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

Creating and supporting a forum for communities of practice in the profession of technical communication.

Newsletter Team

Managing Editor
Nicole Wycislo
newsletter@stc-houston.org

Editors
Melanie Boston
Robert Delwood
Jamie Diamandopoulos
Jim Hunt

Staff Writers
Deborah Long

President, Cindy Pao
president@stc-houston.org

Executive Vice President,
Rebecca Taylor
evp@stc-houston.org

All chapter leaders

Archives
Copyright & Reprints
Submissions
Address Changes

www.stc-houston.org
www.stc.org

Vol 44, Issue 6

July/August 2005


Features

Netiquette for the 21 st Century

Getting Your E-mails through the Gauntlet

by Gary Michael Smith, Houston Chapter

Corresponding through cyberspace via e-mail gained popularity in the early and mid-1990s, and it quickly became the preferred method of communication, not only by researchers and scientists but also by the general public, who were getting online in droves. Although some, such as the publishing industry, were slow to set up web sites and e-mail addresses, preferring to continue business as in previous decades, others were discovering the marketing potential of this truly global network.

A History of Ubiquity

Fifty years ago, we didn't worry about insider trading, hostile takeovers, or Internet fraud. And nearly 80 years ago, spam meant “canned sealed ham” when it was first introduced in 1926. Then, on April 12, 1994, we were introduced to electronic junk mail, thanks to attorneys Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel of Scottsdale, Arizona. By using a usenet newsgroup they were able to post to six thousand forums a single message offering their law firm's services to anyone who wanted to take part in a federal government lottery of green card work permits.

While Canter and Siegel may have only been using the resources available to them to help promote their business, they single-handedly revealed a marketing method with the potential of exponential and uncontrollable growth. And although the private and public sectors are employing the latest in anti-spam technology, many individuals are still behind the curve and trying to cope with getting their e-mail messages to the intended recipient.

With a little knowledge about computer systems and e-mail programs, writers can increase their odds of successful transmission of their articles and books to publishers everywhere. This article offers some tips.

Caution with File Formats

One of the most common uses of e-mail is to transmit material as attachments. However, this is increasingly becoming a hazardous practice. Reasons to avoid sending or receiving e-mail attachments include

•  The potential for virus infection
•  Incompatibility of hardware
•  Incompatibility of different software versions
•  Software not present on the receiving computer
•  Oversized files slowing down Internet connections
•  Filters blocking attachments

One of the best methods to ensure that your e-mail gets through is to avoid sending attachments altogether and simply cut and paste text into the body of the message. Unfortunately, this does not always allow for graphics, and user-defined format can be lost.

Another method is to use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to send a file, or, better yet, send the electronic version of the book or article to a web site that uses Online File Transfer Protocol (OLFTP), whereby the sender simply uploads a file to the recipient's server. This method even allows a sender to transmit files that are larger than would normally be practical with e-mail. FTP is a protocol used to transfer files over the Internet. Unlike e-mail programs in which graphics and program files have to be attached, FTP is designed to handle binary files directly and does not require encoding and decoding the data.

Yet another method to send material supplemental to the e-mail message is to convert a word processing document to HTML or to a Rich Text Format (RTF), which is a Microsoft standard for encoding formatted text and graphics but without some of the fancy styles. RTF supports ANSI, IBM PC, and Macintosh character sets.

Finally, a sender can submit a document in Portable Document Format (PDF), converted using Adobe Acrobat Writer or Distiller. The benefit here is that PDF maintains the integrity of the original format of the document and compresses the original file size, similar to “zipping” it.

Subject Lines

Unless you haven't been using a computer or an e-mail device, you know that e-mail spam is out of control. Between January 1 and April 24, 2004, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 889,000 consumer complaints of just two companies sending spam. In April 2004, Maryland was the first state to draft its own antispam laws (penalties of up to 10 years of jail time, asset forfeiture, and fines up to $25,000) since the federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act ( Can-Spam ) was enacted, which was signed into law by President Bush on December 16, 2003. And even though under the federal law, spammers who falsify e-mail headers to mask an e-mailer's identity could face 1 to 5 years in prison, the mass mailings continue.

Unfortunately, because publishers and editorial offices receive so many unsolicited e-mail messages, many from unrecognizable addresses, they may be using any of the plethora of spam blockers available, such as those from SPAM-Blockers.com, Cloudmark, Air Spell, and Spam Bully, as well as free systems provided by Google, Yahoo, Internet Explorer, and Netscape. Because of these precautions, the best method to ensure your message—and attachment—get through may be as simple as putting something identifiable in the subject line of your e-mail. It may be your name, the title of your book or article, or even the name and title of the recipient. You could even work out a code in advance so the receiver will know what to look for.

Avoid Multiple Recipients

Some e-mail programs are set to not accept an incoming message with courtesy copy (cc) or blind courtesy copy (bcc) e-mail addresses included—they treat this message as a mass mailing. Consequently, you should try to target one individual recipient at a time if possible, which is always preferable when sending a submission to a publisher.

Confirmation of Receipt

Even if you've tried the tricks mentioned to ensure your message gets to your recipient, those on the receiving end still may not receive your message. Maybe your e-mail is spooling around in their company's server, delaying it hours or even days. Perhaps their or your server or e-mail system crashed, losing all messages for that day. Your recipient may even have accidentally deleted your message, forgetting about the code you two had agreed upon.

In any event, don't wait indefinitely for a reply or simply assume that since you know you sent it, it must have been received. Anything can happen, so be sure to ask the recipient for acknowledgment of receipt, or set your e-mail program to notify you when the e-mail reached the recipient or was opened.

Post to a Site

If you are managing a publication and prefer to receive no e-mail messages at all that could potentially bring down your entire network, you could try routing all correspondence through your web site. Material could be uploaded periodically and retrieved by you at your leisure. Just remember that some senders who do not know you could be wary of this process, because viruses now can reside on a web site, waiting to be downloaded to those who access the site.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few tips to help you get your message across. With any luck, you'll be rewarded with uninterrupted correspondence and communication, sending publishable files that are virus free and decipherable by your recipient.

This article is an excerpt from the writer's latest book Writing for Magazines and Trade Journals—Finding Them, Writing for Them, Getting Paid by Them (Chatgris Press, ISBN 1 -930554-03-6 ). He can be reached at www.ChatgrisPress.com.


Transitioning from a Technical Writer to an Instructional Designer

Deborah Long, Technical Editor, BMC Software Business School

Do we have to continue on a straight and narrow career path from one technical writer position to the next technical writer position? Not according to Jackie Damrau, president of the STC Lone Star Community and guest speaker at STC Houston's April program meeting. In fact, we already have many of the necessary skills for transitioning to the realm of developing instructional design.

Jackie herself was a technical writer for 30 years before she went into the business of creating training materials. According to Damrau, the transferable skills consist of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (referred to as “ADDIE” by seasoned instructional designers). The main differences betweenn disciplines are the concepts of interactivity and adult education. Then, all we need to do is add some “fun” and use colorful graphics.

“Yeah, right,” you say? Of course, there is more to it, as Jackie demonstrated by involving us in some hands-on exercises, during which we divided into groups and were asked to come up with a project plan to develop training for a sample product. Well, that was the “fun” part of the evening! She went on to explain that there are different types of learners (auditory, visual, or both), and there are also various types of delivery methods for instructional design—ranging from instructor-led classes to computer-based training (CBT) and what is called “blended” (or combination) solutions.

Turns out we would need to learn some new concepts, techniques, and tools, but nothing we could not easily master. After all, the biggest commonality between technical writing and instructional design is “know the audience.” And we are certainly experts at that! Some of us have even written objectives that are measurable, observable, and explicit as we strive to prove our value. Personally, I have been editing training courseware for the past several months at BMC Software and have found it to be a breath of fresh air. Try it sometime . . .


Writer/Editor as User Advocate

by Deborah Long, Technical Editor, BMC Software Business School

Over the past few years, STC Houston's May program meeting has become the “rehearsal” and proving ground for members planning to present at the annual Society conference. This year, Linda King, a project manager at HP and also a member of our administrative council, gave us a glimpse into what she had planned to speak about at the 2005 meetings in Seattle.

Linda King

In a nutshell, Linda explained how technical writers and editors are actually “advocates” for the end user (or reader) of our documentation by providing “effective” communication. To be effective, she stressed, we must gatherer specific requirements during the project request process. Researching the needs of your audience is of primary importance (who they are, their starting level of knowledge, etc.). King generously shared a most precious tool, the comprehensive form used by her group at HP to assess the needs of any given Technical Publications customer. We were introduced to an engineering concept of listing what is and what is not to be included in the project scope. She then stepped us through the project-planning procedure that she uses (from outline to draft to rewrite to final stage), giving us many tips along the way.

The bottom line, according to Linda, is to be flexible and meet the customer's expectations (obtaining early buy-in and making modifications, as needed, to the project plan are critical to a successful outcome). Speaking of expectations, she suggests setting reader expectations right up front via an abstract or introduction . Next, be sure to develop only what users need to know. Some other recommendations were to refer to your project plan as a roadmap; create a useful table of contents with functional headings; use simple, easy-to-understand language (stay away from jargon!); and provide access to related documents. As a real-life exercise, we went over some actual editing examples and saw how we could improve the readability of a given paragraph by just tweaking a few words or reconstructing a sentence. We can help the reader immensely by submitting our documents to an editor, if available, or by taking the time to self-edit before publishing.

As always, colleagues were asked to provide feedback, and so we did! We hope that Linda found our feedback beneficial and that she was as well received by conference-goers as she was by the attendees at our monthly meeting. Join me in congratulating all STC Houston members who shared their knowledge and presented at this year's conference.

Regular Features

From the President

What a fantastic year it's been!

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

As I write this column, I'm still feeling excited and proud from the annual conference in Seattle. It's a good thing, too, because I'm going to need that excitement to plan an equally wonderful 2005–2006 program year.

STC Houston wins Chapter of Excellence and Chapter of Distinction

Can you believe it?! How did we get to that point? How much work did chapter members have to do to distinguish this chapter from every other chapter in our size category?

We did a lot, and here are some of the highlights.

Employment

STC Houston always has a strong focus on employment. Our Employment Committee manager, Gary Foster, is a powerhouse when it comes to championing employment for our chapter members.

Gary and Terry Lindsay moderate the Looking for Work, Now Hiring, and General Employment Issues online forums. They are ever vigilant in posting job openings, as well as the resumés of people looking for work.

In addition to the forum work, Gary and Jocelyn Williams planned and ran a successful Employment Share-the-Knowledge session, which was expanded to a full day so that topics of interest to contractors and independent consults could be included.

Gary is currently conducting a salary survey, and the results of the survey are sure to amaze and enlighten us!

Competitions

Again this past year, STC Houston hosted a successful competition in the areas of technical publications, online, and technical art. STC Houston members submitted a total of 86 entries, and 47 of those won awards.

The competition season culminated in our annual awards ceremony, held this year at the Houston Club. The change in location added some glamour and mystery (were the mashed potatoes really purple?). I hope that everyone had a great time!

Membership

Yvonne Wade Sanchez took on the role of Manager of Membership this year, and she has done a bang-up job! Yvonne hit the ground running by helping with the annual membership drive at the November chapter meeting. Then she organized and presided over a new member lunch in March. The new members who attended received a packet of information about the chapter and heard from Donna Marcotte and some of the other chapter leaders, who talked about the value of membership in STC, as well as the value our chapter can offer technical communicators in Houston.

Most important, though, was the opportunity for these new members to ask questions. I think that the issues they raised can help the chapter offer even more to all of our members.

Students

STC Houston brought more focus during the year to the future of technical communication—students.

Rebecca Taylor, Nicole Wycislo, and I went to College Station so that we could have dinner with some of the student chapter members, as well as STC members who wanted to reactivate the satellite chapter in the area. We made plans for meetings, suggested possible speakers, and pledged some financial support for the groups.

Ann Jennings, Molly Johnson, Pat Golemon, and Stephanie Turner, all at the University of Houston-Downtown, helped make sure that technical communication students there were included in chapter meetings and events and also championed student membership criteria at the international level of STC.

Pat Golemon and Nicole Wycislo congratulate winner Sunayana Chopra, with her family and teacher

Pat Golemon again managed our chapter's participation in the annual Science Writing Contest at the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston. Rebecca Taylor and I gave prizes and letters to all of the competition winners at the awards ceremony in March. Also, one of last year's local winners went on to win honors at the international competition.

STC Board Meeting

In January, the STC Board met in Houston. The Hospitality Committee, made up of George Slaughter, Jocelyn Williams, and Jim Hunt, organized a reception in honor of the board. The reception was held at the Canyon Café, and was a fun evening. The committee also assembled welcome packets for each member and made sure the packets were waiting at the hotel as each member arrived.

So many other achievements

I'm giving you a pretty short list of the accomplishments of this chapter. I hope to get you curious about everything that we've done. If you want to see the complete picture, check out our Chapter Achievement Award application on the STC Houston web site.

STC Houston Pride

I am so proud of our chapter! I hope to continue the work we started in the 2004–2005 program year during the 2005–2006 program year.

I'd like to hear your ideas for chapter activities, so send me an e-mail! I'm at president@stc-houston.org.


From the Editor: Changing the Channel

by Nicole Wycislo, Managing Editor, Dateline Houston

Whew! Half of the year has passed. These past six months, I've have had the experience of being on the Discovery Channel of Life—learning new things, being creative, growing like a weed, and just having plain fun doing it. I've also experienced being stuck on the Comedy Channel of Life, where I conjured up laughing and other mixed emotions so I wouldn't lose my mind when I'm in the hamster's wheel, wondering how I can change the channel—and step off the wheel.

Now is a great time to determine what channel you're on—essentially to acknowledge where you are in regards to your goals for the year. Time to check your plan and see whether you've been truly working it or whether you've just been working. I'm re-evaluating my plan. I'm examining where I've been stopped in accomplishing some of my goals, and I'm taking steps to remove or overcome the stops. Most importantly, I'm acknowledging myself for what I have accomplished, telling the truth about what's so, and putting in corrections to support myself in changing the channel to one that will keep me in action and empowered for the next six months.

What channel are you on?

My best,

Nicole

Chapter News

June 2005 Meeting

“Way to Go, STC Houston !”

by Deborah Long, Technical Editor, BMC Software Business School

As has become an annual tradition for the STC Houston chapter, our June 2005 program meeting featured an end of year party to recognize our volunteers…without whom we would not have achieved success. And succeed we did this year, taking home the coveted Chapter of Distinction award from the conference, which applauded us for our “innovative and dynamic approach that resulted in diversified programs and widespread participation throughout all of our communities of practice, including the student community.”

Nicole Wycislo, Monica Waddell, and Rebecca Taylor show off their well-deserved medals

While this award was the biggest win of all, it reflects all the efforts of each and every member who participated in one way or another in STC -related activities during 2004-2005. So, we spent the evening paying tribute to our “all stars” team with a sports theme that called us forth to dress in tribute to our favorite football, baseball, or basketball players. In this same vein, each member of the Administrative Council was presented with a gold medal for his/her overall leadership. And the throngs of volunteers received certificates for their particular areas of individual contribution. The singular Volunteer of the Year award went to Jewel Darby, along with a standing ovation. No one was forgotten when it came to thanks, including our chapter president Cindy Pao who was rewarded with a day at “the spa,” which will help prepare her for a second term!

Throughout the festivities, photographic images were projected on a large screen to review the people and events from the entire year. We also had Houston-area recruiters on hand to help celebrate and to continue our tireless effort to keep all members gainfully employed. This all goes to show that the Houston chapter really gives back to its members. Once again, “way to go, STC Houston!” Hope y'all have a great summer break and come back for more fun next year when we will play even harder to WIN !!!

STC Houston 2005–2006 Year

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

My husband just finished taking a negotiating class, where he took a personality test to find out what type he is. Turns out he's not a planner, but, since he's an expert now, he thinks that I am. I believe that his exact words were “touchy, feely, planning type.”

Didn't someone once say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? I'm pretty sure I've heard that somewhere.

This article deals with the planning going on in your chapter right now. I hope you see something here that interests you and that you get involved!

Summer Meetings

The Administrative Council meets over the summer, even when the chapter does not. You can join us if you want! The agenda for each council meeting will be posted on the community web site one to two weeks before each meeting.

We typically meet on the second Tuesday of the month, just like the program meetings, but you should check the STC Houston web site for exact dates and times.

Getting Started

We have planned for everyone at the leadership transition meeting in June to review the STC Houston strategic plan. This plan is composed of objectives, strategies, and tactics that are supposed to guide our chapter as we plan activities for the year. We'll decide just which tactics the STC Houston community will focus on.

Competitions

Alyssa Fox is already charging ahead in planning for the 2005 competitions. She's securing a trading partner and lots of committee managers.

Corporate Sponsors

Corporate Sponsors play a key role by providing logistical and financial support for all of STC Houston's activities.

Programs

Dean Liscum is at work planning the monthly meetings. Get in touch with him if you know a must-hear speaker.

Dean needs a manager for programs, STKs, and seminars. He also needs folks with ideas for meeting topics and speakers.

Event Champions

“What's are event champions?” you ask. These are members of our chapter who are also members of other professional organizations. These people publicize our events to the other organizations. A great example of event championship is the collaboration with the UHD/STC STK that took place this past June 11. Because of the publicity to other organziations in the Houston area, the STK was filled to capacity!

Volunteer Recognition

If you came to the volunteer recognition event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science last chapter year, I hope you had a good time. You deserved it! We'll have another event this year, and you can help plan it.

Students

This year, we're going to get the technical communication students in the Houston and College Station areas are involved in community activities and also get the STC Houston leaders out to the students.

Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

We'd like to revitalize our SIGs this year. Jocelyn Williams has done an awesome job with the Consultants and Independent Contractors SIG. Let's get the Online Documentation SIG back on track and maybe even add another SIG or two.

Satellites

Our satellites need us! We'll be traveling to College Station and Baton Rouge this year to visit and take part in their activities.

Strategic Planning

And what about that strategic plan? Since it's a living document, Linda King will review and update it to make sure that the community's best interests are represented. This is the way to be a Community of Distinction again.

Volunteers

Cathy Bettoney is taking on the vice president position for volunteers. She needs you to fill the volunteer positions within the community.

Administrative Council

This year's Administrative Council consists of the following members:

•  Cindy Pao, president
•  Rebecca Taylor, executive vice president
•  Jennifer Smith, treasurer
•  Stephanie Townsend, secretary
•  Jocelyn Williams, immediate past president
•  Luette Arrowsmith, vice president for the web site, online forums, listserv, telephone service,
employment committee, and membership committee
•  Cathy Bettoney, vice president for volunteers, recognitions, and community service
•  Pat Bishop, vice president for the newsletter committee and the publicity committee
•  Alyssa Fox, vice president for competitions and corporate sponsors
•  Linda King, vice president for satellites, sigs, students, and strategic planning
•  Dean Liscum, vice president for event champions, programs, STKs, and seminars
•  Joy Owen, vice president for arrangements, historian, and operations

Please let us hear from you — with suggestions, solutions, or to volunteer.

Remember This

STC Houston is a professional organization run by volunteers . Bringing you the knowledge you need to stay employed or become employed takes work from everyone.

So add something new to your resume — volunteer today!

Pat Bishop—New STC Associate Fellow

This essay about Patricia J. Bishop first appeared in the 2005 Society Honors Banquet program.

Patricia J. Bishop has distinguished herself through her service to the Atlanta and Houston chapters and through her work as trainer, mentor, and influencer. Pat is also well-known for the training courses she conducts in editing, graphics, usability, effective writing, and online help.

Suzanna Laurent presents Pat Bishop with her Associate Fellow plaque

An independent contractor since 2003, Pat previously worked at BMC Software and Candle Corporation. As a senior information developer at BMC, she was active in defining standards and templates and was a main catalyst behind the implementation of a peer-edit process, which helped to ensure quality and consistency across product documentation sets. At Candle, she held the position of information development advisor, serving as a mentor and trainer for new writers. She maintained portions of Candle's intranet, where writers could access information about documentation tools and standards, and she received the organization's Diamond Award for her documentation work. Pat's work also won a number of awards in local STC publications competitions.

Pat's STC colleagues describe her as tireless and dependable, often making significant contributions behind the scenes and out of the limelight. Selected as a strategic advisor for the Houston chapter, she advises the chapter's administrative council and provides advice and encouragement to chapter leaders.

Pat has served the Houston chapter as membership director; director of satellites; comanager of the recognition, publicity, nominating, and seminar committees; and manager and judge for the chapter technical publications competition. She received the distinguished chapter service award in 1997.

Before relocating to Houston , Pat was president, membership manager, publicity manager, and Currents conference manager for the Atlanta chapter.

Melanie Flanders—New STC Associate Fellow

This essay about Melanie G. Flanders was adapted from the 2005 Society Honors Banquet program.

Suzanna Laurent presents Melanie Flanders with her Associate Fellow plaque

Melanie G. Flanders possesses a zest for the written word, both in her work as a technical communicator and in her avocation as a poet. She has written many articles on technical communication topics, which have been published in Dateline Houston and reprinted in Intercom and in the publications of other STC communities and professional organizations. She has also made numerous presentations at STC annual conferences on diverse topics such as technical communication opportunities in China and exploiting new features in Adobe FrameMaker.

Melanie seizes opportunities to showcase the technical communication field. She is actively involved with like-minded organizations, for which she chairs committees, makes presentations, provides training, develops articles and program designs, and coordinates events.

As the chief information architect for her company, KnowledgeMasters, Inc., Melanie provides contracting services in information design, development, and delivery. She also conducts training and seminars in information design, FrameMaker, internationalization and localization issues, and effective writing.

As an adjunct lecturer for the University of Houston-Downtown, Melanie teaches business and technical writing and electronic publishing, and has taught software manuals and FrameMaker. In addition, she serves on the curriculum advisory board of Houston Community College and has taught courses in FrameMaker and advanced technical writing.

Melanie has provided valuable service to STC as a local and international competition judge, as a planner of and contributor to regional conferences, as an active participant in the Houston chapter's Consultants and Independent Contractors and Online Documentation SIGs; and she is a frequent contributor to Dateline Houston . For her service to the Houston chapter, she received the distinguished chapter service award in 2002.

New Members

by Lisetta Lavy, Aspentech

Amy Turner

Amy is a graduate of the University of Texas and is currently working as a technical writer for the Intranet Communications department at AIM Investments, located in Houston, Texas. She specializes in documenting online policies and procedures related to various job functions.

Robert Reynolds

Robert Reynolds is a technical writer for APPRO Systems (an Equifax company), located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Robert began his career with APPRO as an intern in 2002 and has been working full-time for APPRO for about three years. APPRO is a software company that provides computerized credit decisioning systems for banks and credit unions. Robert's areas of focus include printed documentation, online help, new-media training (using Macromedia Flash), and live classroom training.

Dane Kerne

Dane is a technical editor for Halliburton (KBR). She provides writing and editing services (for example, large-scale revisions, line editing, and proofreading) for Halliburton's proposal team and, on occasion, for the corporate communications department. Dane has worked in the Houston area as a technical communicator for the last six years. Sharing and receiving relevant knowledge is very high on Dane's list of interests, as is learning more about emerging technologies and trends.

Janice Stein

Janice holds an MA degree in creative writing and a PhD in English, both from Louisiana State University. She is currently an associate professor at Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In addition, Janice serves as chair of the Liberal Arts Department and teaches upper-level English courses, including technical writing. Janice is currently working on developing a proposal for a bachelor's degree program in medical/technical writing. Outside of the academic setting, Janice was employed for 8 years as the Policy and Procedure Coordinator (technical writing/editing) for a hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. She also owned a small technical writing/consulting company in New Orleans and was the editor of a local newspaper.

Katie Vick

Katie is originally from Galveston, Texas, but moved to Colorado Springs to work as an academic advisor for the University of Colorado. She recently moved back to the Houston area and is currently the development writer in charge of presidential acknowledgment letters at Rice University.

Chelsea Ott

Chelsea is a “newbie” to the communications field (only about 4 months of experience). She is a web site assistant in the Marketing department at Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Company (LAMMICO). Her focus is on external communications accomplished through the LAMMICO web site and she is responsible for a bimonthly newsletter. In addition, Chelsea is very close to completing an MA in English with a concentration in Professional Writing from the University of New Orleans.

Julie Landreneau

Julie has been writing professionally for three years. She entered the field of technical writing about 1-½ years ago. She is currently employed as a technical writer for a global helicopter company based in New Iberia , Louisiana (for service to the Gulf of Mexico). Her current responsibilities include writing procedural manuals for her company's Supply Chain department.


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.).

Columnist

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:

employment@stc-houston.org

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 www.stc-houston.org 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.

Recruiters

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.

Other

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:

employment@stc-houston.org

Gary Foster: 281-543-4996

Terry Lindsay: 713-328-0441

Society News

STC Houston Receives Honors at STC Annual Conference

by George Slaughter, Senior Technical Writer, The Integrity Group

STC Houston garnered its share of recognition at the 52nd STC Annual Conference in Seattle by receiving the coveted Chapter of Distinction Award for the third time in the past five years.

The Chapter of Distinction Award is the highest award that a chapter can receive. STC presents this award at its annual conference to the most outstanding chapter by chapter membership size. STC Houston is in the second largest category, with members in the Greater Houston area, the Bryan-College Station area, and Louisiana.

This award marks the sixth consecutive year in which STC Houston has received either a Chapter Achievement or Chapter Pacesetter Award, and the thirteenth time in chapter history in which STC Houston has received such recognition. STC Houston also received Chapter of Distinction Awards in 2001 and 2002. In 2003 the chapter received both a Chapter of Excellence and Chapter Pacesetter Award, and in 2004 the chapter received a Chapter of Excellence Award. Congratulations to chapter President Cindy Pao and her administrative council of Lisa Alvarado, Mary Gwynne, Linda King, Angela Livingston, David Remson, Jennifer Smith, Rebecca Taylor, Monica Waddell, Jocelyn Williams, and Nicole Wycislo for their leadership this year!

In another chapter achievement, the Houston newsletter team received an Award of Excellence for Dateline Houston in the STC Newsletter Competition. Congratulations to chapter vice president and newsletter managing editor Nicole Wycislo and her team of Luette Arrowsmith, Cathy Bettoney, Melanie Boston , Linda Branam, Jamie Diamandopoulos, Jim Hunt, and Rebecca Taylor, for their leadership and success!

In other awards, two STC Houstonians, Patricia J. Bishop and Melanie G. Flanders, received STC Associate Fellow honors for their years of service to the profession and Society. Associate Fellow honors are conferred only on senior members who have attained distinction in the field of technical communication. Moreover, this honor is not applied for by those honored. Instead, Associate Fellows receive this honor by being nominated by their peers. Congratulations to Pat and Melanie, and thanks to STC Houston Immediate Past President Jocelyn Williams for her leadership in organizing the nominations!

For more information about Pat and Melanie, see the related articles in this issue of Dateline Houston.

Highlights of the 2005 STC Annual Conference

Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

The 52nd Annual Conference, held May 8 through 11, has wrapped up in Seattle, Washington, so here's a report to tell you just what I experienced!

I attended sessions on Leadership Day (Sunday, May 8), as well as technical sessions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I have notes, handouts, and a Proceedings CD with most of the information from all the sessions I attended. If you'd like me to share any of this information, let me know!

Leadership Day

As a returning chapter president, I attended Leadership Day to represent our chapter and to gather some more knowledge from other chapter leaders.

The opening session speaker was Rob Ziegler, who used stories from his mountain-climbing expeditions to talk about leadership. His presentation included some breathtaking pictures, poetry quotes, and tips to help us become and remain strong leaders.

Later that morning, the incoming and outgoing Board members handed out community awards. STC Houston won a Chapter of Excellence award! Yipee!

Still later that morning, I attended the leadership progression during which three topics were offered: Community Finances, Transformation Update, and a Community Mind Meld.

After lunch, the STC Houston group broke up to attend the various breakout sessions. Since STC Houston has finished the rechartering process, I participated in the “Rechartering – We Made It! More Value for More Members” session and also attended the “STC Transformation Value for Students” session.

Community Mind Meld

Linda Oestreich organized this session so that one chapter president and one Special Interest Group (SIG) manager would moderate at each table. The discussion at the table was about ideas and activities that both SIGs and the chapter have completed, and how we could better work together. I found out about some activities that other chapters have completed:

•  STC booth at job fairs
•  STC booth at book fairs
•  Members donate tech comm books to the chapter; the chapter donates those books to tech comm students
•  Joint kick-off meetings with other professional organizations in the area

STC Transformation Value for Students

If you are a student member of STC, did you know that you can join an unlimited number of SIGs? You can also sign up as a member of your geographic community in addition to your student community. So, if you know a student member, bring her to a meeting; encourage him to join all of the SIGs. This marvelous opportunity is available only to student members, so we need to encourage them to take advantage of their membership while they can!

Technical Sessions

The technical sessions are really the heart and soul of the conference. The topics range in difficulty from very basic to advanced and cover such a wide range of subjects! I was lucky enough to cover several areas of personal interest. Here are my favorite sessions.

STC Academic Community Issues: Part I—Education

Several faculty members from various technical communication programs gathered to talk about the new academic community in STC. I am interested in this community for two reasons: first, I want STC Houston to draw in more of the students in our area; second, I'll be heading back to school after the 2005–2006 program year, and I want to know how the academic community and the professional community interact.

The members of this panel talked about how chapters can provide value to students:

• Giving schools input as to industry needs and skills
• Providing program reviews for the tech comm programs at local schools
• Providing chapter members for student advisory boards
• Sharing job descriptions or profiles
• Supporting undergraduate and graduate research

Geographic communities can also nominate students to Sigma Tau Chi and Alpha Sigma, the Society's two honorary societies for students.

Presentation Skills

Fabien Vais gave a great presentation about making presentations! This session was a good session for beginners. He covered choosing your topic if you can, preparing an outline, how to research your topic (whether you have chosen the topic or it has been imposed on you), organizing your materials, writing your script, and designing the presentation itself (you don't always have to use PowerPoint).

Fabien also gave some good tips for using PowerPoint that included text size and how many slides you should present per minute (1-2).

Last in the session, Fabien talked about behavior during a presentation. He advocates practicing the presentation ahead of time, familiarizing yourself with the room, and having at least one backup plan.

I enjoyed this session because the information is so practical and because, while Fabien did talk about PowerPoint, he didn't focus the session on it. The PowerPoint tips toward the end of the presentation were the right amount of material about the software.

The Three Laws of Communication

Jean-luc Doumont presented his take on good communication. Why three laws? Because 3 is “the simplest complexity.” With three laws, we should be able to get our audience to pay attention, understand, and be able to act upon what we've told them.

Jean-luc's three laws are as follows:

• Adapt to your audience.
• Maximize the signal to noise ratio.
• Use effective redundancy.

This was the first session I've attended with Jean-luc Doumont, and I really enjoyed it. He's a good presenter, and he covered the subject well.

Honors Banquet

Hands down, this was my favorite part of the conference. This year, the members of STC Houston filled two whole tables at the banquet, and I think that's awesome. After surf and turf for dinner, the STC Board handed out awards. Pat Bishop and Melanie G. Flanders received their Associate Fellow plaques and recognition. And then… STC Houston takes the Distinguished Chapter award!

Dancing followed the banquet, and I think I have a picture of Jim Hunt sporting a feather boa!

Other Sessions

Here are the other sessions I attended:

• “Envisioning Science” by Felice Frankel
• “Innovation, Excellence, and Survival” by Vanadis M. Crawford and Lee French
• “Developing Technical Graphics: A Hands-on Workshop” by Heidi Mirka
• “Using Rhetorical Figures in Technical Writing” by Valerie M. Ball and Patricia A. Heuser
• “Object-oriented Programming Essentials for Technical Communicators” by Shawn Stephens
• “Effective Slides: Design, Construction, and Use” by Jean-luc Doumont
• “Online Learning Environments: Using Weblogs and Videos” by Nancy L. Hoagland, Karen Kasonic, Emma J. Rose, and Jon Speights

Keep in Touch

If you'd like to look at any of my notes, handouts, or the proceedings CD, let me know. You can send me an e-mail at president@stc-houston.org.


Networking Opportunities

•International Association of Business Communicators (IABC): www.iabchouston.com/meetings.htm
•Association of Authors and Publishers (AAP): www.authorsandpublishers.org/upcoming-events.html
•American Society of Journalists and Authors: www.asja.org
•Association for Women in Computing (AWC) Houston Chapter: www.awchouston.org
•Council of Science Editors: www.councilscienceeditors.org

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


Upcoming Seminars

Event: Upgrading Your PowerPoint Presentations: Basics of Organization and Illustration

Date and time: Wednesday, July 13, 2005

12:00 pm Central Daylight Time (GMT-04:00, New York)

Panelist(s) Info: Ann Jennings

Event Fee - Members (USD$): 99

Event Fee - Non-Members (USD$): 149

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

Description: Seminar level: Beginner

Seminar Type: Web-Telephone

PowerPoint presentations add several dimensions of communication uncommon to documentation and other static forms of writing: color, figures, and motion; a speaker who must interpret the slides; an audience that will respond to the speaker and slides; and a venue with physical properties that can't always be assured. The subject matter may involve sales or other forms of persuasion.

The verbal and visual content of a slide presentation require special attention, whether you are the speaker or whether you are creating the slides for someone else to present. This seminar will introduce you to the following essential elements of PowerPoint displays:

• Presentation sequences and organizational patterns
• Essentials of public speaking that can be built into slide content
• Visual design principles and techniques that can support the words on your slides

Ann Jennings, Ph.D., is the director of the Professional Writing Program at the University of Houston-Downtown, where she also serves as an associate professor of English. She has taught writing for presentation, technical editing, business and technical report writing, desktop publishing, and writing for the Web. Ann's master's degree in speech and her background in selling financial products add a practical twist to her numerous PowerPoint presentations to professional societies and corporate clients. She consults in the areas of forensic psychiatric editing, forensic sentence diagramming, and corporate training, including the upgrading of PowerPoint presentations.

Event: Visual Fluency

Date and time: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

12:00 pm Central Daylight Time (GMT-04:00, New York)

Panelist(s) Info: William Horton

Event Fee - Members (USD$): 99

Event Fee - Non-Members (USD$): 149

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

Description: Seminar Level: All levels

Seminar Type: Web-Telephone

Words are great, but you also need clear, simple, expressive graphics to communicate to today's overloaded, global audiences. Sophisticated graphics programs and vast libraries of reusable artwork mean that any technical communicator can create graphics--provided that he or she is visually fluent. This seminar will boost your visual creativity so you can imagine the right picture to communicate your message. It will also hone your critical skills so you can make your first attempts truly professional. You'll learn answers to the following questions:

• Where do I need graphics?
• What kinds of graphics do I need for each type of message?
• How do I avoid the most common graphical blunders?

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.

Event: Know Your Audience Like Never Before Through User Profiles and Personas

Date and time: Wednesday, August 24, 2005

12:00 pm Central Daylight Time (GMT-04:00, New York)

Panelist(s) Info: Robert Barlow-Busch

Event Fee - Members (USD$): 99

Event Fee - Non-Members (USD$): 149

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

Description: Audience Level: All levels

Seminar Type: Web-Telephone

It's practically the guiding mantra of technical communication: “Know your audience!” Although it's easy to agree with this statement, it can be surprisingly difficult to carry out the directive. Exactly what do we need to know? Where do we get the information? How do we capture and share what we've learned? And most important, what can we do with this knowledge?

For inspiration, this seminar looks to the persona, a type of fictional user profile that has emerged as a best practice in Web and software design. The persona isn't just for interface designers, though: It's an equally powerful tool for technical communicators as you plan, design, write, and deploy documentation and help systems.

In this seminar, you'll learn how personas can help technical communicators to “know your audience” like never before. We'll discuss contextual research methods, a framework for analyzing data, tips for writing engaging personas, and ideas for putting them to use in your own projects. Along the way, we'll share examples from Quarry's work with various clients.

Robert Barlow-Busch is a senior consultant at Quarry Integrated Communications, where he helps clients build their businesses through user experience design. His career began fifteen years ago as a technical communicator, but he's since acted as an interaction designer and usability specialist for industries such as logistics and life sciences, and with brands such as Sony and FedEx. In an effort to “know your audience” at a more sophisticated level, Robert introduced personas to Quarry in 2001. His work caught the attention of Forrester Research, which identified Quarry in its 2005 report Where to Get Help With Persona Projects. And look for an invited chapter by Robert in the upcoming book from Morgan Kaufman Publishers titled The Persona Lifecycle.

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