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.