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Dateline Houston is the newsletter of the Houston Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, a nonprofit organization. Ten issues are published each year (September through June).

Luette Arrowsmith

Cathy Bettoney
Melanie Boston
Jamie Diamandopoulos
Jim Hunt

President, Cindy Pao

Vice President, Nicole Wycislo

All chapter leaders

Copyright & Reprints
Address Changes

Vol 44, Issue 5

May/June 2005


Technical Writing in the Game World

by Derek Classert, senior student at University of Houston–Downtown

Technical writing is an essential skill for the game designer of the future. A game designer must understand the inner workings of technical writing as applied to game documentation.

Every game goes through several phases of design and documentation that bring it from the designer's imagination to the consumer's game system. These documents are vital to the success of a game project.

A game designer must understand three documents:

•  high concept
•  game treatment
•  game script

The high concept is the first formal document that the game design team produces. This concise document (no more than four pages) covers the fundamental aspects of the game idea. This document allows the team to pitch the new game idea, showing its potential to a producer or publishing company. The high concept will also give the team a response on whether to proceed with the development process.

In a way, the high concept acts like a resume of the game idea. It should include the following aspects:

•  premise of the game
•  intended audience
•  type of game
•  target systems
•  layout of the story

The game treatment goes along with the visual presentation of the game to a potential publishing company. This document covers all points of the high concept in more detail plus some technical and business information to show the selling points of the game.

The main goal of this document is to get funding for the project. The game treatment is an outline for the game that mainly generates hype for the producers and publishers. This document, however, does not fill in all questions that are posed by the game development team.

The game script is the most important component of the game designer's arsenal. This document must define every aspect of the game idea. Everything a designer, artist, or sound editor needs should be contained in this document.

A game script includes only data relating to creative (non-programming) elements of the game. However, this does not mean that you are developing a creative piece. The game script follows all the rules of technical documentation. This document should allow the development team to play the game in their minds or on paper. The game script will help the team visualize the scope of the game and its environment.

If questions arise that the game script cannot answer, the document requires revision. It is rare that a designer follows the exact idea that was originally imagined. The game idea evolves as the project moves forward. Old questions are answered and new ideas are developed.

These three documents give the game design team everything they need to build a game. Although games are created in an imaginative world, they still rely heavily on technical documentation. This documentation allows the entire development team to see the game designer's vision unambiguously. Technical writing makes this overall design process fast, fluid, and fun.

Trip Report—STC 51st Annual Conference

by Jocelyn Williams, STC Houston Immediate Past President and Independent Consultant

Are you seeking training and networking opportunities? Then consider conferences as the places for such opportunities. Last May, Navigating the Future of Technical Communication , STC's 51st Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland , offered plenty to satisfy one's professional development goals in technical communication.

On Leadership Day, incoming STC President Andrea Ames announced that her theme would be “Member Value.” This STC focus confirmed that the 2003 – 2004 STC Houston theme “Providing Value” was right on target! Leadership Day included sessions on programming planning, conference coordination, chapter leadership, volunteer recruitment, and the transformation initiative.

In order to remain a premier organization that provides value to its membership, STC must examine the membership's needs and restructure to best meet those needs. STC must “transform” itself to better educate the public about the profession and offer greater member value. STC has formed committees to look at areas such as:

• communication
• communities
• education
• finance
• governance
• membership
• technology

Our transformation won't occur overnight; it will take time. Members should be open-minded, remain informed, and provide recommendations that will strengthen our Society.

Highlights of the conference also included the recognition of STC Houston as a Chapter of Excellence. STC Houston has been a Chapter Achievement Award recipient for several years. The Society applauds our efforts, and we set a high standard for others.

The Honors Reception and Banquet, a formal gala that honors the Society's newly elected fellows and associate fellows, included recognition of our own Jim Hunt. He is most deserving of this honor.

Ben Shneiderman, author of Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies, kicked off the conference as the Opening Session speaker. He stressed the importance of focusing on human, not product, capabilities in design.

My greatest difficulty came in deciding which of the myriad technical sessions to attend. The technical sessions were jam-packed with presentations covering five areas of interest to technical communicators:

• Management
• Usability & Information Design
• Theory, Research, Education, and Training
• Tools andTechnology
• Writing and Editing

George Slaughter and I copresented a session entitled, “Web Site Usability Testing Demystified.” The session, which targeted those new to Web usability or those needing a refresher, covered Web usability basics: type of tests, navigation, the planning and conducting of a test, analysis of test results, and preparation of a test report. Several attendees “performed” their own usability tests on the eight STC Region Web sites. We received excellent feedback from attendees on our evaluations (STC's form and our form).

For the valuable professional development sessions and networking contacts, you won't find much that's comparable to the STC Annual Conference. Make plans to attend the next one scheduled for May 2005 in Seattle, Washington. It's a smart, strategic investment!

Regular Features

From the President

Spotlight on STC Houston members

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

Three from STC Houston with staying power

I received an e-mail from Ann Liggio in March with awesome news. Ann, Janis Raymond Hocker, and Sherri Smith have been members of STC for 30 years!

Cool. Extremely cool.

How many people do you know who have been in their career for 30 years?

Probably the coolest part of being in tech comm for 30 years is thinking about the amount of change they've witnessed. How much user documentation for computers did Ann, Janis, and Sherri work on when they started out? How unheard of was it for them to write computer user doc using a computer? Did the computer really make our lives easier?

“Woo Hoo!” to Ann, Janis, and Sherri on this wonderful accomplishment!

Distinguished Chapter Service Awards

At the March chapter meeting, I had the privilege of presenting Distinguished Chapter Service Awards to Wayne Schmadeka and George Slaughter.

It was a lot of fun because neither recipient knew they had received the award. When George read Wayne's nomination, Wayne took it all in stride. He's one of those guys who always seems calm and cool no matter what. When Jocelyn read George's nomination, though, the reaction was different. I watched George as he realized that Jocelyn was talking about him. He was visibly emotional and surprised. And that's really the best part, isn't it?

Congratulations to George and Wayne on receiving this award. The chapter is grateful to you, and that's why you have this award.

Associate Fellows

I know that I wrote about Pat Bishop and Melanie Flanders in the last issue of Dateline Houston , but I have to mention them one more time. I believe that becoming an Associate Fellow of STC is a huge honor. Both ladies have done so much for themselves, the field of technical communication, and STC!

I also wanted to tell you that Melanie left for China this week. In fact, I think she should be in China now. We miss you Melanie and hope all goes well at your new job!

The annual conference is coming!

This year's annual conference is a special one for me. The last time the conference was held in Seattle (I want to say 1995), I had just become a technical writer. My manager asked if I wanted to go to the conference, and I eagerly said yes. I learned so much and got so energized! Now I look forward to each year's conference— both the new things I'll learn and the old things I'll remember.

Please let me know if you'll be at the annual conference! At the very least, I'll be able to give you a sticker that tells everyone what an awesome chapter we are when we win a Chapter Achievement Award.

Already looking ahead to next year

We have a lot of new faces on the Administrative Council for next year. Of course, I'm looking forward to working with everyone. If you have suggestions and ideas, please share them with me. It's also a great time to get involved with the chapter and take your future into your own hands.

Send me an e-mail! I'm at

From an Editor

What Do Editors Really Want?

by Jamie Diamandopoulos, Director, Corporate Communications, Decision Information Resources, Inc.

Well, Sigmund, you don't have to spend a lifetime trying to figure that question out. Here are some answers—at least from one point of view.

What Editors Don't Want

We don't want perfect original documents. That would mean forced retirement. (Yes, some editors have been forcibly retired in spite of reams of murky documents crying for help, but you know what I mean.) We're glad that people don't write as well as they think that they do. We want them to write better, but faulty writing is not usually as dangerous and expensive as bad driving (most people think that they drive well, too). However, sloppy documentation is embarrassing and can also be costly: in September 1999, NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter because the engineering team at Lockheed Martin used English units of measurement while the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used the metric system for a key spacecraft operation. And no one noticed until after the loss! Later, three investigative panels came to the breakthrough conclusion—just a tad late—that standards and consistency are an essential end-to-end process.

We don't want to change the intended meaning of the original text. On the contrary, the intended meaning isn't always clear, and readers don't have ESP; they rely on what they read. Therefore, we make suggestions, insert modifications, and ask questions. Sometimes, we find critical errors, too.

We don't want to own or have our names on an author's document —even if we had to perform major surgery on it. We'll write our own stuff when we want a byline.

We don't want to do an incomplete job. Of course, conflicting ideas about the definition of a good edit can cause Armageddons of nearly Biblical proportions, but settling for poor to mediocre quality irritates the heck out of a professional editor.

We don't want to offend or hurt authors. It's our job to be objective, meticulous, and exacting so that we can improve documents and reach goals for quality. Our comments are not aimed at a writer's personal sensitivities. We edit with consistent standards and intensity for everyone, but we know that not everone accepts our edits in the same way. We are happy to discuss our markups.

What Editors Do Want

We want the opportunity to do higher-level editing. Contrary to popular opinion, many of us would like to be able to spend less time finding and correcting problems with number agreement, serial commas, and parallel structure so that we can spend more time on substantive issues like organization, content, completeness, coherence, and so forth. Surely, the language rules that were taught during my junior high and high school years are still fun to implement. And following a corporate style guide is important. But oh, for a loftier challenge.

We want writers, managers, engineers, doctors, oil tool manufacturers, and others to recognize the importance of communicating well. Reminder: editors are advocates for readers. Many writers forget that their readers are not usually the folks in the neighboring cubicles.

We would like to see progressive improvement in each successive generation of documents—in other words, we want our clients—internal or external—to use an edit as an exercise in learning. Yeah, I know, when pigs fly.

We want colleagues and customers to perceive the improvements that careful edits have made.

I could go on, and other editors will probably add their favorites to my list, but you get the idea.

The Bottom Line

Editors might occasionally dream of the perfect job—maybe editing fascinating reports or stories by great authors for The New Yorker, as Eleanor Gould Packard did for 54 years. But how many gigs like that are there, and how many of us are there?

We are more practical than you might think. We are almost unshockable by crazy deadlines, unrealistic workloads, weak writing, and a poor editor-to-writer ratio—especially in technical fields. We acknowledge and respect the needs and limited resources of our clients and employers.

We like what we do. We find satisfaction in our work by continuing to strive for excellence, to coach, and to offer suggestions. We like to pay compliments and receive them. Sometimes we whine to each other. Then we watch an escapist movie and eat chocolate.


Chapter News

Leadership Transition Meeting

by Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.
Each year STC Houston holds a leadership transition meeting in June. This year the meeting falls on June 25.

Have you ever been to a leadership transition meeting? If you answered “no,” I recommend that you check it out this year.

At the meeting you can find out what STC Houston did this year and what we hope to do next year. You can give the new leaders feedback, suggestions, and ideas for areas of interest for our community.

Most importantly, you can sign up to help (yes, volunteer) the chapter accomplish its goals next year.

“Volunteering is for suckers”

I heard this phrase once a long time ago. Conveniently, I mostly forget it when it comes to volunteering for things.

Not only am I the president of our community, I’m also a registered Girl Scout leader, and I do as much as I can at my kids’ schools.

For me, volunteering is about how I can help others. Can I help the girls in my daughter’s troop learn how to cook outdoors? Yes. Can I read Dr. Seuss books to my son’s daycare class? Yes to that, too.
For STC Houston, can I help our members learn and become better technical communicators? Well, I’m darn sure trying.

Meeting agenda

The meeting will go something like this:

• accomplishments for 2004—2005
• high-level plans for 2005—2006
• review of the community strategic plan
• breakout sessions to plan for 2005—2006

Of course, at some point during the day, this year’s administrative council will hand off their files to next year’s council. That’s the transition part.

Don’t be shy! Join us!

I invite you to attend the leadership transition meeting.
This is your opportunity to tell us how we can help you become or remain a technical communicator in Houston.
This is also your chance to help the community provide what you need.

Meeting details

I’m still working on the location. As I finalize the details for the meeting, I’ll post e-mails to the chapter mailing list and also post details on the community web site. Keep your eyes peeled for the exact bat-location and bat-time! Until then, if you need me, send an e-mail to

Changes Approved for Houston Chapter Bylaws

by Deborah Long, Technical Editor, BMC Software Business School

At the monthly membership meeting on April 12, 2005, proposed changes to our chapter bylaws were ratified by those who voted in person and by those who voted by proxy. Houston Chapter President Cindy Pao and the Administrative Council gave their approval, as well. The following list summarizes the revisions that were passed:

•  New titles of vice president and senior vice president replace the existing titles of director and vice president.

•  Existing chapter administrative policies and procedures are clarified for


 selecting a Nominating committee for chapter elections


 presenting a slate of nominees for chapter offices to chapter members


 conducting elections


 tabulating votes

•  The number of chapter meetings was changed to at least the minimum number of meetings required by Society bylaws. 

•  Guidelines are strengthened and clarified for


 managing chapter funds


 the financial responsibilities of Administrative Council members in the selection of a financial institution in which to deposit chapter funds and in the authorization of budgets, expenses, and disbursements

•  The duties and requirements are clarified for the chapter treasurer and council members in maintaining financial records and issuing financial reports.

•  A non-chapter-affiliated auditor is required to perform an annual audit of chapter funds.

Thanks go to members for voting and to the Bylaws and Teller committee (Deborah Silvi, Deborah Long, Paul Mueller, Pat Bishop, and Jim Hunt) for their work.

March Program Meeting: “Survival Skills for the 21 st Century”

by Deborah Long, Technical Editor, BMC Software Business School

In case you have not noticed, the theme of this program year has been “survival of the fittest”—how to promote yourself in today's competitive job market. STC Houston's March meeting continued in this vein with guest speaker Tom Benwell, president and CEO of Argus Advisory Group, Inc. A business coach and survivor of many acquisitions and mergers, Tom gave us his perspective on the changing business environment that encompasses people, technology, and information. And, according to his first-hand observations, change is not slowing down?in fact, it is accelerating!

The state of constant change creates stress, which we must all learn how to deal with if we are to adjust in a healthy manner. This means “setting it aside” during the course of a day and taking vacations so that we do not break under the pressure. While we are at work, Tom advised that we play the game—whatever your corporation's game may be. First, figure out the rules, and then play by them if you want to succeed. It beats acting like a victim! The last thing you want to do is become mentally exhausted and disengaged from the workplace.

Tom went on to discuss the four major survival skills: courage, connections, creativity, and commitment. All things considered, each of us must ultimately take care of herself or himself, rather than depend on our companies to do so. This might amount to finding the right work and life balance, taking a lateral promotion, or pursuing some other measure to slow down the stress. Managing our emotions “intelligently” is yet another strategy when trying to accept difficult, often painful changes. Responding appropriately (logically) and picking the right battles are essential to keeping a positive attitude. Then again, it's OK to have a fierce conversation to show your passion about the values you hold dear. All the while, keep mutual trust and respect going.

Sound complicated? On a lighter note, Tom recommended the book “Bang!: Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World,” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, to stimulate creativity. Enthusiasm is one of the emotions that we need to summon, remembering to have fun even in difficult situations. And finally, give 100% to your commitments to achieve the satisfaction of being the best at whatever you do.

Now that we have an awareness of some helpful tools, we just have to make a survival plan and stick to it! To find out more about Argus Advisory Group, go to

Jocelyn Williams and Cindy Pao award George Slaughter the Distinguished Chapter Service Award

Deborah Silvi and Jim Hunt talk about bylaws

Melanie G. Flanders and Pat Bishop have been named STC Associate Fellows!



Cindy Pao awards Wayne Schmadeka the Distinguished Chapter Service Award


New Members

Leslie Biggs

In September 2004, Leslie moved to Houston from Austin, where she was employed as Sr. Technical Writer for the National Job Corps Data Center. At Job Corps, Leslie created online help files, user manuals, and PowerPoint presentations for national employees. Before employment with Job Corps, she worked for Hillcast Technologies, also in Austin, TX, as a technical writer.

She is currently employed in the non-profit sector with SEARCH, a resource center that provides job training and career development for Houston's homeless. She develops marketing materials and grants, and works with donor relations and the database software. Leslie wears many hats and loves the variety of work that she does.

Blake Bourquad

Blake has been a tech writer for two years. He graduated from Louisiana State University in 2003 with a B.A. in English. He works for APPRO Systems, Inc., a producer of loan origination software, in Baton Rouge, LA. He creates online help, marketing and corporate communications materials, instructional materials (printed and online), and does requirements design.

Erika Guerra

Erika, a student member of STC, is a graduate student at the University of St. Thomas, working on a master's degree in communications. Her bachelor's degree is in English from Texas A&M. She would like to explore career opportunities in technical writing in engineering or oil and gas, and will be completing a medical writing internship in at the end of April.

Before attending school in College Station, she grew up in the one-stop-light town of Cotulla, TX. She has lived in Houston for a little over a year and is looking forward to meeting everyone in the Houston chapter and learning the best steps to a career in technical communications.

Kim Johnson

Kim lives in Seattle, WA, but plans to move to Houston in the near future. For the past year, she has worked at Seattle Central Community College as a grant writer and project manager. She has a BA in English from Spelman College (Atlanta, GA) and an MS in Technical Communication from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA).

Kim is interested in web content writing/editing, web design, instructional design, project management, and fundraising.

Amber Berry

Amber has been in the technical communication industry for as long as she's had her current job, which will be one year on April 26. She graduated from Louisiana State University in ISDS (Information Systems and Decision Sciences) in June 2003. She says that her studies prepared her for work in the technical industry, but she never thought she would be writing about it for a living. But when she saw the opening for the position, she couldn't pass it up.

Like Blake Bourquad, Amber is a technical writer for APPRO Systems, Inc., in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Amy Pieri

Amy is a graduate student in the University of Houston-Downtown's Master of Science in Professional Writing and Technical Communication program. She hopes to graduate in May, 2006.

Before entering school, she worked in the social service sector supporting people with disabilities and their families. She hopes to return to work in this sector with a new skill set after graduation.

New Senior Members

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

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:

•Ragna Case
•Kate Compton
•Veronica Jordan
•Terry Lambert
•Nancy Landahl
•Patricia Mitchell
•Michael Steinbach

Congratulations on this achievement!

Volunteer Opportunities with the
STC Houston Employment Committee

by Steve Shriver, contract writer, Triad Resources

How can you help both yourself and STC Houston? Why, on the employment committee, of course!

That's right, if you want to move up, or if you're wandering through the contracting wilderness, underemployed, or not currently billable (which is another way to describe unemployment), then your participation on the employment committee could kill two birds with one stone.

As a member of this team, the benefits are enormous:

•You get the first look at contract and job opportunities that cross your desk.
•You make invaluable contacts networking in the industry.
•You learn new project management skills.
• You get a warm fuzzy feeling by contributing to a worthy cause.

Almost everyone knows that the employment committee performs a vital function in the local chapter, benefiting both members and nonmembers alike, by advertising opportunities on our local bulletin board. In this and many other ways, we help people get jobs. These activities also serve to recruit new members and volunteers.

The manager of this committee delegates as much as possible—many hands make light work for all. The manager performs and/or oversees all of the following functions. Take a look and let the Employment committee manager know where you would like to contribute.

Program meeting representative

The manager and/or committee members ensure that someone from the committee is present at all program meetings to introduce first-timers (and others) to the free employment services provided by the chapter via the committee (for example, the job board, resume review, any upcoming workshops, etc.).

Email champion

The champion plus the manager and other committee members promote our employment services (such as the job board) via e-mail. For example, when someone sends an announcement or job opportunity to this person, they respond with a boilerplate PR welcome with instructions to post directly to the job board. If the original lead source does not or cannot post the opportunity within 2–3 days, the champion posts it directly or sends it to the job board moderator/editor for posting. The champion handles or redirects all e-mail inquiries.

Job board moderator/editor

The moderator posts job leads from all sources, and can edit headlines or copy, delete posts, and consolidate duplicate postings, maintaining an efficient and functional bulletin board with a consistent look and feel.

Internet job searcher

A searcher finds job leads from Monster, Dice, or wherever, and, ideally, posts them directly to the job board (although this is not an obligation or expectation). The searcher forwards leads that he/she cannot personally post within 2–3 days to the job board moderator. All STC members and nonmembers are encouraged to forward job leads whenever they find them.

Sunday newspaper researcher

The researcher regularly scans the Houston Chronicle (and other newspapers), which remains an excellent source for good quality job leads from corporate hiring authorities, staffing firms, and recruiters. The job titles advertised and described may be obscure to technical communicators at first blush; consequently, the researcher digs beyond the display ads and reads the word ads, too, to ferret out opportunities that might be overlooked. The ads are compiled and posted weekly to the Now Hiring folder.

Resume reviewer

The reviewer edits and proofreads resumes for nonmembers, new members, and older members, and also counsels job seekers in how to put their best foot forward in the current job market, including a post in the Looking for Work folder. Ideally, several experienced resume reviewers should be recruited to participate in this vital function.

Workshop coordinator and RSVP liaison

The coordinator plans, organizes, and champions the two employment workshops provided by the chapter each year, usually in mid-winter and spring sessions. The coordinator should also recruit other volunteer help (for example, to estimate a head count of planned attendees for lunch, etc.).


The columnist researches, composes, and submits monthly articles about various employment issues to be published in the Dateline Houston newsletter.

Experienced previous managers mentor, guide, and counsel the current employment manager and committee members.

Contact our employment committee manager to sign up for the team or to get answers to any questions:

Gary Foster: 281-543-4996

Procedure for Posting to the STC Houston Employment Forum

Whether a member or not, looking for work or looking for a worker, you are welcome to post your blurb to our local job board. Here are the quick and easy instructions:

Step 1: Register

•Click to open the main STC Houston website.
•Click Employment on the vertical menu bar (to the left of the screen) to go to the chapter's employment page.
•In the middle of the page, under Job Lists, click the first selection, STC Houston Employment Forum, to go to our STC Houston Forum, our expanded bulletin-board system.
•In the top, right-hand corner of the screen (under “Houston Chapter” in the Houston skyline), click Register to open the registration page.
•Read the Registration Agreement Terms and click I Agree to these terms and am over or exactly 13 years of age to advance to the next page.
•Fill in the required registration information, noted with an asterisk (*), plus any optional information or preferences that you want to include with your profile.
• Click the Submit button at the bottom of the page.

A message page confirms that your profile has been created, and you can click to return to the Forum Index (or wait for the default timeout to be returned to the index).

You are now registered and can post to any folder on the bulletin board.

Proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Post Your Resume or Job Opening

Job Seekers

If you are looking for work and want to post your resume:

•Click Looking for work (under the Employment category) to create a new post for yourself.
•Click the icon for new topic on the left-hand side of the screen.

The “Post a new topic” page appears.

Note: If the “Login” page appears, enter your new user name and password.

•Fill in the Subject line and the Message body text box, and format the text.
•Click the Preview button at the bottom of the page to see a preview of your post.
•Click the Submit button at the bottom of the page to post your message.
•Log out.


If you want to advertise an opportunity available for a job or contract:

•Click Now hiring (under the Employment category) to create a new post for the job or contract you want to announce.
•Click the icon for new topic on the left-hand side of the screen.

The “Post a new topic” page appears.

Note: If the “Login” page appears, enter your new user name and password.

•Fill in the Subject line and the Message body text box, and format the text.
•Click the Preview button at the bottom of the page to see a preview of your post.
•Click the Submit button at the bottom of the page to post your message.
•Log out.

General Employment Issues

If you want to open a new topic for discussion regarding employment issues:

•Click General Employment Issues (under the Employment category) to create a new post for the topic of your choice.
•Click the new topic icon on the left-hand side of the screen.

The “Post a new topic” page appears.

Note: If the “Login” page appears, enter your new user name and password.

•Fill in the Subject line and the Message body text box, and format the text.
•Click the Preview button at the bottom of the page to see a preview of your post.
•Click the Submit button at the bottom of the page to post your message.
•Log out.


If you want to edit anything that you have posted previously:

•Log in.
•Navigate to the post that you want to amend.
•Click the edit icon on the right-hand side of the page to reach the “Edit post” page.
•Make your changes and click Preview and/or Submit.
•Log out.

If you have any problems or questions, e-mail or call:

Gary Foster: 281-543-4996

Terry Lindsay: 713-328-0441

Society News

Last Letter from Linda

by Linda Oestreich

Easter Sunday. Quiet and cool; sunny and mild. A great day to catch up with STC! It's difficult for me to believe, but my three years as director sponsor for Region 5 are almost over! So much has happened to us all in the last three years!

My life here in San Diego has begun to feel routine, and I am so grateful for that! I have a job that I enjoy and a home that's comfortable. My car runs and so does my computer. My animals and family are healthy and happy. STC, a large part of my life, is going through growing pains, but I believe they are needed, and the results promise to be rewarding.

I'm on the ballot for second VP, and by the time you read this, we may all know whether I have won or whether one of my very capable opponents has. As much as I want to lead this august body of communicators, I know that no matter the outcome, STC will continue to be a large part of my life.

So, where are we? Transformation of the Society has taken center stage. We have a new membership structure, and members have a new, more robust connection with the Society board. SIGs are in the spotlight and are coming into parity with chapters both in what they offer their members and in what the Society offers them! Many communities have rechartered. Rechartering means that they have looked at themselves, determined what they do well, and decided whether they are serving their members with programs and support that make membership valuable and desirable. Society research grants are more practical, and the Society has tightened its belt in places we never thought possible!

I am one of 14 folks who were elected by you to run the Society over the past 3 years. I have been proud to be part of this board of directors. We may not have gotten everything right all the time, but we sure have made everyone sit up to watch, listen, and offer their ideas.

I have been delighted to support the folks of Region 5. I have visited, at least once, all chapters except one, and I apologize to you, Arkansas! My advice to my successor will be to make sure they visit you first!

Since May 2002, when I became director sponsor, Region 5 has held three phenomenal conferences, and I'd like to congratulate the three host chapters: Oklahoma, Austin, and Intermountain (Salt Lake City). As we look to the future, Phoenix is planning something wonderful for fall 2005 (cohosting the conference with the Instructional Design and Learning SIG), and Lone Star has already begun planning the conference for 2006. Three Region 5 chapters—Austin, Southern Arizona, and Houston—have hosted STC Board meetings, and Houston has held at least two international judging competitions. Several folks throughout the region have been honored as associate fellows and fellows, and many more have received the Distinguished Chapter Service Award.

Many chapters (even some student chapters!) in the region have been recognized as Chapter of Merit, Excellence, and Distinction by the Society. Still other Region 5 chapters have received awards in newsletter competitions and publicity competitions.

Two extremely capable candidates are vying for the wonderment of becoming the next director-sponsor of the region. And Society members are voting on a referendum that might remove regionalization from the governance of the Society. No matter what the outcome, the connection and cooperation among the folks in STC, whether by geography, tools, industry, or flavor of the month, are here to stay. They are the parts of STC that remain constant.

Big events. Big changes. Big happenings. Yet, STC is mainly about the people. It always has been. No matter who or how we run the Society, its heart is its members and the connections we have with each other.

I have been an STC member since 1979. My life would not be the same without my STC experience and friendships. I have traveled all over this country—sometimes in my duties as director sponsor, sometimes as a Society board member, sometimes as an individual contributor. And, as I look toward traveling to Seattle this May, I remember that my first STC conference was also in Seattle. It was the International Technical Communications Conference (ITCC) in 1984. By the time the Society returned to Seattle in 1996 for its annual conference (we ditched the name ITCC by then), I was being honored as an STC Fellow. Now it's 2005, and I'll soon be opening a new door of STC opportunity. It might be marked second VP, or it might be marked something as yet unknown. Whatever it is, I know that STC friends will be on the other side to welcome me. I like that.

Thank you.


Networking Opportunities

•International Association of Business Communicators (IABC):
•Association of Authors and Publishers (AAP):
•American Society of Journalists and Authors:
•Association for Women in Computing (AWC) Houston Chapter:
•Council of Science Editors:

If you have a networking opportunity to share, please tell us! Go to

Upcoming STC Seminars

The 2004–2005 seminar series is the Society's most ambitious to date. Among the scheduled presenters are members who have published widely, served at high levels in the Society, and received outstanding scores for their conference presentations. Following is a list of seminars scheduled for March and April. To view the complete 2004–2005 seminar schedule, visit Please note that registration closes 24 hours before each event.

June 8: Adding Interactivity to Online Documents

Presenter William Horton is a recognized international authority on appropriate uses of new electronic media. He is author of nine books on technical communication, including Designing and Writing Online Documentation (John Wiley & Sons, 1994), The Web Page Design Cookbook (John Wiley & Sons, 1996), and Designing Web-based Training (John Wiley & Sons, 2000). Horton is an STC fellow, recipient of the ACM SIGDOC's Rigo Award for advances to software documentation, and winner of the IEEE Professional Communications Society's Goldsmith Award. He has delivered presentations in China , Sweden , Germany , France , Denmark , Brazil , Canada , and the Philippines .

June 22: One World Publishing: Single-source Editing and Translation

Speaker Michael Plattner began his career in software development and worked for many years in both product management and technical editing. Since July 2003, he has served as technical managing director of itl GmbH in Vienna , and as an active consultant for itl AG in Munich . His special areas of expertise include content management systems.

Session Information

Each seminar costs $99 for STC members (the nonmember rate is $149). In addition to offering high-quality training at an affordable price, STC 's seminar series features a quick and simple online registration process. Members can sign up for seminars and view detailed descriptions at

More information about presenters and seminars will appear in upcoming issues of Dateline Houston and on the STC web site. Be sure to check the web site frequently for an up-to-date list of seminars.

Copyright © 2006 Houston Chapter, Society for Technical Communication
P.O. Box 42051, Houston, TX 77242-2051 | 713-706-3434