STC recognition for members

by Lori Meyer 

At  this time of year, STC and its communities offer many opportunities to recognize the achievements and volunteer service of members. STC’s “recognition season,” covers most of October and early November. Here’s where you can find out more! 

Distinguished Chapter Service Award

During this time period, chapters can submit nominees for Distinguished Chapter Service Award. Any chapter member in good standing who has a strong record of contributions to the chapter can be nominated. That includes AdCo members, except for the current chapter president or anyone currently serving on the STC Board of Directors. 

The current chapter president typically submits the nomination based on input from chapter leaders or members. The nominee is not informed that they have been submitted for this recognition. 

More information:

Associate Fellow 

Senior members of STC who have an exemplary record of contributions to one or more communities, STC, and the profession can apply for the Associate Fellow honor. These applications are typically due the first of November or shortly thereafter. Applicants can self-nominate, or be nominated by an STC member in good standing from any STC community. Applicants must be STC members in good standing, and have at least 10 continuous years of STC membership, and 15 years of experience in the profession. 

We can use the community report to identify chapter members who qualify by length of STC membership. 

More information:

Fellow 

Those who have been Associate Fellows for three years can apply for the rank of Fellow. All applications are self-nominations. Applicants must have been Associate Fellows for three years as of the date they applied for Associate Fellow. For the class of 2021, this would mean that you need to have applied for Associate Fellow in October or November of 2017. The applicant must show increasing contributions to STC and the profession since becoming an Associate Fellow. 

More information:

Academic honors for students 

Students can be nominated for membership in two academic honor societies: 

  • Membership in Sigma Tau Chi is given to students enrolled in a program in technical communication, who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above, are exemplary in participation in STC, and demonstrate a potential for significant contribution to the profession.
  • Membership in Alpha Sigma is given to students enrolled in a program in technical communication who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above, demonstrate active participation in STC, and have the potential to contribute to the profession.

Membership is awarded only once and honorees retain the membership only as long as they are members in good standing of the Society

More information: 

Survivor Tools for the Digital Age on September 24

Survivor Tools for the Digital Age

Tool Tips: Mini Presentations

In our digital age, there are always new tools to learn. We’d love for you to join us on Thursday, September 24, 6:30 P.M. for networking and at 7:00 P.M. to hear from our chapter members on the tools they use and their tips and tricks for making the most out of them. RSVP now!

Each presenter will have a mini presentation followed by Q&A. 

Madcap Flare from Bethany Aguad

MadCap Flare is a help authoring tool designed for advanced topic-based authoring, single-source publishing and content management.

Oxygen XML Editor from David Coverston

Oxygen XML Editor provides a comprehensive suite of XML authoring and development tools for creating, editing, and publishing XML documents.

Slack from Alex Garcia

Slack is a communication platform that provides chat rooms organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging. 

Discord from John Clement

Discord is freeware instant messaging and VoIP application and digital distribution platform designed for creating communities with text, image, video and audio communication between users.

Event Details

Event Timing: September 24, 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.

Location: Online through Google Meet

To RSVP for this meeting, please send your meeting payment through PayPal on our Meetings Payments page. We will be charging the following rates for this meeting:

  • $6 for STC Florida Chapter Members
  • $12 for all other attendees

Diversity in Tech Comm with John Paz

Are you interested in learning about diversity in the industry? We’d love you to join us at 6:30 P.M. for networking and at 7:00 P.M. to discuss Diversity in Technical Communication with John Paz, an alumnus of UCF. This event is open to any who are looking to help the technical communication industry become more diverse. RSVP now!

 

Event Timing: August 20, 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.

Location: Online through Google Meet

 

To RSVP for this meeting, please send your meeting payment through PayPal on our Meetings Payments page. We will be charging the following rates for this meeting:

  • $6 for STC Florida Chapter Members
  • $12 for all other attendees

 

About John Paz

John is a senior content designer, UX writer, and technical writer with 13 years of professional writing/editing experience and a passion for simplifying the complex. He’s a UX design professional who specializes in highly technical content for enterprise customers and developers.

John is also passionate about increasing the diversity of people working in tech. He gives talks and presentations about the value of using tech to lift people out of generational poverty and as a tool to empower anyone with a computer and Wi-Fi connection.

The emphasis on the words within applications is a matter of inclusiveness, and making tech approachable for all is a life mission of John’s. He thinks of being a content designer as a way to help bring about change and looks for more aspiring writers to mentor along the journey.

From the Editor’s Desk

Meet the Editor

Julia Southwick, Newsletter Editor

Julia Southwick, Newsletter Editor

Hi everyone!

I’m Julia Southwick: your new editor! I introduced myself in my first article about how to use some of the Google suite products, but I’ll tell you a bit about myself here too. My family has a lot of engineers and engineering types in it (my grandfather, my dad, my brothers, my mom), so technical communication comes as naturally to me as breathing. I have had two jobs in the Tech Comm space so far: one at Lockheed Martin and one at Siemens.

While at Lockheed Martin, I used my writing, editing, and design skills to update company documentation including onboarding, policies, and organizational materials. At Siemens,  I edited and formatted power generator outage reports to meet internal writing standards for publication.

I’m currently looking for a new job and if you know of any opportunities opening up, please let me know.

If you need to contact me for any reason, feel free to reach out to me at juliasouthwick96@gmail.com.

Join the STC Florida Leadership Retreat

Have you been looking for an opportunity to develop your leadership skills and get more involved with the STC Florida chapter? We want to invite you to our annual Leadership Retreat, where the STC Florida Chapter plans for the upcoming chapter year. 

This event is free for STC Florida members and volunteers who are looking to take an active role in the chapter for the coming year.

RSVP Now!

Event Timing: July 25, 10:00am-2:00pm

Location: Online through Zoom

The STC Florida Chapter’s annual summer Leadership Retreat provides a “post-mortem” on the previous year’s activities and serves as a kick-off meeting for the upcoming chapter year. At the annual summer Leadership Retreat, the STC Florida Chapter sets its strategic goals and objectives for the upcoming chapter year and identifies the projects and activities we must execute to achieve those goals.

We are eager to engage with student members, recent graduates, and veteran chapter members alike. The summer Leadership Retreat serves as a time to review our previous year’s activities to see what we can improve. We hope this event will be fun, interactive, and productive for everyone who attends. In addition to our planned chapter business, we have time for discussion, brainstorming, and leadership development activity.

At this free event, we welcome anyone who is looking to take an active role in the chapter for the coming year and develop leadership skills!

Dungeons and Dragons and Technical Communication

Intro

The skills Technical Communicators use in their profession make them excellent Dungeons and Dragons players, as well as game runners (a.k.a “Dungeon Masters”). From writing to collaboration, the core skills that lead to success on the job can be developed and honed in this fun, fantasy setting. While fighting evil monsters as an Elven fighter might not seem to relate to work in Information Technology, both challenges require thoughtful communication, working with a team, doing research, and applying critical thinking skills.

What is Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)?

Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy role-playing game that got its start in 1974 and is often abbreviated to DnD or D&D — we will be using D&D here. Each player creates a character that they will play as during the game. The players then act out scenarios as their character, like actors in a play. However, unlike in a play, there is no script or stage. The script is improvised, and the acting takes place in the imagination. Actions are spoken such as: “I look around the cave, searching for the monster said to live there.”

The straightforward way to explain D&D is by saying it’s play-pretend for all ages. Games can focus on exploring a fantasy world, combat in a fantasy world, the interactions between characters, or some combination of the three. If you want to learn more, here’s a 5-minute video explanation from The Dungeoncast on YouTube.

Role of the Dungeon Master

The world of the game is created and run by the Dungeon Master (DM) or Gamemaster (GM). While each player is responsible for playing a single character in the game, the DM runs the entire game world, everything from describing scenery to playing the Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) that their characters meet.

Playing as Character

Each player character has a character sheet that defines the skills and abilities that player has developed. This includes skills like stealth (how good is your character at being sneaky?) or perception (how observant is your character?) and abilities like the power to fly or casting magical spells. Following the rules of the game, each player gets to define all their abilities and write a story for who their character is.

Below is my character sheet from the first game I played as Linea Faenane, the High Elf Wizard, and her “familiar” (a magical animal companion), Lunara the cat.

Linea Faenane, the High Elf Wizard

Linea Faenane, the High Elf Wizard

Lunara (cat familiar)

Rolling Dice

Developing the narrative is a collaborative experience between all participants, with dice facilitating the gameplay. When a player wants to take an action in the game that requires a challenge, they will roll a die to determine the outcome. For most rolls, they roll a twenty-sided die called a “d20”. If the die lands on a 20, the action is always successful; if the die lands on a 1, the action always fails. There is also a myriad of results in-between.

Based on a combination of the number on the die, the character’s skills, and the difficulty of the action, the DM will describe the outcome.

To start learning to play the game, the best thing you can do is to watch others play (in person or online), to or jump in and start playing.

What is a first game like?

In my first session, we had mostly new players with some more experienced players, so we started by introducing ourselves. We then went over how to use Roll20.net, which makes it possible to play D&D online. Our next step was to create our characters and their backstories. Once our characters were created, we introduced our characters to the other players and told their backstories. The final two steps were to learn the scenario we would be playing and then to play it (while taking any necessary snack or bathroom breaks).

How does this relate to Tech Comm?

Technical communicators possess skills that apply to playing and running a game of Dungeons and Dragons. For instance, running an entire D&D adventure across multiple sessions requires project management skills. While the game itself is played for fun, a good DM must manage scheduling and storylines, tracking the players’ progress through the story and noting key milestones.

The table below illustrates the correlation I identified between skills many technical communicators use on the job and the tasks in D&D that applies those skills.

Tech Comm Skill D&D Application
Clear writing, tone Backstory, DM description
SME interviews NPC conversations and roleplaying
Project management Manage long-term campaigns
Research and exploration Imaginative storytelling and roleplaying
Collaboration Teamwork with fellow players
Critical thinking Creative problem-solving
Graphic design Maps, illustrations
Adept with technology Playing online through systems like Roll20

Writing

Most veteran DMs spend time preparing before a session with their players. They create descriptions for the world the players will explore. Drafting these descriptions is an exercise in creativity, but also in conservation of detail.

In our game, Bethany as the DM provided the scenario. Our characters were a group of acolytes who had left our temple to go work for the Harpers, an organization that seeks to do good while working in the shadows of the port city of Waterdeep. Our Harper contact, Renaer, would assign us jobs, and in exchange for efficient, speedy work, our characters would receive handsome compensation.

At the start of the adventure, he provided the details on our latest job:

Uza Solizeph is an old woman who sells books out of her small shop in the Trades Ward of the vast city of Waterdeep. She claims to have trapped a monster in her shop and fears for the welfare of her books and her cat. The City Watch isn’t likely to lend a hand, given Uza’s propensity for tall tales, but the Harpers owe her a favor. You’ll find her sobbing at the tavern on the corner of Sort Street and Salabar Street. Make haste!

Like technical writing, you give your players the information they need to complete their task, without overloading them with unnecessary or distracting details.

SME Interviews

In D&D, you often engage with characters who provide crucial information to aid your player characters on their quest.

We received our assignment and went to the tavern to interview Uza. We listened carefully to her story and asked questions like: “Did you see the monster clearly?” “Can you describe it?” “What does your cat look like, and what’s your cat’s name?” “Can you describe the interior of your shop for us, please?” These questions were designed to help us gain an understanding of what we were up against.

While we were talking, a bard recognized a member of our group as the person who previously swindled them and tried to pick a fight. Our bard convinced them to back down using superior barding skills, and the other bard moved on. Once we established all necessary details, we asked Uza to take us to her store and to wait outside it for us while we took care of the monster and found her cat.

Gathering information on the job often presents challenges for technical communicators. While a SME can become your greatest ally in learning the product you need to document, determining what questions to ask can be tricky.

Critical Thinking

Dungeons and dragons gameplay provides a series of challenges for the players to overcome. While some players may expect to resolve conflicts with combat, many obstacles can be resolved with creative problem-solving.

We went into her shop. Linea asked Lunara telepathically to look for Uza’s cat and let her know if she finds the cat. The group started looking for the cat and the monster. While exploring the shelves looking for clues, the group noticed some scorch marks and identified some books about monsters. The monster found us, so we rolled for initiative (turn order) and started fighting the monster.

Uza’s Book Shop

During the fight, Lunara concentrated on staying out of the fight and kept searching for Uza’s cat. Lunara found Uza’s cat towards the end of the fight and worked on calming her. We defeated the monster and Linea used a spell to identify how the monster arrived in the shop — it was through an enchanted book about the monster. There were two similar books that could summon other monsters. One of us called Uza in, and Linea explained her findings and asked if they could take the other two books to turn in to the Harpers. Uza agreed and thanked the group for their help.

Collaboration

By nature, all tabletop roleplaying is collaborative. The game and story evolve through the input of the DM and the players, with dice rolls determining how things play out. As a party, the players each contribute their ideas to influence the direction for every scene.

At the end of the session, we talked about how we thought the session went, alternative paths, how we liked D&D, if we would like to continue playing D&D, and if we would like to continue the story of these characters.

As technical communicators, collaboration drives our work. Even solo writers must learn to work with subject matters experts and consider the response of stakeholders in developing documentation.

Why Should You Play Dungeons and Dragons?

As technical communicators, our skills make us the ideal party members, both in Dungeons and Dragons and on the job. We shine in a collaborative environment where our work can enhance the effectiveness of those around us. With that in mind, why should you give a tabletop game like Dungeons and Dragons a try?

First off, it’s enjoyable! Gathering together with friends to develop a compelling narrative gives you a chance to stretch your creative muscles. Whether you roll dice around a physical table or play online through Roll20, gathering together and tackling challenges with friends provides a chance to relax and have fun.

Second, you can practice many technical communication skills in the creative safe space of a tabletop role-playing campaign. While the decisions in the game do not have real world consequences, the DM and the narrative still define the stakes. Telling a story in a game provides you a chance to hone your skills, such as telling stories through your documentation to your users.

Why not give it a try?

Further Reading

Aspects of Technical Communication

My name is Mia Stephens, and I am a second-year student at the University of Central Florida. I am currently a member of both the Society for Technical Communication and the Future Technical Communicators at UCF.  Over the past semester with the guidance of my mentor, Rachael Swertfeger, I have worked on curating a website that displays the aspects of Technical Communication that individuals interested in the industry should know as part of my mentoring project for the STC.

For this project, I developed a survey that asked industry professionals about their experiences in the field, as well as what advice they would give to those that are either currently studying Technical Communication or are interested in the field. If you are interested in viewing the website, it can be found at https://techcom.crd.co/ (or https://itechcom.crd.co/ for mobile users).

What is Editing?

There are four types of editing: line editing, copy editing, developmental editing, and proofreading.

  • Proofreading: checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Not about flow or does the writing make sense.
  • Line editing: making the sentences sound better, flow better, read easier. Does not change the substance of the writing.
  • Copy editing: proofread OR proofread+line edit depending on who you ask.
  • Developmental editing: Makes sure the writing makes sense and works well.

Would you like a series on editing? High-level overview, tips/tricks, editing tools, best practices, etc. Let me know!

From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

Welcome to the month of rain showers! This month has been interesting, to say the least. I’ll admit, a lot of my plans this month changed for obvious reasons, but even in the face of adversity, we soldier on and keep connecting (albeit, virtually).

Speaking of connecting, for this month’s meeting, we’re having an open forum on tech comm. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, and for the safety of all our members, this meeting and all future meetings will be 100% virtual until such time as in-person gatherings are once again safe. For more information about this month’s meeting, visit the RSVP page.

As a reminder from last month, in addition to our chapter meetings going virtual for the time being, STC has made the decision to transition the 2020 face-to-face Technical Communication Summit & Expo to a virtual conference format this Spring. For more information, visit the STC Notebook.

This month, I bring you both a new writer, and the new MtM editor. That’s right friends, starting this month, I am transitioning from my role as your newsletter editor and handing over the reins to my very capable successor, Julia Southwick. Never fear though, I’m not fully leaving as I will still remain as the Communications Chair.

To give you a chance to get to know Julia, this month I’m proud to share the culmination of her mentoring program project detailing how to access and use several of Google Suite’s most helpful features (complete with videos). I hope you find them as helpful as I have.

That’s all from me for now. I hope to (virtually) see you at the meeting.

Catch you on the flip side,

Emily Wells
Communications Chair
Editor, Memo To Members
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

Get Hyped for this Month’s Meeting!

Open Forum on Tech Comm

Join the Florida Chapter of STC on April 28, 2020 for our virtual chapter meeting. We are planning to use this meeting as a time to discuss technical communication topics of interest to everyone. Please share with us the topics that you think we should consider or questions that you want to ask the group. Based on the submissions, we will be facilitating the discussion and networking.

We will be having this fully online chapter meeting on April 28 from 7:00-8:30 pm. Please join us!

Agenda
6:15 pm – New Member Orientation
6:30 pm – Join early for virtual networking
7:00 pm – Facilitated discussion begins

We will be charging the following rates for this meeting:
-Free for STC Florida Chapter student members
-$6 for STC Florida Chapter Members
-$12 for all other attendees

Visit our Meeting Payments page for details on how to pay ahead for the meeting and receive the call details.

Visit our chapter website to RSVP or to submit questions for discussion.