I have exciting news. As many of you know, I love running, especially on the awe-inspiring trails in Vancouver. To me, running provides a great balance to working as a technical writer at my computer. Much as I love working on projects for my clients, it can take a physical toll to spend too many hours at my desk, so I try to balance it out by running four times a week.
Now I have a great motivation to hit the trail at the end of the work day! I will be running in the New York Marathon on November 6, 2016 to raise money for Harlem United. My goal is to raise $3,000 for this fantastic organization that helps Harlem community members by providing access to health care, resources, and education about AIDS and HIV. They provide quality HIV prevention, housing, and care services in a safe and nurturing environment to unite Harlem’s diverse communities and address the needs of all people living with and threatened by HIV/AIDS.
I’m asking all my friends, family, clients, and colleagues to help support the amazing work that Harlem United does, and cheer me on in my dream of running the New York Marathon.
If you can help, please visit my donor page. You can sponsor me by:
Mile ($26 for the 26.2 miles of the marathon)
Kilometre ($42 for the 42 kilometres of the race)
Meal ($100 to buy a group lunch for LGBT youth at risk for contracting HIV)
I’ve been wanting to run in the New York Marathon for 20 years, since I first began running in 1996. It’s the largest marathon in the world (yikes!) and goes through all five boroughs of New York City. This will be my first full marathon, though I’ve run ten half marathons. I’m thrilled to finally run this race and to raise money for Harlem United.
Although my first passion is technical writing, recently I’ve been developing video skills as well. I am excited to share Another New York Love Affair #25 with you:
I took this footage of the “Sterling Cooper” building in my final week in New York, at the end of March. At the time I was midway through watching Mad Men on Netflix, and in love with the cast of characters. Also in love with New York, and the beautiful strangeness of Madison Avenue. Enjoy!
THEY’RE UBIQUITOUS. People—especially technical writers—love their smartphones the world over, from Vancouver to New York, and the smombies are among us! Yes, the smartphone zombies are among us! You’ve seen them—people walking slowly, looking down at their phones, oblivious to their surroundings, possibly risking an accident—an increasingly common social phenomenon.
To smombies, the content on their phones seems more interesting than real life. I did a one-minute video of a New York subway platform, and almost everyone on the platform was looking at their phones while waiting for the train. The situation is becoming extreme. But I understand, because I’m addicted to my smartphone, too! It seems like fun, not work, to learn on a smartphone instead of a computer. So how can we use this technology to teach?
The idea is to design short training pieces that can be delivered via your app or website. Keep the training sessions to 10 minutes or less. Make the training tasks interactive, so people can use the fun features of their smartphones. Deliver some of your content using video—people just love watching video!
Instructional Video Design Tips
Here are some tips for designing effective videos for learning:
Include a title slide for orientation
Use high resolution (1080P HD)
Include still pictures—both iconic (resembling
real objects) and analytic (symbolizing objects
Include short on-screen texts—labels, call-outs,
short text slides
Facilitate closed captions and subtitling—create
your own or use YouTube’s automated features
Include background music
Eliminate unpleasant background noise (electronic
hums, static, and so on)
Use a speaking rate of 180 words per minute
(faster is more popular than slower)
These 8 tips adapted from Petra ten Hove and Hans van der Meij’s research (2015).
I was honoured to participate in the prestigious Society for Technical Communication (STC) International Summit Awards (ISA) in two different roles this year. I served as both ISA Competition Judging Manager and as a judge. This meant I had the chance to view an exciting showcase of the top work in the field of technical writing.
The winning entries demonstrated exceptional technical writing clarity, organization, and delivery, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of the end user. The winning entries’ communication delivery methods displayed both brilliance and beauty, with innovative video and voice narration, breath-taking print artwork, and game-changing web-based delivery methods. I felt inspired to see the fantastic work that other technical writers are doing, and look forward to seeing further innovations next year.
Who Can Enter?
The ISA competition is open to entrants who have won a Distinguished or Excellence award at the chapter or regional level. Technical writers do not have to be a member of the STC to enter STC competitions. This year we had entries from North America, Europe, and Israel.
Highlights – Video and Judges
One of the highlights was viewing the video entries. I am very interested in the ways that video can be used to deliver and enhance technical communication. I developed a new set of criteria for judging videos, and will be helping to revise the judging forms for future competitions.
Another highlight was managing a team of 20 experienced and committed judges. I met new technical writers from across Canada and the US, and had the opportunity to both coach and learn as we worked together. In order to meet a very tight deadline, my amazing team judged 34 entries in just over a week. Well done, everyone!
I’ve written previously about the Information Interview Service that I created for the STC’s Canada West Coast chapter. Our chapter won a Pacesetter Award for this service, which pairs aspiring technical writers with experienced technical writers. I published an article about this service in Intercom, the professional technical writing journal of the STC, and both the New York Metro chapter and the Chicago chapter implemented similar services. So now if you would like to talk to a senior technical writer about what is involved in joining our technical writing profession, you have three choices:
BTW, the New York Metro chapter also won a Pacesetter Award for their Talk to a Professional service, and the Chicago chapter won a Pacesetter Award the year they implemented their service as well. I am delighted that my idea bore such wonderful fruit for technical writers across the continent!