Mea culpa. I admit I’ve been terrible in the last week or two in putting any content here on TechCommGeekMom. It’s been a crazy two weeks. As I write this, I’m in-between sessions at the STC Summit. It’s been a non-stop whirlwind since I arrived here in Phoenix, to say the least. I’m absorbing a lot of information, seeing my tech comm friends, and making new tech comm friends.
I have my first STC Summit presentation tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, and I’m a little nervous, but I’ve given the talk a few times, so it’s not like I don’t know the material. Still, I need to put it all on my flash drive, and I just realized today that part of my presentation is a Prezi presentation that’s embeded, so I have to download that part onto my flash drive as well. And I have the Summit banquet and a last education session to attend before I can get to it! :-S
I will definitely be posting my notes from Adobe Day here soon, and I will also be writing up an article for the STC Notebook which I’ll post here as well to review my time here at the STC Summit. As a second-time attendee and a first-time speaker, the feel of this year’s Summit is different for me than last year’s Summit, so you’ll have to stay tuned for that.
With each big conference that I attend, I always look forward to Adobe Day, and Adobe Day at the 2014 STC Summit is no exception. You’ve probably read my past posts about Adobe Day from other conferences, so you know how rich in information they are. I’ve learned an enormous amount of information FOR FREE that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars from the leading experts in the field. It’s hard to find that anywhere else.
On Sunday morning, May 18th, 2014, Adobe is once again putting together a stellar group of technical communications luminaries to set our imaginations on fire! This year’s theme appears to be, “Vision 2020: The Demanding Job of a Technical Communicator.” Based on the descriptions of each speaker’s talk during this morning session, each will be providing advice and tools–free of any product promotion–that can help make our demanding jobs easier and more productive. I’ve heard all the speakers before in one way or another, and I can tell you that all of them are top rate. Most of them have spoken at previous Adobe Day events, and they are invited back time and time again because they have valuable information to share.
Kapil Verma of Adobe will be speaking about who he thinks are today’s technical communicators (hint: there’s more than one type!). Marcia Riefer Johnston will be talking about single-sourcing techniques she used to save her company USD$16,000! I’ve taken Marcia’s writing workshop and read her book, so I can tell you she have some marvelous tips. Kevin Siegel will be talking about how to combine something I love–e-learning–with technical documentation to make the documentation more dynamic and valuable! I’m looking forward to that. Bernard Aschwanden–the STC’s newly elected vice-president–will be speaking about using content strategy to help promote revenue growth. And last, but not least, a panel including all the speakers plus Tom Aldous of Acrolinx, moderated by Matt Sullivan, looks like it will be quite the lively talk.
Did I mention that breakfast, snacks, and lunch are included, too? And it’s FREE?
I know–you are saying, “Great! I want to go! I don’t want to miss out on this!” Great! But you do have to register so that Adobe knows you are coming! Make sure you register by 11:59 PM PDT on May 16th, because you don’t want to miss out!
Okay, I’ll admit this is going to be a slightly self-indulgent (and slightly long) blog post. I read something recently that said that there shouldn’t be so much “self-promotion” in promoting your blog. This has always been a blog that not only encourages community, but it also tracks my own journey through technical communications, for better or worse. Taking the time to do the year-end review of what’s gone on in the past year is a good exercise for anyone.
At first, I thought my year wasn’t all that great, meaning that it wasn’t exciting. I hadn’t achieved some things that I wanted to do; I did not fulfill all my tech comm resolutions for the year. But as I looked through photos of the past year on my mobile devices to come up with something to put in this blog post, I realized that a LOT of good things still happened this year.
The year started off with a bang, as I was finally working full-time after a year of unemployment. The new job ended up being a good opportunity. I get to work from home, I’m being paid well (a lot better than I ever had before), and it’s doing something that comes naturally to me–content management. I have had the chance to use my UX and web design abilities during this position, too. Things have gone well enough that my contract has been extended for another year. I know that there’s a good chance that later in 2014, the company I’m contracted to will be switching CMS software, so it’ll be an opportunity to learn a new system and flex those content management muscles. I’m looking forward to it! It’s been a long time since I had a job that I truly enjoyed and feel appreciated for what I do. In past positions, I would offer my suggestions and advice based on what I had learned from my social media connections, graduate school courses, conferences, and personal experience, and I’d be ignored. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t take my suggestion if there’s something valid that will discount it, but using the excuse of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s what the end user is used to, so why change it?” doesn’t cut it for me. There’s always a better way. This was the first position that actually gave me a chance to use my voice and makes some executive decisions that would benefit the end user. My manager supports my decisions 99% of the time, so that’s been a huge load off my shoulders. Stress has not been a major issue with this job, and I know I’m fortunate to have made this employment connection.
Having a job, and a good job at that, would make for a good year. But there’s been more.
2013 was the year that I started to go out on the public speaking circuit. It started with my first conference presentation at the STC-PMC Conference in March, followed by two webinars this past fall. Three presentations might not sound like a lot, but considering that I have only presented to my tech comm peers twice beforehand (my capstone presentation at grad school and an Adobe Webinar that Maxwell Hoffmann helped me with immensely in 2012), and all these presentations were STC-related, I figure that’s a pretty good feather to add to my cap. I’ve been told that the presentations were well-received, and I have gotten some good feedback, so I consider that a big success.
I also added an additional writing credential to my repetoire. I started writing a by-line for the STC Notebook blog that started out as a column as a newcomer for the 2013 STC Summit. That column has now turned into a regular monthly column for the STC Notebook called Villegas Views. Again, I feel like I’ve received some good feedback on my writing there, so that’s another success.
I attended three conferences this year, namely the STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference, the STC Summit, and Lavacon (although I was only at Lavacon for a day–hey, I still need to write about that! I’ll try to get to that soon!). The biggest one, of course, was the Summit, which was mindblowing for me. I loved being able to travel, considering I work from home day in and day out. (I’m not complaining, but it was a welcome change of scenery.) Actually, all the conferences were wonderful and overwhelming at the same time, and that sense of feeling somewhere that I belonged was never more evident than when I attended these events. I’m SO glad I did, and that leads me to the last thing that I found to be the greatest part of this year.
While I had started to develop some professional connections in 2012 through social media and through my first visit to Adobe Day at Lavacon in 2012, both social media and these conferences enabled me to expand my professional connections exponentially. However, it became more than just professional connections. I’ve ended up making some fantastic friends along the way. I know most people don’t think of me as being shy or introverted, but I actually am. I’m horribly awkward socially , and I know it. Social media helped with the introductions, for sure. A few in-person introductions have helped as well. I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many times again, but I have found that technical communicators to be one of the most friendly and inviting groups of people I’ve ever met. I have appreciated every person who introduced himself or herself to me in person when knowing me from my blog or a social media connection. I’ve appreciated the friendships that have developed over time from these connections. I’ve loved having some of these friendships with those who are industry leaders develop into mentorships as well. When one of those supportive mentors encourage me or tell me how proud they are of my accomplishments, I want to cry tears of joy. (Heck, I’m crying tears of joy just writing this!) For so long, I’ve felt like an outsider, so to have my professional peers look to me as an equal and show me constant support and encouragment is a huge boost that I’ve needed for years.
This blog has grown, too. The numbers aren’t done for the year yet as I write this, but I’ve added a lot more readers and had more response to TechCommGeekMom in 2013 than in 2012. I’m sure I’ll be doing more celebrating when the blog hits its second “birthday” in March, but for the calendar year, it’s been great. I know I haven’t always been able to keep up with this blog as much as I liked during this year, but I feel like the efforts that were made to grow and expand have been supported by the tech comm community.
So, thanks to all of you for reading my posts either here, on the STC Notebook, or in social media. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and share ideas with me. Thanks for continually teaching me more about technical communication, and helping me to expand my mind and my understanding of this profession, and teaching me how I can continue to grow in this profession.
2014 is already shaping up to be an exciting year as well. I will be attending three conferences before the year is halfway done, of which I’ll be presenting at two of them, I believe. I know, for sure, that one of the conferences I’ll be presenting at is the STC Summit 2014! That’s a big deal to me. I mean, think about it–only out of grad school two years, and already presenting at the annual Summit? Not too shabby, I would think. I’ll be continuing to write here at TechCommGeekMom, and I’ll still be writing my by-line for STC Notebook, and I’m hoping that there will be some more opportunities to do presentations either in-person or in webinars.
2013 has been quite the year for me…time will tell how 2014 will be!
In less than a week from this writing, I will be doing a new webinar that I was asked to do by one of the STC Special Interest Groups (SIGs). I was really honored to have been asked, and it’s about a topic that I think I know a little something about–blogging. After all, this little webspot has been going strong for about 21 months now.
But in putting this latest webinar together, I realized that while I felt that I could whip something decent together, it’s been a while since I had to craft a webinar presentation. This, in turn, reminded me that I had a promise to fulfull, as I sought out a reference in my personal library written by one of my tech comm knitting buddies. Pulling this reference out reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write this review since last spring, but had been side-tracked several times until now–when I really needed it most.
Sharon Burton’s book, 8 Steps to Amazing Webinars, is a slim volume of only 81 pages (and that’s the end of Appendix B), but it’s loaded with very concise information. 81 pages is all you need! Considering that this is a short and concise how-to book, it shouldn’t have taken me this long to write this! I truly try to read any books that I’m asked to review cover to cover, and this was a quick but highly informative read!
There are several things I like about Sharon’s book. It’s short and to the point, as already mentioned. For busy presenters who have many things to do other than solely doing webinars, this is great resource because she gets straight to the heart of what needs to be done. Additionally, one of the things that I’ve found that Sharon and I have in common with our tech comm perspective is that our views are highly customer service-oriented. Before my life in an IT/tech comm world, I came from a customer service/client services background, so much of her advice on the how and why webinars can be great marketing tools geared towards customers made a lot of sense to me.
Sharon’s eight steps take the reader from the point of understanding what a webinar is, through every step of the process of creating and following-up with the webinar, including choosing presenters, topics, technology needed, advertisting the webinar, and all the other preparation steps to creating the webinar. She even includes pointers on how to set up the presentation slides that are most likely going to be used in the presentation.
As I read the book, I was quickly reminded of the first webinar that I did back in 2012 for Adobe’s Technical Communications group (you can find the link on the right-hand column of this blog). I remember not knowing the first thing about how to put together a webinar. At the time, Maxwell Hoffman, who is one of the evangelists for Adobe TCS, guided and coached me through the process, and it ended up being a great success. Looking back, I would not be surprised if Maxwell was already well-versed in the steps that Sharon outlines in her book, because I’m fairly sure that we followed every single step. When I also look back to the first in-person presentation I did, which lead to a recent webinar on the same topic, I realized that I had followed much of the same steps again, and got a great response as a result. These steps are practically foolproof, so I can assure you that if you follow Sharon’s advice in the book–and much of it is really common sense, you should have success in presenting a webinar.
Sharon’s viewpoint in this book is from a marketing perspective, in that webinars are used to drive people to a brand, increase leads, and provide resources to your customers. And for 99.9% of time, this is a main focus for most people who would read this book. But even for people who are academics, for example, who are not necessarily trying to create a brand, but rather disseminate valuable information, this book is still helpful because it put the reader in the right mind-set to create a virtual presentation that is meaningful for his or her audience. For example, while I am promoting my “brand” of TechCommGeekMom, I’m not really selling a product or service the same way that a software company or communications service consultancy would be. (At least I’m not at that stage yet!) Even so, I know that when I present the webinars that I’ve done, there is some sort of value based on the type of information that I’m providing. By referring back to 8 Steps to Amazing Webinars as I prepared for this upcoming webinar, I knew that I was on the right track to maximize the information that I will be delivering. It also made me reflect, based on these steps, what made for a bad webinar, and I’m sad to say that I’ve attended a few of those in my time. I think I even remember one that Sharon and I attended at the same time, and I remember us talking about how disappointed we were with that one webinar, and we had the same sticking points about it.
I highly endorse this book for its strong content and its easy-to-read, straightforward language. Anyone who is doing a webinar–or even an in-person presentation–can gain some great pointers and advice following Sharon’s advice. Hey, it’s such good advice that the book is endorsed by the STC itself, and I know that many of their best webinars follow Sharon’s methods. So that says something right there!
You can find the book on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and XML Press websites. And be sure to follow Sharon on Twitter too– she’s @sharonburton, or on her blog found at sharonburton.com. She always has good information to pass along that goes beyond just how to do webinars!
I realized as I was writing this post that this would be my 500th post on TechCommGeekMom. Who knew that so much information and thought could accumulate through original posts and curated content? I’m also very close to my all-time 15,000 hits mark (only a few hits away at this writing). I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that I’d hit these benchmarks when I started this blog, but of course, I’m going to keep going! I debated about what I should write for my 500th post–whether to finish my Adobe Day coverage or do something else, and in the end, it seems fitting to finish my Adobe Day coverage, because in many respects, knowing and writing about the presentation of Scott Abel, aka “The Content Wrangler”, shows how far I’ve come already in my tech comm journey from beginner to covering internationally known presenters.
Scott is one of the most prolific and vocal speakers out there on the conference circuit speaking about content–whether it be content management or other technical communication topics. It also seems like he has written the forewords of many of the best tech comm books out there. He’s everywhere! To boot, he’s an accomplished DJ, and I found myself “bonding” with him over dance remixes and mash-ups while at Lavacon, because I always enjoy when he posts either his mash-ups or his favorite mash-ups on Facebook. (I’ll be writing a post about the relationship between tech comm and dance mash-ups in the near future.) He is a person who is full of so much kinetic energy that you wonder when he’s going to explode, but he doesn’t. Even the time I saw him at the STC Summit last spring with a bad cold, he was still more on top of his game than a lot of people would be on a good day. Much like Val Swisher, my love for all things Scott Abel also knows no bounds. He knows how to stir things up at times, but there is no denying that in his frenetic pace of delivering a presentation, you learn SO much. I’m lucky that he’s so kind to be one of my cheerleaders!
So when it came to thinking of a garden in Portland to use as an analogy to Scott, I had to deviate. In my mind, he’s the Voodoo Doughnuts shop located about four or five blocks away from the Chinese Garden. Scott’s talks always have lines going out the door, and like many of the Voodoo Doughnuts themselves, the unique flavors dispensed open your mind up to new and delicious possibilities and ideas, and you come back wanting more (hence, more long lines!). They are both crazy and sweet at the same time. You can’t beat that combination.
Scott was the keynote speaker for Adobe Day as well as the moderator of the discussion panel later in the event. Scott’s topic for his talk was called, “Five Revolutionary Technologies Technical Communicators Can’t Afford To Ignore.” If Joe Gollner went fast during his presentation, then Scott went at lightning speed, so my notes below are the highlights.
Scott started by telling us that translation is going to be an important part of automated content going forward. It’s important to understand that for the web, the World Wide Web (WWW) is equal to the “land of opportunity.” The WWW can reach a global market reaching new consumers. As American users, we forget that 96% of web users are not in the US. We don’t all speak English globally. In fact, less than 6% of the global population speaks English well, but don’t necessarily read or write it well.
Scott’s list of the five technologies the Tech Comm can’t ignore were as follows:
1) Automated Translation
Why would be need automated translation? We write for the *worldwide* web. There are over 6000 languages in the world, so translation is a big deal for a global reach and global connection. We need to recognize that content is written for both machines and humans. Even though we write for both machines and humans, we need to write for machines first, as they are the “gatekeepers” of content, such as for searches. Everything goes through the machine first. We need to recognize that writing rules learned in elementary school are no longer sufficient for a world in which language science is needed. We need to examine our content from the vantage point of a rules-processing engine and ensure it’s optimized for machine translation.
2) Automated Transcription
Automated transcription involves software that translates speech to text for machine use. Without transcription, content is locked and hidden from view. Transcription allows for better searchability of content. Scott recommended Koemei as a good transcription software tool for video and general transcription, as it can help transform editable content into other languages.
3) Terminology Management
Terminology management controls words in a central place, namely the words used the most and used consistently for branding, products, etc. Terminology management is important for consistency as well as for regulatory reasons. This is an instance where seeking a global content strategist is needed to help standardize processes. It’s best to adopt a terminology management system, such as Adobe partner and Scott’s suggestion, Acrolinx.
4) Adaptive content
Adaptive content is content that is structured and designed to adapt to the needs of your customer; it’s about substance of the content. Adaptive content adapts to the devices, e.g. laptops, GPS, and smartphones. Customers are demanding exceptional experiences, so we need to meet their expectations, so it’s up to responsive designers to meet that challenge. Adaptive content makes it possible to publish to multiple platforms and devices. It is content separated from formatting information. By allowing authors to focus on what they do best, adaptive content makes content findable and reuseable by others who need it. We need to rethink content, as the move to adaptive content involves work, but the ROI (return on investment) can be realized in months instead of years.
5) Component Content Management
Component content management systems are needed. They focus on the storing of content components that are used to assemble documents. Components can be in all sizes, and can be photos, video, and text. It’s about managing CONTENT not FILES.
Scott provided these slides as his example to show this:
Structured content, combined with a component content management system, supports personalized content and targeted marketing, which in turn increases response rates. In this end, this process can save money! The key is to remember that all customers are not the same! Reusing content without the “copy and paste” methods produce the best results. You can ensure that content is consistent by seeking a content strategist who understands content and is a technologist. Implement a component management system. Scott suggested checking out Astoria Software for a good component content management system.
At this point, Scott’s talk had pretty much finished, but in answering audience questions, he pointed out that there’s a lot more than just these five technologies to watch. He suggested that we should look out for wireless electricity, flexible surfaces, more wireless devices, wearable computing, and augmented reality as well. He also said that in order to mature as a discipline, we need to be content craftspeople, content designers and content engineers. We need to leverage using content and code. We need to think more like engineers, and less like writers and editors. Even websites that are very localized still need to be written for global purposes to improve the English used for the native speakers as well. Controlled vocabulary helps all end users!
Scott covered a LOT of information in a short amount of time, and he set the tone for the rest of the session, as the presentations that followed repeated much of the same information. (This is a good thing, because then we know that the information is valid, coming from several experienced technical communicators!)
Scott posted on Twitter than his presentation was available on SlideShare, but I have it below.
And as always–Scott, if I misinterpreted or misquoted any of the information I summarized above, please let us know in the comments!