STC New England chapter is now accepting entries…

The STC New England chapter is now accepting entries for their 2014 technical communication competition! Anyone is welcome to submit an entry; STC membership is not a requirement.

The deadline for entries is October 3rd.

For more information, visit the STC New England chapter’s website. Feel free to contact Emily Alfson with any questions at or contact the competition committee directly at

Submissions for Ignite UX are open; deadline is 9/25

Ignite UX Michigan is looking for talks on user experience-related topics in the Ignite format — short, tightly focused talks with 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds, for a total of 5 minutes.

This event happened for the first time last fall, and the organizers are doing it again.

If you participated last year, you know. If you did not, we encourage you to consider.

Click here for details and contacts.

Click for more information on Ignite UX Michigan and on Ignite UX sponsors.

Congratulations, Maryann Bowen!

Written by Tom Glennan

President Glennan presents dedicated volunteer Maryann Bowen with DCSACongratulations to Maryann Bowen, who was approved by the STC Board of Directors to receive the Distinguished Chapter Service Award (DCSA) for 2014! Maryann was recognized as a DCSA recipient at the recent STC Summit in Phoenix as well as in the online STC Notebook and in the May 2014 issue of Intercom.

The DCSA is bestowed in recognition of the recipient’s exemplary effort, energy and dedication to his or her community and its activities. Maryann was nominated for her commitment and service to the technical communication profession, and to STC-SM in particular. Whether it’s her service to the chapter by serving in a variety of elected and volunteer positions, her dedication to providing value for our chapter members or her tireless efforts to develop and present meaningful program events and speakers, Maryann has served as an inspiration and model we would all do well to emulate.

In recognition of her significant professional and personal accomplishments, Maryann was presented with her DCSA certificate at the STC-SM volunteer recognition dinner meeting held on June 25. Please make a point of congratulating and thanking Maryann when you see her at an upcoming STC-SM event.


Member Spotlight: Susan Fisher

What is your educational background? Why did you decide to pursue technical communication as a career?

Susan Fisher

I earned Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design in the 1970s. Soon afterward, however, when the “school of reality” hit home, I took a job as a documentation specialist with a computer services company. I found I was good at researching technical topics and explaining them to others. When the company’s documentation group added a training function, I jumped into that. I’ve been an instructional designer ever since — although I still consider myself a technical communicator above all. In fact, last year I earned the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) designation from STC.

How long have you been a member of  STC? In what STC positions have you served?
I’ve been a member of STC and the Southeastern Michigan chapter since 1982. Having gotten into the tech comm field more or less by accident, I had little idea of its professional development opportunities — until a co-worker told me about STC. I joined and discovered a whole new world of concepts, information, and people doing exciting thinking and work in the field. For most of the past 30 years I’ve been only a consumer of STC services. I was finally persuaded to give something back in 2012, when I agreed to be nominated as secretary of STC-SM. I’m currently serving my second term.

Where are you currently employed? What are your job activities? What do you find most interesting or satisfying about your job?
I’m employed at Innovative Learning Group in Royal Oak. Continue reading “Member Spotlight: Susan Fisher”

Thinking about the December 10 Holiday Mixer – and Beyond

Written by Tom Glennan

There’s a classic winter song that begins, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.” Well, the weather for the December 10 holiday mixer, co-sponsored by STC/SM, Michigan CHI and UxPA, was definitely frightful, with very low temperatures, blowing winds and snow flurries. And while there was no fire inside Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Ann Arbor, the food, conversation and presentation were definitely delightful, as was the opportunity to meet and speak with people from our partnering organizations. Chris Farnum, a member of the user experience (Ux) team at ProQuest, gave a very informative and engaging presentation on wireframes and some tips on how to make good wireframes with techniques that transcend the tools. He also took a stab at answering the oft-asked question, “Are wireframes dead?” All in all, for someone like me who initially thought wireframes were a particular style of eyewear, the presentation Chris gave was both enjoyable and enlightening. Continue reading “Thinking about the December 10 Holiday Mixer – and Beyond”

Ann Arbor Networking Breakfast – Recap

Written by Maryann Bowen

Seven people set their alarms to gather for breakfast at 7 a.m. on Friday, November 22, at Nick’s Original House of Pancakes in Ann Arbor.

We started with the usual introductions of attendees, including professional background, current jobs and involvement with STC. Of this group, three are self-employed, one is an employee of another company, two are corporate employees who also do some freelancing and one is currently seeking employment. (Other attendees immediately shared some leads, including two jobs recently posted to the STC-SM listserv.) Continue reading “Ann Arbor Networking Breakfast – Recap”

Chapter networking lunch a success!

Written by Mary Jo David

Six people participated in the first STC-SM networking lunch of the 2013 fall season; this one was held at the Grand Traverse Pie Company in Plymouth on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, with an 11:30 am start time.

All attendees introduced themselves and talked about what they do on their jobs.  Four are self-employed and two are employees of other companies. The group discussed the need for single-sourcing and content management solutions, and there was also some “tool talk,” mostly about Adobe® RoboHelp®, MadCap Flare®, Adobe FrameMaker® and Microsoft® Word®.

The tools discussion led to discussing the possibility of getting some of the local tool vendor reps to participate in a panel discussion so attendees can compare and contrast tools and their benefits.  Someone also mentioned that it would be beneficial to get power users of some of these tools to participate in a panel discussion or progression meeting so others could learn from their experiences. (The chapter has done this type of program before but it was quite a while ago.)

We discussed some of the benefits of local chapter membership, and the general response was that the most important benefit of a local chapter is face-to-face communication and sharing. For example, local chapters provide opportunities to “talk shop” and discuss with other practicing communicators solutions to the problems and challenges we face on our jobs. (At that point, the discussion took on new energy when a restaurant representative appeared at the table with complimentary, snack-size pie samples!)

Attendees were told that two future networking events are in the planning stages—either lunches or breakfasts or one of each.

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.)


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).

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!).


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

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

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


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.

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.