What did you learn when you competed in the STC competition?

Subject: What did you learn when you competed in the STC competition?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Martinek, Carla" <CMartinek -at- zebra -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 10:44:57 -0500

Carla Martinek wondered: <<If you've competed in an STC (or other technical doc) competition in the past as a judge and/or a submitter, what did you learn from participating in the competition that helped you improve your documentation and/or your skills?>>

Haven't felt motivated to compete lately, but some thoughts based on results many years back:

First, I learned that all judging guidelines are at least partially arbitrary, and that objectivity is more sought after than real. For example, some of STC's technical art winners strike me as lovely paintings that communicate little or no technical information: excellent marketing pieces, but useless for the kind of work we do.

Trying to shoehorn every publication into a one-size-fits-all set of criteria leads to occasional mismatches. You need to carefully explain to the judges where you feel the criteria are inappropriate for your particular document. This thought process can also be an excellent exercise in audience analysis (something we should all do more often), since the competition judges are every bit as much your audience as the people who will actually read the document. If you don't know and adhere to the judging criteria, your chances of success are much lower. And if you can't explain where these criteria are not appropriate for your audience, then you don't understand your audience.

Second, I received lots of small useful bits of feedback that I could act on -- once I "got over myself" and reacted to the comments rather than my own wounded pride. <g>

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
Coming soon: _Effective onscreen editing_ (http://www.geoff-hart.com/ home/onscreen-book.htm)


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What did you learn when you competed in the STC competition?: From: Martinek, Carla

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