Welcome Back Meeting

Written by Sharon McDonnell

On September 25, 2013, STC-SM held its first program meeting of the 2013/2014 season at Lawrence Technological University. The program meeting was combined with a council meeting. All chapter members are welcome to attend council meetings if they desire; most of the attendees who were not council members did not remain for that portion of this meeting.

The meeting combined networking, including attendee introductions, and “State of the Chapter” news. The election results were announced:
• Tom Glennan-President
• Pat Martz-Vice President
• Susan Fisher-Secretary
• Barry Matthews-Treasurer
• Jill Money-Immediate Past President and Nominations chair
• Maryann Bowen-member of Nominations committee

Non-elected council members are:
• Mary Jo David-Membership committee chair
• Pat Martz-Webmaster
• Sharon McDonnell-Newsletter/Blog chair
• Lisa Veasey-Programs committee chair

There are still some positions available for those who desire volunteer opportunities. Contact Maryann Bowen at [email protected] to inquire.

We had scheduled time to discuss the STC Summit held in May 2013, but time did not permit more than a brief mention from Tom Glennan and Maryann Bowen who attended the Summit. Check out past STC/SM blog postings for articles about the 2013 Summit.

We have been working on the events calendar and have some tentative topics and dates to announce. Watch this space for more information and for locations:
• October 9, 2013, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm – Networking Lunch at Grand Traverse Pie Company in Plymouth; contact Mary Jo David to reserve a seat.
• October 23, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30 pm – Council meeting at Lawrence Tech in Southfield
• October 29, 2013, “Thinking Outside the Pizza Box” program meeting, Karen Weldon (formerly of Domino’s Pizza), at Thomson-Reuters in Dexter
• November 27, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30 pm – Council meeting at Lawrence Tech in Southfield

Our programs committee has compiled a list of program ideas and tentative speakers for the entire year, and is in the process of talking with prospective speakers and finding locations. If you have any leads on locations, please contact Lisa Veasey.

Final post from the Summit!

As the hectic schedule of another summer starts to wind down, many of us have begun turning our attention from time spent with family and friends during all-too-short vacations and time off from work, to refocus on our technical communication careers and clients. And as I start to think about all my wonderful experiences and memories of the past few months, and the challenges to be addressed during the rest of the year, I can’t help but remember all of the outstanding learning opportunities that this year’s STC Summit provided to me. So I thought I’d pen a few lines and summarize for you most, but not all, of what I experienced in Atlanta (like Las Vegas, what happens in Atlanta…).

In my earlier blog, which I posted midway through the Summit, I spoke primarily about the ideas, comments, and especially the people I was exposed to at Leadership Day (the one-day session that is held before the conference and is intended to provide community leaders with much of the information and training that they will need). It was, as I indicated previously, a fabulous and very valuable experience. It allowed me to hear and discuss firsthand with other community leaders the excitement, frustration, anxiety, and personal satisfaction that we all feel and need to share. Topics ranged from reports from STC International officers and leaders, to discussions on effective community financial management, providing high-value programs and events, mentoring our community members, officers and friends, and increasing the value of STC membership. And my meetings with leaders and members from other geographical communities and special interest groups provided an outstanding opportunity to share ideas about what does (and doesn’t) work, references for available resources, and opportunities to “cry in our beer” together (figuratively speaking, of course). The networking and educational opportunities are high on my list of value-added activities at an event like the Summit, and I intend to use these fresh resources and experiences to find solutions to the challenges we face as a community.

Equally important, though, were the many sessions and vendor demonstrations and seminars that were held Monday through Wednesday after Leadership Day, and I found many topics that I wanted to learn more about. By my count, I participated in 11 different conference sessions ranging from using content management systems, interviewing subject matter experts, using graphs and visuals to convey messages, implementing functional design, and applying the 10 golden rules of global content. I also stopped by the booths of multiple vendors and service suppliers, who offered a wealth of information regarding their products, how best to apply them, and the competitive advantages that they offered. By the way, one of the vendors, Doc-to-Help, provided flash drives loaded with all of the proceedings and papers from the Summit. If you’re interested in reviewing any or all of the materials from Summit, please let me know and I’ll make it available to you.

Finally, I found that another important feature of the Summit was the opportunity to see our STC leaders in action. Their presence at the Leadership Day activities and the annual business meeting held during the Summit, and their remarks and observations in casual conversations and during the closing ceremonies, all helped make STC International’s presence and involvement in our profession a little more palpable. Even though I didn’t agree with everything I saw or heard, their stake and commitment to furthering the best interests of our noble profession are undeniable, and they deserve our continued support.

So will I go to the Summit again next year? I will if I’m able, although I don’t think going each and every year is a “must.” It really depends on what will be offered in future Summit conferences, and what resources or information I’m looking for at the time. But if you have never attended a Summit before, or even if it’s been a while since your last one, I’d start saving up your pennies for 2014. And you might want to take along your golf clubs or tennis racket, and stay a few extra days – next year is in Phoenix, and you know what they say about all work and no play!

Tom Glennan, STC-SM president

Note: The 2013 STC Summit took place May 5-8 in Atlanta GA. The 2014 STC Summit is scheduled for May 18-21 in Phoenix AZ. Visit summit.stc.org for more details.

June 11 MIUPA presentation “Facilitating Humans: The Art of Communication”

News about an upcoming presentation you might be interested in — sent from James Morris, events coordinator for the Michigan Usability Professionals’ Association

Facilitating Humans: The Art of Communication
PRESENTED BY: Caitlin Potts

WHEN: Tuesday, June 11, 6 pm

WHERE: Midwest Collaborative for Library Services, 1407 Rensen Street, Lansing, MI 48910

(See the details at the end of this communication.)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Meetings are not a waste of time. There, I said it.

Okay, but they CAN be, right? Believe me, I’ve been in them, myself. However, in the well over 1000 hours I’ve spent attending and facilitating meetings, I’ve learned something. Meetings are not a waste of time. Poorly planned meetings with unclear goals and a lack of shared expectations are. So, how do we stop warming chairs in our conference rooms and start having productive meetings and, I dare say, conversations?

In this talk, I’ll share the nuggets of information that I’ve gleaned over the last 3.5 years of meeting facilitation. These nuggets include how to recognize and prepare for various categories of meetings, why Edward Tufte is my facilitation hero and how information architecture concepts will help you run a better meeting (and have better conversations).

Whether you’re a new usability professional, a jaded meeting attender, or just, well, human, you will be able to take away concepts from this talk that will help you have better conversations and an overall understanding of human communication (which is pretty important for effective meetings).

ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Caitlin Potts is a user experience practitioner (designer and researcher) at Covenant Eyes, Inc., in Owosso. Working as part of an Agile team, she spends her time collaborating with product owners, stakeholders and developers to design Web, mobile and client application interfaces. She offers her services as a sounding board or sympathetic ear, on a daily basis, and is facilitating the creation of business rules for Covenant Eyes.

She is passionate about understanding human behavior and using that knowledge to craft opportunities for effective communication. She also loves ampersands, great coffee, idea sharing, and her Sharpie collection (63 and counting!).

DETAILS:

Location
Midwest Collaborative for Library Services, 1407 Rensen Street, Lansing, MI 48910
Google Map

Date / Time
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
6:00 PM — Networking
6:30 PM — Announcements
6:45 PM — Speaker
8:00 PM — Wrap up and more networking

Cost
Current students $5
Michigan Usability Professionals’ Association members $10
All others $20
Michigan UPA thanks Covenant Eyes for sponsoring refreshments for this event.

Register
Register online at Guestlist so Michigan UPA knows who’s coming and how to plan for refreshments. Michigan UPA will also take payment (cash or check) at the door. Questions? Email [email protected]

 

Interactive PDFs Using Adobe Acrobat

Written by Ashley Malone

B Hua at lecternMs. Bei Hua visited Lawrence Technological University on April 16, 2013, to share her knowledge of Interactive PDFs using Adobe® Acrobat®. Ms. Hua has worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan for the past several years as an eLearning and Web development specialist. Her background includes work at General Motors as well as at Wayne State University.  Lawrence Tech sponsored the event by providing a meeting location on its Southfield campus and supplying a number of prizes for use in the door prize drawing.

The session on interactive PDFs was particularly helpful for the attendees’ own professional growth since almost all of us work with PDFs sometime in our careers. Adobe PDFs are a great resource because almost all computers come standard with Adobe Reader®. This product is also easier to use and more Web friendly than other products on the market.

title slide B HuaSome of the different PDF components we had the opportunity to learn about were converting files into PDF format, navigating through PDFs with bookmarks and layers, linking attachments and multimedia, and creating interactive forms that can be easily saved and transferred to the Web. These tools are instrumental in creating effective communication pieces that are easily understood by an audience.

Ms. Hua’s presentation was very informative and extremely helpful, and the meeting participants greatly appreciated her taking time out of her day to share her expertise at this event.

Hello from the Summit!

Hello from soggy Atlanta, Georgia! Daily highs in the mid-40s to low 50s, rain, wind, and morning fog – it must be STC Summit time in Georgia. In spite of the weather, this year’s Summit program has really been outstanding, and the learning and networking opportunities so far have really made this trip worthwhile. So I thought I’d drop a quick note about my thoughts and experiences before starting my Tuesday afternoon sessions.

Sunday I attended my first Leadership Day, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience. As the STC-SM chapter’s incoming president, I’ve been anxious to learn everything I can about the duties and responsibilities of my new office, and compare notes and experiences with the leadership from other communities who attended the event. While it’s apparent to me after hearing some of the speakers and discussion leaders on Sunday (and yesterday afternoon at the business meeting) that the Society and many other communities are facing many of the same challenges and difficulties that we are at STC-SM, it’s also very clear that the leaders I’ve met are up to the task. I was really encouraged by the sense of togetherness that I felt when speaking with others, and the resources that are available to us. Maryann Bowen and I have already talked several times with each other and with other chapter leaders and members. (For example, I had lunch with the Southeast Ohio chapter yesterday, of which I am also a member.) We’ve been putting together our lists of things to tackle and the options available to us as we work to build upon and expand the recent successes of our chapter, while also preparing for the future with new ideas and approaches. We’ll be sharing these ideas with you and with the Leadership Council over the coming weeks and months.

Of course, I’ve also been focused on using my participation at the Summit as an excellent opportunity to learn and apply many ideas for adding new or improved skills and abilities to my technical communicator toolbox, as well as my personal branding and career development. The Summit has been very beneficial and informative, beginning with an excellent case study yesterday on single-source collaboration for developing a training program materials, and subsequent sessions on using content management systems and sharpening my subject matter expert interviewing skills, as well as some sessions with vendors to better understand how to apply their products, And a free newly published book on how to use Adobe® FrameMaker® 11 was the icing on the cake (so far).

Well, I need to catch the progression session on writing and editing, but I’ll send an additional blog posting at the Summit’s conclusion. In the meantime, send me an email ([email protected], and no, I don’t do Facebook® or Twitter®) if you have any comments or questions, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Tom Glennan
Incoming STC-SM president

An evening about e-learning

Written by Elizabeth Donoghue Colvin

smaller Articulate photoOn the evening of March 26, 2013, STC-SM program attendees were treated to demonstrations of Articulate® Storyline, a software that lets you “create polished interactive courses” and that’s “simple enough for beginners, powerful enough for experts” (Articulate website). At one of the Ann Arbor, MI, Thomson-Reuters offices, individuals representing a wide range of professions – including technical communicators and e-learning specialists and other educators – not only received instructions in how Articulate works but were invited to develop a basic e-learning storyline using the software as part of a hands-on experience while seated at computers.

Leading the program for the evening were Megan Torrance, the Chief Energy Officer of TorranceLearning, an e-learning design and development company located in Chelsea, MI; Matt Kliewer, a TorranceLearning designer who handles special technology projects; and Jeanette Brooks, who spent four years as Articulate Storyline’s e-learning community manager and who is now the Manager of Member Services at the Dexter Wellness Center in Dexter, MI.

Participants either worked on a prepared storyline about how to make candied bacon or chose their own storyline. Either way, they learned the basics about how the software works and heard opinions on how it compares to other e-learning options such as Adobe® Captivate® and Lectora®. They took their presentations home with them on their USB flash drives.

The presenters showed that Articulate Storyline has some easy-to-use features in common with Microsoft® PowerPoint®, including a design tab with pre-made templates and an ease in moving things around on the screen. In addition, one of Articulate Storyline’s strengths is that it allows the user to synchronize the progression of the visual storyline with the audio attached to it by moving things around – including the audio waves – on the screen. In addition, Articulate Storyline e-learning products can be translated into other languages after the entire e-learning course has been built; everything except the images gets translated, even the buttons. Typically, though, the product will need tweaking after translation, because other languages generally take up more space than English does. E-learning products can also be made 508 compliant (accessible to individuals with disabilities).

Program participants also learned that Articulate Storyline outputs can be published to Adobe Flash® or as HTML5. The Articulate Storyline website has information about what to consider when publishing as HTML5, as publishing that way can present some challenges to the user. Articulate can also function as a learning management system: It can host your content and track and report on its use.

The presenters praised Articulate Storyline for the energy it puts into its online community, which includes blogs, forums and the opportunity for peer-to-peer connections with others users. Even when using the free-trial download, users who ask questions get prompt answers. (Click on the Free Trials button on the Articulate home page). Users are also invited to suggest enhancements to features for inclusion in the next version of the software.

At closing, the presenters had some words of advice: One way to learn how to build an e-learning product is to deconstruct one built by someone else. Also, one of the most useful things you can do as an Articulate Storyline learner is to subscribe to the word-of-mouth blog on the Articulate website.

STC-SM appreciates the time the presenters contributed in hosting one of the most well-attended programs in recent memory. We are also grateful to Thomson-Reuters staff, who lent the use of their computer lab and made sure several computers were ready for use that evening.

Content Management Systems (CMS) and their Application in Creating Documentation

Written by Tom Glennan

CMS program room shot According to a recent study by Information Mapping Inc. (2012), an organization of 1000 employees spends 2500 hours per week searching for information in their documentation. They waste up to $2.5 million per year on employees searching for information they cannot find, and up to $5 million per year recreating information that already exists. And because most organizations typically have only centralized 50% or less of their critical information, there are many harder to quantify costs incurred by the organization relating to poor decisions, poor quality, employee frustration, and lost sales. Furthermore, according to Forbes magazine (1/4/2013), the “creative employees” in an organization (like technical communicators) waste 30% or more of their time looking for, re-creating, or unnecessarily moving content within their organization.
Sound familiar? For situations like these and others, a content management system (CMS) may be the solution you and your customers or employers need. To help understand the issues and solutions with managing and retrieving information, Patrick Becker, president of Asyling Digital Media Solutions of Ann Arbor, discussed the topic, “Content Management Systems (CMS) and their Application in Creating Documentation”, in the February 27th STC-SM program meeting. The program was held at the offices of Thomson Reuters in Dexter, Michigan, and refreshments and door prizes were sponsored by the communications department at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

LTU's table at Feb 23, 2013 meeting
What is a Content Management System?
A content management system is a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content, as well as maintenance, from a central interface. These systems can be either manual or automatic in executions, manage workflow among many authors or documents in a collaborative environment. Originally designed in the 1990s to simplify the task of writing multiple versions of code and make the website development process more flexible, CMS now enables the centralization of data editing, publishing, and modification. (Wikipedia, retrieved 2-10-13 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content-management_system).
So How Can a CMS Help Me?
According to Patrick and his team of presenters, a properly-designed CMS consists of three subsystems: the production content component, the web component, and the digital asset management component (think of iTunes or your DVR at home). These three components make up the CMS “eco-system” which creates, manages and distributes the content information. By employing “templates”, the CMS is able to improve the speed, accuracy and control when managing the content information throughout the organization. Furthermore, you can also have multiple working on the same document (although not the same particular article or paragraph) simultaneously, which improves the ability to share ideas and collaborate on the document.
In addition, David Rheault reviewed the concept of “brands” (think a publication title like Time or Sports Illustrated), which are specific to a particular genre within the publication industry and can be used as labels for organizing, managing and distributing the content within specific modules or chunks.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
CMS is both a strategy and a tool for effectively and efficiently managing and distributing reusable content within an organization. Although it may be difficult at first and requires taking more of a “topic-based” approach to content creation as opposed to the narrative method you may be familiar with, the ease of accessing information and distributing it throughout the organization may make it worth the effort.

Member Spotlight: Pat Gómez Martz

P Martz Feb 2013What is your educational background? How long have you been a member of  STC? In what STC positions have you served? 
I have a Bachelor of Science in Botany and a Bachelor of Forestry from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and a Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication, completed in May 2012, at Lawrence Tech. I have been an STC member since 2009, and I took over as webmaster in late May 2012.

Why did you decide to pursue technical communication as a career?
It pursued me!

My undergraduate education was extremely heavy in science, math, and technology. When I was offered a contract position as an indexing editor for UMI, I took it and started my professional life indexing biology, chemistry, engineering, and math dissertation abstracts.

Most of my working life I have been a self-taught graphic designer who also edits, writes copy, and illustrates. “Self-taught” is a secret code for “I read a lot about what I do, about the things that influence how I do what I do, and I look at a lot of different types of communication and talk to people to see what works and what doesn’t.”

My daughter pointed out that I was a technical communicator after she did a multiyear time audit of my project work. Boy, was I surprised. There’s a name for it.

Why did you decide to join STC?
Having learned that I had been in technical communication for all these years, I wanted to learn more about the possibilities, so I joined STC.

Where are you currently employed?
I run my own business, Inkberry Solutions, and I am an adjunct professor at Lawrence Tech.

What are your job activities? What do you find most interesting and/or satisfying about your job?
Currently, the focus is on proposals—consulting on process, developmental and technical editing, and building a custom database system to manage content for future proposals. I do a lot of other things as well: graphic design, illustration, simple websites, and teaching the “why” and “how” to clients—a lot of “why,” but not as much “how.” The best part of my work life is the wide variety of projects.

What are some examples of projects you are particularly proud of?
I built a database system that tackles the administrative end of a five-year federal project to produce thousands of fixed-priced environmental reports about parcels of land. The database allows my client to handle heavy bouts of report-writing while keeping track of where each one is in the process, and maintaining profitability.

How has being an STC member helped you with your career?
It has exposed me to some new ideas, and it has given me some exposure.

What advice do you have for students as they are entering the field of technical communication?
Keep learning. Read, including about things outside your particular area. Talk to people. Write. Draw. Paint. Learn a craft. Keep looking at the rhetorical bent and the design of communications, especially when you are the end user. How does it affect you? How would you improve it?

What else would you like our readers to know about you?
The joke is on me. I spent my undergraduate college career studiously avoiding anything and everything having to do with English, and now I work predominantly with words.