)

Paul Gross (Jump2 Group)

Sophia Hinga

 

SBM Imodco Offshore Group Management System Tutorial

Merit

Chris Fenner (The Integrity Group)

Shauna Allison (The Integrity Group)

David Cobb (The Integrity Group)

Books

HP Smart Array 641/642 Controller User Guide

Distinguished

John Turner (The Integrity Group)

The Integrity Group

 

HP StorageWorks Model 4400 Family of Ultra320 SCSI Disk Enclosures User Guide

Distinguished

John Turner (The Integrity Group)

The Integrity Group

 

Policy Inventory Reconciliation 2.0 User Guide

Distinguished

Melissa Britt (LANDATA Systems, Inc.)

 

PATROL for WebSphere MQ Installation Guide

Excellence

Terry Lambert (BMC)

 

Style Guide for Technical Publications

Excellence

BMC Software Editors (BMC)

 

Cretaceous Stratigraphy and Paleoecology, Texas and Mexico: Perkins Memorial Volume

Merit

Gail Bergan (Bergan et al., Inc.)

Leann Wagerle (Bergan et al., Inc.)

Norman Rosen (GCSSEPM Foundation)

 

HP Compaq Notebook Series Hardware Guide

Merit

Melissa Britt

Dianne Fielden (Hewlett-Packard)

 

HP StorageWorks Library and Tape Tools Getting Started Guide

Merit

Aesbus Knowledge Solutions

Ken Holtgrewe (Aesbus Knowledge Solutions)

 

Small Business Technology Magazine

Merit

Antony Nispel (Small Business Technology Institute)

Andrea Peiro (Small Business Technology Institute)

Technical Art Awards

Category

Title

Award

Contributor Name (Contributor Company)

Manual/Book Design

COTCO Terminal Information Manual

Excellence

Kitba Media Solutions

Magazine Design

Small Business Technology Magazine

Merit

Antony Nispel (Small Business Technology Institute)

Andrea Peiro

Promotional Poster Design

NEON Enterprise Software 2004 Calendar

Excellence

Carla Pileggi (NEON Enterprise Software)

Robin Reddick (NEON Enterprise Software)

 

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center Poster

Merit

Kitba Media Solutions

Informational Poster Design

Compaq ProLiant ML350 Generation 3 Quick Start Poster (2/2002 edition)

Merit

James Yurick (Houstek Solutions Group, Inc.)

Alan Olsen (Hewlett-Packard)

Kelly Vernon (Houstek Solutions Group, Inc.)

Packaging Design

Gamut Packaging Design

Excellence

Kitba Media Solutions

Promotional Materials Design

New Technologies and General Capabilities Design

Excellence

Kitba Media Solutions

Informational Materials Design

Halliburton Perforating Solutions Catalog

Excellence

Kitba Media Solutions

Display

NEON Enterprise Software Trade Show Booth

Excellence

Robin Reddick (NEON Enterprise Software)

Alex Garcia (Skyline Displays of Houston)

Banquet Photos

Bill Gearhart and Donna Marcotte review award-winning entries.

Left to right: Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor; Deborah Silvi, Associate Fellow & past STC Houston president; and Janese Parks, past volunteer resources director.

Left to right: Lori Buffum, Master of Ceremonies for the event; Melissa Britt; Beverly Rogers; and Linda King, Competitions General Manager.

Left to right: Phaedra Cook, Competitions Director; Erika Frensley, Banquet Program Manager; and Chuck Cook, husband of Phaedra.


Jim Hunt Named STC Associate Fellow

Editor, Mentor, and Strategic Advisor Honored for Service

by George Slaughter, Senior Technical Writer, The Integrity Group

Jim Hunt, an STC Houston senior member, has been named Associate Fellow by the STC Associate Fellows Committee and the STC Board of Directors.

Jim will be formally recognized this May at the STC Annual Conference Awards Banquet in Baltimore.

About the Associate Fellowships

An STC associate fellowship is conferred upon an STC senior member who has attained distinction in the field of technical communication. Those who receive associate fellowships are nominated by a committee of Associate Fellows and Fellows.

About Jim Hunt

Jim has been involved in the technical communication profession for 20 years and has been an STC member for 21 years. Currently, he is a senior technical editor at BMC Software, where he has edited award-winning user documentation for approximately 70 products during his 10 years with the company. He has served in a variety of other editorial positions and was an adjunct faculty instructor at San Diego Community College for 10 years.

Jim's STC Participation

Jim is well-known among STC Houston leaders for his long-term involvement as a editor, mentor, and strategic advisor. STC Houston members see his work through the Dateline Houston newsletter, STC Houston Web site, and chapter bylaws.

"During my term as STC Houston president (2000-2001), Jim was named `Man of the Year' to express the membership's appreciation for his strategic planning efforts and dedication to keeping us on the right track," Deborah Long said. "He continues to be invaluable source of knowledge and moral support, as he actively participates in STC against all odds."

Linda Oestreich, STC Region 5 Director-Sponsor, praised Jim's commitment to STC: "Jim has been a constant and consistent force in STC Houston and in STC San Diego for more than 20 years," Linda said. "He is one of those folks who works behind the scenes, takes little up-front recognition, and just dedicatedly moves forward, doing what is needed when he is asked."

Linda also praised Jim's influence and counsel: "His influence on the written and spoken communications of both chapters has been incomparable," Linda said. "His wise counsel has helped countless STC leaders and technical communications professionals from the West Coast to Texas!"

Regular Features
March Volunteer of the Month

March Volunteer of the Month

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

Can You Guess?

Who holds degrees from the University of Houston but is a native of Ohio?

Who also volunteers in a dog rescue group and for the Houston Dog Show?

Whose documentation projects include distributed and mainframe software that monitors WebSphere MQ?

Who recently added Scout to her family?

Whose degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Biology (cum laude) and a Master of Arts in English and American Literature?

Whose "oldest" recently retired from agility and obedience training?

Who is one of the most diligent volunteers in STC Houston yet, if she does her job right, is seldom heard from?

And the Winner Is...

STC Houston is pleased to name Anne Smith as the Volunteer of the Month for March.

Thank you, Anne, for managing our chapter listserv for so many years!

Friends Weigh in About Ann

"Anne is an outstanding writer. Her dedication to the art of technical writing shows in everything that she works on. She has a strict adherence to standards and guidelines, which makes her an asset to large organizations that have documentation sets that must be consistent in look, feel, and quality. She also has initiative. She's self-motivated and a hard worker who is driven by her own personal standards. In addition, she's a good friend on whom I know I could count in a pinch. I consider myself lucky to have worked with her."


Think Weird and Prosper

by Rahel Bailie, Region 7 Director-Sponsor

In the driver's side pocket of my car door, I keep a red clown nose, those foam bulbs you find in joke shops. I got it from a dynamic speaker who talked about giving ourselves permission to be an oddball, to shock people out of complacency by daring to be different. I don't use the nose all the time, but in the times I have, the nose has effectively deflected road rage (who can resist a middle-aged woman in a Jaguar with a red foam nose?), helped me make traffic maneuvers requiring the cooperation of an adjacent driver, and brought smiles to the drivers around me. It's a weird but powerful tool.

Being weird, the outsider, the oddball, has never bothered me much. So you can see why I like this quote from Tom Peters: "The only way to effect true transformation in the workplace is to enlist the outliers in your organization to your cause. Find the weirdos and the freaks, offer support for the projects they're secretly pursuing, then get them to help you with your own revolutionary change ideas."

Part of the reason I like this quote is because I—and many other technical communicators—identify with being an "outlier" in an organization. TechComm has traditionally been seen as an outlying department. Until recently, we hadn't been seen as a group poised to help an organization go through "revolutionary change." But as the importance of good user experience takes hold, we are clarifying our license to contribute, and contribute in ways that the corp-oration has really thought of until now.

As I've discussed in previous columns, the global economic shift is pushing us to become contributors of value. To contribute value, we have to change the way we think about business and think about our skills.

More than ever, we now need to "think weird." Thinking outside the box has become a trite expression, and the inner bureaucrat has used that concept to promote bureaucratic thinking in new and different ways. That's not what I mean here. I mean, we have to think weird . Embrace your inner clown (my apologies to past STC president, Mary Wise, who actually went to clown school before becoming a technical communicator) or your inner wildbrain (as coined by Dale Douten to describe certain types of people whose creative genius often goes unrecognized, and is too often punished, in the workplace). Tap into ways of working, ways of managing, ways of being that shake up the hunker-down-till-the-economy-picks-up attitude we've taken on.

What would this look like in your professional life? What could it look like? Let me counter that with a question for you: how far can you stretch your imagination? Let me give you a small example with big implications.

Scene: A software engineering firm creating C code, about to branch out into C++ using UML. The developers want to use the code comments to generate the bulk of the API documentation. Is this a TechComm nightmare, or a fabulous opportunity?

Cut to: The inside-the-box thinker who says: "Oh no, we'll be reduced to glorified proofreaders. Give me back my control over the documentation!"

Cut to: The out-of-the-box thinker who says: "Great, once we clean up the comments in the source code, I'll spend less time maintaining this documentation, and have more time for other things."

Now cut to: The weird thinkers, who are so out of the box that they're in a whole other box, who say: "Wow, what a concept! How can I leverage that technology or a similar one to get that same result on other projects? Maybe I can eliminate most of the production work and spend my time doing strategic thinking to add end-user value!"

This is a true story, and as you may guess, I was the weird thinker. (If I weren't, the story would be told from an entirely different perspective.) When that situation arose, my in-the-box colleagues branded me a renegade, a troublemaker. Why couldn't we just churn out work like we'd been doing for years? Was that not what our "core business" was: editing documents using the assembly-line production model?

Now, after barely weathering the economic storm, the department is no longer. The I-like-the-box thinkers have moved on, some to other in-the-box positions, others to new in-the-box opportunities. The weird thinker, on the other hand, became a consultant, bringing out-of-the-box thinking to clients as a "strategic contributor who can write." Happy clients, happy consultant.

In the various informational interviews I give, I hear people ask a similar question in many different ways: Where does one start in the quest to "think weird"? How do I differentiate myself from the rest of the market? How can I get someone to "pick me" from among their choices? The answers are as varied and personal as the number of questioners. I imagine it's much like beginning any other venture—a diet, a fitness program, or even therapy—that requires self-reflection and action. For me, it started with a little red ball of foam.


From the President

From the President

Salute to Volunteers

by Jocelyn Williams, Independent Consultant

Our chapter would not thrive without the support of volunteers. This month, we want to recognize members whose outstanding service to STC has been extensive.

Associate Fellow

The Society confers the rank of Associate Fellow upon senior members who have attained distinction in the field of technical communication.

Jim Hunt, a chapter strategic advisor, was one of 23 senior members selected for this honorary rank. Jim's selfless contributions to the chapter, the Society, and the profession have been numerous.

Distinguished Chapter Service Award

For the first time, the Society has recognized four Houston members with the Distinguished Chapter Service Award (DCSA). The DCSA acknowledges the work of chapter members who provide exemplary service to the Society through their dedication to the chapter and its activities.

For many years, Verna Dunn's work within the chapter has demonstrated her strong commitment to STC. Currently, Verna serves as the nominating committee manager. Dateline Houston won an excellence award during Verna's tenure as managing editor. She has also served the chapter as secretary and student committee manager.

Ron Harberger served as membership manager for a number of years. He always fulfilled his myriad responsibilities while communicating the value of STC membership. Last year, STC Houston recognized Ron as Man of the Year. The University of Phoenix recently selected him as Teacher of the Year for his exceptional teaching skills.

Jim Hunt has made tremendous contributions behind the scenes. He has been a hard-working editor, mentor, and strategic advisor to STC Houston leaders and members for several years.

Steve Shriver has always been conscientious about educating others about the value of STC. As employment committee manager, his efforts at communicating job opportunities and coordinating our Employment Workshop have been outstanding.

Congratulations to our award winners. We applaud their achievements and thank them for their commitment to STC!

Chapter News

Employment Workshop Scores Another Big Hit

by Steve Shriver, Contract Technical Writer, Baker Hughes

Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their careers.

That is exactly what more than 42 participants did when they came out to hear Terry Devlin of Bernard Haldane and three other presentations on how to negotiate the current job market, on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10-2, at the Westchase Hilton.

This was the third year STC Houston has utilized the four-cornered approach, with all four presentations going simultaneously and repeating four times during the workshop—this scenario allows all participants to view each presentation. It also encourages an informal workshop environment (versus a formal lecture) and lots of Q&A. There was no admission, lunch was served, and both members and nonmembers participated.

Devlin converted a new legion of fans to his soft networking techniques. As expected, his counsel was salient, current, and right on target. This the third consecutive year Devlin has been invited back to present to STC Houston.

Lonnie Klene and Jim Bratsakis of Klene & Bratsakis gave a popular presentation on how to set yourself up as an independent with a full benefits package, including a complete health insurance and retirement package. Klene also offered some of her story, having escaped the corporate world to own her own business.

Evalyn Shea with Shea Writing Solutions offered us a wealth of knowledge and expertise on resumes and accomplishment statements—how to put your best foot forward on paper.

Deborah Silvi of BMC Software, a previous chapter president, and independent consultant Ron Kirk reviewed resumes on the spot and delivered large doses of practical, one-on-one advice to all who wanted it. In addition, Silvi reviewed several resumes that were emailed to her before and after the workshop, going the extra mile with zeal and insight.

Our immediate past president George Slaughter with the Integrity Group had a popular presentation on selling yourself with your 30-second sound bite during the morning sessions, delivered with his usual dose of infectious enthusiasm. Steve Shriver presented on the same topic in the afternoon sessions.

One participant summed it up perfectly. "I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the STC meeting on Saturday. It was excellent. All of the speakers were great, but I especially liked Terry from Bernard Haldane. He gave us some invaluable information!"

"I want to thank all of the participants and volunteers for a great job with the employment workshop," said president Jocelyn Williams, who presided over the event. Also present was Director of Membership David Remson of NetIQ, who answered many questions for prospective new members.

Society & Industry News

Educational Opportunities

New Graduate Writing Degree at University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) has established a new Master's degree program for professional writers. The Master of Science in Professional Writing and Technical Communication (MSPWTC) begins classes in fall 2004.

About the Program

Students in the new Master's degree program in professional writing and technical communication can study advanced publication and production skills, project management, ethical and global implications of professional communication, audience analysis and usability testing, and creation of Web sites or online help.

Students in the program will learn professional skills in document production, rhetorical analysis, ethical and global awareness, and research methodologies.

Application Requirements

Prospective students must have earned a Baccalaureate degree from an accredited university and must provide

Candidates must demonstrate excellent skills in writing and language and a potential for high academic achievement at the graduate level.

Application Process

Applications for the fall semester are due March 31. Applications received after the March deadline will be considered for spring admission; however, course sequences begin in the fall semester, so spring applicants may experience a delay in course availability.

Degree Requirements

Completion of the MSPWTC requires a minimum of 36 semester hours that include a thesis or capstone project option and a graduation portfolio.

For More Information

For details on the program, schedule, and course offerings, contact Dr. Molly Johnson at 713-222-5335 or JohnsonMo@uhd.edu. You can also visit the program Web site at www.uhd.edu/academic/colleges/humanities/english/mspwtc.html. Watch future issues of Dateline Houston for more news about the UHD MSPWTC program.


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

March 2004