September 12: Does the design of a ballot prevent errors in voting?

A California election offered a natural experiment in user interface design—an open Senate seat that would be on the ballot statewide. Ballot designs must adhere to legal, technical, and financial constraints, but there is still room for variation. California’s 58 counties came up with 58 different designs. Nancy Frishberg was part of a group that analyzed the results after the election. They evaluated whether any of the discretionary graphic treatments and county-specific wording achieved better results or fewer errors. Did wording, layout or other graphic design elements lead to more accurate voting (fewer disqualified ballots)?

Continue reading

August: What Is User Experience? And why should tech writers care

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 more lucid UI text, tooltips, and context-sensitive help.

Continue reading

July: Panel of Hiring Managers

Three managers who interview and make hiring decisions regarding technical writers, editors, illustrators or other roles in the broad category of technical documentation will discuss what they are looking for in potential candidates and give you some insight into how they work. There will be time for questions from the meeting attendees.

Continue reading

June: Privacy on the Internet…I don’t think so

You will be provided with real world examples by a presenter whose primary work is OSINT investigation (open-source intelligence, data gathering from publicly available sources), along with an extensive handout containing various domestic and international websites for gathering intelligence, tips for searching, list of available tools, and list of OSINT experts to which you can turn when you have specific needs. We will delve into privacy plus the ups and down of LinkedIn, Amazon, social networking and online searching such as Spokeo.

Continue reading

May: The Leap From Open Source Volunteer to Full-Time Tech Writer

Open source software projects provide writers (and software engineers) opportunities to develop their skills, make meaningful contributions, and produce authentic work samples. These projects are almost always looking for help, including documentation and testing. But how do you get noticed when the primary communication channel is a mailing list and no one knows who you are? See how Gale Naylor leveraged her open-source experience to change careers and become a full-time technical writer at Facebook. Continue reading

April: To Contract or Not To Contract?

Many technical writers and content developers are curious about converting from salaried roles to contracting or freelancing. The freelance market promises flexible work schedules, the ability to work from anywhere, and the ability to cherrypick exciting projects. But most writers are nervous about taking the plunge. How is freelancing different from full-time employment? What are common pitfalls to watch for, and how can you prepare yourself for a new career path as a freelance writer? How do you know if you have what it takes to make the transition­–and be happy doing it? Continue reading

February 14: “What You Need to Know about IPv6 and the Internet of Things”

IPv6 is critical to operation of the internet and foundational to the Internet of Things. At our February 14 session, you’ll learn these things:
1. What IPv6 is and how it differs from its predecessor, IPv4.
2. Why is it so important to the Internet and foundational to the Internet of Things industries? Continue reading

January 13: Annual Party and Touchstone Awards

Our annual party features a catered buffet dinner, great companionship, and valuable door prizes. As in previous years, we will announce the winners of the Touchstone technical communication competition and display the winning entries throughout the evening.

This party is an annual favorite — casual, but festive. Come have fun while keeping up with the best work of your peers. To reserve online, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Continue reading

“Evaluating (and Improving) Technical Documentation: Save Money and Reduce Risk”

“Is this documentation effective?” That can be an important question. Technical documentation that is poorly designed or poorly written, or that is not addressed to the right audience, can cause problems: dissatisfied customers, lost customers, wasted effort, and in the worst-case scenario, lawsuits or regulatory penalties. How can you determine if your documentation is adequate or where it can be improved? This presentation will show you how to evaluate the quality of your documentation and identify ways to improve it. I will discuss visual design, choosing content, working with standards, and more.

Continue reading