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STC PMC Newsletter 2006-08

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STC PMC Newsletter August/September 2006

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STC PMC Newsletter 2006-08

  1. 1. V o l u m e 3 9 N um be r 6 Au gu st / S ep te mbe r 2 00 6 Why I Want to be a Technical Writer By Adrienne Lambdin n realizing that I wanted to leave my position as a Licensed Medical Social Worker, I recently began a period of intense self assessment and, perhaps more importantly, a careful scrutiny of the current employment landscape. Feeling more like a detective than a modest career changer, I began the quest to find answers to the following: ❏ Which occupations are currently expanding? ❏ Is there a career out there that offers the ability to be creative in a relatively secure environment? ❏ What sort of role will afford me the opportunity to be compensated fairly? ❏ What am I good at? ❏ What do I like to do? After an exhausting amount of Internet searches, library visits, and interviews with charitable professionals in a variety of fields, I enthusiastically embraced the idea of becoming a Technical Writer. Early along the path of exploration, it became clear that there is place for people like me: people who are methodical in their work and enjoy the process of documentation and revision as much as they do the actual writing process; people who are exceptionally attuned to the intricacies of grammar and spelling, as well as the influence that the format of a document has; people who are able to listen carefully and interpret messages effectively based on their audience. This place could be found in fulfilling the role of a Technical Writer. I then turned my research efforts toward answering additional questions. In what type of setting could I be employed? Would a position as a Technical Writer offer me the security I was seeking? I continued on my path, unsure of what I would learn about the remuneration and other practicalities of this occupation. Happily, I found that the Department of Employment’s Occupational Outlook for the career is optimistic. I further read that Money magazine recently ranked Technical Writing 13th on their list of “Best Jobs in America.” I could be employed in a range of settings within the field. I also learned of a wonderful gem of opportunity that exists for many writing professionals: freelancing. Now I was certain: Technical Writing had all that I wanted in a profession. So, when friends and family ask me, “Why do you want to be a Technical Writer?” I reflect on the newfound wealth of opportunity I have uncovered and retort with a chuckle, “Why wouldn’t I?” ■ Adrienne Lambdin can be contacted at AdrienneLambdin@hotmail.com O Contents Why I Want to be a Technical Writer__________________ 1 Editor's Voice Harvest Time ____________ 2 President’s Podium It’s a New Year… A New Chapter Year That Is _____________ 3 Member Reports___________ 4 Book Review The STC-PMC Bookshelf Summer Reading List _____________ 5 Upcoming Meetings ________ 7
  2. 2. NEWS & VIEWS 2 August/September 2006 EDITOR'S VOICE Harvest Time By Al Brown hy does the new year start in January, the dead of winter? That never made sense to me. Maybe it’s all those years of starting school in the fall—or the Jewish High Holy Days, ushering in the new year in autumn with the sound of the ram’s horn and the eating of a new fruit. The idea of the yearly cycle comes from our agricultural roots, when fall was the time for the work and celebration of the harvest. This has little relationship to the technological world in which we find ourselves. Back in the Day, product introductions were timed to trade shows, which had their own rhythm. Now products ship as soon as possible, if not sooner, no matter what time of year. My cubicle is nowhere near a window, so the only time I have a sense of the season is during the walk to and from my car. In a month or so, it will be dark when I arrive and dark when I leave. Even so, the change in weather from lethargic heat to invigorating chill seems like a natural time for a new start. Lori Corbett’s President’s Podium column points this out, celebrating the end of a successful year and looking forward to new challenges and opportunities for a new season. The times, our profession, STC, and PMC are definitely changing, and there’s plenty of room for new ideas and new blood. You’ll find lots of information here and on the STC-PMC website about activities and plans for the new year. Pick something and get involved—it will be rewarding both personally and professionally. ■ W 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, 2005, 2006. Address submissions or comments to Al Brown, Managing Editor, NEWS & VIEWS, 7439 Devon St., Philadelphia, PA, 19119, phone (856) 222-7427; email newsletter@stcpmc.org. Toolbox We produce NEWS & VIEWS with Frame-Maker 6.0 and Acrobat 6.0 on various Pentium computers. Newsletter Staff Managing Editor Al Brown newsletter@stcpmc.org Layout Editor Rose Marie Sosnowy nvstcpmc@verizon.net Associate Editor Rebecca Richardson rebecca.one@verizon.net Mary Shaw mary@maryshawwrites.com Also Contributing to This Issue Adrienne Lambdin Lori Corbett
  3. 3. August/September 2006 3 NEWS & VIEWS PRESIDENT’S PODIUM It’s a New Year… A New Chapter Year That Is By Lori Corbett ongratulations to the Philadelphia Metro Chapter. We had a banner year with lots of successes. It takes a great team to pull off the projects and programs on our agenda, and we did it! For my annual review of the year, I’d like to take a few moments to thank our members whose initiative and drive helped win our chapter recognition from the STC in the form of a Merit Award. The citation on the award as it was presented at the STC Annual Conference this past May states that we are a Chapter of Merit because of for our successful membership growth through the year, our outstanding newsletter and website, and our Active Member recognition program. It’s a beginning and definitely a very good place to start. Thanks to the efforts of many of our members, our chapter is thriving and providing great programs for our membership and future technical communicators. I’d like to take a moment to thank for the following folks for their contributions to our chapter: Nad Rosenberg It was Nad’s rechartering initiative a couple of years back that ensured STC-PMC would have the building blocks on which to grow and develop our chapter. After stepping back a bit during the past year, Nad has stepped up to the plate once again as co-chair of the Publicity Committee. Way to go Nad! Steven Lungren A man with boundless energy, Steve continued Nad’s legacy as president in 2004. During his tenure, STC-PMC strengthened its base. When his term finished, Steve took over the reins as our webmaster extraordinaire. As if that wasn’t enough, Steve has also co-chaired the STC-PMC Conference Committee, bringing excellent workshops and keynote speakers to our conference. There’s just no stopping Steve, a fact for which I am extremely grateful. Julie Margulies I really don’t know how many years Julie has worked diligently on the program committee, as a co-chair and most recently as chairperson. She has been dedicated to finding appropriate venues and along with her committee to provide an excellent slate of speakers for our monthly programs. Julie is now co-chairing the Publicity Committee with Nad to bring the word about all the benefits STC-PMC can provide to all technical communicators in the Philadelphia Metro area. Congratulations to a job well done and I know you’ll do great things in your new position Julie! Timothy Esposito Timothy ventured into uncharted territory as the chairperson of our newly created Education Committee. Under his leadership, we awarded our first college scholarship to Kimberly Coles, an honor student at the University of Delaware. Great job, Timothy! B.J. Hinshaw B.J. took the plunge this past year and decided to get her C STC-PMC LEADERSHIP Address correspondence for the Philadelphia Metro chapter of STC to: STC-PMC, P.O. Box 60069, Philadelphia, PA 19102-0069. Chapter Officers President Lori Corbett stcmember@verizon.net Vice President Nancy Kitkin vicepresident@stcpmc.org Treasurer Gary Samartino treasurer@stcpmc.org Secretary Todd Deluca secretary@stcpmc.org Immediate Past President Steve Lungren pastpresident@stcpmc.org Region 1 Director/Sponsor Cindy Currie dir1@stc.org Chapter Committee Managers Careers Estella Clifford careers@stcpmc.org Programs Julia Margulies programs@stcpmc.org Pam Klaassen programs@stcpmc.org pamela_klaassen@yahoo.com Membership Mike Sharp membership@stcpmc.org NEWS & VIEWS Al Brown newsletter@stcpmc.org Nominating Open Website Steve Lungren webmaster@stcpmc.org Online Competition Donn DeBoard donn.deboard@vertexinc.com Marc Green mgreen81@comcast.net Publicity Julia Margulies publicity@stcpmc.org Education Timothy Esposito education@stcpmc.org STC-PMC Conference Gary Samartino & Steven Lungren conference@stcpmc.org Competition Marc Green & Prescott Williams (Continued on page 7)
  4. 4. NEWS & VIEWS 4 August/September 2006 MEMBER REPORTS Admin Council Meeting 6/28/06 he STC-PMC Admin Council had its 2006-2007 Kick-Off meeting on June 28. The purpose of this teleconference meeting was to introduce council members (new and old) and to begin discussion of planning activities for next year. President Lori Corbett began the meeting by reviewing the announce- ment from the Annual STC Conference that the STC-PMC chapter has received a Chapter Merit Award. Our chapter received the award by meeting certain membership and participation criteria, such as holding regular meetings, organizing confer- ences, and publishing a newsletter. The goal for next year is to shoot for a higher-level achievement award. Steve Lungren, our chapter webmaster, talked about increasing the involvement of chapter members and officers and improving technical skills to make their own updates to the site. The addition of a listserv for chapter dialogs and announcements was also discussed. Options to add this functionality are being investigated. Timothy Esposito spoke about the chapter scholarship. We will once again be offering a $1,000.00 scholarship and other benefits to an eligible local student who is studying technical communication (pending official budget approval). Changes from last year include more publicity and a possible extended deadline for submission. Other chapter committees have been busy ramping up for the upcoming year. The publicity committee will be co-lead by Julia Margulies and Nad Rosenberg. Their goal is to increase awareness of chapter activities and events to the greater metro area. Other activities will include gathering chapter artifacts and information and to create an updated chapter brochure. The programs committee has already had one meeting and is working on the meeting schedule, speakers, and topics to begin this fall. The final piece of business, the Annual STC-PMC Conference, was also discussed. A proposed date of March 16 and 17 was announced and the council began consideration of the conference title and focus (including possible keynote speakers). More information will be forthcoming as details are ironed out. Other meeting news: ❏ Member Tessa Lynch will be setting up a regular lunch member meeting for Center City (starting this Fall) ❏ The Active Membership program will continue. ❏ STC-PMC members are encouraged to purchase items from our page on the Café Press website to help support the scholarship program. ■ T STC-PMC CALENDAR Unless otherwise noted, all meetings follow this schedule: Networking: 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Program: 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. For the latest information and details, and to register, check the STC-PMC website. September 20, 2006; Get Out of Your Cube—Linda Lane, financial analyst, will show you how to "network" a room and make it work for you. The Double Tree Inn, Plymouth Meeting, PA. Thursday, October 19, 2006. Indexing in a Nutshell—Improve your indexing skills and learn more about this field with Cheryl Landes, technical writer, editor, and indexer. TBD (in Pennsylvania, between Delaware and Philadelphia) Wednesday, November 15, 200. Adding Value to Your Role as a Technical Communicator—Andrea Carrero and Barrie Byron present two viewpoints: one from the perspective of a business owner and the other from the perspective of a contractor/ employee. TBD (New Jersey) Thursday, December 7, 2006. Holiday Mixer—Celebrate the upcoming holidays and new year and practice the networking skills we learned in September.TBD Wednesdat, December 6, 2006. Montco TW Support Group— Connect with other like-minded professionals and get a bite to eat in an atmosphere of inspiration, encouragement, information sharing, and fun for one and all. Anne Ukoa (formerly China Moon), Horsham, PA 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 www.stc.org.
  5. 5. August/September 2006 5 NEWS & VIEWS STC AND RELATED EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD June 19—23, 2006. International Communication Association (ICA) 56th Annual Conference in Dresden, Germany. For details, contact: ICA, (202) 530-9855, conference@icahdq.org 3/16/2007 - 3/17/2007. March 16 & 17 have been reserved for the 2007 STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter Annual Conference and pre- conference Workshop at the Safeguard Scientific Conference Center on the Penn State Great Valley Campus in Malvern, PA. 06/1/2008 - 06/04, 2008. Get ready! STC 55th Annual Conference Philadelphia, PA UPCOMING STC WEB AND TELEPHONE SEMINARS All of these seminars are held from 1:00–2:30 p.m. Each seminar costs $99 per site for STC members. (The nonmember rate is $149 per site.) A site can have only one phone connection and one computer connection. In addition to offering high-quality training at an affordable price, STC's seminar series features a quick and simple online registration process. For detailed information about any of the following seminars, go to stc.webex.com. September 27, 2006. Creating Interactive CBTs with Captivate in Half the Time—Kevin Siegel October 11, 2006. Designing Business Forms: A No Nonsense Approach—Nathaniel Lim October 25, 2006. Ten Ways to Increase Your Value as a Technical Communicator—Holly Harkness November 8, 2006. Choosing the Right Usability Technique (to answer the right question)—Whitney Quesenbery November 22, 2006. Selling Technical Communication Services- Both Inside and Outside Your Organization —Robert Dianetti December 6, 2006. Creating Training That Sticks —Maggie Haenel BOOK REVIEW The STC-PMC Bookshelf Summer Reading List By Al Brown ow that the Dog Days are over, it’s time to reflect on what did—and didn’t—get read over the summer, and what’s on the list for the fall. Beach reading? Never got there. But I did discover a brilliantly written series of thrillers by Barry Eisler featuring a half-Japanese assassin named John Rain; the first one is Rain Fall. And there’s a new Stephen King novel, Cell, which almost belongs here: a cautionary tale about how technology can literally fry your brain. An equal stretch is a graphic novel (those of us of a Certain Age know them as comic books) from the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. (If you like dark fantasy—even if you don’t—try his novel Neverwhere, set in the abandoned stations in London’s Underground.) This made me realize that I don’t really get that particular mix of text and graphics; do the pictures get in the way of the words, or the other way ‘round? Somehow I can’t process both at once. Closer to home, I recently revisited Donald Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. An engineer asked me to comment on the control panel of a prototype and was surprised by some of my observations, particularly about mixed signals. Are you making this work like a game console or a cell phone? Trying to have it both ways turns it into a confusing mess. This led me back to Norman’s discussion of controls and affordances—the subtle cues that tell us how things are supposed to work. One book I’ve been seriously working on is Text in the Book Format by Keith A. Smith. He’s a book artist and poet, who has written extensively on bookbinding for artists and has produced many limited-edition “art books.” This book, a response to desktop publishing, suggests that the page is now a linguistic unit, in the same way a word, sentence, or paragraph is. It’s nothing new to a technical communicator, just an aspect of information design. But it’s interesting to see how an artist responds to this notion. Stay tuned; you’ll definitely read more about this one soon. Then there are a few new books that sound intriguing. Edward Tufte, one of the great gadflies of our N From the Grand Foofaloof’s Puzzle Palace More news from the feline research front. A recent study concluded that polydactylic cats—those, like yours truly, who have an extra toe on each paw—in addition to being extraordinarily handsome, eat less than their more conventionally digital species mates. Any idea why? (Solution on page 7) (Continued on page 7)
  6. 6. NEWS & VIEWS 6 August/September 2006 Active Member Information Are you an active member? After the resounding success of last year’s program, we’re going to do it again this year. It takes only 19 points to achieve active member status and receive a custom-designed polo shirt at our end-of-year awards ceremony. Points are awarded as follows: ❏ Attendance at a meeting (chapter, admin council, or committee): 1 pt. ❏ Activity on a committee: 1 pt ❏ Judge in the competition: 2 pts ❏ Presenting at a monthly meeting: 4 pts ❏ Writing a bylined article in News & Views (not part of normal committee activity): 2 pts ❏ Presenting at or attending STC-PMC conference in March: 4 pts. Points Example for John/Jane Doe: Attend 6 regular meetings 6 pts Attend the STC-PMC conference 4 pts Judge for the competition 2 pts Work on the publicity committee Attend 6 meetings 6 pts Write 1 press release 1 pt TOTAL 19 pts Support the STC-PMC Scholarship Program! Order STC-PMC merchandise from www.cafepress.com/stcpmc or look for items at the monthly meetings!
  7. 7. NEWS & VIEWS 7 August/September 2006 Upcoming Meetings The information in the following table was correct at the time NEWS & VIEWS was published. Be sure to check the website (www.stcpmc.org) 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 Wednesday, September 6, 2006 STC Montco TW Networking Group Meeting Giuliano's Horsham, PA September 20, 2006 Get Out of Your Cube The Double Tree Inn, Plymouth Meeting, PA. Thursday, October 19, 2006 Indexing in a Nutshell TBD (in Pennsylvania, between Delaware and Philadelphia) Wednesday, November 15, 2006 Adding Value to Your Role as a Technical Communicator TBD (New Jersey) Thursday, December 7, 2006 Holiday Mixer TBD Wednesrday, December 6, 2006 Montco TW Support Group Anne Ukoa Horsham, PA Deadline for the October/November newsletter is September 30 PUZZLE SOLUTION Answer: Polydactylism is a relatively rare mutation, so polydactylic cats combined eat less than their more numerous, normally pawed, relations. feet wet in a leadership role as our chapter’s vice president. It was her initiative that created our Café Press page (www.cafepress.com/stcpmc), where you can buy merchandise to support our scholarship program. During the coming year, B.J. is stepping back from leading our chapter and moving on to co-chair the Marketing SIG. Good luck B.J. and don’t forget us; we look forward to seeing you at as many chapter meetings as you can attend. Don DeBoard and Marc Green I’m so glad to have one more opportunity to congratulate our Distinguished Chapter Service Award recipients for their years of dedicated leadership of our successful print and online competitions. For the coming year, Don is going to be taking a well-deserved break, and Prescott Williams is going to work with Marc on the Competitions Committee. Thank you all for your dedication and hard work. These are just a few of the people who help to make our chapter the great chapter that it is. We have lots of opportunities, some small, and some not so small. If you would like to work on a committee, please contact any leadership member listed page 3 of this newsletter. ■ President’s Podium (Continued from page 3) profession, published a new one this summer. It’s called Beautiful Evidence, and I don’t know much about it, except that it will go to the top of my reading list. His books are always provocative and elegantly produced. Another one for the list is a paperback reissue of a cult classic from the early 1980s: Putt’s Law and the Successful Technocrat, by Archibald Putt. Putt’s Law states, Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand. We’ve probably all had some experience with that. So there are two more books worth discussion here in the coming months. How about you? Have you read anything this summer that’s worth sharing? Have you seen something that looks interesting? Get in touch, and stay tuned. ■ The STC-PMC Bookshelf Summer Reading List (Continued from page 5)

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