Hey, I’ve Been Elected!

Yowza, I’m elected to the STC Board of Directors!  I’m signed up for two years of hard labour, but it is an honour to serve, and serve I shall.

I don’t need to write a long post here, just remind those of you readers who might also be STC members, that my issues won’t go away – you can see them all on this site, grouped as pages under The Power of Radical Persuasion.

I’ll keep people posted on STC activities from my new perspective in the same set of pages, and on twitter as @gallon4stc. This main posting area will continue to be separate, devoted to real communication issues.

I would also really like to say how much I have appreciated this campaign, and that ALL the candidates have been good, worthy candidates. STC is lucky to have such depth of talent.

I also especially want to thank those members who voted. Not that many do, so if you did vote, even if you didn’t vote for me, you are a hero in my eyes. Thank you for voting.

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I’m on The Mindtouch Top 400 List

Mindtouch has included my two Twitter personas, @raygallon (number 118) and @gallon4stc  (number 259) on its annual list of top influencers in technical communication and content strategy.

I am really delighted to be included, but share some questions about the methodology with David Farbey. Rather than repeat all his arguments, I’ll direct you to his blog post on the subject. 

In my case, @gallon4stc is a persona that was created exclusively to run my campaign for office in STC, and keep that separated from my main tweet stream. It has relatively few followers and a small number of tweets. If the algorithm is purely quantitative, I don’t know how I made it to the list. If there are qualitative criteria (one might be, for example, the influence of a persona’s followers), I’d like to know more about how they were constructed.

So thanks, Mindtouch, for the honour, and please help us understand better how we got there!

TCWorld/Tekom and STC TC Summit: Two Realities

Since attending the TCWorld/Tekom conference for the first time last October, I’ve been thinking about how it both resembles and doesn’t resemble the STC Technical Communications Summit, an event that I have attended several times.

I had heard a lot of different opinions about this, and find that my own perception of this first dive into the Tekom world is a bit different from many of the comments I’ve heard. Here are a few of my observations, in no particular order, comparing the two events.

Basic Statistics


Number of days:

  • TCWorld/Tekom: 3
  • STC Summit: 4

Cost (member std rates):

  • TCWorld/Tekom: 650€
  • STC Summit: $1 025

Social Events included:

  • TCWorld/Tekom: Refreshment breaks, lunch every day
  • STC Summit: Refreshment breaks, 2 receptions, 1 lunch

Number of sessions:

  • TCWorld/Tekom: English – 62 sessions, 24 workshops German- 82 sessions, 25 workshops
  • STC Summit: 80 sessions, workshops extra

Post event access:

  • TCWorld/Tekom: Some presentation slides available for download
  • STC Summit: Summit@aClick access to full recordings of most sessions

Both conferences include trade fairs (Tekom’s is many times bigger than STC’s), and vendor showcases. Tekom also includes technology sessions that don’t seem to have a direct equivalent at the STC Summit, though some of these themes are treated in STC regular sessions.

Tekom offers a discounted rate to members of TC Europe member organisations. STC members do not receive a discount. STC, to my knowledge, has no discount programme for members of sister organisations anywhere.

Tekom’s trade fair does not include the innovation of the consultant’s corner, the space reserved for small consultancies that has been quite successful at recent STC Summits.

Content

As Kai Weber has pointed out in his overview of Tekom, it really is two parallel events: one in English, one in German. I have the impression (not totally backed up by observation) that more of the German sessions were oriented to practitioners, and more of the English sessions were oriented towards managers or consultants.

Like the STC Summit, presentations are organised in parallel tracks, and you can follow a single track or skip from one to another, as your needs and interest direct you.

Sarah O’Keefe, who speaks fluent German, said that she preferred to attend more of the German sessions. Her reasoning is that she already knows most of the English presenters, and the German presentations offer a different perspective on the themes that occupy our attention. My German is very rusty, and what remains in my head is just enough for me to feel frustrated when I try to decipher a spoken presentation. I must refresh my German before attending another Tekom event, because I would have very much liked to experience what Sarah was talking about.

Scott Abel organized a content strategy day at TCWorld that I took part in, that was the highlight of the conference for me. As I understand it, this was a new initiative for Tekom, not unlike the effort at the Dallas STC Summit. I would have liked to see a more dynamic followup at the Sacramento STC summit, as I have indicated elsewhere.

A major component of the TCWorld/Tekom event is localisation, and GALA is a partner in the event. The result is that if localisation is not at the centre of your concerns, it will seem that a huge part of the event does not concern you. A very high percentage of exhibitors at the trade fair were also vendors of localisation services, software, etc.

On the other hand, TCWorld/Tekom features a separate “Associations World,” a sort of trade fair for not for profits, for which STC has no equivalent. Exhibitors this year included other technical communication organisations such as ISTC (UK) and organisations from India, Japan, Poland, etc. It’s interesting to note that Tekom, a for-profit organisation, hosts associations, and STC, a not-for-profit, charitable organisation, doesn’t really have an equivalent.

Bottom Line

Both TCWorld/Tekom and STC Summits are great events. They have different characters, based in part on cultural differences, and also on the different business models and size of the two organisations. I am pleased to have been able to attend, and present at, both.

Never Had So Much Fun Doing Tech Comm!

It’s been a great few weeks of incredible webinars, conferences and networking, and I’m really glad to have been at the centre of some of this action, sorry I missed some other great events.

I’m especially pleased that many folks have been glad to hear what i’ve had to present, and are saying it in public. So many thanks, merci, gracies, gracias, obrigado, danke schön, etc.

The Infodesign site picked up my review of the EuroIA Summit.

I had lots of fun doing a webcast for Sarah O’Keefe and Scriptorium Publishing Services, and you’ll find a nice overview of it in Kai Weber’s blog .

Kai also did a nice write up of the content strategy day at this year’s TCWorld conference led by Scott Abel.

Die Redakteuse had some interesting takeaways from the day, even if she didn’t feel totally comfortable with the subject.

My presentation there was based on the earlier webinar, and it’s also on line.

Last, and certainly not least, is the fun of getting into the spotlight.

Recently two interviews have appeared that I can’t help crowing about a little:

Gwendolynne Barr wrote an article about technical communication in France and the STC France chapter, based in part on one of these. You can can read it in STC Berkely’s newsletter, Ragged Left

There’s also a fun interview of me in the Firehead blog, for which I thank Firehead and the folks who worked to make it so.

WHEW! What’s next? A presentation on transformation, multiple identities, and virtuality for the Consciousness Reframed conference in Lisbon, later this month.

See you there?

The EuroIA Summit – a Wow Experience

I did plan to write this a bit earlier, but while I was in Prague at this year’s EuroIA summit, I got a bout of bronchitis that’s been slowing me down. That said, I can still easily say “Wow.” It was a great conference.

What made it great, first and foremost, was the spirit. Just about everyone there was infused with a certain joie de vivre that was infectious. People were there to share and celebrate their profession. The “celebrate” part was really important. There was a sense that information architecture, as a profession, had gone through some hard times, and that it was now possible to hold one’s head up high and jubilantly proclaim to the heavens, “Ich bin ein IA!” – OK, wrong language for Prague, but I don’t know any Czech 😉

Another reason for the success of this conference is that it is deliberately kept small – sold out at 200. This is done to guaranty that most people get to speak to most people, and that you get to meet new folks, not just hang out with old friends. The small group fosters camaraderie as well. There were only two concurrent sessions at a time, so, although choices were sometimes difficult, they weren’t as daunting as for some larger conferences.

Then there was the quality of the presentations themselves. While I can’t say that they were uniformly outstanding, every presentation I attended was able to grab and hold my attention, even the one that I found disappointing. No one was so boring that I wanted to leave. That might seem to be a backhanded compliment, but anyone who has had to organize a conference knows that it is very difficult to achieve such a thing in a three-day event.

I specially appreciated that this conference was really for people in Europe. There were some attendees from North America, but the focus of the conference was on European practice and European issues, and that was a refreshing change from many so-called “international” conferences where people from all over the world can congregate and talk about the state of their professions in the United States.

One innovation of this conference that I really loved – and will probably steal next time I have to organize a conference myself – was what they called “The IA Shuffle.” Conference chair Eric Reiss explained that in the past, organizers had been disappointed by the poor quality of panels and debates that had been proposed and prepared in advance. They decided, a few years back, that an improvised panel couldn’t possibly be any worse, and thus was born the IA Shuffle.

Here’s how it works. At the beginning of the day, a tall hat is placed in front of one of the meeting rooms, and attendees are invited to drop their proposals for a panel discussion topic into the hat. At the end of the day, in plenary session, a single topic is drawn from the hat, and that is the topic of the discussion. Volunteer panelists are then solicited, and the process is repeated as they put their names into the hat. Five or six names are drawn, and Bob’s your uncle! A panel is born.

I personally agree with Eric Reiss’ assessment that the panel we witnessed was every bit as good, and perhaps better for its spontaneity, as any prepared panel could be.

I came back from Prague knowing that next year I’ll be submitting a paper proposal, and going to Rome for EuroIA 2012 whether my paper is accepted or not.