Volume 43, Issue 7

April 2004


Features

Grant Writing to Change the World

by Vanessa Adia, Student, University of Texas at Arlington

While toiling through college, I discovered that I had a knack for writing. As a freshman getting acclimated to the dedication required to do well in my collegiate studies, I was surprised to find out that I actually enjoyed the time and effort that I had to put into each term paper. I would spend hours to create the perfect opening line or that one metaphor that I could carry throughout the piece that would pull everything together. There was a certain satisfaction in finding just the right word or phrase to express my viewpoint and a feeling of accomplishment every time I wrote a concluding paragraph.

To pick up spending money in college, I did some copyediting and wrote for the school newspaper and magazine. It wasn't my idea really; a friend of mine was always an editor of some sort for the school paper and encouraged me to contribute after proofreading a couple of my essays. Writing for the paper and copyediting others' writing, gave me more confidence in my abilities and a sense of pride for every article that was published. In a closet somewhere, there are several yellowing newspapers and magazines that I kept because my name was on the byline (I doubt that the copies I sent to friends and family have met a better fate). As a student writer, I could write on whatever I found interesting. I wrote about music, love, social injustices, and social responsibility. Though I knew my words could reach many through such a medium, my life wasn't leading me to a career in journalism. I just didn't think that I could make a difference in the world as a writer.

Today I am working towards my master of science in social work. What I have learned from my classes and internships in social work agencies is that you can make a difference in this world as a writer. As soon as my supervisors at my internships discovered that I had some writing ability, they put me to work on tasks that everyone else avoided: newsletters, thank-you letters, policy review, and the much-dreaded grant writing. I don't want to imply that all social workers are untalented wordsmiths, but most do find direct practice with clients more compelling than the more indirect work that goes into raising money and establishing policy that will help clients. In fact, so few social workers are willing to do this work that agencies often contract out for grant writers.

As an intern, I have had the opportunity to work on several grant proposals during every stage of the process. Through this experience, I have discovered that in order to write good grant proposals, there are three main requirements that the author must meet:

All social service agencies—nonprofit and for profit—are seeking more funding to make up for state and federal budget cuts, and that means that they need experienced writers to develop grant proposals. With over 1,450 nonprofit agencies in the Houston area, there are many opportunities for any writer with a desire to give back to his or her community. In the end, grant writing offers more than just an outlet for creative writing and a paycheck; it presents the opportunity to help save the whales, the children, and your inner idealist.


Member News

Geographical Distribution of STC Houston Members

by John Turner, Technical Writer, The Integrity Group

The information in this article is derived from the addresses and zip codes given in the STC Houston membership directory dated August 2003. Of the writers listed in the directory:

Summary of Overall Membership Distribution

Distribution of Houston—Area STC Members by Zip Code

 Each red dot on this map represents one member. The dots within a zip code zone are distributed fairly evenly to indicate the membership density within that zone, so the location of any given dot doesn't correspond to the exact location of a member. The red zone has 48 members - too many to draw individually within the particular zip code zone at this scale.


Click on image for larger size

A Few Caveats

Before interpreting this map, bear these facts in mind:

Furthermore:

Thus, this map doesn't show exactly where the majority of members live, or exactly where everyone works. However, it does indicate regions that have high concentrations of members at some time between about 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on a typical weekday.

A Few Details

The zone just to the right of Cypress with 15 members is 77070. Of these 15, 12 work at HP.

The red zone is 77042. Of the 48 members in this zone:

As it happens, the 77042 region also encompasses the Hilton Westchase Hotel, where we hold our monthly program meetings. Thus, it seems that the meeting venue is as close to optimally located as we can hope to get it.

One apparent conundrum: 51 STC members are listed in the directory as working for BMC Software, while only 33 work for HP. This ratio might seem odd, since BMC Software locally is less than half the size of HP. Are HP writers much faster than those at BMC Software (so HP does not need to hire as many)? Are BMC Software writers more meticulous? The most likely reason is that BMC Software does not often hire contractors, whereas HP hires many, and contractors do not indicate the host company in their contact address.

Distribution of Other STC Houston Members in Texas

This map shows most of the remaining Texas members, except for two in Nederland who are included on the third map. The pink-bordered square represents the approximate boundary of the Houston-area map. Conroe and Texas City do not have any members, but they are included on this map to give a better indication of where the boundary for the Houston-area map lies.

There are usually one or two people from this "outer region" at each monthly program meeting.


Click on image for larger size

STC Houston Members Who Live Outside Texas

Some of the members marked on this map have made the heroic trip to Houston to attend a monthly program meeting. Maybe one day, the member from Clinton, MS, will give us a big surprise.


Click on image for larger size


Book Review

Mastering HTML and XHTML

by Jeff Staples, Information Developer, Kitba Consulting

Deborah S. Ray and Eric J. Ray. 2002. San Francisco, CA: SYBEX Inc. [ISBN 0-7821-4141-2. 1,107 pages, including index. $49.99 USD (softcover).

Warning: May cause damage if dropped on foot. (heh, heh)

Yes, this is a hefty book—1100 pages and then some. However, if you are looking for an HTML/XHTML reference, this is the right resource. About one-third of the book is a collection of resource material to assist you as you create your HTML/XHTML documents, including an alphabetized reference of most syntaxes that you are likely to use.

Mastering HTML and XHTML addresses the needs of the novice as well as the pro. Each chapter provides a helpful chapter-level table of contents so that you can quickly scan to determine if the chapter is for you. (Gee, including elements helpful to your audience—I wonder if tech writers wrote this book?)

Each chapter concludes with a "Where to go from here" section. These are nice launch points, indicating options for branching off from the respective chapter as opposed to taking each chapter sequentially.

Part 1 ("Getting started") provides a launch into HTML for the novice and a good review for the more experienced coder. In addition, you are exposed to XHTML—similar to HTML but "more flexible, forward-looking, and compatible with XML" (p. 5). If in the past you have learned by doing, you will find some helpful insights into creating HTML/XHTML documents. For example, I was familiar with creating lists in HTML, but in this chapter I learned how to designate the list as numeric or alphabetic. (Okay, I'm easily thrilled.)

For web site creation, the authors cover the code needed to specify URLs (absolute or relative), documents (in folders and on the Web), and e-mail addresses to link your HTML/XHTML documents, such as linking to pages within a site, at other sites, and to specific pages within pages. And for adding images to your site, the authors help you avoid "image overload" by covering image basics (size, formats, and height and width) as well as image maps, your mode for attaching multiple links to a single image.

Moving on from the basics, Part 2 ("Advancing your skills") focuses on more intricate elements of HTML/XHTML. What's a table without rows and columns (instructions provided)? However, the authors go beyond with more esoteric table elements, such as specifying a background image.

Entering information into a form on the Internet is becoming standard practice. As you explore developing forms with HTML/XHTML, learn the mechanics for formulating forms that offer two-way communication between browsers and servers. The authors cover the mechanics for the parts that you see on a form (such as input boxes) and the parts you that don't see (such as how the server processes the information).

To frame or not to frame—seems frames are a love or hate with most people. The authors discuss frame pros and cons and give instructions for frame creation, formatting, and control.

XHTML uses the same elements and attributes as HTML; however, you need to update the syntax in your existing HTML documents to convert them to XHTML. The authors explain why you would want to make these conversions (for example, newer technologies will likely require XHTML) and discuss converting your HTML docs by hand or using a tool such as HTML Tidy.

To add uniqueness to your documents, Part 3 ("Moving beyond pure HTML and XHTML") covers style sheets, JavaScript, and multimedia. Cascading style sheets are the easiest and most consistent way to format HTML/XHTML documents. The authors discuss how to associate style sheets with a document (for example, embedding style sheets or storing separately from the document) as well as how to develop your own style sheet.

To hold your users' attention, try adding JavaScript to your documents. You will cover the basics of event handlers and those sometimes-pesky session cookies. Or maybe multimedia will be best for your users. However, don't go overboard. Some helpful questions can help you decide whether multimedia is right for your site. In addition, the authors explore special-effect options such as animation, sound, and ActiveX controls.

It's unlikely that you will be creating stand-alone documents. In Part 4 ("Developing Web sites"), the authors discuss creating sets of HTML/XHTML documents for a whole entity such as a web site, kiosk, help system, or personal digital assistant. And as with most projects, creating a bigger entity such as a web site requires planning. The authors provide specifics for planning, creation, and testing, along with important "must have" elements such as usability through navigational elements.

If you're ready to go live with your documents, check out publishing options through ISPs, a corporate server, or your own server. And in addition to FTP, learn about other uploading options.

In Part 5 ("Applying HTML and XHTML to advanced applications"), you learn how to use HTML/XHTML in more unique ways. For example, to bring excitement to your web site (and your users), use dynamic HTML/XHTML. With dynamic HTML/XHTML, "users can view new content without reloading the page, change screen colors with a mouse click, and view animations without installing a plug-in" (p. 409).

Maybe the information that you want to publish is in a database. To avoid all that data entry, convert the database information into HTML/XHTML documents. The authors help you determine whether this option is for you, and they discuss the generation process. And don't forget to help your users by making your web site searchable. However, search engines can have drawbacks such as generating overwhelming results lists, so review alternatives, such as navigation menus like breadcrumbs.

In Part 6 ("HTML and XHTML development tools") explore the various tool sets available,including text editors, WYSIWYG editors, and XML editors such as the flexible, powerful epcEDIT. Then, validate your documents to check syntax and conformance to standards. As with development tools, various options for validation exist, including the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) free online validator.

With Part 7 ("A bridge to XML"), the authors focus on the link between XHTML and XML. They explain the specifics of XML along with discussion and samples of creating and using document type definitions (DTDs). For cell phone or other non-traditional applications, XHTML modularization breaks up the HTML/XHTML code so that you can create documents that do not have to use (or don't need) the entire markup included in the code set. The authors cover various modules available with a brief explanation and example code.

Part 8 ("The XML family of applications") extends the discussion of XML by exploring various XML-based languages, including the key concepts for using extensible style-sheet language transformations (XSLT) style sheets and processors. An XML tree model reference offers information about how a processor handles your XML document while XML Schemas validate XML documents.

In this book, the Rays have put together virtually everything that you need to know to create HTML/XHTML documents. Although not groundbreaking, the information is presented in a straightforward style and arranged in an easily accessible manner. Basically, it's a "one-stop" reference for prospective coders.

However, if you are expecting HTML for Dummies, you will need to continue your search. This book is designed for the professional (novice to pro) that wants to get in and get out with the information needed to accomplish their tasks. Examples of Web pages, code, and processes, though few, successfully serve to bring a visual element of the tasks along with results of intended (and unintended) code.

Is bigger better? It can be for a reference text that is easy to navigate and serves as a development asset. The Rays' mega volume does just that.


2004-2005 Chapter Elections

Ballot Election Links

For President: Cindy Pao
For Vice President: Nicole Wycislo
For Secretary: Monica Waddell
For Treasurer: David Remson
For Director: Lisa Alvarado
For Director: Melissa Britt
For Director: Mary Gwynne
For Director: Linda King
For Director: Angela Livingston
For Director: Jennifer Smith
For Director: Rebecca Taylor
Proposed Bylaws Changes

2004-2005 Ballot [PDF]
2004-2005 Ballot [HTML]

For President: Cindy Pao

Cindy Pao has been a technical communicator for over 10 years. She is an Information Developer at BMC Software, where she works on user documentation for PATROL products.

Cindy has been active with STC Houston since 2000, when she started working on the Region 5 Conference. Working with the infamous Mistresses of Fun, Cindy worked on the fun aspects of the conference including the opening reception and prize drawings throughout the conference. In 2002, she served as the manager of the annual awards banquet. Cindy worked as Director of Programs during the 2002-2003 program year. Currently, Cindy is the chapter vice president, and she is working with David Remson to implement an online mentoring program.

Cindy has a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Minnesota.

As president, Cindy is going to concentrate on several projects. First, she would like to reorganize the chapter leadership and volunteer structure. She will try to create more volunteer opportunities that help our members learn new skills, involve more of the chapter members, and take less time to accomplish. Our chapter depends almost totally on volunteer work, and it is very important to her that all members feel welcome and valued. Cindy will also work on achieving the goals and objectives contained in the chapter strategic plan.

For Vice President: Nicole Wycislo

Nicole Wycislo is a senior member of STC and has been active with STC Houston since 1992. In 2001, she served as general manager of the STC Region 5 Conference. This year, Nicole is serving as director of planning, seminar committee manager and programs committee member.

Over the past 10 years, Nicole served the chapter in various leadership positions, from student committee manager to director. She has also served as a member on various committees, including nominations, recognition, and strategic planning. In addition, Nicole has judged the technical publications, art, and online competition as well as Science Writing competition of the Houston Science and Engineering Fair. She has spoken at conferences, chapter meetings, university groups, and high school classes on technical communication. In 2000, Nicole was presented with the Distinguished Chapter Service Award.

Nicole is president of Verb Consulting, Inc., a creator of information solutions for technology and business. She has over 10 years experience in technical communication. Nicole earned a degree in Professional Writing from the University of Houston-Downtown and has done graduate work at Houston Baptist University.

Nicole believes that STC should be the foundation for professional growth and development for our members. She is committed to working with members to design, develop, and implement resources that support us in producing results with our careers.

For Secretary: Monica Waddell

Monica Waddell has been an STC member since Fall 2000. She has served as a "mistress of fun" on the Hospitality committee for the STC Region 5 conference in 2001, as a judge in the STC technical publications competition in 2000 and 2002, and on the Programs committee this year.

Monica has nearly 15 years of experience in technical communication. Currently, she is an information developer at BMC Software and is responsible for documenting the installation utility for distributed systems software. Before joining BMC Software, Monica was a technical editor and writer at Exxon Production Research Company, where she was on a documentation team that produced an internal documentation style guide that won an Award of Excellence in the 1995 STC Technical Publications and Art competition.

Before Monica became a technical writer, she was a reporter/photographer for a weekly community newspaper and a copywriter/account executive/media buyer for a small advertising agency. She has a BA in Journalism from Stephen F. Austin State University.

For Treasurer: David Remson

David Remson is a technical writer. He earned his degree from University of Texas at Austin and has worked as a technical communicator in the software industry for more than nine years.

David specializes in documenting security tools and processes, distributed applications, and proprietary protocols for audiences of software developers and security administrators. David's career highlights include working on the "original" Microsoft Windows 95 and Adobe PageMaker support teams, and he claims that these experiences "were not always pleasant, especially when users waited on hold for hours to talk to us, but they definitely trained me by fire and sparked my continued interest in usability and user advocacy."

David moved around the country to pursue his career goals, but he says that he was happy to remove his jacket and settle down back home in 2000. David has been an STC Houston member ever since. David has received multiple five-star accolades in Security Computing magazine as well as STC awards for his Unix and firewall product documentation published by PentaSafe Security Technologies, Inc., and NetIQ Corporation.

For Director: Lisa Alvarado

Lisa Alvarado has been with Aesbus Knowledge Solutions since October 2000, and has performed several functions during her tenure including lead writer, project manager, and staff manager. Currently, as Director of Business Solutions, she manages a variety of solutions designed to meet the specific needs of clients large and small. Before joining Aesbus, Lisa held several management positions in several industries including banking, mortgage servicing, food service, call center service, and customer service. She received a B.A. in History from Texas A&M University, and an M.A. in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. Lisa lives in Houston with her husband of 11 years, and her two daughters.

For Director: Melissa Britt

Melissa Britt is an independent technical writing consultant with eight years experience writing computer hardware and software user documentation, training materials, and marketing collateral. Melissa earned her M.A. in Technical and Expository Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1998.

Melissa has been a member of STC since 1998, and has been active in the Arkansas and Houston chapters. She was recently a member of the competitions committee for Houston. In addition, Melissa has served as a competitions judge the last two years and was a speaker at last year's Annual Conference.

Melissa looks forward to serving the Houston chapter by helping to create a rewarding experience for all its members and helping to demonstrate the importance of writers in all aspects of technical communications.

For Director: Mary Gwynne

Mary Gwynne has been a member of STC since 1997. Since she became a member, she has volunteered for various activities, including the technical publications competitions and programs. In 2001-2002, she served as the director of volunteer resources, and as the volunteer coordinator in 2002-2003.

After receiving her Master's degree in English from Stephen F. Austin State University, Mary taught Freshman and Sophomore English at the local colleges. She then worked as a technical writer in a variety of industries, including construction, environmental, and oil and gas. For the past five years, she has been an information developer at BMC Software.

Mary is the mother of two children, Emily and Drew. She enjoys volunteering for the Girl Scouts of America and spending time outdoors.

Mary is grateful for the many opportunities for career growth and networking that STC membership has provided. As a director, she will promote STC and help to ensure that others receive the benefits of STC membership as well.

For Director: Linda King

A Kentucky native, Linda King began her career as a technical communicator and STC member developing proposals and documentation for research projects in applied physics. Linda has been a Katy resident and member of STC Houston since 1979. She has been a business and technical communication professional and manager for large and small Houston businesses in these industries: engineering and construction; oilfield services; navigational aids; automotive aftermarket; and computer hardware, software, and solutions. Since 1995 Linda has been an award-winning developer of technology-focused deliverables for Compaq/Hewlett-Packard.

As a newcomer to Houston, Linda became very active in the local STC chapter, serving on the board of directors and managing the chapter's annual professional development seminar. With her two children grown, she is again eager to take an active role in the chapter. As a first step in 2003, she served as General Manager of the annual Houston Chapter Competitions and awards banquet.

For Director: Angela Livingston

Angela Livingston recently completed the Bachelor of Arts degree in History at the University of Houston. As a lifetime learner, she seeks certification from the Houston Community College department of Digital Communications.

This inclination towards learning moved her to join STC Houston in 2002. The society warmly welcomed Angela and offered opportunities to gain experience. Primarily, she volunteered with the Employment Committee as a web researcher. STC named Angela Volunteer of the Month in May 2003. As she gains so much from the society in knowledge and community, Angela desires to add value to this already award-winning chapter.

Angela enjoys working on group projects professionally and academically. She served as personnel manager for her high school's fledgling radio station. Moreover, her participation in Peer Assistance and Leadership assisted her in acquiring and honing leadership skills. This refining process never ends for Angela because she incorporates it every day.

For Director: Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith has been a technical editor for Schlumberger Oilfield Marketing Communications for two years. She edits advertisements, brochures, technical papers, handbooks, and other publications. She is also part of a team that is responsible for regular updates of the organization's style guide. Jennifer has been a member of and volunteer for STC since 2002. As a Schlumberger employee, she has been a member of and volunteer for Women in Schlumberger Everywhere, especially for its effort to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Previously, Jennifer worked as a news editor and reporter for PennWell Corp. publications Ocean Oil Weekly Report, Offshore Magazine, Oil & Gas Journal, and Oil & Gas Journal Online.

She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston with a major in English and a minor in journalism.

Jennifer is married to a Houston attorney. They have no children. They are both members of the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (www.ansteorra.org).

For Director: Rebecca Taylor

Rebecca Taylor has been an active STC member since she joined the New Mexico Tech (NMT) Student Chapter in 1997. She served as the NMT chapter president for two years. Under her leadership, the chapter received a Chapter Achievement Award in 1999. Her most treasured memento from the NMT chapter is the Distinguished Chapter Service Award that she received in 1999.

Rebecca moved to Houston in 1999 and became active with the Houston chapter when Melanie G. Flanders and Nicole Wycislo recruited her to act as the Region 5 Conference publications committee manager. In 2001, Rebecca became the managing editor for Dateline Houston. She also served as the STC Houston director of communications for the 2002-2003 program year.

Rebecca is a product marketing manager at Hewlett-Packard. She is passionate about encouraging and empowering her colleagues to embrace evolving technology to communicate better and more often. Since her college adventure is still fresh in her memory, she is also eager to help students find a home in STC and the technical communication profession. She also recently joined the Corporate Advisory Board for the Technical Communication program at New Mexico Tech.


Proposed Bylaws Changes

Due to formatting requirements, the Bylaws changes are provided in PDF only. Click here to access the proposed STC Houston Bylaws changes.

Regular Features

April Volunteers of the Month

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

The 2004 Awards Banquet is history now, and so it is time to recognize those who were instrumental in its execution.

STC Houston is pleased to name Doris Beetem, Deborah Crockett, Maurice Guertin, and Melinda Patrick as the Volunteers of the Month for April.

Doris Beetem

Doris describes herself as a "service professional," and many of us in STC Houston see this side of her time and time again. If you attended the banquet, you saw Doris at the registration table helping people check in and selling raffle tickets.

Doris has been both a librarian and a technical writer during her career. Currently, she works at Schlumberger, where she obtains documents and information from various contracting groups.

Deborah Crockett

Deborah has been active with STC Houston for several years. Deborah was also part of the registration crew at the banquet.

Deborah is an 18-year veteran at Hewlett Packard and started her career there when it was Compaq.

Maurice Guertin

Moe is a new face at STC Houston gatherings. He volunteered to help out at the banquet registration table. Moe also won an award of excellence in the technical publications competition this year.

Moe is a Marketing Manager at Hewlett-Packard, where he has worked since 1990.

Melinda Patrick

Melinda's work on the banquet was behind the scenes, yet right in front of our faces. She was responsible for the table centerpieces that were raffled off at the banquet.

Melinda works in the Personal Systems Group at Hewlett-Packard (HP), where she coordinates all things related to the Internet for her team. She also works on a team that is responsible for merging the Compaq and HP Intranets of the commercial desktop organizations.


Letter from Linda

Good for All

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

The past few days have seen a flurry of activity on the STC Presidents' Listserv regarding who pays for what to support chapter members who go to the STC Annual Conference. The Tieline newsletter for March 2002 addressed that issue in an article called, "Appropriate Use of Chapter Funds." I've received a few e-mails from chapter presidents here in Region 5 to get my opinion on this situation, and so was spawned this month's topic!

Ed Rutkowski, from the STC office, responded to the listserv with some actual quotes from that Tieline article. I repeat some of what Ed said here:

As with all questions regarding Society expenses, this one raises the issue of whether the return on the chapter's investment primarily benefits the Society, or whether it primarily benefits the individual. Please note that Article 4 of STC's Articles of Incorporation states that "none of [STC's] net earnings shall be distributed to or enure to the benefit of any private . . . individual."

As explained in the article, chapters may subsidize a chapter president's travel to Leadership Day at the Annual Conference "because the training obtained at Leadership Day would benefit the chapter. Many technical sessions at the conference also focus on chapter leadership duties, so funding conference registration for a chapter leader who attended these sessions would also be acceptable.

"However, simply funding a valuable volunteer's travel to the Annual Conference (without his or her attending Leadership Day or a number of STC-related sessions at the conference) would not be acceptable, because information learned at the conference would primarily benefit the individual."

So, what does this mean? It means that if a chapter and its administrative council believe that subsidizing costs for a member to attend the conference will benefit the chapter and the Society, by all means, do it. It also means that a chapter should not pay for a member to attend the conference as a "gift," with no strings attached.

If the member you send returns with information, leadership skills, and added connection to the STC community he or she belongs to, and that benefit is returned to the chapter in a more experienced and better informed volunteer, then it is not enurement, but a wise distribution of funds for the good of all. And remember, if you do choose to support a member who attends the conference, please do not reimburse expenses such as food and drink. To meet the STC policy, chapters may only subsidize or reimburse transportation, lodging, and registration fees.

As an administrative council, make wise decisions. You know your membership. You know those who will return and share their experiences and lessons learned to the community. And by so doing, the rules are followed. Subsidizing an incoming or current president, subsidizing someone who is receiving an honor, subsidizing someone who has been of long-time service—all these cases are valid if those people return to the chapter and provide value to the membership.

The money in your treasuries belongs to the membership—not to the administrative council, not to the president, not to the treasurer, but to the members. Insist that you receive receipts for funds expended. Pay for something that is recordable—the conference fee itself, perhaps. Some of the presidents who responded to the listserv noted that they require their chapter leaders who go to share a room or to do other things that will limit the expenses to the chapter.

Not every chapter will be able to afford the same level of subsidy. Don't put your treasury in jeopardy, but if you have the budget, use it. Don't hoard your funds. As that Tieline article also says, "weigh the benefit to the individual against the benefit to the chapter in the context of your chapter's financial robustness."

In this time of unemployment and severely reduced employer support, I believe that the chapters who can help should help. And, certainly not a small thing, this particular year will be an important one for your leaders to be there. Transformation will be spoken about at Leadership Day, in the halls, in the sessions, and at the lunches. The more your leaders know about it, the better they will be able to question it, understand it, help define it, and support it. So, reach into your treasuries and offer that support. But do it with wisdom. Support only those who will, in return, support your members.


From the President

Transforming Ourselves

by Jocelyn Williams, Independent Consultant

In recent weeks, we've heard about the transformation of our Society. What is this transformation? What is our role in this tranformation? The transformation involves a process of change that will result in a better, stronger STC.

Changes within Tech Comm

In recent years, changes within our profession have necessitated an organizational transformation. We now live in a global society. Our jobs and roles have changed. Technology has changed the way we communicate and work. Business and economic models have changed.

Transformation Goals

Based on member input, the STC Board of Directors has developed a set of goals to accomplish our transformation. The goals of the transformation are:

We will accomplish the transformation goals by defining where STC is, envisioning where STC needs to be, and planning how to get there.

Process of Transformation

The STC Board of Directors has also developed a process to guide us through the transformation. STC has completed many steps in the process, such as creating a business landscape analysis (a snapshot of the organization today) and a vision model (an ideal picture of how STC will look in the future). An implementation model identifies the following seven operational areas to reach our Society's ideal vision:

Role of the Members

What can we as members do to help with the transformation? You are encouraged to communicate your needs, share your ideas, make change recommendations, talk with chapter and Society leaders, and work together to make STC better and stronger. It's also important to stay informed by reading the articles on the Transformation web site at www.stc.org/transformation.

Help make this transformation happen. It's our profession and our Society!


From the Editor

Gazing Into the Future

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard

Sometimes it's good to get a different perspective on our profession. We are all victims of our environment. We tend to mold ourselves to our company culture. While this is human nature, it has the unfortunate consequence of blinding us to perspectives from outside our particular organizational culture. I firmly believe this is why it's so important to encourage the participation of students and academia in STC. Academics and practitioners have much to learn from each other.

We Can Contribute

I hope that this month's feature article, "Grant Writing to Save the World," gives you a glimpse into the heart of a student who has realized a calling for writing. It's too easy to become jaded these days—times are rough and the first things to go are often idealism, enthusiasm, and hope. Vanessa Adia gives us a much-needed picture of how I hope we all feel about our profession. My wish for all of us is that we are as bright-eyed and optimistic as she is.

Guiding Students

I also had the good fortune to attend the Technical Communication Corporate Advisory Board meeting for New Mexico Tech. Granted, I have a soft spot for this program as it graduated me in 1999. But it was a refreshing and revitalizing exercise. I am amazed at how much TC education has changed in just five short years. In the face of this rough economy, TC programs like the one at New Mexico Tech are managing to keep up with the changing technologies and practices. However, these programs still struggle.

It's difficult for these students and professors to stay active in STC, partly because of the cost, partly because they often feel isolated from the rest of the society. After all, their culture is quite different from ours.

The students that I met during this meeting are extremely talented communicators who are eager to enter the ranks of professional technical communicators. STC will be an important aspect of their professional lives, so it's important that we, as STC members and fellow writers, help make sure that these student programs and chapters thrive. If you hail from a school with a student chapter, I encourage you to become involved with the students. If you don't have ties to a student chapter, create them. Pick a school, or a few, and offer yourself as an online mentor, newsletter contributor, or event speaker. The students and professors will be appreciative and you will have done your part to support the future of our profession.

Chapter News

April Program Meeting

Overview of Annual Conference Presentations

Get the latest techniques and tips from STC Houston members who will present at the STC Annual Conference in Baltimore this coming May.

Nicole Wycislo will deliver Adapting Policies and Procedures for Online Availability.

Next, Paul Mueller will discuss Using JavaScript so Writers can Write. As we continue to integrate information into the user interface, writers learn more about technical implementation details and focus less on writing. Solutions are often created for specific situations, and these solutions are not easily applied to other products and situations. To provide flexible, reusable solutions, Paul shows how to use JavaScript and Jscript to create standard layouts. Writers can quickly create new autoruns and Quick Previews for products without writing any JavaScript and worrying about the technical implementation.

George Slaughter and Jocelyn Williams have combined forces to give Web Site Usability Testing Demystified.

Also at the April meeting, you will vote for the 2004-2005 STC Houston council members. This is your opportunity to make a difference. The winner of the science-writing contest will be presented with a scholarship check, and Volunteers for the Month will be announced.

Networking begins at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, at the Hilton Houston Westchase (9999 Westheimer at Briarpark) with a snack buffet. Following the chapter announcements at 6:30 p.m., Nicole will launch her presentation. After the program, stay and welcome next year's Administrative Council members.

Place:

Hilton Houston Westchase
9999 Westheimer Road

Date:

Tuesday, April 13

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.


March Meeting Report

"Measuring Our Value Added with the Balanced Scorecard"

by Deborah Long, Principal, Long Communications

At STC Houston's March program meeting, Immediate Past President George Slaughter shared his research findings about how technical communicators add value to the bottom line in corporations.

From his well-documented slides, we learned that technical publications actually do affect in a positive way all metrics being used to cut costs in today's business world. He cited studies conducted by the likes of Saul Carliner, who has outlined a four-level model consisting of basic valuation tenets. He also informed us that companies are using standardized measuring tools, such as the Balanced Scorecard, to justify budgetary spending. With such multilevel management systems in place, we cannot escape close scrutinization and assessment of our performance.

The good news is that our profession is on the "radar screen," but we are not completely home free. Gone are the days when technical documentation was considered pure overhead. It is, therefore, up to us to produce measurable results. How can we do this? According to George, by continuing to better serve customers and keep looking for ways to save them (or make them) more money.

For those members who missed the meeting, a complete presentation is available online at www.georgeslaughter.com.

Society & Industry News

Networking Opportunities

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

Volume 43, Issue 7

April 2004