TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for May 18, 2012

This week’s update on technical communication and the TechWhirl community is supported by Platinum sponsor ComponentOne & their Doc-To-Help Help Authoring Tool |

The preparations for attending a technical communication event such as the STC Summit are always exciting—akin to the two-weeks-after-code-freeze-write-the-whole-user-manual exciting.  TechWhirl will be there, as an exhibitor (stop by booth 115), as Lightning Talk participants (We’re scheduled on Wednesday), and providers of an STC Summit Pinterest Board and Storify wrapup (publishes next week). So while Twitter posts abound with notices about upcoming seminars, meetups, and departure announcements for those already heading to Chicago, Al and Connie are wrapping the normal week’s activities and just getting around to packing.

It was a busy content week for us as well, and Al’s interview with Alan Houser is an entertaining and informative look at what’s ahead.  Tony Chung’s first of a series on crowd-sourcing explores an area that’s already impacting technical communicators, and Laurie Johnson’s look at conference alternatives should give you some great resources for professional development opportunities on a tight budget.

If you can’t make it to Chicago, have no fear, TechWhirl is still on the job, providing great new content on the magazine, access to the archives, news from all over, and our very own tech comm jobs board. We encourage you to be a part of the community by reading the latest news and features, and following and posting in the TechWhirl email discussion list.

Have a terrific weekend

-The gang at TechWhirl


  Alternatives to Face-to-face Technical Communication ConferencesFew can dispute the benefits of attending a professional conference. Whether you attend the STC annual conference, WritersUA, LavaCon, SIGDOC, IPCC, or one of the numerous other technical communication-oriented meetings, you attend for the opportunities–to sharpen your current skills, learn new skills, catch up with tool and technology trends, pick the brains of leaders in the field, and network, network, network. Let’s take a look at four lower-cost options that can provide many of the same benefits: webinars, virtual conferences, unconferences, and twitter chats.
  Interesting Times: Challenges and Opportunities for Technical CommunicationDuring a talk with Alan Houser, the incoming President for the Society for Technical Communication (STC), we touched on his background, company, work in the STC, and his plans for the upcoming year. Alan talked about the Chinese proverb or the Chinese curse, which says “may you live in interesting times,” and how the current economic turmoil is impacting friends, colleagues and relatives. His vision for the STC in the coming year includes “working to assist our members while we leverage what I think is the most exciting time in the history of this profession.”
  Crowdsourcing: The New Black?What’s in a name? To some, the specifics of a name mean absolutely nothing. To others, that same name means absolutely everything. While some believe as Shakespeare wrote: “…a rose by any other name, its smell is sweet…”, Technical Writers in general are more attached to their chosen terms. Today’s term is “Crowdsourcing.” What is it? What is its relevance to technical communication today? And, the bigger question: Why does my iPhone insist on Capitalizing the C?
  Technical Writing Poll: Best TV Shows Set in ChicagoIf you enjoyed last week’s poll, or tend to indulge in the couch potato forms of recreation when not doing technical writing chores, then you should be ecstatic about this week’s technical writing poll. We know that there were loads of great movies set in Chicago, now it’s time for you to vote on the wonders of the small screen.

Tech Comm News

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