Ruth-Ellen Flanagan <flanagan -at- TVDRS -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Wed, 15 Jun 1994 14:35:12 EDT
Trip Report for STC Annual Conference
May 16-18, 1994
I recently attended the STC Annual Conference in Minneapolis. It
was my first STC conference. I attended so I could present a progression
based on a paper I have written called "Creating Multiplatform Information
I tried to pick topics related to and different from the projects that I
am currently involved with. And of course, the few SGML sessions that were
scheduled on Wednesday conflicted with my session and with going home. If
I go again, I would probably try to go to sessions about totally unrelated
topics to what I was doing at the time. I also missed the closing speaker -
The conference got underway Sunday night with several receptions. I went
to check in at the Speaker's Reception, the First Timer's Reception, and
then the Opening Reception. The Opening Reception was a winter wonderland
theme - great food. I hooked up with the Boston STC chapter and also got
to meet briefly some of the noters on the TECHWR-L mailing list.
Opening Speaker: Gordon McKenzie
One of the best opening speakers I have ever heard. He worked for 30
years at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. He was quite a character - goatee,
ponytail, sneakers. He had a string of pictures hung across the stage
and they were numbered. Each person got a handout with the pictures on them.
|4 _________ |
| | No | |
|=====| Beach |=====|
| | Access| |
| --------- |
He asked the audience to call out numbers. He would pull off that sheet
and talk about what the sheet represented (the pictures were metaphors or
symbols of what he was going to talk about). Number 4 was a story about the
time he ignored the sign and got stranded on a cliff high above the beach. He
was finally rescued and the sheriff pointed out the stairs that weren't too
far from where they stood - but he couldn't find the stairs - that was why he
climbed over the no beach access sign. He saw people on the beach and knew
there was a way down, but the path he needed was not clearly marked.
He was talking about creativity (and bureaucracy), how to follow directions,
how to treat people, how to get along in organizations. He did it by
relating times in his life and working at Hallmark. He didn't get to all
of the topics - I suspect he never does - and depending on what numbers
get called out determines what shape the talk takes.
I hosted a table at the Networking Lunch. It was on my topic -
creating multiplatform information sets. I actually had people
sit at my table who were interested in the topic! We had lunch
and talked about tools and platforms and how to create help and
hardcopy for different platforms. Hosting was fun, but I would
have liked to have been at a table on a topic that was of interest
to me, but it did give me practice for my progression.
Customizing Online Help - presented by Johanna Jordahl Jones
Workshop presentation about how to customize your Windows Help files.
She did her presentation cleverly with Windows Help (using hotspots
to go to different topics). Most of her presentation talked about
things that are talked about in most basic books about creating online
Issues in Publishing Management Progression
Living Through Layoffs - presented by Jill Patton from Digital
Jill equates living through layoffs to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
She outlined the stages we go through. She had attended a seminar held
at MIT recently that talked about employment in the 90s. She had articles
to share like "The Ends of Jobs" by Richard J. Barnet (the global tourist
industry is the world's biggest employer!).
Three others at the table work for IBM. Two were managers who had
to lay off people. It is hard to exchange a lot of information when
the table is full and in 20 minutes. But Jill had good hanouts.
Spent most of my time in the vendor area talking to WexTech (Doc-To-Help)
and Frame Technology.
I was surprised that more publishing vendors were not there. ArborText wasn't
there, Interleaf wasn't there, Microsoft wasn't there. I really wanted to
see more tools shown.
The competition winners were on display. The best of show was on display.
It is called "For You - For Life" developed at Eastman Kodak Company. It
is a Breast Health Education Program package (video, brochures, reminder cards
and more). It was quite impressive.
On Monday night I went on the riverboat cruise on the Mississippi. Sat with
some of the Boston Chapter STC again. We had fun going through the locks.
We had a chicken and ribs dinner and were serenaded by a Dixieland type
3 piece band. The weather was great.
Went on the Science Museum of Minnesota tour. Some of the exhibit designers
spoke to us about how they go about designing exhibits for the museum. They
use technical writers to write text for exhibits. We got to see the
prototype shop where they create the displays. I guess I had never thought
about who actually wrote those descriptions next to everything in museums.
We then got to see the Omnimax Movie "Antarctica". They explained how the
OmniMax camera works and explained the difference between Imax (flat screen)
and OmniMax (curved screen).
Industry Demands Industry Knowledge
Presented by Emanuel Katzin, Thomas Barker, Roger Grice
(Roger was filling in for someone.)
According to Emanuel Katzin:
He says technical communicators coming out of technical communication
programs need to know industries and have a technical background. How
do technical communication programs do this?
He said that he recently had contractors go to work at Exxon. Exxon
canceled their contracts because they didn't know the oil business.
This was his lead in to what the problem is - Technical Writers who
aren't technical and don't know industry. (Of course companies
want experts but they don't want to have employees long term any
more either so how can they expect experts.)
He does sees a growing need for technical communicators.
He sees a growth in environmental and quality areas.
Tom Barker was from Texas Tech:
Their program tries to make sure that their students get what they need.
They encourage technical minors (computer science, biology, physics,
He sees current job market skills as: Writing
The market: Computer 47%
... misc. stuff in between
Things industry could do: Create reading lists for schools
Create a documentation library
Mentoring (I added that to his list)
Most in the session agreed that we need to be technical as writers.
(Some actually don't feel this way.) But, most agreed that you cannot
expect college students to become gurus in one area (the oil industry
for example), but that you can give them what they need to be able
to handle any technical area. You want to teach them to be able to
think (just like we all heard in 11th grade algebra).
Producing a Multimedia Product
Presented by Jane Donney, Kristine Henke, Ellen Roscoe Iverson (From IBM)
They described steps they took in planning, designing, and producing
multimedia. They use the brainstorming and story board approach.
The end of the session digressed into a tools talk (as did several of the
multimedia sessions - perhaps the conference needs more tools and hands on
sessions and less theory sessions).
Autodidactic Properties of Multi-Media Based Technical Communication
Elizabeth Weise RPI Doctoral Candidate
Her session dealt with designing user control in hypermedia CBTs.
If you allow the learner to jump wherever they want, do they really learn
the information? She is talking about CBTs where the user really needs
to know this information (OSHA standards, nuclear powerplants)
There is complete computer control, complete user control, and
adaptive control (this is what she recommends). She uses a quiz at
the end of a module. If you get a question wrong, it takes you back
to the section and you can look at it again. You can jump around within
modules, but not between and you have to pass the quiz before you can go
on. Self reporting doesn't work (people overestimate).
Writing and Editing Progression:
My session: Creating Multiplatform Information Sets
I had never heard of progressions before this conference. A progression
is a room full of tables with a topic at each table. People spend 20
minutes or so at 3 different tables at topics of their choice.
My progression topic was on creating multiplatform information sets.
I had small groups and we were able to talk about specific questions
they had about how to create multiplatform information. I cut out my slides
into puzzle pieces using foam core board - the theme of my paper is creating
a multiplatform doc set is like putting a puzzle together. I got lots of
compliments on those from people going by. Many of the people who came to
my table were dealing with IBM systems and others were on UNIX and now
moving to PCs. I think I was able to help several people start on their way.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Minneapolis was head to the
Mall of America. It is 72 acres of shopping and eating, 7 acres of
amusement park and much more. I spent several hours in the Mall and
hadn't seen all of it when I left that day.
Then I headed to Saint Paul to see Prairie Home Companion. I met Jill
Patton from Digital there. There were many STCers in attendance.
It was great! Not to mention that we got to see Beausoleil and Martin
Simpson. People actually scalp tickets for this!
On Sunday, I took a bus tour to Stillwater Minnesota. It is a town on
the St. Croix. It is known for its Victorian houses and antique stores.
It was a lumber center many years ago. Spent the afternoon searching
Before I left on Weds. I had to go back to the mall to eat at Planet
Hollywood and see the rest of the mall. Couldn't find my car on the way
out but finally figured out that I was on the wrong floor.
Got on the plane and as we were backing up, the pilot announced that he
was going back to the gate to deplane someone who was on the wrong plane.
He (from first class) wanted to go to Seattle - I hope he at least missed
his plane. We finally made it into Boston about 1 hour late.
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