From The Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

We have liftoff. My wifi is on the fritz this fine February evening, so I am bringing this to you live from a certain big-name coffee shop.

Whilst I type to break the sound barrier before the dining room closes, let me just say that this month’s meeting topic is very near and dear to many of us (our chapter’s president included check out his very personal account later in this edition).

We are following up on last year’s smash hit topic, The Ethics of the Challenger Disaster, with a sequel that we wish would never have been required: The Ethics of the Columbia Disaster. Please join us and our speaker, UCF’s own Dr. Paul Dombrowski, for a sobering reminder of just how much responsibility we bear as technical communicators. This is a must-see.

Please join us this Thursday, February 23rd, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. Click here to RSVP.

Grande Salutations,

Nick Ducharme
Manager, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

030201-F-9999G-001

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

“The Columbia Shuttle just blew up. Poor them and their families! :(“ a blue notification on my Kyocera flip phone.

It was a sunny Saturday morning in February 2003 when, through sleepy eyes, I received the bone-chilling text message from a college classmate in the Aerospace Engineering program at UCF. I turned on CNN and was glued to the TV for the rest of the day. Seven lives ended over the swamplands of Texas and Louisiana on February 1, 2003. The Space Shuttle Columbia, which had been damaged by falling External Tank foam during launch, succumbed to the heat and pressures of reentry. They never had a chance.

In the months that followed, somewhat selfishly, I wondered what this would mean for my chosen field of study—my five year plan, after all, was to work for the Space Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The accident grounded the Space Shuttle fleet for over two and a half years, and led to President George W. Bush setting a program cancellation date of 2010. A Congressional panel was called, a report was published. The three remaining orbiters (Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour) would fulfill the Shuttle Program’s primary mission of finishing construction of the International Space Station and refurbishing the Hubble Space Telescope before limping into museums where they would inspire future generations of scientists.

It was in the period following “Return to Flight” that I actually set foot onto KSC as a contracted employee, specifically a Co-op student. I felt a sense of pride about working for the Shuttle Program, but there was a sensible agitation in the workforce. Our program was a lame duck, but, despite the cancellation, we would get every single mission off the ground and back home safely. It was as if we held out hope that each time we excelled, the program would be extended. Quite honestly, everyone loved their job and didn’t want the ride to end.

Through my college-aged naiveté, I sat in the background of meetings and listened to how decisions were made with painstaking attention to detail. One of the results of the Columbia report was an emphasis on letting any employee speak up during a situation they felt uncomfortable in. Everyone, me included, was handed a “TIME OUT!” card: a business card with the phrase in bold red letters to attach to their badge holder. If one of these cards ever hit a table, a shop cart, or the floor, the team would immediately stand down wherever they were and talk about the problem. In my career, I only saw one of these slammed on a conference room table during a fairly heated exchange between two engineers. The entire room audibly gasped at the gravity of the TIME OUT! card being employed. Cooler heads prevailed and business eventually continued as planned.

NASA had disasters in 1967, 1987, and 2003. That is three different generations of engineers. It could be argued that enough time passed between the accidents that attrition caused organizational knowledge to dissipate, lessons to be forgotten, and history to repeat itself. Organizational change takes years, sometimes decades, and longer if turnover occurs in key positions. As engineers and technical communicators, we have an ethical responsibility to verify all the information in our documents is accurate, especially if we attach our signatures to them. I would say that the lesson of the Columbia Disaster would be this: If you ever feel uncomfortable about a decision at work, call a TIME OUT!

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If You Missed December’s Meeting

RD Sharninghouse

RD Sharninghouse

By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Secretary
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, the Orlando Central Florida chapter of STC held their Holiday Social at Black Rock Bar & Grill.

The dinner also included a brief presentation from guest speaker, Jack Molisani.  Jack talked about his personal, professional, and financial growth.  Below is a list of recommended books from Jack’s presentation that inform and inspire growth:

  • How to Out Negotiate Anyone (Even a Car Dealer) by Leo Reilly
  • The Millionaire Next Door (Original) by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
  • The Wealthy Spirit by Chellie Campbell
  • Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock

Jack also made the offer to look at anyone’s resume.  You can contact him at:
JackMolisani@prospringstaffing.com

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If You Missed January’s Meeting

Learning About… Learning! January’s Topic is DITA and Beyond.

By: Jonathan Neal
Staff Writer, Memo to Members

“Please take out a pen and paper!”

Rob Hanna’s instructive DITA webinar begins with mental exercise. L’horreur! But there is no way around it. If we truly wish to communicate content to our readers, we must first learn about learning.

On January 19th, the Orlando Central Florida (OCF) chapter of STC held its monthly meeting at the IHOP on University Boulevard. Those in attendance viewed STC fellow Rob Hanna’s webinar, Leveraging Cognitive Science to Improve Topic Based Authoring. Mr. Hanna is president of Precision Content Authoring Solutions Inc., and with over 20 years’ experience under his belt, he knows his way around information writing. Here is a brief summary of his lesson:

Overview

The amount of data we encounter every day is increasing at a rapid rate, roughly doubling every two years. Therefore, we as technical writers must help our readers digest large amounts of data with minimal cognitive strain. One way we can accomplish this is by employing Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA).

DITA is an XML vocabulary that enables readers to digest data more easily. For the uninitiated, XML is a metalanguage akin to HTML that we can use to “mark up” data with custom tags and distribute it to any number of separately formatted files, fully accessible across systems. In effect, XML enables us to “repurpose information instead of rewriting it,” which saves time and effort. Rob Hanna has mastered this efficient strategy by establishing his own “content standards for the enterprise,” which he uses to systematize all of the XML he works with. This doesn’t just help him stay organized—it also helps his readers digest the data more easily.

Topic Types and Memory Types

In DITA, there are 3 major topic types, each associated with a different type of memory:

Topic Type Associated Memory Type
Concept Semantic Memory (conscious understanding via study)
Task Procedural Memory (subconscious understanding via repetition)
Reference Working Memory (forgotten quickly)

Technical writers can use this knowledge to compartmentalize content according to topic type, thereby reducing cognitive strain. Mr. Hanna refers to this process as “pre-digesting” or “chunking” information for readers to absorb. In some cases, this can double the amount of information readers are able to retain. Pretty good, wouldn’t you say?

DITA and Beyond

Not all companies use DITA the same way, and that is why Rob Hanna emphasizes the importance of finding a balance. Pre-existing style guides may favor a different approach. If it works for the target audience, all is well; if not, then it may be time for a revision. If possible, try to incorporate the 4 fundamental needs for retention: consistency, chunking, relevance, and labeling.

Rob Hanna has developed a further-improved XML vocabulary, one that adapts information mapping principles and combines them with the pre-existing DITA formula. He adds two “precision content” topic types: process and principle. Each of his five information types is compartmentalized, fully taking advantage of XML’s custom tagging functionality. We may use this formula or develop our own—this is a freedom afforded to us by DITA and XML. To learn more, you may visit learningdita.com for some free online courses on the subject.

Closing

February’s meeting will cover the Columbia disaster and the ethics surrounding it. Stay tuned for more, and until then, good luck and happy writing.

PSA #1: Congratulations to Emily Wells, who is now co-manager of the mentoring program with Dan Voss!

PSA#2:  2018’s STC Summit will be in Orlando, FL. The event takes place at Hyatt Regency Orlando on I-Drive, the hotel formerly known as Peabody Orlando. We are looking for volunteers to help table the event. If you are interested, please contact STC Orlando’s president Alex Garcia via this email: president@stc-orlando.org

From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

Happy New Year! With 2016 tucked under our belt, we are gearing up for 2017 (and 2018!) in a big way. Please check out Alex Garcia’s President’s Corner article for one of our biggest announcements to date, and for an all-important method to help out the chapter!

No, really. It’s a big deal. Consequently, I’m going to skip the pleasantries and just plug this month’s exciting meeting.

We are about to kick off our 2017 event calendar in much the same way we closed out 2016: with an energizing presentation from Jack Molisani. A recap of December’s meeting will be available in next month’s edition. And this time around, he will be sharing a 2016 webinar from his content strategy conference, LavaCon!

Please join us this Thursday, January 19th, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. This is a renowned and one-of-a-kind presenter! Click here to RSVP.

Thank you,

Nick Ducharme
Manager, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

Happy New Year!

We at the STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter have a wonderful announcement that affects the short-to-mid-term future of chapter focus:

 

**STC SUMMIT 2018 IN ORLANDO, FL**

MAY 20-23, 2018

HYATT REGENCY ORLANDO

(FKA THE PEABODY ORLANDO)

 

That’s right! Orlando has been chosen to host the 2018 STC Summit – the preeminent gathering of technical communicators the world over. We at STC (Orlando Central) Florida are humbled and honored that the international headquarters chose our city as the home of next year’s STC Summit.

Putting together a conference of this magnitude is a tremendous undertaking, and we need YOUR help, as our members and friends. Elaine Gilliam, STC Meeting Manager / Communities Staff Liaison, shared an information kit with Chapter leadership, which I will be blogging about in this space as the events become relevant.

First up, we, as next year’s host Chapter, need to staff a table at the 2017 STC Summit in Washington DC. Are you going to the STC Summit this year, and would you like to help your STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter promote the City Beautiful? Please contact me directly at President@stc-orlando.org.

 

Elaine’s Description of duties:

During 2017 Summit: In the exhibit hall, STC will provide your chapter with an area where your chapter members can distribute materials to promote the location. STC will work with the Hyatt Regency Orlando, and VisitOrlando, the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau, for brochures to hand out. If you want to augment this with anything, you’re welcome to do so.

The Closing General Session on Wednesday, 10 May, will be prime time to promote the 2018 Summit.  STC will obtain a video that will help to promote the location. The Hyatt Regency Orlando has given us a $100 food and beverage gift certificate that can be used at any of their restaurants. The certificate is good through the dates of our conference. In addition, VisitOrlando has given us a beach bag with appropriate beach items. We’ll give this out at the Closing General Session. In the past, we’ve had attendees complete an entry form at the host chapter area/table in the exhibit hall. Then we have had one (or more) of the chapter representatives do the drawing at the Closing General Session.

If there is anything else the chapter wants to do at the Closing General Session, that’s fine. It just needs to be short (2 minutes). We also need to know what your plan is by so that we can include it in the script for this event. 

 

Welcome Table/Display: In the registration area, there will be a table where the host chapter may set up a display and any materials you want to hand out. Visit Orlando, the local convention and visitors bureau, will be happy to provide city and region materials. We will forward to you the contact names and phone numbers after

Some of the items we suggest you have at the table are lists of restaurants in the area, maps, and city magazines. Personal recommendations of a favorite restaurant will be greatly appreciated. Summit attendees will be responsible for making their own restaurant reservations.

We understand that having chapter representatives at the table for the entire length of the conference may be challenging. We believe the majority of attendees will come by the table at the beginning of the Summit. We suggest that at a minimum you have someone at your table during these times:

Sunday, 20 May: 12 Noon to 5:30 PM; 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Monday, 21 May: 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM; 3:30 to 5:00 PM
Tuesday, 22 May:10:30 AM to 1:00 PM; 3:30 to 5:00 PM

Naturally, if you have enough volunteers who are willing to take turns through the entire Summit, having someone at the table all the time will be a bonus.

Also, please feel free to blatantly promote your chapter. You may do this with a sign (i.e., “Central Florida Chapter welcomes you to STC’s Technical Communication Summit”), giveaways, or anything fun you can think of. Giveaway items are to be paid for by the chapter.

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From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Technical communicators of Florida and beyond,

2016 has been such a year, and that’s not just nostalgia talking. I really do feel like “emotional rollercoaster” would be a horrendous understatement.

Frankly, I’m I’ve been overwhelmed by 2016, fluctuating from joy and inspiration to grief, anger, and terror. I find myself thoroughly impressed with the year in review that our Chapter President Alex Garcia has written. And I’m not sure what clarity of thought I can hope to add in these changing times beyond the article Alex is about to share with you. But as I stare at this fresh ring on my finger and quell my raging inner voices, it suddenly occurs to me that we don’t always to be profound.

Isn’t it enough to slip into the traditional spirit of the holiday seasonto wish peace, love, and happiness for all people? This is the mindset I hope to carry with me to our chapter’s special celebratory meal. I hope to see you there, and with your plus one if you choose. Let’s all join in merry conversation over delicious food and some fun info from this year’s LavaCon, a content strategy conference. (Cheers to our special guest, Jack Molisani!)

Please join us this Thursday, December 15th, at the Black Rock Bar and Grill. Click here to RSVP.

Happy holidays,

Nick Ducharme
Manager, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/Wintersnow.jpg/800px-Wintersnow.jpg

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

The second half of 2016 was QUITE the year for the Orlando community. Personally, I saw the highest of highs and unprecedented lows. Let’s reflect on the half-year that was:

  • On June 12, 2016, Orlando was forever changed by the terrorist attack on the Pulse nightclub. Monday marked six months since that Sunday morning when I was awoken by concerned text and Facebook messages from across the world. That night, I lost a college friend, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who attended the festivities and perished alongside his boyfriend Juan Guerrero. In the days following the tragedy, I saw my community (LGBT, Latinx, and the greater Orlando area as a whole) come together as I’ve never seen. They held vigils, gave blood, shielded mourners from witnessing protesters, and raised funds (to the tune of $27M distributed to 299 claimants as of press time). We should never forget the 49 lives lost that day, and the 53-plus lives forever changed by injury.

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  • On June 23, 2016, I was sworn in as President of your STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter at Liam Fitzpatrick’s Irish Pub in Lake Mary. Knowing that we were merging with the STC Suncoast Chapter, I set out right away to forge the new relationships that would carry this chapter forward. I patiently waited for the STC international home office to cement the change as we worked behind the scenes to plan the chapter year.
  • On August 8, 2016 (yes 8/8/16 because I’m a nerd), I married my partner of 10 years in an intimate courthouse ceremony. We broadcast the nuptials on Facebook live (let me know if you would like to see the video). I will admit that the events of the summer cast a bittersweet shadow on the proceedings. When we set the date sometime in the spring, we never expected that our event would take on such great significance. I hope that our union brought a moment of brightness during the storm.
  • On August 27, 2016, the Orlando Central Florida and SunCoast Chapters of STC held a joint leadership retreat at the University of Central Florida’s Technical Communication Computer Lab. For the better part of 5 hours, we planned chapter activities for this chapter year. Our chapter came out of that meeting stronger and well-prepared to carry on.
  • In late October 2016, Dan Voss and Nicole Garcia, Mentoring co-chairs, recruited a RECORD BREAKING 16 mentoring pairs. It is my hope that these students serve as the foundation for the future of the STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter. Way to go Dan and Nicole!
  • On November 8, 2016, for better or worse, the country elected its next President. This was the end of a 15-month (!) election cycle, of which we all felt fatigued from. In the coming days, we need to look out for one another and tend to our loved ones. The sun is still rising and setting. Be excellent to one another.
  • On December 15, 2016, we will get together as a chapter to break bread and grill meat over a ridiculously-hot stone. Jack Molisani, a world-renowned speaker on Content Management, and STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter member, will moderate a festive discussion. I hope you will join us with your plus one. Please click here to RSVP.

As you can see, our STC Chapter is just part of life. It is a beacon of happiness and solidarity in a world that sometimes is not very bright and cheery. Life happens around us, yet we make time to volunteer to better our profession. I’d like to thank all of our volunteers on the Administrative Council for giving up their Tuesdays, Thursdays, sometimes even Fridays and Saturdays, to keep this chapter going. Let’s hope that 2017 is calmer than the past six months have been.

Until next year,

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If You Missed the Last Meeting

RD Sharninghouse

RD Sharninghouse

By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Secretary
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

On Thursday, November 17th, 2016 at the IHOP near UCF, the (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter of STC held its monthly meeting.  The topic was Surviving a TechComm Layoff.  This topic was presented by David Coe and David Coverston, two experienced members of our chapter with personal experience in the world of layoffs.  Being laid off can take its toll on an individual.  This presentation gave details on preparing oneself for a lay off.

The tips for being self-aware and “checking the pulse” of one’s situation were really great.  Self-awareness lets us know where we stand in the crowd.  What we need to improve on and what needs to be maintained.  “Checking the pulse” focuses on keeping up with the world around you.  Knowing the industry you’re in, the company you work for, and any of the changes taking place can give you a leg up so you can stay on top.

The tip to build a strong foundation by living smart and saving up caught my attention.  More specifically, the part about building cash reserves.  They say to build cash reserves that can cover a minimum of 3 to 6 months of expenses.  The reserves should also be liquid so they can be obtained without consequence.

Personally, finding work was always a worry, until I did eventually get a good job.  But this meeting helped me realize that having a job is a very small part of a much larger picture.

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