Value of STC membership?

Subject: Value of STC membership?
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 09:37:31 -0600

We've spawned an interesting sub-thread here on the value
of belonging to a professional society (namely STC). We've
already heard from the networking and "it looks good on
your resume" camps, but here are a few points that haven't
yet been raised:

- If you attend meetings, you meet interesting people with
familiar as well as unfamiliar problems, and sometimes with
interesting solutions. It's a lot like techwr-l in that
way. I've met plenty of people at meetings, and solved (or
ameliorated) a few problems as a result; I hope I've also
helped others with their problems. I don't mean to knock
techwr-l and copyediting-l, but I've got to say that e-mail
isn't as much fun, or as wide-ranging, as an in-person
meeting. FWIW, I've never looked for a job based on these
contacts, and the possibility of doing so at some undefined
point in the future is a very small component of why I
attend.

- The value of society journals and newsletters is that you
get to read about problems and solutions that you never
imagined in your own particular context. Then, when the
problems suddenly arise in your context, you have some of
the mental tools to deal with them. This has happened to me
several times. The value of reading broadly as well as
deeply is that it keeps you from overly narrowing your
focus, and lets you apply lateral thinking to other
problems. I enjoy _Technical Communication_ specifically
for this reason, even though I no longer read all the
articles; sometimes just knowing that someone is working in
an area proves useful (I've written personally to several
authors to ask specific questions, and received
enlightening answers in response).

- Re. the quality of articles in Technical Communication
(TC): To put this in context, you should understand that TC
is trying to satisfy two very different audiences. On the
one hand, there is the "academy", university folk who are
accustomed to and demand a certain amount of theoretical
rigor, sometimes accompanied by fairly dense writing; on
the other hand, there are the more numerous "toilers in the
trenches", who are more interested in tools to help them do
their daily jobs than in theory. There are plenty of folks
(myself included) in between. No journal can meet the needs
of everyone in the audience, particularly when the audience
is this diverse, and TC is no exception. One solution that
STC has tried is to spin off a variety of SIGs on
special-interest topics such as online docs and (soon)
information design; another has been to produce occasional
special issues on various topics. Another solution (STC has
just formed a committee to redesign TC) might be to produce
two journals, one for the academics and one for the
workers, though I doubt this will happen; this solution
already exists in part in the form of the dichotomy between
TC (more theoretical or research based) and _Intercom_
(more practical and solutions-based). The current mix of
articles works pretty well for me. YMMV.

- Reading about writing is like buying all the Binford
power tools that the store has to offer: All the
theoretical knowledge in the world won't do you much good
without practice. You've got to write to get good at it.
Reading journals or belonging to a society just provides
the tools; it's up to the individual to put the tools to
work and to get good at using them.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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