Last week on April 14, I joined my tech writer colleagues for the STC NE Competition Awards dinner and presentations at the Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington.
During dinner, Kurt Kroeber, the STC New England Competition Manager and Councilor and Mark Decker, an STC NE Councilor, presented awards to the winners the 2014 STC NE Competition. Winning instructional and user-support entries were ranked by judges into three levels: “Merit,” “Excellence,” or “Distinction” for each one’s quality.
- Mike Nelson, KVH Industries (Best of Show)
- Paul White, KVH Industries
- Rich Maggiani, Solari Communications
- Ben Yong and Rebecca Orecchia, Waters Corporation
- Nicole Corriel, Dima Lisin, Birju Patel, and Brett Shoelson, The MathWorks
- Carla Miriam-Levy, The MathWorks
- Jennifer Hess, Mary Walsh, Sapan Raval, and Jeanne Ferguson, Omgeo
- Kerry Fox, Bianca McElrue, Michelle Mean, Bianca Panlasigue, Remberto Quesada, Matthew Russo, and Huyvu Vu, Omgeo
During dinner we enjoyed three interesting presentations. First, STC NE Councilor Patty Gale demonstrated how she tests Autodesk’s information architecture with a cool online usability-testing tool, Treejack. Using Treejack, Patty gets user feedback on her online help documentation, with visual reports on the “findability” of help topics. The reports are graphic representations that showed exactly where users clicked to get information.
According to Treejack’s site, “study participants” (users) perform painless, online usability tests such as the “tree testing activity.” They nominate where they’d expect to find the answers to a series of tasks in a company’s information architecture. This lets technical writers and information architects close the feedback loop so they can structure their content correctly.
Presentation Two brought STC NE Councilor Art Campbell to the projector, where he showed us how he and John Sgammato migrated Actifio’s unstructured FrameMaker documents into the Salesforce Knowledge knowledgebase. Faced with the challenge of migrating unstructured “book” content to a database used by customers and support staff, Art and John used FrameMaker 11, FrameScript, Mif2Go, and some custom FrameScripts created by Rick Quatro to successfully migrate task-level documentation into Salesforce Knowledge.
In the final presentation, Paul Duarte, a graduate student member of STC, showed us how iFixit.com works, how he uses it as a technical communications teaching tool, and how to load your homemade repair documentation and pictures to the site. iFixit is a crowdsourced (but vetted) site where tinkerers write, illustrate, and publish instructions on how to fix things — anything from iPhones (“A Truck Killed My Phone. But did it …?”) to soaked keyboards (“My cat spilled his mug of coffee over my computer”). An interesting sidebar of Paul’s demo was how he used iFixit in an assignment for his technical-writing students at UMass Dartmouth. Some of his students reported that the assignment empowered them to start fixing things instead of tossing them. (iFixit’s tag line is “Let’s fix the world, one device at a time.”)
This month’s program was not offered as a webinar, but some of the presenters’ work is on Slideshare.net.