Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone!

It has been an interesting year. When this year started, I had no idea I would not be at EarthLink anymore. I did not know how difficult it was to run an STC Chapter. I did not know how difficult it was to get someone to run the chapter newsletter. I didn't know how difficult it was dealing with difficult people as a chapter president.

Now on to the new year. Do you make New Year's resolutions? I do sometimes and sometimes I don't. I believe, if I am not going to keep them, then why make them? Comment on this blog and let me know.

Here are some of my resolutions for this year:
  • Play more golf!
  • Help make this year's Currents conference the best conference ever!
  • Find someone to run CommLink! Someone who will consistently put out monthly issues.
  • Show appreciation to the wonderful people that help run our chapter!
  • Thank my wife for allowing me the time to attend STC events and for supporting me in my position as chapter president.
  • Figure out the best way to provide assistance to Howard (and the other officers) as he takes over as chapter president in June.

I'm sure I will have more over the next few days as the New Year approaches. Until I see you next year, I hope you and yours will have a wonderful New Year and that all of your resolutions will be easy to keep!

Until next time ...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Party was Great!

I hope you didn't miss the Holiday Party this past Tuesday night. If you did, you missed a great time and great food.

I want to thank Robert for putting this together, for finding the place, and the great door prizes. I want to thank Holly for the interesting and fun games we partook in. I want to thank Smoke Jack BBQ restaurant for the wonderful service and great food! And I want to thank everyone that came and brought a new toy! I don't have the exact number at this point, but I believe the Children's Restoration Network will be very happy!

I always enjoy seeing people again that I haven't seen in a while. And meeting spouses and children of those people I know through STC. I met Kathleen's husband for the first time (we talked golf - he's a high school golf coach!) and Debbie's daughter (what a sweety! Debbie, I know you must be proud!). Dirk and Michelle shared a table with me and my wife (Paulette). We also were a team for Jeopardy! We did fairly well, but need to brush up on Atlanta history.

My only regrets were that I didn't have more time to spend with each of you who attended. Thanks goes out to TechLinks for attending. I wish everyone could have attended. If you didn't, make plans to do so next year. It is one of those events that really make your holidays happier!

Until next time ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all of you and to your families,

I just wanted to take a moment of your time to wish you all Happy Holidays.

This time of the year makes me think of family and friends and fun! And, right now, I am thinking about our STC Atlanta family. I would like to personally invite all of you to the STC Atlanta Holiday Party. The party takes place next Tuesday, December 18, at Smoke Jack BBQ in Alpharetta which is located at 29 South Main Street, Alpharetta, GA 30004. Their phone number is 770-410-7611. And here is their web address:

This is an entirely social/networking event (there will be no speaker), so come prepared to mix, mingle, and have a good time. All you have to do is provide a new unwrapped toy, and we'll provide a full sit-down dinner! How can you beat that?

If you can't get a toy in time, just bring $10. This social event is for members and friends of members who want to tag along and learn more about STC Atlanta and its members.

As our Community Services Manager, Julie Brock says:
“Bring a Gift and Make a Difference

Children's Restoration Network (CRN) is holding its 13th annual 12 Days of Caring campaign this December to collect new toys, gifts, and clothing for over 1,900 children living in shelters and group homes in 18 counties around metro Atlanta. You can read more about CRN and its mission at Last year, STC Atlanta chapter members donated over thirty gifts to contribute to CRN’s campaign. This year we’re hoping for a repeat performance. Bring a gift to the December 18 holiday party at Smoke Jack BBQ in Alpharetta and we’ll waive the $10 entry fee.

Please bring gifts unwrapped so that CRN can make sure each gift goes to the child or teenager who will appreciate it the most.
Items needed
New toys, gifts, games, books, new clothing, shoes, winter clothing, cosmetics, ethnic dolls, CDs, alarm clocks, watches, sports equipment and clothing, jewelry, scrapbooks, baby items.

CRN typically receives more than they need for younger kids and less than they need for older kids. They especially need clothes in sizes XL to XXXL and shoes in sizes 9 to 12.”

So, please, come and enjoy a fun evening of food, fun, and networking! And you will be able to help a needy child at the same time.

Please RSVP to me by Monday morning, December 17, so we can be prepared with enough food and fun for everyone.
Again, I hope all of you have the happiest of Holiday Seasons, and I hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Once more with feeling!

I can't believe it has been this long since my last post. Whew! too much going on! I have had seven interviews in the last three days. Almost too much to take in. Still unemployed, though I have some interesting prospects.

Much is happening in the world of STC Atlanta.

First, I would like to congratulate Dr. Michael Hughes for his nomination as 2nd VP for the Society! I hope all of you will join me in congratulating Mike and in supporting his candidacy! His expertise, foresight, and sense of humor will be an asset to the Board of Directors for the Society. He has been an academic and a working stiff, and will bring a unique perspective to the office. (And having a representative from the Atlanta chapter on the board will be cool!)

Our last chapter meeting was a joint meeting with the Atlanta interactive Marketing Association (AiMA). If you missed it, you missed an excellent panel. I know there were at least nine members of the chapter there. Several of them remarked as to how this was a great idea and opened up a side of technical communications that has long been ignored. If you are a consultant or independent contractor, you missed an opportunity to learn much about generating leads and the entire nurturing of leads process. Thanks to Robert for arranging this meeting.

Our next chapter meeting will be on Tuesday, November 20, and will be back at our usual location in the Mirant building in the Perimeter area. Please see our website for more information: In this chapter meeting, Dr. Mike Hughes will present on "The Anatomy of a Help File: An Iterative Approach." Mike always provides very interesting presentations. So don't miss it!

Our Holiday party is coming up on December 18th. The details are being worked out by Robert as we speak. I will post the details as soon as they are available. But it will be a very festive affair and I look forward to seeing all of you there. It will be in Alpharetta and we will be supporting the same charity as last year. Julie Brock is handling this part of the party, but if you bring a new, unwrapped gift, the $10 cost of attending the event will be waived! What a great deal!

In January, Mark Wallis will present on "How to Run a Successful Pilot Project for DITA (or Any User Assistance Project)." Long title, but very useful and timely information. I know a lot of us are getting into DITA. Come and learn!

We have a tentative schedule for the rest of the chapter year that includes Scott Abel, the Content Wrangler; Paul McKeon; the Awards banquet in April; and much more. Stay tuned!

And don't forget the Currents conference! It is scheduled for March 14 and 15 at SPSU in Marietta. Check out the information at: The Call for Presenters is currently available at:

Do you have something you would like to present? Get out there and present! Send us a proposal!

Are you preparing a presentation for the STC Summit in June? What better way to rehearse your presentation than in front of a friendly Atlanta area audience?

If you have questions that aren't answered in the above links, contact our Currents conference manager, Dirk Bender.

Well, I hope to post on a more consistent time frame for the rest of the year. I hope to see some of you at Consensus Judging Day this Saturday. BTW, I would like to thank Roger Siegel and Macy's for allowing us the use of their facilities for this event.

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where have I been?

Hello readers of this blog. I have been meaning to post to this blog and just haven't gotten around to doing it. I have been busy acclimating myself to the role of unemployed technical communicator. But I haven't been sitting around at home with nothing to do.

I have been performing my duties as STC Atlanta Chapter president. I have been to a board meeting for TCAB (Technical Communication Advisory Board for SPSU - I serve on the Communications committee). I have been to a meeting of the TCAB Communication Committee. I have been to the Parisian Soiree'. I have been to Florida 3 times in 6 weeks (Once for a wedding, once to plan a 40th birthday surprise party for our great-nephew, and finally to attend the surprise party.) I have had about 6 interviews (not all with the same company, although one of the companies had me interview with about nine different people - it was fun, though). I just hope I get one of these jobs soon! It is rough sitting around sending resumes, writing cover letters, waiting for calls for interviews, and going to interviews!

It doesn't seem it has been more than a month since my last post. I really apologize. It is taking more than I thought to acclimate to unemployment. And, my family seems to like my unemployed status! They give me things to do with my "long empty days." I mean, I don't have anything to do, so I can just do this or that for them! And, it is really not a big deal because I really do like to stay busy. (I'm not complaining Paulette!)

This is a short post. I will post more later today about STC Atlanta. There is much going on from the competitions, to the successful speaker recruitment for our Currents conference this nest March to a joint meeting tonight, and on and on! Stay tuned!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Reality Strikes

Reality is finally setting in. When I started this job at EarthLink, I was thinking that I would be here until I retired. It's not that many years! And now, with the layoff of 900+ employees, I am beginning to realize that I will be working somewhere else by retirement.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and as hard as this one has been to take, the silver lining is there. I realize how very lucky I am. I have a profession that I really enjoy and I don't think I will have any problem finding work. I have many, many friends who have called or emailed to offer their support and assistance in finding a new place to land. I have a very generous severance package that will give me the luxury of taking my time finding that perfect job! (Although it would be neat if I could get another job very quickly. Then I could invest the severance money so I would have something to fall back on or us for that vacation I would like to take!)

When I was initially told by my boss that I would be part of the layoff, I had assumed that the layoff was limited to the Municipal Networks business unit of EarthLink. Boy, was I wrong. 900+ people, which includes every technical writer in the company, both here in Atlanta, and in California and Tennessee. Some of them, like me, have a last day of September 14. Some, like STC Atlanta's newsletter editor, Paul, have until late November. And, still others, like Drew, have until the 21st of December.

Anyway, it is what it is and we just deal with it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Today's the day! Finally!

Today, EarthLink holds meetings with all employees to announce the "restructuring" schedule. I am very glad it is happening so that all of us "EarthLinkers" will finally know if we still have a job or if we are to prepare to move on. I am assuming, since my boss told me a few weeks ago, that I am going to be leaving.

If you are using my email address, please change to This is my home address and I will be using it until further notice. I was just thinking about the number of places where I need to update/change my email address. This is going to be fun!

More to come!

STC Chapter Meeting

On the 21st of August, STC Atlanta held the monthly chapter meeting. Different about this meeting, other than the content, was the appearance of a friend that I hadn't seen in a few years. Sheila Gatlin was a fellow Master's student at SPSU. We shared several classes and collaborated on some projects. It wasa so nice seeing her and spending a little "networking" time discussing the old days and what is happening in her professional life now. This networking, in my opinion, is one of the really great things about STC chapter meetings.

Tonight there is another Happy Hour at Paizanos in Norcross.

"Join the Atlanta STC Chapter for happy hour (6 - 7 PM) on August 28, 2007 at Paizanos in Norcross. The happy hour is an informal meeting held about four times a year in different cities throughout metro Atlanta. The allows members who live or work in the designated location to network with their fellow STC chapter members while learning about the latest trends in the technical communication field. The happy hour's main purpose is to make it convenient for those unable to attend the monthly chapter meetings a chance to become more involved with their chapter.
If you're interested in joining us, please RSVP to Joe Scardina at by August 22 so reservations can be made.
For directions to Paizanos please visit their web site at Hope to see you there."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

STC Member Forum

Do you subscribe or read the STC Member Forum ( If you do, you might have noticed an issue that surfaced some time ago. There was an email that went out from the Society ( It requested your participation in a survey for Knowledge-Based Governance. (These surveys, in my opinion, are good things. The more the Society board knows about members needs and wants the better.)

One of the questions in the survey related to the "auto-assign" feature in the new membership management software the office is implementing. And this has been a topic of some rather testy comments on the STC Member Forum. It seems that the auto-assign function picks what chapter (or geographical community, if you prefer) to place you in when you become a member or change addresses. Here in Atlanta, that isn't an issue because there is only one chapter to belong to in the state. But, if you live in the New York City area or the Los Angeles area, it can become a problem.

On the STC Member Forum, a member from the New York area moved. They had been a member of the Connecticut chapter. Because they moved closer to the New York City area, the auto-assign feature kicked in and re-assigned the member from the Connecticut chapter to the New York City chapter. And, to top that off, the member wasn't notified of the change in chapter membership. They found out by accident.

So the president of the Connecticut chapter tried to get the board to change the policy and de-activate the auto-assign feature, at least for the Connecticut chapter. The Society sent out a survey to the Connecticut members that was, in my opinion, poorly worded and that did not explain the reason for the request. The voting on the survey was "inconclusive" so the auto-assign feature is still active.

The new survey that was sent out to the entire membership asked the same question with no explanation at all. Should the auto-assign be a feature in the new membership management software or not. I imagine, unless you have been following this development in the STC Member Forum, you didn't have a clue as to the reason for the question. (I would be curious to know how you answered this survey question.)

Admittedly, I am not a association management expert. I have no idea what constitutes "best practices" for associations. But I fail to see the value in this feature. Can you enlighten me? Please comment if you understand the reason why we would want our membership affiliations to be determined by a software program and not by us. I want to know. There has got to be a reason else our newly hired Society office staff and Executive Director would not be pushing this as a question. I just want to understand. And, then, maybe they are not pushing it. Maybe it was just a poorly worded question.

Until next time.

Tech Writing Blog Wiki Directory

Tom Johnson just set up this blog directory for those of us who blog about technical communications. If you blog on technical writing or related material, go here: to see more. Add your blog to the list.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


As you probably know, competition time is here! I'm sure all of you have something you have worked on that you need your peers to validate as the best dang technical communications ever! Well, now is the time! Let's all enter something!

If you need information on our competitions here at Atlanta chapter STC, follow this link: Michelle Schoen has put together a page that gives you everything you need to know to enter our competitions. She has a video where she explains it, she has three audio files that discusses what makes a winning entry, how to win the competitions, and how to judge in the competitions. So check it out.

Mike Hughes pointed out that the entry form (accessible from this page) says it is interactive but it isn't. I will work on making it interactive so you can fill out the form online and then print it out. If your handwriting is as bad as mine no one would be able to read it if I hand wrote it!

Until next time!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

STC Council Meeting

Last evening was our monthly council meeting. I really enjoy these meetings. We get to enjoy time around others with like minds. And we get to discuss issues concerning the future of STC Atlanta Chapter.

Many exciting things are coming up. Our next few meetings are coming together nicely. In two weeks we have a 3-way Development Team Showdown. Learn how the "three heads of the development monster" battle it out!

In September, we have Alison Reynolds, from Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology in New Zealand. She will discuss the results of her STC Academic-Industry Collaboration committee study relating to job skills. She is presenting this report in Houston to an STC Academe-Industry Summit. We will be the first to hear the results.

September 28 is our deadline for accepting entries into our annual technical communications competition. We are accepting technical publications, online communications, and technical art entries. If you have something that you are especially proud of, submit it now. Check out the website at:

In October we will have a joint meeting with the Atlanta interactive Marketing Association (AiMA). This will be focused on B2B content. How it is created and how it is used.

In November, our own Dr. Michael Hughes will present "The Anatomy of a Help File: An Iterative Approach." I know we will all want to be there for that.

In December we are planning our Holiday Party! After the success of last year's holiday party, where we enjoyed food, music, and networking, and where we collected toys and other items for distribution to the Children's Restoration Network.

Next year we have many things coming up that deserve mention here. We have Jean-luc Duomont of Belgium speaking at Currents. We will have a golf tournament in conjunction with Currents for the first time this year. The golf tournament will serve as a fundraiser for our chapter.

We will have a booth at the 2008 conference in Philadelphia advertising what to see/do in Atlanta when STC comes for the international conference in 2009.

So exciting things are coming up. I'm sure you don't want to miss any of this! I am very excited!

Country Music, Life, and Getting Along

Let me say right here that I really enjoy country music. I was listening this morning and heard a new song by Toby Keith.

(If you follow country music at all you will know who he is. If you don't, well turn on a country radio station and listen for a few songs. You will probably hear one of his songs!)

Anyway, there were a few lines in his new song that really struck a chord with me. It reminds me that, sometimes, we just don't agree with our colleagues.

"Hate me if you want to
Love me if you can!"

I mean, that says a lot. As Popeye would say, "I am what I am!"

"Why don't we just agree to disagree!"

This is my thought when faced with a situation where someone gets very angry that I can't see their point about something. We all have strong beliefs about some things. And how we feel about these things will not be changed by arguing with people. So let's just agree to disagree and not get angry and decide we don't like one another any more. We just have something that we can't agree on.

And so it is with our work life as a technical communicator. We each have strong feelings about the way we document something. We have strong feelings about how we write training. We have strong feelings about how we present technical information. The point being that there is more than one way to accomplish technical communication. We need to learn from our peers. We need to be more accepting of their opinions. Sometimes they may have a better idea or way. And, if you can't agree with their way of doing it, just agree to disagree.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hello to Job Hunting!

I work for EarthLink. Specifically for the EarthLink Municipal Networks business unit.

I think it was in February when our CEO, Garry Betty passed away of cancer. The past few months have been spent by the Board of Directors searching for a replacement. A couple of weeks ago they hired Rolla P. Huff as our new President and CEO. I suppose new CEOs have to show they can generate profit quickly, and one of the quickest ways to generate more profit for a company is to eliminate a few bodies! Decreasing the payroll has an immediate effect on the bottom line. Stockholders of our company will love it.

Anyway, as a technical writer, I am sure I will be one of the first eliminated. EarthLink has a policy of giving generous severance and notices, but nothing really helps or make you feel any better when you are out there looking for a job.

Nothing is set in stone as they say, and my job might not even be eliminated, but I believe the proverbial handwriting is on the wall! The executives are reviewing the positions that we need to operate and still make a profit. At this point, we don't know when a decision will be made. But I am not going to sit back and wait. I am being proactive and am visiting job sites and putting out my resume and trying to get a feel for what kind of jobs are out there. I can't afford to be unemployed for any long length of time.

So, Hello to Job Hunting! If any of you know of available jobs out there, just let me know.

Parisian Soiree - Where great minds meet and mingle

As you may or may not know, I am a member of the Technical Communications Advisory Board for Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU). We are having our 2nd Annual Fundraiser on Tuesday, October 23, 2007, at Atmosphere, a mid-town Atlanta restaurant, from 7 Pm until 10 PM. The funds we receive support the technical communications programs at SPSU.

This event will include a silent auction with many neat items.

The cost includes a 3 course meal including appetizers, dessert, tea and coffee. (Adult beverages are on your own.) All this for a donation of only $55 per person! Come and join your fellow technical communicators and SPSU grads for a fun night. I hope to see you there!

If you want to attend, send a check made out to: SPSU Foundation to: Claudia Ludlow, 3350 Summer View Drive, Alpharetta, GA. 30022. Closer to the event there will be a PayPal link on the TCOMmons website for those of you wishing to pay by credit card.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meeting in September

I have wonderful news!

I have been talking with a professor from New Zealand who has been doing research on technical communications and technical communicator's tools and what it takes to be successful in the field. I wanted her to speak to our chapter about her research . And I am happy to report that she has agreed.

Her name is Alison Reynolds and she will speak to us at our September meeting which we will be rescheduling for the 4th Tuesday in the month (September 25) to accommodate her travel schedule. This is exciting. You should plan to attend for a lively and exciting discussion on technical communication tools and you! (Brian, if you are reading this, take special note!)

So come to the meeting in September, welcome Ms Reynolds, and be ready for a lively discussion.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chapter Update

STC Atlanta Chapter Update for July 2007

To keep up with day-to-day STC Atlanta chapter news and developments, read the President's blog (, visit our chapter Web site (, and visit Michelle Schoen’s podcast site (
Upcoming Events
July 17 Chapter MeetingExtended Networking, Interesting Topics, & Other Stuff
Using a progression-style format, you can rotate from table to table to network, discuss topics of interest to technical communicators, and learn how to enter the Chapter competitions.

The meeting will be in Dunwoody at Mirant Corporation, 1155 Perimeter Center West, Atlanta, 30338, across the street from the Sandy Springs Marta station at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Abernathy. (map)

Networking at 6:30 p.m.; meeting at 7:00.
Tentative Future Programs
August 21 – Development Team Showdown
September 18 – Flare vs RoboHelp
October 16 – Joint meeting with the Atlanta interactive Marketing Association (AiMA)
November 20 – The Anatomy of a Help File: An Iterative Approach – Presented by Dr. Michael Hughes

If you don’t see your favorite program, contact Robert Armstrong.

August Software Saturdays return!
The success of our Software Saturday class on a Decent Exposure to FrameMaker has resulted in a new Software Saturday on vector graphics.

The class will be taught at HelpWrite, Inc, 3070 Business Park Dr., Suite A, Norcross, GA 30071.

Classes will be limited to the first 10 participants. Participants will receive a copy of DrawPlus software, instruction, and a workbook. Watch our chapter website for more information. Specific date will be announced soon.
Missed an STC Atlanta chapter meeting? Want to know what's going on with fellow STC members? Check out Michelle Schoen's Podcasts for in-depth interviews and recorded Atlanta chapter meetings.

Lunch with an Expert
The STC Atlanta Chapter is beginning a new program to put senior experienced members in touch with others in a way that keeps things deliberately informal. We looked closely at the Mentoring Program, and there was a general agreement that the mentoring relationship requires a level of time and commitment that few could sustain and was perhaps intimidating to many.

Since everyone eats lunch, it made sense to try a different approach centered around that congenial activity. We’ve got a list of senior members with a wide range of professional interests and experience, and they’re ready to share the benefit of their wisdom with a fellow Chapter member over lunch at a mutually agreeable time and place.

If you’re struggling with a project, looking to branch our into a different area of technical communication, investigating an academic technical communication program, or just wanting to connect with a new professional colleague, send an email with a brief description of what you’re interested in talking about, what part of town you’re in, and your contact information. We’ll be back in touch with the name and contact information of one of the Experts.

There are only a couple of ground rules: the Expert gets treated to lunch and you provide some feedback about the program. Everything else is up to the two of you.

Email your request or any questions to Roger Siegel.

Best Practices Conference
If you are interested in a conference on Best Practices with a great selection of speakers and presenters close to the Atlanta area, here you are. Speakers will include JoAnn Hackos, our own Carol Barnum, Glenn D’Amore, Dave De Yoreo, Charles Dowdell, Neville Fleet, Irene Hammerich, Ed Hougardy, Brenda Horner, Jeff Kaminski, Art Kedzierski, Monti Lawrence, Melody Locke, Julie MacAller, Denise Moore, Palmer Pearson, Mark Poole, Ginny Redish, Rosanne Scriffignano, Suzanne Sowinska, Valerie Stoehr, Beth Thomerson, Michel Uyttendaele, Scott Wahl, and Daphne Walmer.

This conference will be held at the Chateau Elan Inn in Braselton, Georgia. If you have never been to Chateau Elan, it is worth the trip, even without the conference. For more information, follow this link:

Help Us Update Our List of Companies that Hire Technical Communicators
We are trying to update our website with an accurate list of companies in the Atlanta area that hire technical communicators. Please visit to see if you can help us update this list. If you know of any companies that hire TCs that aren’t on this list or if there are any companies on this list that do not hire technical communicators, please let me know.

Announcing New Volunteers
During the last month, two more volunteers have stepped up to help our chapter. Please join me in welcoming them and thanking them for their service to our chapter:
Kathleen Baine – New Writers SIG Manager
Michael Hughes – Atlanta Conference 2009 Planning Committee Chair
Community Service Activities:
Helping the Global CommunityTook place on Saturday, June 16, 2007
More than a dozen of your fellow STC Atlanta Chapter members participated in this Community Service Event at MedShare International. Thanks to Julie Brock, our Community Service Manager. We will be returning for another event in the near future. Watch this update and our website for more information. Those of you who volunteered, many thanks. Those of you who didn’t, you missed a great opportunity to network with other volunteers and to help the global community.

MedShare collects and ships surplus medical supplies to countries in the economically developing world. MedShare serves healthcare facilities providing medical care to the needy in developing countries regardless of their religious or political affiliations. Your fellow STC members helped organize, sort, and package medical supplies to be sent to needy communities overseas.

Contact our Community Service Manager, Julie Brock for more information. Check out some pictures of the event: (

July CommLink Newsletter Available shortly
The July issue of CommLink is in final editing and will be available soon. Check out previous issues on the website!

One thing I would like to see in our newsletter is more input from our members. I know each of you has something to contribute. I know you are all writing and working on very interesting projects. Share your expertise! Wouldn’t you like to know what your fellow members are up to? I’m sure they would like to hear about your project or new software!

Contact Paul Phillips to contribute an article to CommLink!

Join STC!
Networking, education, monthly programs, annual conferences — there are a lot of reasons to join the Society for Technical Communication! Sign up today using the online membership form to receive the benefits of membership in a professional association. To change or upgrade your current membership, use the online Membership Change/Upgrade form. For example, if you are currently an E-member, but you are not affiliated with a chapter or international Special Interest Group (SIG), you can add a chapter and/or an international SIG to your membership.

Read the President's Blog
Keep up with Al Hood's thoughts on the state of the technical communication community. Visit the President's blog.

The blog created by Holly Harkness, STC Atlanta's Immediate Past President, can be viewed here.

Continuing Education Scholarship
If you're an STC Atlanta Chapter member who is either pursuing a degree in technical communication or attending a professional development seminar, you may be eligible for one of three $500 scholarships. In return for the award, the winners will make a presentation at a Chapter meeting or contribute an article to the Newsletter.

For more details, click here.

Competitions are coming!!!
Have you or your company produced technical communication products that you think are worthy of awards? Would you like your work to be recognized by your peers? Then consider submitting your work to the STC annual competitions.

Each entry will receive detailed comments from our judges. Three recognition levels are awarded in each competition category. Winners of the top award in each competition qualify for entry in STC's International Competition. Award winners in the 2007 competition locally will receive their award plaques at our 2008 Annual Awards Banquet in April. Award winners in the International Competition will be recognized at the 2008 STC Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

To volunteer to judge contact Bernice Hunter.

Looking for work?
Check out our chapter's job postings at

Happy Hour Events
Because of the awful traffic in the Atlanta area, we have introduced the concept of Happy Hour Events. We have 400 members spread out over the Atlanta region and we realize that many of these members cannot come to a monthly meeting in the Perimeter area, but they'd like to get together with other STCers in their part of the city to discuss issues related to our profession.

For example, we held a Happy Hour Event in Marietta and one in Alpharetta at local restaurants. Turnout was good and we had a great time visiting, networking, and sharing with each other. We want to continue these events with more planned for the very near future. At this point we are planning one in Lawrenceville/Gwinnett county area, the Alpharetta/Roswell area, and the Marietta/Kennesaw area.

If you would like to help organize a Happy Hour Event for your part of town, let me know: or our Membership Manager, Joe Scardina.

Volunteer Opportunities
In addition to the activities noted above, we are looking for volunteers to fill the following positions:
Student Liaison
Volunteer Coordinator
Currents Assistant Manager
SIG Managers for FrameMaker and Management SIGs

If you'd like to volunteer, contact me at your convenience. We have other volunteer opportunities of varying responsibilities. If you want to help but don’t want to spend every waking minute, contact me. I am sure we can accommodate your wishes.

Chapter Sponsors
Please remember our chapter sponsors and make sure to use their services when you can. Thanks to the following sponsors for supporting the STC Atlanta Chapter. If you would like to become a sponsor, contact the Sponsorship Manager, Gene Larson.

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Friday, July 13, 2007


Do any of you know anything about RSS? I know what the acronym stands for, but that's about it. If you know something about it, let me know.

Council Meeting

This past Tuesday was our monthly council meeting. We covered a lot of things relating to the upcoming month and year. We are really trying to be proactive and provide what you, the members of STC Atlanta really want to see.

We had a new volunteer: Kathleen Baine, a long-time member has agreed to serve as the New Writers SIG Manager. This is great! SPSU and Mercer have wonderful TCOM programs and are producing technical communicators for the workplace. Kathleen will work with the professors at each of these programs to provide events that will aid them as they attempt to become technical communicators in the workplace. She is planning events at least once per semester. If you see Kathleen, thank her for her help!

I was just wondering: to become a Senior STC Member, you must be a member for at least 5 consecutive years. What do you think about some sort of recognition program? Most people have no idea when they attain Senior status. I would like to thank the Senior members of our chapter by recognizing them with a Senior Member pin when they attain senior status. Would you like that? Tell me what you think. I would like to hear from you.

Howard Speck just submitted our papers to the Society that confirms our participation in this year's competitions. We will have Technical Publications, Technical Art, and Online Communications competitions this year. Make your plans now to participate. I know you have some document or online Help or drawing or something that you are proud of. Make plans to submit it to our competitions.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Happy 4th of July

Yesterday was the 4th and, as usual, my wife and I went to watch fireworks. It was great!

We went to the Marietta Square where they had cordoned off the entire square area downtown and turned it into a party! There were numerous activities for the kids (the is the first year we didn't have at least one of our grandsons with us), food, ice cream, entertainment (Carolina Rain was the band, if you know anything about country music!), and then the fireworks. It was a great time! We really enjoyed the fireworks. And, when it was over, we hustled back to my new truck to get out of there, but that wasn't happening! The entire city of Marietta and surrounding areas had descended on Marietta and we couldn't even get into the street from our parking lot.

So we locked up the truck right there and went back to the square to watch the winding down of the celebration. There were garbage trucks picking up the tons of garbage, the slides and jumping enclosures were being deflated and removed, people were looking for something to eat (but all the venues had closed), and the people were milling around waiting to be able to leave. There had been three trains during the evening right by the square. One more passed as we tried to get to the Krystal restaurant so we could get something to drink! These trains are long and some of the cars are painted with graffiti. They looked like gang painting or what I have always thought of as gang painting.

During this long evening, I thought about the celebration and how it relates to technical communication. There were Police Explorer units that had to receive training on crowd control. (Written by a TC!). There were the fireworks crews who had to have some training on how to run a fireworks display. The personnel running the trains had to have some instruction on how to run a train. The warning lights and cross arm for the trains had to have instructions in how to put them up and how they work.

And on and on and on! We must realize that our profession touches the lives of many, many people. Even the new driver golf club I purchased the day before had technical specifications on the shaft, the flex, the head, the grip, and more. I had to read through all of the specs on all of the drivers to help me decide which one to buy! There is nothing we don't touch. So when people say the technical writing profession is dying, I just wonder where they are coming from. I suppose our profession is becoming more and more specialized. We have user experience gurus and many other specialists, but, when you look really close, aren't they all technical communicators?

Hope you had a great 4th as we did!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Jean-luc Doumont to Speak at Currents!

We have tried very hard, especially Holly Harkness, our Immediate Past President, to secure Jean-luc as a speaker/presenter for the annual Currents conference. If you have heard Jean-luc speak at the STC International conference or elsewhere, you understand why! His talk on signs at this year's conference was one of the highlights for me. He is a dynamic speaker and will greatly add to the significance of our conference.

Thanks Holly for keeping with this effort and finally securing Jean-luc's services. I can't wait!

T-COMmons Meet & Greet

Last night was the T-COMmons Meet & Greet event at the Delkwood Grill. Lots of people I haven't seen in a while showed up! It was a fun evening with discussions ranging from SPSU to TCAB to things related to technical communications. There were several students in attendance. This was a good thing since students and the TCOM program at SPSU is the reason for these events.

I really enjoy these events. I am happy to support the technical communication program at SPSU. I thought I graduated such a long time ago (2003), but I was at a table with some who graduated from the Master's program in 1997 and earlier! It is a great program and was well worth the time and effort I expended to get my Master's. If you are thinking about the possibility of getting a Master's you need to investigate this program and what it offers for your career. It will be worth the effort.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Last night's meeting

The monthly STC Atlanta meeting was held last night at Mirant. The program was "Bringing the conference to you" and was a rather unique experience. Rather than have each panelist speak on his/her impressions of the conference, Robert Armstrong (2nd VP) asked questions that allowed for a healthy discussion of the conference. I think this format allowed a better understanding of the conference for the attendees.

Attendance was rather light. Hopefully, it was because of the truck crash on I-285 that closed down the expressway or maybe because of the rain, or both. Or maybe you, our members, are tired of this type of program. Are you? If you are or aren't I would like to hear from you. Comment on this blog or email me.

In fact, as we begin this program year, I would like to hear from any and all of you with your ideas about what you would like to see as a program. Or, if you can't think of any new program ideas, comment on past programs. Did you really like a particular program? Did you really hate a particular program? Is there a type of program you prefer over others? Without input from you we will not be able to provide what you want in programming. And, after all, you are the real reason we have programs!

One other quick question since I am asking for responses: Do you play golf? I know it is a silly question on a blog about technical communications and STC Atlanta. But I have had discussions with other long-time STCers and most of them say that technical communicators do not play golf. I think this is sort of like dismissing the needs of your users without finding out what their needs really are.

In a previous life as a cable television system manager, I made a decision to delete a channel (CMT) that carried country music because we had limited channel capacity and had to find room for a new pay channel, and because our customers were young professionals and did not listen to country music. Boy, was I wrong! I received so many calls that I had to find room for the channel and put it back on. So, before technical communicators as golfers are dismissed out-of-hand, do you? Do you play golf? Let me know.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ultimate Web 2.0?

While I was traveling to California on AirTran, I read their GO magazine. In the magazine was an article about using their online comunity to design t-shirts that they sell for $12 to $25. They have on-going design contests where the winners receive $2000 prize and the company gets the design.

Have you ever heard of the term "crowdsourcing"? It comes from Jeff Howe from Wired magazine. The term describes "using an open-call model where a web-based community replaces work done by a small group of professionals." This is the ultimate use of Web 2.0, in my opinion.

Could we use this sort of thing to design usable websites or Help or other technical communication products? Here are four of the company's commandments:

1- Allow users to help create your content. Whatever the project, let your users help make it better. (Usability anyone?)
2- Make sure your project is in the hands of the community. Listen to what the members of your community have to say and make them part of your company.
3- Let your community grow itself. Nurture the community and give them the tools to spread the word.
4- Reward the community that makes your project possible. They started with prize money of $50 for winning designs and now they pay $2000.

What do you think?

T-COMmons Event

As a member of the Technical Communication Advisory Board (TCAB) for SPSU, I felt it important to post this. Hope to see you there.

Looking to broaden your network of technical communication peers?

Want to socialize with other SPSU students? Want to connect with alumni and other professionals?

You need to attend the T-COMmons Summer Meet and Greet!

WHAT: T-COMmons Summer Meet and Greet

WHERE: Delkwood Grill, 2769 Delk Road, SE, Marietta, Georgia

WHEN: Thursday, June 21, 2007, 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Come mingle with other technical communication professionals, students, and supporters.

Order off Delkwood Grill’s menu of Americana food and learn more about the T-COMmons community. Information available on or email for more details.

Thanks, Carol!

Dr. Carol Barnum of Southern Polytechnic State University sent me an email recently that she was unable to comment on this blog because she didn't have a Gmail account. I had inadvertently set up commenting for logged in members only.

I have since changed that and opened commenting to one and all. So please comment.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pardon the lack of posts

I just wanted to mention the reason for my lack of posts over the past week or so. I was on vacation taking my grandson out to California.

My daughter, Robin Rainwater (whom many of you know is a technical communicator), is working remotely for the summer from California. (Not many companies would allow that, but Robin's company, ECS of Woodstock, GA, is allowing her to do just that.) Her husband, Jeremy, re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and is stationed at Twentynine Palms, CA. In October, he is being deployed to Iraq for six months, so Robin doesn't want to move to California yet. So she drove out a few weeks ago and we flew with her son, Ansel, (our grandson) to bring him out for the summer. At the end of August, Robin and Ansel will return to live with us until Jeremy returns from Iraq.

I don't know if any of you have traveled with an 8 year old, but I didn't have much time to spend blogging. So I apologize for that. I am very glad there are people like Jeremy willing to defend this country we live in!

I should be back on schedule now.

STC Atlanta Community Service Project

On Saturday, June 16, led by our Community Service Manager, Julie Brock, approximately 12 members of STC Atlanta donated their time to helping sort and box up surplus medical supplies at MedShare International.

Check out the pictures:

According to Sarah Jacobson with MedShare, the US medical establishment throws away about 5 tons of good medical supplies every day. So MedShare accepts donations of the good medical supplies and uses volunteers to sort and box for shipment to needy hospitals and medical facilities around the world. When she gave us the tour before we started on our project, she showed us a truckload of box medical supplies that are being shipped to Kenya. See the MedShare website:

It was a fun day and a learning experience. I was a paramedic in a previous part of my life and never thought anything about taking off gloves and throwing them away, only to have to re-glove a moment later. Sarah told us stories about the lack of simple things like gloves in some developing areas of the world. Some of the things I sorted were, gloves, Foley catheters, medical blades, drapes, saline for flushing various medical tubes, and on and on. I would like to do this again.

Thank you, Julie, for this wonderful opportunity for making a contribution to the betterment of the world. As STC members we should always be willing to help those in need.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Demise of Technical Writing?

What do you think about this article by Jared Spool? I like Michael Hughes' comment.

Tell me what you think.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Getting down to business

Last evening the new officers of STC Atlanta met to set goals, brainstorm about the coming year, and plan for the coming year. We met over pizza and beer in Alpharetta and it was a pleasant time. Present were Howard Speck, Robert Armstrong, Leigh Richardson, and Jeff Albers. Holly Harkness had a prior commitment.

We are the officers who have been elected to serve you this year and we are going to do our best to make this an exciting and eventful year.

Before I forget, I would like to remind you of Michelle Schoen's podcasts at One of her podcasts was picked up and linked by Tom Johnson at Tech Writer Voices, a podcast site with a lot of interesting information pertinent to technical communicators. Tom's site is at He has recorded a podcast from the Suncoast chapter meeting about Microsoft's new Vista operating system. He linked to Michelle's podcast of Rob Houser's presentation at the last STC Atlanta meeting.

I think this is a great thing. This is the sort of thing that all STC chapters should be doing. Every chapter has interesting meetings, presentations, and members and we should share this information. Kudos to Michelle for providing her podcasts! Look for her podcasts to be posted on the STC Atlanta website as soon as our new webmaster, Kevin Hayes has a chance to get it set up.

Back to our meeting, we discussed many topics like the possibility of rotating meetings to different areas of Atlanta. We will definitely be having at least one meeting at Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) sometime during the year. We are considering other locations. Tell me what you think. Post your comments below.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A new STC Atlanta year

Well, it is official. The officers for this year have taken their place. It is interesting the transitions that take place when a new STC Atlanta year begins. Each manager or officer is responsible for turning over the information they have to their replacement. Holly is responsible for turning pertinent information to me and I to Howard. This process is not defined anywhere that I have found. It just needs to be accomplished. Some people deliver CDs or DVDs. Some people do a verbal turnover. I hope at the first council meeting on Tuesday, June 5, these transitions take place and are successful.

Speaking of social media: there is a meeting of the Social Media Club that sounds very interesting. If you are interested, go to this link: There will be an interesting group of speakers, including EarthLink's own Dave Coustan. Social media is an interesting phenomena. It is the reason I am writing this blog. We want our members involved and informed.

There is so much I would like to discuss from the conference. I would like all of you to attend the chapter meeting in June where a panel of your peers that attended the conference presents their views on the conference. This year's conference was much different than year's past because topics and speakers were picked that would provide a more diverse learning experience. I believe it worked although there were some problems with some of the sessions. There were some session that were standing room only. I don't know how the STC could foresee the popularity of a particular speaker and/or topic to allow for more room or multiple sessions, but there needs to be a way. I was a little late getting to the session on Web 2.0 101 by Scott Abel and could not get in the room. I ended up attending my secondary session.

(If you have never attended the conference, I was given the advice to have a primary and, at least, a secondary session chosen so if the first one is full (or lame) you can move on to the secondary session. That was probably the best advice I received before my first conference.)

I had only one really lame session. This was billed as a panel session on "Making Your Career Happen." It really did not live up to expectations. The panel consisted of come excellent presenters that I have seen and heard in the past, so I'm not sure what happened in this session. The advice of the panelists were that tools should not be listed under skills in your resume. Anyone can be taught to use tools. If you can write well, that is what is important, not the tools you use to do the writing. The panel, for the most part, slammed the tool vendors at the conference for trying to sell their product. They said that the emphasis on tools in technical communications is misplaced.

See you all soon. In the meantime, if you want to talk to me, please call, email, write, comment, or just approach me with anything concerning STC Atlanta. I am looking forward to this year!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tonight's meeting

Tonight's the night. At the meeting of the Atlanta Chapter STC tonight at Mirant a new group of officers will be introduced to members. You have probably heard, but here is the list:

  • Al Hood, Chapter President
  • Howard Speck, 1st Vice President
  • Robert Armstrong, 2nd Vice President
  • Leigh Richardson, Secretary
  • Jeff Albers, Treasurer
  • Holly Harkness, Immediate Past President

These are the officers elected to serve you from now until May 2008. I can only hope we are as successful as the previous officers.

Looking forward, there are some things I am thinking about for the coming year:

  • In case you haven't heard, the Annual STC conference will be held in Atlanta in 2009. That means we will have to have a booth at the 2008 conference in Philadelphia.
  • This past year, under Holly's tutelage, our chapter won a Chapter of Excellence award at the conference. I want to shoot for a Chapter of Distinction award.
  • For our Currents conference, we will be moving to Southern Polytechnic State University for this next year. In previous years it has been held at Mercer University's Atlanta campus. This change will be a significant challenge this year.
  • During this year there will be a significant change to the way we receive funding for our chapter operations from the Society office. This change will impact our budgeting process and we will need to adapt to this change.
  • We will need many volunteers to help this year. If you have ever thought of volunteering, there is no time like the present. We have volunteer opportunities of all shapes and sizes. I am sure there is one to fit your time budget. Please ask!
  • I am honored to take over as president from Holly. I will strive to be as good a president as she was.

I will be writing in this blog as often as my job and duties as STC Atlanta president allow. If you have an idea about a topic, please let me know.

Monday, May 21, 2007

STC Conference pictures

A quick post to let you know that I have posted a few pictures from the conference on Flickr ( Hope you enjoy them. Please comment on the pictures and anything else.

Will post more later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leadership Day

Leadership Day is the day that leaders or those who want to be leaders are provided with the opportunity to learn how to be a Society leader. There were many interesting and informative sessions on many different topics. I will blog more about the sessions in another post.

What I want to say is that our chapter is a Chapter of Excellence!! Thanks to the leadership of Holly and the council, we have been recognized by the Society as an example for other chapters to strive for. Everyone in the chapter, especially our wonderful volunteers, that put enormous time and effort into our programs and events are to be congratulated! Without our volunteers, there would be no chapter and definitely no award!

Congratulations Atlanta!

Touch and Go on the way to Minneapolis

I have flown many, many times over the years, but I experienced a first on my way to Minneapolis! The flight was, for the most part, uneventful until we were about to land.

The pilot came on and said we were clear for landing at Minneapolis and we were starting our approach. Looking out of the window, I could see the airport ahead. All of a sudden we banked sharply and started going down at a sharper degree. I thought to myself that we sure were in a hurry to get down. When we got over the runway, we seemed to be coming in very fast and at a very steep angle. Just before we were about to touch down, the engine revved and we started climbing again!

We went around the city and the pilot eventually came on and said nothing was wrong, that we were coming in a little too steep so he aborted the landing and went around to try again. I guess I should be grateful because I got a better view of downtown Minneapolis the second time around. On the second attempt, the landing was routine. So I have arrived at the conference a little shaky, but I'm here. More from the conference later.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Thanks to all of our Volunteers

In my position as 1st VP this past year, I have seen firsthand the myriad things our many volunteers do for STC Atlanta. I knew we had some enthusiastic volunteers, but I really didn't know how great they were until I was in this position. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their hard work and wonderful attitudes. It makes serving as a chapter officer very fulfilling.

I would especially like to thank Holly Harkness for all she did this year to prepare me for my role as chapter president. I'm not sure how other presidents treated their 1st VP, but Holly was great about sharing and showing me what was expected of her and the decisions she had to make regarding the chapter so I would be ready to make those decisions and have a very small "breaking in" period! so thanks Holly!

Bernice Hunter is another one that has been wonderful over the years, but especially this year. Bernice runs the publications competitions. (She makes great sausage balls, too!) With Bernice as the publications competition manager, there were no worries. I hope, for Howard's sake she does it at least one more year!

Leigh Richardson is another tireless volunteer. I wonder if there is any job in the chapter that she hasn't done? Probably not. And this year is no exception. We needed someone to step up and run for Secretary and, of course, she stepped right up! And all with getting a promotion at work and having to manage quite a few people all over the world! I don't know how she does it!

Some newcomer volunteers that have stepped up this year are Paul Phillips as the CommLink Managing Editor. Our chapter newsletter had been MIA for many months. Paul made the decision to jump in and get it re-started! I know how really difficult it is to run the newsletter! I was Assistant Editor and then Managing Editor for a few years. I know that it is not as easy as it sounds. We are so very lucky to have Paul take over the newsletter. And he is going to do it again next year!

Michelle Schoen is another one that stepped right up after joining STC Atlanta. She was Hospitality Co-chair and now is doing that by herself. And she was elected to the nominating committee.

There are many, many more, but I have to leave for the conference. I will blog more about the wonderful STC Atlanta volunteers later.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Preparations for the Technical Communication Summit

It is the Monday before I am to leave to go to the conference in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday. I am really looking forward to the conference this year as it will be the first time I have attended as the incoming chapter president.

I have my airline tickets, I have registered for the conference, I have my reservations at the Hilton, and I have my rental car reserved. I leave Atlanta at 11:30 AM on Saturday. Saturday begins 5 intensive days of meetings, events, learning sessions, banquets, networking sessions, meeting new and previous acquaintances, and being very, very busy.

Holly Harkness (the outgoing STC Atlanta president) and I are holding a reception of STC Atlanta members on Sunday night between 8:30 and 10:30 PM in Holly's hotel room. We have about 30 or so members registered for the conference.

This is my first blog entry in this format. I hope to blog all through the conference. I wanted to wait until we could get the blog hosted on the STC Atlanta website, but there are a few issues with that and I don't want to wait. I hope you will come back and read this blog often. I will try to make it topical and pertinent to you as a member of STC.