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TechCommGeekMom’s Excellent Adventure – A look back at STC Summit 2013

pogueaud-a1OK, I know it’s been more than a month since the 2013 STC Summit ended, but I promise this is the last blog entry I’m going to do about it. No, seriously. I mean it. I was writing up so many blog posts for the STC and about Adobe Day, that I think I got a little burnt out on writing, so I had to take a slight break for a bit, just to catch my breath, so to speak.

Even so, I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy this post which consists of images of me on the trip, just to prove I was there! Sometimes sharing the photos is much more fun, don’t you think?

Dani-at-the-Varsity1
My first night in Atlanta was spent with a college friend of mind whom I hadn’t seen in person in at least twenty years! She took me to the oldest and largest drive-in restaurant in Atlanta called the Varsity. First-timers had to wear the hat! I made the best of it.
This was the greeting I had on the TV in my hotel room. I just thought this was cool. I was already feeling rather welcomed!
This was the greeting I had on the TV in my hotel room. I just thought this was cool. I was already feeling rather welcomed!
The Grand Hyatt in Atlanta was huge! This structure in the middle of the hotel's main lobby certainly captured one's attention!
The Grand Hyatt in Atlanta was huge! This structure in the middle of the hotel’s main lobby certainly captured one’s attention! My son even thought it was crazy seeing it through Skype while I was there.
On the first day of the Summit, I had the privilege of doing the Twitter feed for Adobe Day for Adobe. Thanks,  y'all! I'm there in the center with the light yellow shirt on.  --Photo courtesy of Maxwell Hoffmann
On the first day of the Summit, I had the privilege of doing the Twitter feed for Adobe Day for Adobe. Thanks, y’all! I’m there in the center with the light yellow shirt on.
–Photo courtesy of Maxwell Hoffmann
NJCoke1
I spent my afternoon with fellow STC Summit attendee, Kim L., and we visited the World of Coca-Cola. Here’s an old bottle from my home state of NJ!
Later, on the first night of the Summit itself, all the first timers were asked to stand up during the Summit opening. Again, can't miss me standing in the middle there.
Later, on the first night of the Summit itself, all the first timers were asked to stand up during the Summit opening. Again, can’t miss me standing in the middle there.
–Photo courtesy of  STC
I was shocked, in the middle of the opening presentation, to see my name "up in lights"!
I was shocked, in the middle of the opening presentation, to see my name “up in lights”! Thanks to STC’s Kevin Cuddihy for sending this to me.
The keynote speaker, David Pogue, was fantastic. I really enjoyed his presentation.
The keynote speaker, David Pogue, was fantastic. I really enjoyed his presentation.
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Here’s the entrance to the vendor showcase…which to me, was more like walking into a tech comm wonderland!
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If I only had the supermodel figure to match…Me doing my best presentation pose of the cool typewriter that Adobe was giving away.
–Photo courtesy of Maxwell Hoffmann of Adobe.
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Here I am during one of my many pitstops to talk with my friends Connie and Al from TechWhirl.
–Photo courtesy of Rachel Houghton.
On the last night of the Summit, I took a "field trip" on my own, and went to see a talk by documentary filmmaker, Joe Cross. He used to weigh 100+ lbs more than he does in this photo, and the film he made was about how he lost the weight through juicing for 60 days. If you are looking for inspiration for healthy eating, find the film, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." It's an awesome movie. And yes, I got to meet Joe in person, obviously.
On the last night of the Summit, I took a “field trip” on my own, and went to see a talk by documentary filmmaker, Joe Cross. He used to weigh 100+ lbs more than he does in this photo (he’s a hottie now!), and the film he made was about how he lost the weight through juicing for 60 days. If you are looking for inspiration for healthy eating, find the film, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and check out RebootWithJoe.com. It’s an awesome movie. And yes, I got to meet Joe in person, obviously.
Oddly enough, people would come to talk to me not about being TechCommGeekMom, but rather because of my notetaking set-up that was color coordinated! It's just a regular iPad3 and Apple wireless keyboard, but the iPad cover is by Brookstone, and there's a matching "skin" that I got for the keyboard from either Amazon or eBay very cheaply. For whatever reason, it captured a lot of attention! Hey, at least I kept my word that I would use mobile exclusively at the Summit, and I did!
Oddly enough, people would come to talk to me at the education sessions not about being TechCommGeekMom, but rather because of my notetaking set-up that was color-coordinated! It’s just a regular iPad3 and Apple wireless keyboard, but the iPad cover is by Brookstone, and there’s a matching “skin” that I got for the keyboard from either Amazon or eBay very cheaply. For whatever reason, it captured a lot of attention! Hey, at least I kept my word that I would use mobile exclusively at the Summit, and I did!

I will close this with another surprise I got, which I think is appropriate. Jamie Gillenwater did a lightning talk about 101 things to love about tech comm, which included a few quotes of mine. I was honored that she actually used some of the feedback I had sent her! Her last slide was a quote of mine, too, and considering I had forgotten that I gave her this tidbit, I thought it was pretty good, if I do say so myself! I was especially honored that she used this one, as I still find it to be true, especially after my experiences at the 2013 Summit. 

Jamie-presentation-quote1

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little photo essay. I really enjoyed my time at the STC Summit, and I really hope that I’ll be able to go next year to the conference when it’s in Phoenix!

Things have been very busy for me at work, to the point that it’s been difficult to keep up with things here on the blog. But fear not! There is always more to come on TechCommGeekMom! Stay tuned!

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Get your motor runnin’…Head out on the [mobile] highway…

Peter-Fonda-and-Dennis-Hopper-in-Easy-RiderWhen I first read the title of John Daigle’s Adobe Day presentation, “Enjoying a Smooth Ride on the Mobile Documentation Highway,” guitar riffs by Steppenwolf echoed in my mind thinking of the song, “Born to Be Wild” and scenes of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding down the information highway. OK, maybe not the information highway, but with mobile, it’s an open road right now that is waiting to be explored.

While I hadn’t heard John speak before, I was familiar with his “rock star” status due to social media–mostly through Twitter (you can find him as @hypertexas)–in my e-learning and m-learning forums.  It turns out that John is a big RoboHelp and Captivate expert, so being tied into the mobile highway scene makes sense!

JohnDaigle
John Daigle

The premise of John’s talk was that there are shifts and trends in mobile, and we need to look at organizations as early adopters, figure out the mobile landscape, and look at how user assistance is used on mobile as compared to how reference documentation is used generally. He pointed out that writing and designing for a mobile audience is very different from traditional methods (I agree!), and that he would be offering some hints on how to approach technical communications for mobile.

John pointed out that fellow speaker, panelist Joe Welinske, created the “bible” for Windows Help,  and now has created the “bible” for mobile apps, referring to Joe’s book, Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps, which talks about the “screen wars” between the smartphones and tablets of various size. These various sizes produce a challenge for technical communicators. John went on to point out that e-readers, such as Kindle and Nook, are still alive and well and doing well as compared to other tablets such as iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs.  The initial conversion of print text to Kindle ePubs was a big change in electronic documentation. He also stated that at this stage of the game, Windows Surface and Windows Phone are a little late in the game, but they are catching up rapidly.

Following some of the comments of keynote speaker, Charles Corfield (the post on that talk is forthcoming!), John explained that other products including voice-activated devices, such as those found in some cars these days, are becoming more prolific. Google Glass, which is getting a lot of press right now, is a new game changer in mobile devices, and time will tell what kind of impact it will have.

John told us that as of February 2013, there were one billion smartphones and 150 million tablets worldwide–proof that mobile is becoming more widespread! Corporations are even getting more involved in mobile by buying mobile devices for employees, but many companies are also allowing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Companies are starting to embrace the idea of BYOD a little more lately.

Finance and healthcare industries are quickly adopting mobile delivery of information because of the portability of the devices. Mobile devices are being used more in industry and shop floors because they allow users access anytime, anywhere. John informed us that many of the same technical communications skills and experiences needed to write standard information apply to mobile. QR codes are gaining popularity as a  part of the movement of accessing documentation through mobile. John quoted Jakob Nielsen saying, “Killing time is the killer app of mobile.” With that in mind, John advised that technical communicators should learn to use more economic words for mobile, such as  “extra” instead of “additional.”

John also quoted John Caroll, who said, “Minimize the extent to which the systems and the information get in the way of what the user’s really interested in.” Progressive disclosure is key in writing for mobile. It allows one to gain information by revealing what’s needed when it’s needed. Ways to show this in mobile interfaces could be drop-down navigation or overlays. This allows a user to not leave the page, but he or she can still get to information quickly. In this sense, mobile can go right to the source or the heart of information needed.

So the question is, are huge documents (such as what’s in those big company binders) going mobile too? The answer is that technical writers can’t just dump desktop layouts and information onto mobile. This is where technical communicators need to work with developers to do what they do best–help “champion the end users.”

Going mobile is about flattening navigation–but not going button crazy, and getting back to context sensitive help. Technical communicators need to tap into social media to keep content current and accurate, thus becoming curators of user generated content.

It helps to prototype mobile layouts with rapid wire-framing tools, like Balsamic Mock-ups as a popular example. There are many specific tools on the market that are available to assist the developer in facilitate context-sensitive help.

However, there are several design controversies involving the need to upgrade browsers, progressive enhancement, adaptive design and responsive design. Some argue that responsive design is not the best because it makes a device’s CPU works harder, thus it becomes a virtual memory hog when resizing images as needed. Yet, responsive web design can adapt layouts to the appropriate viewing environment with fluid, proportion-based grids.

John suggested using the site, http://HTML5test.com , to help test how compatible your site is with mobile interfaces. He also pointed out that help-authoring tools can do much of the work with single source layout concepts, as different settings in authoring tools can help determine how to make user outputs work properly. Another such tool he recommended was Adobe Edge, as it helps writers to preview and inspect web designs on mobile devices directly ON the devices. For additional tools and information, John pointed us to his website, http://www.showmethedemo.com .

I particularly enjoyed John’s talk, as I’ve been following many of his posts on Twitter for more than a year now. He’s very good at explaining the power of mobile in technical communication, and I think John put this perspective well into view for the Adobe Day attendees.  As many know, I’m a big believer in the power of mobile, and the mind-set for writing for mobile isn’t that difficult if you understand the basics. So, it’s good that Adobe continues to include information about technical communications in the mobile world, as that’s where a lot of change is coming in the future. Adobe made a good choice when asking John Daigle to present information about mobile documentation.

John, if you are reading this, please feel free to add any comments or corrections in the comments! 🙂

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A First Timer’s Summit: It’ll be “Gone With The Wind” Fabulous!

Kenya-Moore
Kenya Moore of the Real Housewives of Atlanta shows us the “Gone-With-The-Wind Fabulous” twirl.

Here’s the last of the pre-STC Summit blog posts I’ve done for the STC Notebook.

A First Timer’s Summit: It’ll be “Gone With The Wind” Fabulous!.

Hopefully, I’ll meet many of my readers there. Please feel free to introduce yourself! I’m really looking forward to the whole experience. I’ll be blogging for both Adobe Day and continuing my “First Timer’s Summit” series during the STC Summit, so keep your eyes open for those new entries!