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STC PMC Newsletter 2004-09


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STC PMC Newsletter September/October 2004

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STC PMC Newsletter 2004-09

  1. 1. V olu me 38 Num b er 2 S ep t em ber /Oct ob er 2 0 04 Celebrating Our Chapter’s History By Zyppora Goldberg s a follow-up to the Society for Technical Communication’s (STC’s) 50th anniversary in 2003, our chapter celebrated its own history at the June meeting. The celebration included a display of chapter memorabilia, participation by several long-term members, and commentary by John Simons, a veteran of our chapter since 1976. He has been an active and distinguished member, serving in the past as chairman and vice chairman (now called president and vice president), manager of the chapter nominating committee, and general manager of the 1988 International Technical Communications Conference (ITCC), the former name of STC’s annual conference. John noted that the chapter, then called the Delaware Valley Chapter, was broke throughout the 1970s and averaged only about three or four attendees at each meeting. The catalyst for change was the ITCC in Philadelphia, which reenergized member participation, fostered better involvement with the national office, and brought in needed income. John also pointed out that the chapter itself ran the conference completely, which is not the current practice. Programs, articles, and photographs from the 1988 conference were part of the memorabilia on display. The Chapter’s Beginnings The exact date of our chapter’s formation remains ambiguous. There are official records of a Delaware Valley Chapter of the Society of Technical Writers and Publishers (STWP), the predecessor to STC, back to 1970. It appears that the chapter was in existence prior to that and may have been preceded by a local chapter of the Society of Technical Writers and Editors (STWE), which was merged into the STWP. The name of the STWP was changed to STC in 1971. The Delaware Valley Chapter of the STC became the Philadelphia Metro Chapter in 1994. Chapter Trivia Three of our members have been elected to the honorary ranks of STC. Henri Lauer and R. John Brockmann have been recognized as fellows of the society, and John Simons has attained the status of associate fellow. The chapter has hosted two society-wide conferences in Philadelphia: the 1962 Convention of the STWP and the 1988 ITCC. Our regional annual conference has evolved from job fairs and career days that started in the late 1990s. Job announcements were originally published in the chapter newsletter and then in a special Job Connection insert, which was superseded by recordings on a A Contents Celebrating Our Chapter’s History __________________ 1 Director-Sponsor Technical Communication: A View from Below ______ 2 President’s Podium Is This Worth It? ________ 3 Announcing the STC-PMC Competitions for 2004/ 2005____________________ 4 The Rewards of Peer Review 5 Member Spotlight Donn DeBoard and Marc Green____________________ 6 Tips for Using Visio Efficiently _______________ 7 Crossword Puzzle ________ 10 Book Review Mr. Beck’s Underground Map ____________________ 11 (Continued on page 12)
  2. 2. NEWS & VIEWS 2 September/October 2004 NEWS & VIEWS Submissions and Reprints You may reprint original material appearing in NEWS & VIEWS, as long as you acknowledge the source and author and send us a copy of the publication containing the reprint. ISSN 1078-9952. NEWS & VIEWS, published six times per year, is the official publication of the Philadelphia Metro Chapter of STC. We encourage letters, articles, and other items for publication. Note: By submitting an article, you implicitly grant a license to this newsletter to run the article and for other STC publications to reprint it without permission. Unless otherwise noted, copyrights for all newsletter articles belong to the authors. The design and layout of this newsletter are copyright STC, 2004. Address submissions or comments to Lori Corbett, Managing Editor, NEWS & VIEWS, 834 Westridge Drive, Phoenixville, PA, 19460, phone (610) 382-8683; email Toolbox We produce News & Views with Frame-Maker 6.0 and Acrobat 6.0 on various Pentium computers. Newsletter Staff Managing Editor Lori Corbett Layout Editor Rose Marie Sosnowy (610) 792-4031 Associate Editor Al Brown (856) 222-7427 Rebecca Richardson Mary Shaw Also Contributing to This Issue Zyppora Goldberg Zsolt Olah Jane A. Phillips Jill Cassidy Rolette Mike Sharp DIRECTOR-SPONSOR Technical Communication: A View from Below By Jonathan W. Baker, STC, Director/Sponsor Region 1 s August winds down, I am struggling to put some thoughts together about the field of Technical Communication. I don’t know about you, but I am worn out talking about the economy, the changing technical communications field, the war in Iraq, terrorism, and just about everything else. In fact I am so bummed that I want a special SIG set up for burnt out, fried, and otherwise abused technical communicators. Maybe we can call it the Walking Wounded SIG or the Burnt Up, Used Up, Dried Up SIG. OK. I am trying to be funny. But there is some truth to the idea that this field is at least three years into perhaps the worst downward spiral we have experienced in 50 years. And many of us are feeling less than perfect, compared to how we felt about ourselves a few years back. I mean, don’t you just want to have some fun, like back in the good old days of 1999? Everything was rock and roll, way back then. Jobs were plentiful and if you didn’t have one on Monday, you surely would have a choice between two or three jobs on Tuesday. So, how do we go about feeling better about our field and ourselves? I would suggest that this is a great time to go back to school. Whether you take a course in RoboHelp or Java, whether you get into a degreed program or take an evening school crafts course, you will be doing something to help yourself. Everything you learn eventually adds value. Last spring, I took a motorcycle maintenance course. I thought this wasn’t related to technical communication, but then I learned that there are technical communicators out there putting together the motorcycle service manuals we used in class. It never occurred to me that my skills could be used in this business. Another positive that came out of taking the class was that it got me out of the house and thinking about something other than work. There is LOTS of value in that. A few years back, I took a Webmasters’ certificate program from a local university. It gave my career a good kick at a time I needed it. Although I really never became a Webmaster, employers liked to see my interest in learning. It showed that I was engaged and willing to learn. If you want to stay in this field for the near term, maybe it is time to sign up for that technical course to advance your skills and differentiate yourself from everyone else. Personally, I believe that many in STC want to be nothing more than good technical communicators. And that is a great goal. Not all of us should move on to other things like information architecture, usability, or project management. Some writers simply want to be writers and some editors want nothing more than to edit. To stay in these areas, advanced technical knowledge is essential. The more you have; the better. Some of us will go on to those other disciplines, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are all communicators and need to A (Continued on page 12)
  3. 3. September/October 2004 3 News & Views PRESIDENT’S PODIUM Volunteering By Steven Lungren eople seem to be either enthusiastically in favor of, or stubbornly opposed to, offering their own time and effort to help others. Have you ever considered how many volunteers we have in our country today? As many olunteers as there are, it isn't enough.Think for a moment about the many different beneficial organizations that depend on volunteers. Where would they be without the large numbers of people like you and me donating a little bit of our time to them? Without volunteers, how could they continue helping: the homeless, the orphaned, the battered, the aged, the impaired, animals in need of shelter and adoption, youth activities, and even technical communication professionals seeking career growth or employment? Do you volunteer? Perhaps you help at a shelter or some other organization for just a few hours a month. Would you say that you do it only to help others? I believe that we also improve ourselves when we're volunteering our help to others. When we are able to provide assistance to other individuals or groups of our society and their lives are improved, then we all reap the rewards. If you think that your contributions are insignificant or unimportant, you're wrong. Even if it isn't immediately evident, the small amount of your time that you donate to benefit others is compounded daily and pays great dividends. Volunteer Spotlight If you know somebody who volunteers time and effort to help whether it is to help the Philadelphia Metro Chapter, a SIG, or a Society-level committee, you have an opportunity to let people know about it on a grand scale. Intercom is seeking stories for a new feature column, Volunteer Spotlight. From Cate Nielan, Managing Editor of Intercom: “As we currently imagine it, the format will feature four brief profiles, each written by a volunteer from a different region of the Society. In their profiles, which will include photos, the volunteers will describe how they have benefited personally and/ or professionally from their contributions to the Society. The column will run at least twice a year, to allow us to feature a volunteer from each Society region.” “If you know a volunteer who has displayed exceptional commitment to STC and your chapter, please forward the volunteer's name, with a brief description of his or her volunteer work, to (subject line: Volunteer Spotlight). We'll contact the member for more information. Considering STC's large volunteer pool, we may not be able to feature your nominations(s).” P STC-PMC LEADERSHIP Address correspondence for the Philadelphia Metro chapter of STC to STC-PMC, P.O. Box 60069, Philadelphia, PA 19102-0069. SOCIETY FOR TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION Mission Statement: Designing the Future of Technical Communication The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is an organization dedicated to advancing technical communication. Membership is open to those employed in, interested in, or concerned with the profession of technical writing, publishing, or associated disciplines. Contact STC at 901 N. Stuart St., Suite 904, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 522-4114 or http:// Chapter Officers President Steve Lungren (267) 620-2421 Vice President Jane Phillips (856) 608-7200 Treasurer Gary Samartino (610) 701-0577 Secretary Jill Cassidy (215) 590-9815 Immediate Past President Nad Rosenberg (856) 484-6598 Region 1 Director/Sponsor Jon Baker (978) 443-3049 Chapter Committee Managers Employment Giacomo DeAnnuntis (215) 482-1255 Programs Julia Margulies (484) 344-2448 Membership Mike Sharp (856) 854-2141 NEWS & VIEWS Lori Corbett Nominating Mike Sharp (856) 854-2141 Website Lois Shank Competition Donn DeBoard (484) 595-6216 Marc Green (610) 358-0631 “. . . exceptional commitment to STC . . .”
  4. 4. NEWS & VIEWS 4 September/October 2004 STC-PMC CALENDAR Unless otherwise noted, all meetings follow this schedule: Networking: 6:00 to 6:30 Dinner: 6:30 to 7:30 Program: 7:30 to 9 September 23 Using Personas to Connect with Your Audience, presented by Whitney Quesenbery. Personas are a popular way to encapsulate and share user research to ensure good usability. Learn how personas help us communicate what we know about the people who use our products. Whitney Quesenbery is an engaging speaker and an expert in developing new concepts that meet business, user, and technology needs. October 9 A Trolley Tour of Center City’s Murals, led by Robin Eisenberg. For schedule and registration details, please see page 7 of the June/July/August issue of News & Views. (Note that the registration deadline is October 1.) October 21 XML as a By-product of Structured Content, presented by John Hawkins. Learn the basic concepts for XML and structured content. John Hawkins will use real-world examples to show how structured content can be created in various applications, including Microsoft Word, XML, and AuthorIT. November 23 Changing Focus: Instructional Design as a Career Path, presented by Constance Bille. Instructional design is one path technical communicators may have an opportunity to follow. During this presentation, you will learn how to assess your own skill set against the skills required for the instructional design field. You will also learn some strategies for acquiring these skills. Announcing the STC-PMC Competitions for 2004/2005 he 2004/2005 STC-PMC Competitions are underway. This year, along with the Online Communication Competition, we are bringing back the Technical Publications Competition. The deadline for submitting entries is October 1, 2004. What Can Be Entered? Entries in all categories must: ❏ Contain sufficient technical, scientific, medical, or similar content to qualify as technical communication ❏ Have been produced or substan- tially revised within 24 months preceding September 1, 2004 ❏ Have been originally prepared for and accepted for publication by a client, employer, or publisher All entries are subject to the restrictions listed on the entry form. What Awards Are Given? Three levels of recognition are awarded in each competition category. The awards, in descending order, are: ❏ Distinguished Technical Commu- nication (DTC) ❏ Excellence ❏ Merit One Best of Show award may be presented for each competition. Winners of the DTC and Best of Show award in each category qualify for automatic submission to the STC International Competitions. Fees and Forms Entries must be received by October 1, 2004. Fees for each entry are as follows: ❏ $75 (STC Members) ❏ $95 (non-STC Members) ❏ $45 (students) Complete details and rules are available on the Competition Entry Form (doc or pdf). You Be the Judge! Another rewarding way to participate in the STC-PMC Competitions is to be a judge. Judging lets you join other technical communication professionals to compare notes on what works and what doesn't work in Online Communications and Technical Publications. This year, we are once again trading entries with the Middle Tennessee Chapter in Nashville. Judges will receive entries around the middle of October. Our Judge's Meeting will take place on November 13, 2004 at Vertex in Berwyn, PA (just off of US 202 near Chesterbrook and the King of Prussia Mall). As in past years, we expect this will be an enjoyable chance to mingle, network, and learn from each other. If you'd like to join us or have any questions, send an e-mail to Marc Green by September 24, 2004. Please indicate if you'd prefer to judge Online Communications or Technical Publications (or both). T
  5. 5. September/October 2004 5 News & Views STC AND RELATED EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD September 15, 1–2:30 p.m. STC Phone Seminar, Cascading Style Sheets: Learning the Basics (Part I), presented by Char James- Tanny. For more information go to September 20–24. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) will hold its 48th annual meeting at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. For more information, contact HFES at or visit the Website at September 20–30. International Conference on Technical Communication Management (LAVACON) at Chateau Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans. For more information, visit the Website at September 28–October 2. The Association for Machine Translation in the Americas will hold its sixth conference at the Levy Conference Center on the Campus of Georgetown University, Washington, DC. For more information, contact Laurie Gerber at or visit the Website at September 29, 1–2:30 p.m. STC Phone Seminar, Cascading Style Sheets: Learning the Basics (Part II), presented by Char James- Tanny. For more information go to (Continued on page 6) The Rewards of Peer Review By Jane A. Phillips n my former life as tourism director for a seaside resort, I had the opportunity to woo and host the statewide preliminaries for the Miss America competition. The experience introduced me to an oft-repeated phrase: “It’s not a beauty pageant; it’s a scholarship program!” In a similar vein, when you consider participation in the STC competitions I think it’s important to remember: “It’s not a competition; it’s peer review!” Yes, peer review. My software documentation always earns “oohs” and “aahs” from my family members. (After all, these folks still use refrigerator magnets to display everything I ever accomplished in kindergarten.) However, “attaboys” from Mom and Dad don’t really qualify as constructive criticism. For that, I rely on the STC competitions. “Competition” is probably a misnomer for the true STC experience. Most competitions try to rank a field of competitors against each other. However, each entry in the STC competitions stands or falls on its own merit, measured by industry standards of excellence in technical communication. All—or none— could receive recognition. Recognition by your peers is very satisfying, but I believe that the true value of the STC competitions lies in the feedback from the judges who review your work, even when you don’t earn an award. (STC guidelines ensure that everyone who enters the competition receives copies of the judges’ evaluations.) If you are an independent contractor or you work in a small documentation department, probably you understand my appreciation for the benefits of this sort of peer review. I document multiple software applications and typically, the documentation review cycle is compressed by competing schedules and priorities. I prevail upon harried subject matter experts to verify accuracy during technical reviews. However, it’s a little more difficult to find qualified reviewers to evaluate design, usability, and appropriateness for the target audience. That’s where my peers at STC come in. The first time I entered the Philadelphia Metro Chapter’s annual competition, I submitted the same software manual in two categories. Because it was a new book, I wanted a professional assessment of its overall usability. STC chapters trade judging with other chapters to ensure objectivity, so it turned out that the Chicago Chapter evaluated my book’s overall design (Technical Art) and STC Israel evaluated its organization and content (Technical Publications). I thought the judges’ written comments about my book were objective, constructive, and above all, generous. They let me know what worked, and what didn’t. Some made suggestions for solving problems. The STC Israel judges educated me about the use of imperatives with international audiences. By entering the software manual in two categories, I realized that I had added six technical communications professionals to my review team. I (Continued on page 15)
  6. 6. NEWS & VIEWS 6 September/October 2004 STC and Related Events Around the World (Continued from page 5) September 29–October 2. The Professional Communication Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE/ PCS) will hold its International Professional Communication Conference at the Radisson Hotel Metrodome in Minneapolis. For more information, see October 6, 1–2:30 p.m. STC Phone Seminar, Communicating with Older Audiences, presented by Dana Chisnell and Am Lee. For more information go to October 13–16. The American Translators Association (ATA) will hold its annual conference at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto. For more information, write to or see October 20, 1–2:30 p.m. STC Phone Seminar, A Brief, Comprehensive Indexing Primer, presented by Seth Maislin. For more information go to October 21–24. The Intermountain Chapter STC will host the 2004 STC Region 5 Conference at the Wyndham Hotel in Salt Lake City. The conference theme is “Ascending the Summit: A Technical Communication Expedition.” For more information, contact Marj Hermansen-Eldard at November 10, 1–2:30 p.m. STC Phone Seminar, Introducing Windows ‘Longhorn’ Help, presented by Char James- Tanny. For more information go to (Continued on page 14) MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Donn DeBoard and Marc Green By Jill Cassidy Rolette Friendly Competition Would you describe yourself as competitive? Do you have a hard time with the saying, “It's not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game”? Do you find yourself seriously trying to win a pick-up game of basketball against your 8 year old? Do you still squabble with siblings regarding rules and guidelines for your post- Thanksgiving family football game? Have your friends or family ever refused to play Monopoly with you? If you were able to answer “yes” to any one of these questions, then you need to be become involved in the 2004/2005 STC-PMC Technical Communications Competition! This year, our chapter will once again be exchanging competition entries with the Middle Tennessee Chapter, and for the first time in five years will accept entries in both online communications and technical publications. There are many wonderful reasons to the competition, so I asked Donn DeBoard and Marc Green, our chapter competition co-chairs, to share some of their thoughts regarding the impact of the competition, and what members can hope to gain by entering or participating as a judge this year. Marc Green Marc, a member of our chapter since 1992, has been in the technical communications field for almost 20 years, starting fresh out of college as an editor of automotive electrical troubleshooting manuals then moving to Japan to work as a translation editor. In the early 1990s he experienced a slight career shift towards software documentation and courseware, a shift that led him to Vertex, Inc., where he has worked for the past five years. Marc has been actively involved with the competition for the past six years, judging entries for the first three years, and managing the competition as well as judging for the past three years. He has received two Merit Awards for his own work in the technical publications portion of the competition. He finds that judging helps to make him “a better technical communicator…it gave [him] a chance to give a critical look at many different types of technical communication. It was always interesting seeing how others found ways to reach their users.” Marc attended the 1998 and 2000 STC Annual Conferences, and would find that he was drawn to the display of International Competitions winners (Entries that receive a reward for Distinguished Technical Communication at the chapter level advance to the International Competition. The winners of that competition are on display each year at the annual conference.) Feedback, feedback, feedback. It’s so important to have a benchmark for what we do and how we do it, and Marc points to the valuable feedback that competition entrants receive as one of the most important reasons to take a chance and enter. In our regular working environment, rarely do we have the opportunity for “teams of technical W
  7. 7. September/October 2004 7 News & Views Tips for Using Visio Efficiently By Mike Sharp isio, one of the Microsoft Office suite of products, lets you create diagrams that look crisp and professional. Learn the basics and you’re on your way. However, getting your work to look exactly as you want can take lots of time, time that you may not have if you’re under a tight deadline. Some recent projects have required that I use Visio to flowchart business processes. The current project requires me to create the diagram while a facilitator conducts an interview with a subject matter expert. In this case, I have to be fast with Visio. And, I’ve learned some practices that help me to keep up with the discussion and turn out diagrams quickly. Looking at The Basics First, I’ll review some basics of using Visio for those who may not be all that familiar with the program. If you’re impatient to get to the tips, skip to the next section. Visio’s magic lies in its extensive collection of drawing shapes, or objects, already created, that you can use to create a diagram. The default working interface presents a fairly large working area on the right and a smaller area on the left for shape storage. Shapes are stored in files called stencils. You can load different stencils to suit your needs into the left-hand stencil storage area. To use the shapes, click on an icon in the storage area and drag it onto the working space. The working space represents a page that you can size and orient to suit your needs. When you drag a shape onto the workspace, it remains selected (highlighted) until you click somewhere else. When a shape is selected, it shows little handles that you can use to resize it. Some shapes are blocks that can represent functions, decisions, data storage, report output, etc. Other shapes are lines that connect the blocks to show a sequential flow of activity or a particular type of relationship. Visio stores shapes in stencils according to the type of shape. You can see the variety of shapes available to you by selecting Stencils… from the File menu (for Visio 2002—for Visio 2003, select File:Shapes…). A sub- menu appears that lists the various categories. Almost every object and connector in Visio can display text that you type in for labels, explanations, etc. You can format the text just as with any other text editor. So much for a brief review of Visio basics—now, on to the tips. Using Templates To me, the basic concept of using a template is to spend time once creating something, then copy what you have created, and change the copy to generate the next something. This process of replication can happen at several levels. All Microsoft Office applications, including Visio, provide the ability to create a template file that is usually “read- only” and from which you can make copies, but cannot alter unless you open it for editing. However, you can use the same concept at the file, or more detailed levels. Copy and Change. If there is a file that almost fits what you want to create, then you can copy the file and then alter the information in it that needs to be changed. This is particularly handy with any Office document for which you have already configured the page layout, heading design, and logical structure. The original file becomes a template for the new file. The concept also works for smaller units of information such as chapters, sections, or paragraphs. Use CTRL-DRAG. In any MS Office application, you can select an element, hold down the Control key, and drag a copy of the selection to a new location. This feature is particularly useful in Visio, as it allows you to place one element, say, an activity box, format it the way you want, and then use [Ctrl]-drag to create as many copies as you need. Therefore, you need to do the formatting only once. I often set up a flowchart by dragging boxes onto my worksheet, entering the appropriate text into them, but leaving out the connectors. When I am finished entering text, I connect the boxes by dragging one connector onto the page and placing it. Then I replicate it with [Ctrl]-drag to place all the other connectors. Repeating Designs. For standard text and graphics that appear on every page, Visio provides the standard header and footer functions. (View:Header and Footer...). Moreover, it has a feature in the Page Setup dialog box that lets you put repeating graphics or text anywhere on the page. For example, you could put a company’s logo at the top right or left of the page, place a large, company-related logo in the center of the page (screened so that it V (Continued on page 8)
  8. 8. News & Views 8 September/October 2004 becomes a soft background), and then put a bar across the bottom of the page that contains the company’s contact information. To do this, you create a background page. Open the Page Setup dialog box and then click on the Page Properties tab (File:Page Setup...|Page Properties). Notice the first property, Type:, has two radio buttons— Foreground and Background. Click the Background button to set the page as one that repeats on every other page in the document. Now, for all the other pages, open the Page Properties dialog box and make sure that the Type: field is set to Foreground. In the next field, Name:, you can change the name to something other than “Page-n.” The next field is important for every foreground page—for all existing pages, you need to set the Background: field to the page name of your background page. Subsequent new pages that you insert will already have the background page selected. Yes, Virginia, you can have more than one background page in a drawing. When you insert a new page, the Page Properties dialog box appears, letting you verify the Foreground- Background setting, change the page name from the default, and select a background page from the drop-down menu. My Favorites Stencil. You can also create your own, personalized stencil of shapes and groups that you have built and use often. Visio 2003 presents this functionality as the My Favorites stencil. Visio 2002 presents it in the New Stencil... command. Either one enables you to create your own blank stencil, open it for editing, and then drag shapes, groups, and text from a drawing onto the stencil. Thereafter, when you work in a document, you can open the new stencil that you created and drag your frequently used shapes or groups from it onto the working area of a Visio page. Flowchart Shapes Icon. On the Basic Flowchart Shapes stencil there is an icon titled Flowchart Shapes. When you drag the icon onto your working space, you see a rectangle for an activity box. If you right-click on the shape, you can change it to the symbol for a report, a decision, or data input. Once placed, the shape cannot be changed to another; but this is a quick way to set up four of the most common shapes used in flowcharting. Styles Word, Excel, and to a limited extent, Access and PowerPoint, enable you to apply styles to certain elements. A style is a group of formatting characteristics that can be applied in one operation to an element. Visio also lets you define and use styles, but you must apply one style to lines, another to fill areas, and a third to text. This lets you combine different sets of formatting characteristics to each of these three design elements. However, I would also like to have the option of assigning all three types of styles to a drawing object in one operation. Assigning styles to an object three times is a little more time-consuming; so I have found a way to assign styles that is faster and more convenient: creating an object that has the style I want on the My Favorites stencil and then using the Format Painter function. (Its icon appears as a paintbrush in the toolbar.) Assume, for example, that you want to use specific formatting characteristics for an alert box to signal a dangerous condition or activity. For that style, you could choose a heavy, red box border with red, bold text in a font different from the rest of your text. Also, the fill (background) of the box is pale pink (so that it won’t compete with the text if it’s printed out on a black-and-white printer). Create a box you want in your drawing and then drag it onto the My Favorites stencil. When you want to assign that style quickly to a number of objects, drag the object onto your working drawing, leave it selected, and double-click the Format Painter (paintbrush) icon in the toolbar. Every object you click on the page will take on the characteristics you defined. In less than a minute, you can have assigned a style to all objects on the page that need it. Using AutoCorrect You may have used this feature extensively in Word. It also works in Excel. If you haven’t, I recommend it. The same translation database feeds all Office applications, including Visio. Here’s how it works. At the AutoCorrect dialog box (Tools:AutoCorrect Options…), type an abbreviation for a word that you use frequently; say, for example, “mgt” for “management.” In the Replace... field, type the abbreviation (in our example, mgt) and in the with... field, type the expansion of the abbreviation (management). Now, every time you type “mgt” in the document, it automatically expands to “management,” as long Tips for Using Visio Efficiently (Continued from page 7) (Continued on page 9)
  9. 9. September/October 2004 9 News & Views as it’s followed by a space, punctuation element, or return. You don’t need to restrict yourself to single words. You could type a company’s address on three lines, select the entire address, and then paste it into the with… field after typing an abbreviation such as coaddr. Working Efficiently with Connectors Dynamic connectors are perhaps the most bewildering feature of using Visio. When you drag a dynamic connector onto the workspace and then connect each end of the line to an activity box, the ends of the line will glue themselves to the shapes to which they connect. Each “handle” on a shape (the ones you drag to re-size the shape) also functions as a glue point. You know that the connector has glued itself when it flashes red on the computer display. With each end glued to a shape, the connector will stay attached to the shape if you should move the shape, thus maintaining the logical relationship. When you have placed the first connector in your diagram, you can connect other shapes using the CTRL-DRAG operation described above. Also, notice that when you drag the midpoints of the lines, they move their section of the line in either of two directions--up-down (if line section is horizontal) or left- right (if line section is vertical). Sometimes, though, you need to put another corner into a connector so that it will weave through the spaces between objects. To do this, hold down CTRL as you drag the midpoint. You will need to experiment with this function in Visio to become adept with it. Lining Things Up Neatly Visio has two features that help you to keep objects in straight lines--horizontal and vertical rules that you can drag onto the page and use to align objects, and the grid background. Rules. By default, Visio opens new documents with a vertical and horizontal ruler displayed. If you do not see rulers on your drawing, pull down the View menu and make sure that the Rulers option is checked. When you place the cursor in either the horizontal or vertical ruler and then left-drag onto the workspace, you will see a blue line (rule) that follows the cursor to wherever you drop it. You can use a rule to align the top, bottom, left, or right edges of a series of objects—or, the middles. In building flowcharts, most people stick to the standard flow of left to right and top to bottom, which means that you build a row of objects, then a row under the first one, and so on until you have filled the paper. To give the flow chart a pleasing appearance, you need to align the objects in each row, usually at their midpoints. Rules are the quickest way to do this. An alternate way to align shapes that is almost as fast is to select all the objects you want to align, then execute the command Shape:Align Shapes... The Align Shapes dialog box appears, providing six different ways to align the selected shapes. A related command that lets you distribute shapes with equal spaces between them is to execute the command Shape:Distribute Shapes... The Distribute Shapes dialog box appears, providing six different ways that you can distribute the shapes you selected. The Grid Background. By default, when Visio opens a new drawing, the blank page displays a quadrille grid of light blue lines that synchronize with the measurement units on the rulers at the top and left side of the page. Often, these are all you need to align objects properly. If you don’t see the grid on the page, pull down the View menu and make sure that the Grid option is checked. These aren’t the only tricks to using Visio quickly and effectively, but they should give you a strong start at becoming more efficient with the application. Editor’s Note: This is the first in what I hope becomes a regular column feature of News & Views. If you would like to write a tips or review article about a software application that you use, please send it to me at Some possibilities might be PhotoShop, Paintshop Pro, FrameMaker, Dreamweaver, etc. The list is practically endless. I’m looking forward to receiving some great tips and reviews! Tips for Using Visio Efficiently (Continued from page 8)
  10. 10. News & Views 10 September/October 2004 Crossword Puzzle By Zsolt Olah Solution on page 15 1 G 2 O 3 O 4 G 5 L E 6 7 R 8 O 9 I 10 N 11 A P R O N 12 B E Y 13 O N D R 14 14 F L O N 15 B 16 N 17 D R 18 I 19 L L 20 21 S 22 O A R E 21 23 C E L 24 L G 25 25 I O 26 T N E 27 O N S 28 O 29 T 30 S T E 31 G U P 32 M T O 33 E P 34 Y 35 A M O R T C W 36 C 37 O O K 41 A 38 P H O N E 39 Y 40 B 41 A S 42 I L 43 O F 44 E R S H R I N K ACROSS 1 Elevated seat 9 It starts inside 11 Ticket category 12 Girl, uninterrupted. While speaking foreign. 14 Boring list 15 The sad part of the airport 20 EM 22 Ghostily 23 HRA 24 TII 25 Shorter than optimal 26 GOFR 27 Eruption of pimples or pustules, especially on the face 28 Lies in the middle of stupidest 30 Meet participle 31 Commonly shared work 32 Resting place 34 DN 35 Indicates atmospheric pressure. Not only in election year 36 One of the tiers 38 In communism: a person, who wants more. In capitalism: a person, who wants more than he/she can handle 40 NOWNO 43 OE 44 A writer’s make believe personal identification. DOWN 1 Hands-on the ground approach 2 Identification 3 Life threatening point in time and space 4 HL 5 CTERKO 6 Not Royal Air Force 7 ILFRY 8 Kings do it 9 Causes interference 10 Not without “o.” 13 EA ACROSS 16 British focal point 17 AO 18 Unknown source of wisdom 19 Last 21 The dom of extreme sufferers 23 Best-known town 29 Not a polite request 32 Credit holders 33 TE 35 Common cursing word in the media 37 Browser 38 Moving boardgame 39 YE 41 Double O 42 State DOWN GUIDELINES: Not your typical crossword. Some of the definitions may be vague, associative, even funny. A single word CAPITALIZED (e.g., across 40) is your guide. Use it ‘as is’.
  11. 11. September/October 2004 11 News & Views BOOK REVIEW By Al Brown Mr. Beck’s Underground Map Ken Garland, 1994. Harrow Weald, Middlesex, U.K. Capitol Transport Publishing. [ISBN 185414-168-6. 80 pages. £12.95.] My mother-in-law, a Manhattan-born transplant to central Maine, once stopped to ask a farmer whether she was on the right road to Skowhegan. He replied, “Nope,” and returned to his fieldwork. This variant on the classic Down East “you can't get there from here” story points to a fundamental but tricky aspect of information design: How do you show somebody how to get from point A to point B without giving too much or too little information? One of the most elegant and influential solutions is the diagram of the London Underground system, whose development Ken Garland chronicles in Mr. Beck’s Underground Map. London is a notoriously difficult city to navigate; it lacks the Cartesian grid of Center City Philadelphia or the radial pattern of Paris. Its subway system, like that of New York, began as independently managed lines, which changed and converged over time. Early maps (ca. 1906) showed these routes superimposed on a surface map. The result was too much information. Finding a scale that presented the whole system while showing the dense central areas with clarity proved to be a usability nightmare. The solution came from Henry C. Beck, a young engineering draftsman. Apparently influenced by electrical schematics, Beck reduced the Underground system to its essentials. He made no attempt to depict relative distances, just relative positions. The only surface feature was a highly stylized representation of the Thames, depicted in straight lines and angles. The result was successful from its introduction in 1932. From this point the book chronicles the evolution of the Diagram, as the author more accurately calls it. The changes in the Underground system are explained at a level of detail only a native Londoner would understand or appreciate. He describes Beck’s increasingly obsessive tweaks. Eventually, inevitably, Beck was gently shoved aside and younger bureaucrats conveniently forgot the verbal assurances of permanent editorial control over the Diagram. The author's close personal relationship with and deep admiration for Henry Beck strongly flavors this part of the narrative. Garland does not seem to have a firm grasp of the principles of graphic design, let alone information design. Thus he describes Beck’s attempts, even into his forced retirement, to render clearly the increasingly complex interchanges as lines were added to the system, but without fully understanding the issues involved. Over the years, Beck experimented with various ways of representing stations using circles, triangles, and so on; color coding of lines; the use of straight lines and angles, and the like. Garland details these changes with the loving obsession of a book collector expounding on the differences between various states of a first edition, but without understanding the design issues Beck wrestled with. The casual reader, preferably equipped with a magnifying glass, would be hard pressed to follow the changes in the many versions of the Diagram reproduced in this handsome volume. As a basic history of an iconic piece of graphic design, Mr. Beck’s Underground Map shows how a fundamental insight changes the way we see things. That insight has come into the mainstream, as a look at the subway maps of New York, Philadelphia, and the Paris Metro confirms. It forms the basis for the notion of “wayfinding,” the concept behind the urban pedestrian signage in Philadelphia and elsewhere, which Amy Gendler described last April at an STC meeting. And I have no doubt that Richard Saul Wurman's pioneering ACCESS city guides also owe a debt to Mr. Beck's Underground Map. This book, as thorough as it is, doesn’t look at Beck's diagram from the point of view of information design. Nor, as admiring as it is of Beck’s achievement, does it analyze its considerable influence. This will have to wait for a different book; perhaps Ms. Gendler will write it. Note: Thanks to Dave Harkins for calling my attention to this book in his response to a survey of members’ favorite and most- consulted books several years ago (“The STC Bookshelf: What We Like,” News & Views, March 2001). M
  12. 12. News & Views 12 September/October 2004 dedicated telephone line called the Job Hotline. News and Views has been the name of our newsletter since it was first published. Current STC President Andrea L. Ames was the editor of News and Views in 1988 when she was a student member of our chapter. Her successors, Cheryl Lockett Zuback, Alan Muirhead, Deb Sellers, and Lori Corbett, have developed the newsletter into a consistently award-winning publication. In the 1970s and 1980s, our chapter participated in the Science and Engineering Technology (SET) program for high school students interested in technology careers. Our chapter also sponsored its own student writing competition. Transitioning to the Future We’ve come a long way from a handful of guys in the dingy Engineers Club at 13th and Locust to filled dining rooms at the Plymouth Meeting Doubletree Guest Suites. This mirrors the transition from IBM strike-on typewriter masters to desktop publishing, online help, and XML; the development of technical communication into a profession; and the emergence of a number of chapter members as nationally recognized figures in the field. And we’re nowhere near the end of our growth. With the volunteer efforts of so many of our members, the STC-PMC has the opportunity to accomplish many great things in the years to come. keep our skills—both technical and communication—fresh. If you haven’t been back to school in the last three years, it is time for you to give it serious thought. The STC website (http:// lists some educational programs that are meaningful to our field, but don’t forget to check out your local colleges and universities. So the message is to get out there and turn over some stones to find some of the neat things going on in your own community. I am about to embark on my next learning adventure—a Masters of Science, Human Factors in Information Design. I recommend that you do the same. On the STC front, the transformation is progressing. If you haven’t heard about the transformation or aren’t clear on what is happening with the transformation, contact me or the Director of your choice for further information. If we don’t have the answers, we probably know someone who does. Be sure to check out the transformation pages on the STC website - http:// default.asp. The website is the authoritative source. There are still lots of transformation activities underway and the Board will be reporting out on the current status of our efforts soon after the September Board meeting. In addition, we are already planning sessions on the transformation for our annual conference in May. If there is something you want to see or hear from us, let us know. Look for some changes in your membership renewal forms this year. We are beginning to roll out the new membership packages— Classic, Limited, E-Membership, and others—this fall. Again, if you have questions about these packages, contact me or another Director. In addition, the office will be able to answer any questions about the membership packages. Finally, it is September. That means your chapter is about to get into full gear. I’ve chatted with many of the Region 1 chapter presidents and you have a great group of people working on your behalf. Get out and support them by attending chapter events. It is a great way to network and keep up with your local technical communications community. In fact, volunteer! Most chapters will welcome you with open arms. And chapter work is extraordinarily rewarding. So jump in and see what happens. Celebrating Our Chapter’s History (Continued from page 1) Director-Sponsor (Continued from page 2)
  13. 13. September/October 2004 13 News & Views EDITOR’S VOICE Where Would I/You/We Be? By Lori Corbett ave you noticed a certain theme in the articles this month? I have. Starting with the history of our chapter to taking advantage of educational opportunities and working with software applications to learning about STC events and volunteering, and last, but not least meeting a couple of our chapter’s dedicated volunteers in the Membership Spotlight, this issue pretty much sums up most of the reasons I’m involved with STC. All this information brings to mind the question about where I (or we) would be without the opportunities and information provided by the STC and STC-PMC in particular. STC has been part of my life throughout my professional career as a technical communicator. And I think we have helped each other. STC has helped me keep abreast of current trends in our profession and I’ve enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to help my fellow members in whatever way I could. I know my life would have to be different if it weren’t for STC. Who knows, if STC wasn’t around when I started as a technical communicator, I might not have stayed with this career choice. Thinking back on all the volunteer opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of reminds me of that old Frank Sinatra song where he sings, “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king.” (I certainly hope I’ve quoted correctly.) So, I guess I really don’t know where I’d be without STC, where we would be without STC, or where STC would be without us. Now is the time to ask yourself, “Where would you be without STC?” There isn’t a better time than the present to become more involved in STC as it continues its journey of transformation. H Forced to juggle more projects than you have time to do? Attend LavaCon and learn best practices for meeting multiple deadlines with minimal resources. E a r ly R e g i s t r a t i o n D i s c o u n t s Ava i l a bl e R e g i s t e r To d ay w w w. l ava c o n . o rg September 26–30, 2004 Chateau Sonesta Hotel New Orleans, Louisiana The International Conference on Technical Communication Management LavaCon Comments from Previous Attendees: "This was a terrific conference!" "Best conference I ever attended!" "Great info and LOTS of real-world examples. I wish I had attended these sessions a year ago!" Deadline for next issue: October 15
  14. 14. News & Views 14 September/October 2004 Member Spotlight (Continued from page 6) communicators to evaluate the usability, design, and effectiveness of your work. You get objective opinions of experienced communicators who explain what worked for them and what didn't”. Participating as a judge in the competition is not without its rewards either, “competitions are good for STC members because they enable us to identify the best examples of technical communications. Seeing these examples helps make us all better at what we do.” He's enjoyed seeing how the entrants have used technology such as audio, video, animation, and tools like Flash to reach their users. Not that all razzle and dazzle makes for a winning entry, according to Marc, “too much technology sometimes gets in the way of the content. It's very important to find the appropriate level of technology for your user.” He notes that reviewing entries and constructing his feedback for those entries provides him with a fresh perspective on his own work, offering up more valuable experience that he can bring back to his desk at Vertex. Donn DeBoard Donn is a well-credentialed Senior Information Developer, also with Vertex, Inc. with about 18 years experience in technical communication, ranging from small start-ups to large organizations. An STC-PMC member since 1986, Donn received an Achievement Award in the 1996 print competition for the Vertex Quantum for Payroll Tax Programmer's Guide. Along with Marc, Donn has been a judge for our chapter competition for the past 6 years and a co-chair of the competition for the past 3 years. He searched out the opportunity to get involved with the chapter competition by judging in order “to see how other people approached information design issues similar to the ones [he] was facing. [He enjoys] seeing a fresh or different perspective presented in other people's work.” After judging for a few years, he knew that he wanted to co-manage, figuring that when the work was divided among a few people the individual effort was distributed pretty evenly. Donn targets some incredibly important reasons for entering the chapter competition, “Where else can you get constructive feedback from your peers in the technical communication industry for a nominal entry fee? It is like having a staff of consultants critique your efforts.” He echoes Marc's cautionary sentiments regarding the technology that “can do flashier effects in a much shorter time frame,” saying that “sophisticated technology needs to be used appropriately in an entry. Otherwise it is just high-tech frills that detract the reader from finding the information they need.” He also breaks down the benefits to becoming involved in the competition, as an entrant and/or judge, as well as the benefits for the STC as a whole. Competitors can expect to benefit “from the constructive feedback they receive from judges…people speak glowingly about the comments they received and how those comments dramatically improved their documents. Plus, entrants can point their bosses to a competition award as a point of reference that recognizes their expertise as communicators.” Judges get to see a variety of different entries and benefit by getting “fresh ideas in information design by critiquing a variety of entries. Judging stimulates the creativity and imagination of the reviewer…they get to speak constructively and candidly about an entry, yet offering avenues for improvement. Hopefully, the entrant who receives the comments in one year will return the favor as a judge in the next year's competition.” For the STC as a whole, “the competitions raise the visibility of the work created during the course of a year in the technical communications industry. This collective whole, as demonstrated by the high quality of the entries, showcases the skills and expertise of technical communicators.” Finally, Donn stresses the amazing feedback you receive when you enter the chapter competition, “When you work closely on a document for an extended period of time, you often get too close to it to evaluate it properly. The competitions are a great way to get a variety of perspectives about your document to expedite its growth and evolution into a polished product.” Exercise your competitive spirit in a healthy way, and don't miss the chance for valuable feedback from peer review, a fresh perspective and approach to documentation challenges, and the chance to receive an award that enters you in the International competition, by becoming involved with our chapter competition today. Please visit our website, for more detailed information on how to become judge or submit an entry to the online communications or technical publications competition. And just maybe your kids will let you play whiffle ball with them again…
  15. 15. September/October 2004 15 News & Views My book earned an award of merit for its design, but it didn’t quite make the grade in the Technical Publications category. I learned a lot from the judges’ comments though, and I was able to put this knowledge to good use. The following year I incorporated the judges’ suggestions when I updated the software manual. I confess that it is bliss to receive an award from your peers, but it’s also rewarding to receive compliments about the usefulness of an updated software manual from your international customers. Since my first foray into the STC competitions several years ago, I have earned additional recognition and I have continued to learn from a jury of my peers. This year I’ve volunteered to help with judging entries from other chapters so that our chapter can expand the competition to include more categories. The Philadelphia Metro Chapter kicks off the first level of the STC competitions this month with a call for entries (see “Announcing the 2004/2005 STC-PMC Competitions,” on page 4). I hope you will consider submitting your work to the competition this year. You could earn an award—and surely you will be rewarded by the experience. M AN J I RO I n t e r n ati o n a l Internationalization Localization Translation • Technical publications • Multilingual web sites • Software applications Call for a free phone consultation Phone: 267-972-1034 Upcoming Meetings The information in the following table was correct at the time NEWS & VIEWS was published. Be sure to check the Website ( for details and late-breaking updates to the schedule. For all Thursday meetings, reservations are due by the Monday before the meeting. Date Meeting Topic Location September 23, 2004 Using Personas to Connect With Your Audience presented by Whitney Quesenbery Doubletree Inn, Plymouth Meeting October 9, 2004 Philadelphia Mural Tour (see page 7 of the June/July/August edition of News & Views for details) Philadelphia, PA October 21, 2004 XML as a By-product of Structured Content presented by John Hawkins Holiday Inn, Cherry Hill, NJ November 23, 2004 Changing Focus: Instructional Design as a Career Path, presented by Constance Bille Philadelphia University, Downs Auditorium March 19, 2005 Third Annual Philadelphia Metro Conference Penn State University, Great Valley, PA May 8–11, 2005 STC’s 52nd Annual Conference Seattle, WA The Rewards of Peer Review (Continued from page 5) PUZZLE SOLUTION 1 H 2 I 3 G 4 H 5 C H 6 A 7 I 8 R 7 R 9 I 10 N 11 A D U L T 10 O 12 F L U 13 E N T N L N S E 14 R 15 B 14 F L A T H 15 D 16 E P 17 A R 18 T 19 U R E C 20 E 21 M 22 S P O O K I L Y O 23 H R A 24 T I I I 25 O P T E 26 G O F R 27 A C N E O 28 P I 29 D R 30 M E T 31 N E T 32 E 32 C E M E 33 T E R Y 34 D N H 35 B A R O M E T E R 38 E 36 T 37 I E R E F A R O 42 I D 38 G R E E D 39 Y 43 H 40 N 41 O W 42 N O 43 O E N 44 P S E U D O N Y M