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Technical Writing and Editing's Journal

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

1:02PM - Do we need to reinvent STC?

When I started as a tech writer, STC was a valuable professional association. Not invaluable, but very nice to have. Today I received the following email from the STC President and I'm curious whether any of you feel the changes are good, bad, or simply necessary.

A reduction in dues sounds nice...

This is the year we reinvent STC! We do so to better serve the increasingly diverse community of technical communicators. We are shifting our focus from STC the organization to STC as a collection of services and delivery channels that meet the professional needs of our members. To make this shift, we are becoming more market centered, understanding whom we serve and what they want and need. Today, I am extremely pleased to announce the start of Project Phoenix. This is the major program to bring about the shift to a market-focused STC. The project has the following goals:

* Transform the Society’s web presence to increase the value for current and future members
* Improve the relationship between the Society and its current and former members
* Increase the Society’s registered member base
* Grow the Society’s revenue while decreasing its reliance on dues-based revenue
* Establish the Society as the center of the online universe for technical communicators globally
* Dramatically overhaul the Society’s brand identity
* Increase the digital distribution of the Society’s publications

To help us meet these goals, we have engaged a team of specialists who have a proven track record helping organizations like STC. We are funding this engagement by not filling certain staff positions at this time. We are using that money to augment our staff with these specialists instead. We have created a special web page to keep you informed about Project Phoenix. We will be creating a community on our community network platform to encourage and support member input, feedback, and discussion about Project Phoenix. And we will be using our social media channels throughout the year to engage interested members and non-members alike.

I ask for everyone to look for some way to get constructively engaged in this project during this year. Together, we can build the new STC.

Michael Hughes
STC President

Saturday, April 3, 2010

1:00PM - Registered Marks

I am editing and rewriting course materials for a non-profit. The name is registered, but the registered mark appears sporadically throughout the text. Is the registered mark required in every mention of the name, or for the first usage only? Is there a hard rule on this, or some flexibility? I couldn't find the answer in my AP guide.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

10:04AM - Community Pimp

Teen Novelists is a writing-based community for all of those aspiring authors who dream to, one day, have their hardbacks splayed across shelves. Our goal here is to provide a hassle-free, fun society to share stories, ideas, and exchange comments, critique, and criticism.

If you're interested, come join!

P.S. Mods, if this isn't allowed, feel free to delete!

Friday, December 11, 2009

1:59PM - Need a job?

I got this in my email today and thought I would pass it along, in case anyone has this experience.

I have a one year assignment in Huntsville AL with Sikorsky for a Flight Manual Writer. They want to see folks with rotary wing experience (preferably UH-60) but will consider folks with other helicopter experience.

Would you know of someone who may be interested who fits this bill?

Send resume to ebednarz@kforce.com for more info!



Thursday, September 17, 2009

2:27PM - Googling Docs

Tristan Bishop of Symantec presented yesterday at an STC seminar (I believe he's given the talk before elsewhere) on the advantages of sharing XML content chunks across product. During the talk he mentioned that a large number of their users (50%) simply "googled" for answers instead of using the docs or online help provided with the product.

They then changed their approach to make sure that product information was being picked up by search engines.

Have you found a similar use pattern with your users? We currently restrict the majority of our product information behind a customer-only portal, but if Google is replacing online help and manuals as a source of information and instruction that seems self-defeating.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

3:41PM - Writing style

Greetings to all. I'm a new member to this community. I'm interested in learning more about technical communication. While I'm not going to post one of those redundant questions of how to get into TC. I'm just exploring TC as a possible career since I've been working as a web designer past 10+ years including graphic design. I love learning new technologies in general. I just happened to love to write, either creatively or just documenting something. Does everyone have distinct writing style or follow a formula when it comes to technical writing? Is it possible to do contract work rather than a 9 to 5 job and work from home? Or the approach is the same as I would do as a web/graphic designer and treat it as a 'business' service?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

12:34PM - AB 10

Assembly Bill 10 in California proposes to negate the clause that anyone who makes more than $36 an hour or 75,000 annually an exempt employee and subject not overtime.

This is supposedly in response to class-action lawsuit brought about by Suns' writers, but many people feel it adds additional stigma to being a technical writer by removing salaried employee status.

What do you think? Should tech writers earning get overtime or should they get the respect of being a salaried employee?

Edit: Apologies. I misread that they were striking the salary cap clause from existing law.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2:40PM - FrameMaker TOC Template Question

Hi! I'm the only tech writer employed by my company. It's fallen to me to create new FM templates in the long-term, but in the short-term, I have to make do with what the last technical writing manager created. (He's no longer with the company.) He didn't create an appendix template or a glossary template. I've created them, and they're fine. The issue is the TOC.

I have the Appendix HeadingTOC and Glossary TitleTOC formats. Neither one is automatically tabbed, so that the page number is right-aligned. I have looked at the other TOC formats, and they all appear to be the same, including a right-aligned tab stop in the same location. The other formats are tabbed automatically.

What am I missing?  

Thanks very much!

Current mood: busy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

6:40PM - Documentation Servers

My group is researching the feasibility of moving to a server-based help solution. We'd prefer a product that lets us capture feedback and comments from end users, but that's not a requirement.

Does anyone have any recommendations? Do any of you use a documentation server? If so, what product do you use and why?

Here's a little background on us: We author our source files in unstructured (alas) FrameMaker. We single source files extensively, so the dynamic update feature available in RoboHelp doesn't help us. A change to one file could affect 15 to 100 books. We currently use WebWorks to automate our publishing process.

Thank you all for your help.

6:11PM - Help file titles

Hi! I have a problem with help file titles in Robohelp 7.
I actually use Windows XP and our customers use Windows Vista. On my computer, I see the title of the created *.chm help file as " Help" and on Windows Vista it's displayed as "HTML Help". Have you any suggestions?

Current mood: depressed

Friday, February 6, 2009

2:55PM - Anyone used Alchemy?

We're considering moving from our current translation service to an in-house tool to cut down on costs, and a salesperson wants to show us Alchemy. Has anyone used Alchemy and do you have any strong opinions on the software?

Current mood: curious

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Is anyone here using ArborText or have experience with it? I must say that I am not a fan of this program. I generally use FrameMaker and Word. I was told to convert this Word document into ArborText format. I've done that and have figured out most of the formatting issues I was having, but I can't get it to do what I want (simple things like centering text or making table headings). Certain menus and tags will not come up with this converted document and I can't find a way around it. Is this because of my lack of a DTD? I'm a beginner. I've gone over the PTC tutorials, but those are very basic. i'm using ArborText Editor by the way. I don't have a license for the Styler.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

4:23AM - Graduate Programs


I am about to graduate from college and I was wondering what the best graduate programs were for technical communications.
To be more specific, I am currently located in Houston, TX and would like to stay here if it all possible. The only school that I've found that offers any kind of graduate program for technical writing is the University of Houston-Downtown. Can anyone give me information concerning how the program there is? Or if not that one, then how about:
Texas Tech
University of North Texas
Texas State University

Or any online programs? Also, are the online programs as legit as the campus ones?

Just random questions popping through my mind at 4 in the morning. :]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Random question:

I'm putting together an acronym list. Two of my acronyms are T&E and T2Q. Which one comes first in alphabetical order?

I'm sure this is something I learned in elementary school, and I'll be shamed by not knowing what is surely an obvious answer, but I'm drawing a total blank and Google has failed me, so I thought I'd turn to the group.

Friday, November 21, 2008

8:46AM - Asking for help with LJ user doc


I'm a LiveJournal volunteer helper, in charge of the documentation side of things (such as it is). Most of the people who currently help with that come from LiveJournal technical support and know what users are asking and what's missing from the FAQs, and we can write decent answers to specific actual user questions, but whether for lack of time, inclination, or skills, keeping FAQs current and fixing the flaws we find in them is harder (although we're fairly good at spotting possible improvements based on users' reaction to the FAQs).

In short, we're not technical writers, and it shows. (Although I spotted a familiar name on the community profile. *waves at bridgetester*) If anyone of you is interested in pitching in, or pointing others at this, comment (or poke me), and I'll set things in motion.

2:21AM - style guide

Recently I accepted an internship position in a technical publication department. I may have the opportunity to create a Style Guide for the department, since they do not have one, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend resources in creating a Style Guide. I'm very excited about my internship opportunity and I think pull off creating a quality style guide, I would distinguish myself to become a regular employee after the internship.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

4:54PM - Version Control

We're considering changing our version control system for documentation. Development wants to change theirs to Git, which is a bit unsuitable for the amount of binary files we have to check-in/out on a weekly basis.

What version control system do you use and what are the major benefits/pitfalls?

Current mood: curious

Monday, November 3, 2008


What help authoring tool do you prefer?

I've just been handed a project where I need to create a user's guide for some online software that is used in our organization, and I'm thinking an online help system might be best. I've never done that before, and I'm the only tech writer, so I'm turning to you for help. I'm familiar with RoboHelp in the sense that I've heard of it :-). Since I can pretty much request whatever I want to do this, what HAT do you like best? (Bonus points if it's something I can learn to use fairly quickly.)

Friday, October 31, 2008


What are your thoughts about 1 space or 2 spaces between sentences?

I'm a fan of 1 space. With proportional fonts, 2 spaces is pointless. In my current job, I'm the one who (mostly) gets to decide format issues, and so I've declared us to be a 1-space place. Stuff I write has one space, and I do a search and replace for anything sent to me to edit. However, I've told people that if they specifically request that I leave their 2 spaces alone, I will [even though it pains me ;-)]. Luckily most people don't care, so I can do what I want. One person has argued about the issue with me and thinks I'm insane for not having 2 spaces because it is necessary for the reader to properly pause when reading. I've explained why I disagree, but we've just decided that what she sends me I'll leave with 2 spaces; it's not worth any drama. (At this point, none of what we produce is online, so the fact that stuff rendered in HTML automatically only has 1 space isn't a factor. Yet.)

My previous place of employment, however, was strictly a 2-space place. (Again, nothing produced online.) I suspect this was because the lead editors who declared such things were in their 60s and thus had 2 spaces ingrained into them. (Actually, the person at my current place of employment who thinks it must be 2 spaces is in her 50s, so it's probably the same issue for her.)

So... any strong feelings amongst anyone here?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

7:40PM - Tools and Technologies: Structured Authoring and Content Management

For those of you in the Greater Toronto Area next month (around November 13)...

The Toronto Chapter of the STC (http://stctoronto.org/) will be hosting a seminar, where attendees will hear about implementing structured authoring and content management systems from fellow technical communication professionals.

A very interesting topic for those of us in the field!

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