Highlights of 2004 STC Annual Conference
by Jim Hunt
This report summarizes the events that I attended at the 51st Annual Conference of the Society for Technical Communication in Baltimore, May 9–12, 2004. The conference, which was held at the Baltimore Convention Center, was attended by almost 1700 people. The conference offered more than 200 technical sessions, presented by approximately 250 speakers. The sessions were grouped into these areas of interest:
• Professional Development
• Theory, Research, Education, and Training
• Tools and Technology
• Usability and Information Design
• Writing and Editing
I attended eight technical sessions. Handouts were provided by some presenters. My copy of the Proceedings (on CD) is available for review. On Sunday, May 9, I participated in STC leadership events and attended the welcoming reception and the nominating committee reception. On Monday, May 10, I attended the Region 5 reception. On Tuesday, May 11, I attended the annual STC business meeting, the annual STC forum, and the annual STC honors banquet. On Wednesday, May 12, I served as an evaluator for the manual evaluation workshop.
STC Leadership Day
On Sunday, May 9, I attended a leadership workshop about STC transformation, led by former STC president Edward J. See. Transformation is an initiative to realign, restructure, and broaden the scope of the Society. Part of the initiative is a new membership model with five classes of membership: “Classic” member, E-member, “Limited” member, corporate member, and student member. STC is planning a very aggressive schedule of implementation, and STC Houston should begin discussing transformation and its potential effects on our chapter as soon as possible.
The opening session keynote address on Monday was presented by Ben Shneiderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland at College Park (UM) and the founding director of the UM Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, which conducts research on the theory and design of interactive systems. Shneiderman has written or edited a dozen books and published more than 200 technical papers and book chapters. He urged designers of computer hardware and software to focus on human (not product) capabilities.
Using Games in Technical Training
This demonstration, led by Paul E. Sinasohn (Press Any Key Training), explored the concept that games can be effective when they are related to the material being taught and to job performance.
Resolving Team Conflict
This workshop, led by Jamie Conklin (Cadence Human Systems, Inc.), examined the nature of conflict on teams, and suggested strategies for managing and resolving conflict. (handout at www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=10)
Challenges in Information Modeling
This demonstration, led by Ann Rockley (The Rockley Group Inc.), explored issues surrounding information modeling. Information models form the specification for a unified content strategy, but information modeling brings new challenges to people who create, review, and implement models.
Fostering Productive Author-Editor Relationships
This panel—Helen M. Grady, Brian W. Davis, Andrea M. LaPlume, and Erika T. Mayweather (all, Mercer University)—discussed strategies that promote good author-editor collaboration, including negotiating levels of edit withauthors and conducting author-editor conferences. ( handout available)
Introducing Windows “Longhorn” Help Technology
This demonstration, led by Char James-Tanny (JTF Associates Inc.), introduced the Help technology for the next version of Windows, codenamed “Longhorn.” Longhorn uses a structured authoring model, built around an XML format called the Microsoft Assistance Markup Language (MAML). Longhorn features a viewer pane that is shared by applications. ( more info at msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/htmlhelp/html/hwmscintroducingwindowslonghornhelp.asp)
Section 508 for Dummies
This progression, led by Lori Gillen (McKesson Health Solutions) and other members of the STC AccessAbility SIG, presented practical advice for implementing the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508) in the workplace. (handouts at www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=13, www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=14, www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=16, www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=33, and www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=34)
Adapting the Rational Unified Process for Content Providers
This demonstration, led by Visnja Beg and Amber R. Swope (IBM), showed how to adapt the IBM Rational Unified Process to software documentation. (handouts at www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=95 and www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=96)
Quality 201: Advanced Topics in Quality
This panel—Roberta A. Rupel (Edward Jones), Steven F. Jong, and Ralph E. Robinson (Appendix Publishing Inc.), members of the Quality SIG—discussed metrics, standards, and processes. (handout at www.stc.org/51stConf/sessionMaterial/dataShow.asp?ID=108)
STC honorees and the winners of STC competition awards are announced at the banquet on Tuesday evening, and I was recognized as one of 25 new associate fellows of STC . I was honored to represent STC Houston when my associate fellowship was announced. I thank STC Houston for providing financial and moral support of my attendance at the conference. Congratulations to all leaders and volunteers of STC Houston, which received a chapter achievement award of Excellence!
Manual Evaluation Workshop
At this Wednesday afternoon workshop each evaluator met with three or more conference attendees (in 30-minute sessions) to review samples of their organizations' documentation. This was my seventh time as an evaluator.
The closing address was presented by Thom Haller, a technical communicator with 20 years' experience. Haller discussed how the labels we use to define ourselves and our jobs limit our potential. Haller used humor to narrate his discovery of the value of communication and the profession.