Monthly Archives: December 2017

President’s Message – 2017-Q4: Reflection, TC Camp, and Elections

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John SteinbeckTravels with Charley: In Search of America (Courtesy of Goodreads)

With winter comes reflection, TC Camp and Chapter elections!

Chapter Elections. If you are an EBSTC Chapter member in good standing, even if you have yet to register for 2018, you should have received a ballot to vote for chapter officers. If you have not received a ballot, please request one from Richard Mateosian (xrmxrm@gmail.com). Please return your ballot to Richard by December 31!

TC Camp. TC Camp is a fun, educational, technical writing experience. If you haven’t registered (or don’t know what it is), I strongly urge you to check it out. TC Camp 2018 happens in Santa Clara on Jan. 26-27. Friday will be the pre-Camp API workshop* (Peter Gruenbaum), and Saturday will be workshops** in the morning with the “unconference” in the afternoon. This is a great opportunity to network, exchange ideas, and have fun! There will also be a job board this year. Volunteers and sponsors are also welcome. Find more information, and register at TC Camp 2018. 

Reflection. Winter feels like a natural time for personal reflection. How best can I direct my energies next year? Shall I go in a new direction or continue as I am, but with more breadth or depth? What skills or knowledge do I need (or want) to gain in the coming months? “…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours,” (Thoreau, Walden, The Literature Page, 20 Dec 2017).

I wish you a very Happy New Year!

— Gale Naylor

Gale Naylor


Documenting RESTful APIs Using Swagger and the Open API Specification, given by Peter Gruenbaum.

**Workshops on Minimalism, Chatbots, and WordPress/SEO, and Adobe’s Ambassador workshop

What User Experience Is and Why Tech Writers Should Care – 4 January 2018 [Meeting]

Back in the day, tech writers were the vanguard of software usability; the way to make software easier to use was to write a better user manual. But then along came usability, and writers discovered that they could better serve their readers by helping engineers to make software easier to use. Writers also made their instructions more accessible by providing user assistance in the form of UI text, tooltips, and context-sensitive help.

Nowadays we hear less about usability and more about user experience. In fact, the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) recently changed its name to the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). How did this happen, and what does it mean for the future of our profession? What is the role of technical writing in this new universe?

About Our Speaker

Nicki L. Davis, Ph.D. wrote her first user manual in 1980 while studying for her Ph.D. in chemistry. She has worked as a technical writer for over 35 years and conducted her first usability test in 1992. Nicki has served the Berkeley chapter of STC as treasurer, secretary, and most recently as president. She holds the honorary rank of STC Associate Fellow.

Meeting Logistics

Date: Thursday, 5 JANUARY 2018.

Meeting Recap

Summary: As a 35-year tech comm vet, Nicki Davis knows a thing or two about how to help engineers improve their designs to enhance user experience. Her presentation on January 4 revealed how technical writers can contribute, and inspired more than a few nodding heads, war stories and chuckles. Read more…

HCI aka Human Computer InteractionHCI snip

EBSTC members, you really should have attended Nicki’s presentation in person to appreciate these best moments:

  • How a 6’ x 6’ minicomputer with 64k of RAM inspired this PhD candidate to became a technical writer as well as a chemist
  • OK/Cancel cartoons (Copyright © 2003-2010 Tom Chi / Kevin Cheng) illustrating the many challenges of an HCI pro and often, writers too
  • Nicki’s visible delight at her audience’s enthusiastic reception and related stories

Writing and HCI teams face common goals and challenges

While HCI folks are primarily focused on visual design and patterns within a graphical user interface, they share the writer’s goals to minimize wordy text, maintain a consistent vocabulary and deliver what users actually need. As fellow technical communicators, they too are champions of task and user analysis, usability testing and taking the end user’s perspective. But both groups also share the difficulty of getting respect, recognition and early access to make the most impact for a positive user experience.

We also share the challenge to influence developers, project managers and UI designers who don’t feel guilty saying, “They’ll learn!” when we point out poor design, often too late in the project. An especially galling point was Nicki’s observation that at one old-school company, learning a particularly difficult software interface  was considered a rite of passage for new team members.

Eyes rolled when Nicki presented common challenges faced by both writers and HCI staff:

  • Various Dilbert strips by Scott Adams (Dilbert © 2018, Andrews McMeel Syndication) in her presentation featuring Tina the Tech Writer
  • Measuring ROI by page count or words per day rather than fewer calls to technical support
  • “It’s too early for your feedback right now, just make it pretty.”
  • Last minute, token additions to project budgets to cover usability
  • Disrespect and rudeness when we point out a usability flaw
  • Short-sighted project managers, developers and designers who just don’t get usability
  • Content sourced from Marketing rather than the writing group
  • Organizational silos that separate HCI from writers

What can we writers do to impact user experience?

  • Seek out your company’s HCI group, which may be named UI, UX, or Human Factors
  • Learn how your company approaches usability
  • Seek ownership of customer-facing text (button and tool names, context sensitive help, dynamic user guidance)
  • Volunteer to perform design Verification and Validation tasks ahead of implementation
  • Advocate for usability testing by real users where the project team can witness their struggles

Ultimately, if you want to influence and improve the user experience of products produced by your company, you need to communicate internally to inform, educate and demonstrate how your core skills can contribute to project teams and end user satisfaction.

Meanwhile, enjoy Nicki’s presentation and its cartoon illustrations.

Rejoin the Friendly Chapter today

It’s time to renew your STC and East Bay chapter membership…the renewal period is closing soon, and we want you to stay with us as a member of our value-adding, award-winning community!

For more than 55 years, we have provided an important resource where technical communicators in the East Bay can hear excellent presentations by leaders in the profession, expand their network, and build skills.

There is no place like the Friendly chapter to see compelling evidence of the value of a professional community.

I recently completed 33 years of membership in STC, and I am grateful to be part of a community of professionals who have become my colleagues, friends, and teachers…a community where I have been able to learn new skills, expand my network, and be reminded that I am a valued technical communicator no matter what my career fortunes or job title.

I hope you will see STC’s staying power in your professional life as well…and that you will say Yes to renewal in 2018!

For more information about STC membership, and to renew, visit the Membership page on the STC web site at http://stc.org, and click Join or Renew along the top navigation bar. Please feel free to contact me as well if you have any questions or concerns about your STC membership.

Thank you for being part of the Friendly Chapter. I look forward to continuing our professional journey together as a strong community…where every member matters.

With warm regards,

Lori R. Meyer
Membership Manager, STC East Bay Chapter
The Friendly Chapter