Past Meetings: 2005 to 2010

The December 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Designing with the Mind in Mind: The Psychological Basis for UI Design Rules
Speaker: Jeff Johnson of

UI design rules are not simple recipes to be applied mindlessly. Applying them effectively requires determining their applicability (and precedence) in specific situations. It also requires balancing the trade-offs that inevitably arise in situations when design rules appear to contradict each other. By understanding the underlying psychology for the design rules, designers and evaluators enhance their ability to interpret and apply them. Explaining that psychology is the focus of this talk. It is based on Johnson’s new book: Designing With the Mind in Mind.


Jeff Johnson is Principal Consultant at UI Wizards, Inc., a product usability consultancy ( After earning B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale and Stanford Universities, he worked as a UI designer and implementer, engineer manager, usability tester, and researcher at Cromemco, Xerox, US West, Hewlett-Packard Labs, and Sun Microsystems. He has taught at Stanford University, Mills College, and the University of Canterbury. He has authored articles and chapters on a variety of topics in Human-Computer Interaction, as well as the books GUI BloopersWeb BloopersGUI Bloopers 2.0, and Designing with the Mind in Mind.

The November 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Surviving a Behavioral Interview
Speaker: Mysti Berry of

Many software companies use behavioral interview techniques instead of the traditional interview.

If you are a hiring manager, come find out why behavioral interviews reveal things that straightforward interviewing techniques don’t.

If you are a job seeker, come find out what these kinds of interviews are really looking for—and leave with some ideas about how to ace your next interview. This talk will also briefly review the top 5 candidate Dos and Don’ts—some of which may surprise you. If time permits, we’ll even do a little role-playing.

Mysti Berry is a lead technical writer for She has been a software technical writer for 20 years and worked in the enterprise cloud for five years. She teaches classes in the Technical Communication program at UC Berkeley Extension, and has given presentations at numerous STC chapter meetings. She has been trained in behavioral interview techniques and applied them rigorously in all her interviews for the last three years.

The October 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Times (p.m.): 6:00 to 7:00 Networking, conversation, & dinner; 7:00 Announcements; 7:15 Presentation
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: The Power of ePubs: Easily Creating Cross-device Online and Offline Content without Programming
Speaker: Silke Fleischer and Eric Converse, both of ATIV Software.

The September 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Technical Communicators and Their Role in Stopping Brain Drain
Speaker: Gina Gotsill and Ken Ball, both of Techprose.

Interviewing is a big part of what technical communications do on the job. Technical communicators interview SMEs, users, and others, and then package what they learn to help people work more effectively. While interviewing skills are important to documentation, training, and project management, they can also play a major role in helping organizations capture and transfer knowledge as Baby Boomers move toward retirement.

During this talk, Ken Ball and Gina Gotsill will explore how technical communicators can use their interviewing skills to draw out valuable knowledge as longtime workers begin to step away. The content technical communicators create from these interviews can benefit organizations in the following ways:

  • Maintain business continuity
  • Create documentation of processes and procedures that reside in people’s heads
  • Promote knowledge sharing and collaboration

Ball and Gotsill will also provide an overview of the three primary generations in the workplace: Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y, and their learning preferences. Their research has shown that understanding the audience is an important first step to creating a knowledge retention program that makes sense. They will also touch on several different kinds of knowledge—explicit, implicit, and tacit, and the best ways to capture this knowledge for the organization.

At the end of this session, attendees will have a better understanding of:

  • The three primary generations in the workforce and their learning preferences
  • Explicit, implicit, and tacit knowledge
  • Methods for gaining buy-in from staff
  • The benefits of documenting knowledge
  • Methods for capturing knowledge, including documentation, communities of practice, mentoring, and storytelling


Gina Gotsill is a Gen X writer with degrees in journalism from San Francisco State University and University of California, Berkeley. She is also a fellow of the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Ms. Gotsill has covered a wide range of business topics that include keeping Boomer skills in the workplace, teaching finance to non-finance professionals, and growth and change in urban and suburban business districts.

Ken Ball is a Boomer and has been closely following aging in the workplace with curiosity for years. At TechProse, the consulting firm where he does business development, Ken tracks knowledge and content management, including training and documentation, for major U.S. clients. He has more than 30 years of experience in corporate sales and marketing, including years in the book publishing business, working for IDG Books, publishers of the …For Dummies computer and general reference books. He has a B.S. in Marketing-Speech Communications from Bradley University.

The August 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: In the Trenches with DITA
Speakers: Mysti Berry of Salesforce, Ben Colborn of Citrix, and Tom Idleman of FICO.
Mysti’s handout: Handout for DITA panel

We hear a lot about structured authoring and DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) these days, and there are plenty of webinars and conference presentations that talk about the benefits that can come from shifting content into DITA–opportunities for content reuse, lower costs for translation, conditional processing, automatic linking, improved consistency and usability, and more.

But what’s it like for writers who actually works with DITA on a day-to-day basis? Is it much different from the way they worked before? Is it hard to make the shift? Are they glad they did? Have their jobs changed?

This month at Berkeley STC we will hear from a panel of writers who work with DITA on a regular basis to author documentation and training content. They will tell us what that’s like from the writer’s perspective, when DITA is fully integrated into the workflow.

Bring your questions and join us for this insider look at DITA.

Mysti Berry has been a technical writer for 20 years and is presently a Lead Technical Writer at She has been working with the DITA OpenToolkit for the last five years, including having survived a FrameMaker-to-DITA conversion, and the tardy adoption of a content/information model. creates context-sensitive help, developer guides, implementation and tip guides, quick reference guides, and release notes using DITA. Their deliverable types include HTML, PDF, and eBooks. They also create videos, guided tours, and now comic books with non-DITA tools. Mysti has taught at UC Berkeley Extension, and holds a B.A. in Linguistics from UCSC and an MFA from University of San Francisco. She has won multiple awards for her technical writing and screenplay and fiction, and served as STC Touchstone judge.

Ben Colborn is a Courseware Development Lead for Citrix Education. At Citrix, courseware developers use DITA to create instructor-led training (PDF and PPT) and eLearning (HTML and Flash interactions in SCORM). In addition to developing training material for Citrix virtualization technologies, Ben works to improve course quality and simplify internal development processes. Before joining Citrix Education, he taught academic and professional writing at the college level and worked as a Unix system administrator at Sun Microsystems. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Idaho and an M.A. in TESOL from San José State University.

Tom Idleman has been working with DITA for 7 years, both as a technical writer and a course developer.  As a senior technical writer at IBM and FICO, he has written a wide range of documentation in DITA using mainly Epic Editor and XMetaL. As a course developer for Lasselle-Ramsay, he delivered a 4-hour training session on XMetaL and DITA at DocTrain East 2008, a full-day training session on XMetaL and DITA for Intel Corporation, and developed the XMART DITA CMS training program for Cisco Systems. .

The July 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Focus On the User and the Rest Follows: Developing Personas to Improve Your Content
Speaker: Joan Lasselle and Jana Humphreys, both of Lasselle-Ramsay, Inc.

Content about your company, products, and services is a critical resource for communicating with your customers.  But in today’s market your customers have never been more diverse or demanding. How do you meet their individual user needs? Such tools as structured content, XML, DITA, Component Content Management, and Dynamic Publishing provide the capability to manage and target your content. Technology gives you efficiency, but it doesn’t tell you who needs what. Understanding the content needs of your customers gives you the capability to create added value through your content.

This interactive presentation with hands on exercises introduces you to the steps for developing personas and how using those personas can improve your product information and learning content.

This session will help you understand:

  • The elements of detailed persona development, including task analysis and scenarios
  • The link between personas and the content model
  • How understanding customer needs extends the value of your investment in structured content
  • Why persona development is essential in a global market


Joan Lasselle is the founder and President of Lasselle-Ramsay, Inc. Since 1982 Lasselle-Ramsay has helped global 1000 companies to get control of their new product or service content and deliver superior customer experience through content infrastructures. Lasselle-Ramsay has worked with industry leading companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Boston Scientific, and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Joan is a senior member of STC, ISPI, a past board member of CMPros, and a regular contributor at industry conferences.

Jana Humphreys works with clients to design targeted learning and content solutions. Since 1992 she has worked on hundreds of curriculum design, custom training development, and technical documentation projects for a variety of organizations in the banking, finance, insurance, biotech, medical device, high-tech, and retail industries. Jana earned a Master’s degree in Education/Instructional Technology from San Jose State University and is a past board member for the Silicon Valley Chapter of ISPI.

The June 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: The Management Perspective: A Panel of Tech Pubs Managers from Around the Bay Area
Speaker: Stewart Florsheim, Advent Software, Kim Shain from Adobe, and Pat oshihiro from EFI.

This month we are pleased to host a panel of managers and directors of technical communication groups from around the Bay Area. They will tell us about the challenges they face, and what skills and abilities they value most in the people they manage.

We’ve asked them to think about questions like these:

  • What are the biggest challenges you face? (What keeps you up at night?)
  • What is the biggest change you see coming over the next 12 to 24 months?
  • If you could add one skillset to your team, what would it be?
  • What do you value most, from people on your team?
  • What changes can technical writers, editors, and other team members make, to help technical publications groups be successful today?
  • What question have we forgotten to ask, that we should be asking you?

Join us to learn from these managers. Find out what issues they face in managing technical publications groups today, and learn what qualities and expertise they need from their teams, to be successful.


Stewart Florsheim, Kim Shain, and Pat Yoshihiro

Stewart Florsheim is the Director of Learning Products at Advent Software, a company in San Francisco that makes software products for money managers. Stewart and his team are responsible for all the documentation and training materials, and Stewart also manages the content on the company’s client Web site.  Stewart has over 20 years experience in tech pubs management.

Kim Shain is a Content and Community Manager at Adobe in San Francisco. Her team has produced developer documentation for Flash Player, Flash Lite, and other Adobe mobile products. They have also become much more actively involved with their developer community, exploring ways to incorporate valuable third-party content and to engage in the conversations happening in various social media.

Pat Yoshihiro is Director of Technical Communications at EFI in Foster City. With a staff of 17 in 4 locations, she is responsible for developing the documentation and embedded help for the company’s  flagship product “Fiery.”  Her group also handles localization of documentation and help for up to 7 languages.  Pat has seen the technical publications field evolve, having been in the field since well before the PC and WordStar—she is even listed on one of the artifacts in the Computer History Museum (

Linda Urban, Berkeley STC’s VP for Programs, will moderate. Linda is a technical communications consultant and instructor based in Berkeley.

The May 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Writing for People and Situations When Reading Is Not Easy (a report from a CHI 2010 workshop)
Speaker: Kath Straub, Usability.Org
Slides: Writing Effectively when Reading Isn’t Easy (pdf)

Many different factors and situations can make it difficult for people to read, for example, cognitive impairment, reading in a second language, high stress situations, vision problems, and dyslexia. This year at CHI 2010, Kath Straub participated in the workshop Design to Read: Designing for People Who Do Not Read Easily. The workshop brought together expert practioners in the usability and accessibility fields to consider issues related to writing for audiences and situations when reading is not easy. Participants in the workshop first explored strategies that can enhance readability in different “hard to read” contexts, and then discussed how to leverage strategies from one context for use in other contexts.

In this interactive session, Kath will review these strategies with us and help us consider how we can apply them in our own work as technical writers.

If you are not familiar with CHI workshops, they provide a venue where professionals with common interests can discuss and explore a particular area of interest. Workshops often move an area of study forward, and can result in additional research or writings. For more about CHI workshops, see

Kath Straub works with organizations and agencies to create, integrate, and evaluate interactions and content. Usability and Content strategy are both key elements of this effort. To ensure that sites are both usable and useful, Kath also focuses on how to create meaningful small talk that engages users via readable and persuasive content to drive behavioral change.

Kath is an energetic and entertaining speaker who presents frequently at conferences and workshops around the world. Recently, she has presented in Atlanta (CHI), Berlin (UPA), London (TecCom), and Austin, TX (GTC). She’s currently the Principal of Prior to that, she spent 9 years as the Chief Scientist at Human Factors International. Kath holds a Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Science from the University of Rochester.

 The April 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Developing and Delivering Documentation in a Wiki
Speaker: Dee Elling, Embarcadero Systems
Slides: Developing and Delivering Documentation in a Wiki (ppt)

Over the last 2 years, Embarcadero Technologies went through the transition from authoring their developer documentation in XML/DITA and publishing to Microsoft Help2, to writing and publishing their content using MediaWiki. Dee Elling will talk with us about what led to that decision, and what their experience has been. She will talk with us about:

  • Why traditional pubs tools don’t “scale down” well
  • Why Execs think wikis are the best thing since tax writeoffs
  • What works and doesn’t work out-of-the-box
  • What skillsets you need
  • Why they dropped XML/DITA

Dee Elling is perpetually curious. She is always looking for new ways to meet the changing needs of web-centric customers. She is interested in lean development, rapid iteration, customer engagement and collaboration, and in growing self-motivated and technically-savvy teams.

Dee led the pioneering team at BEA WebLogic in bringing high-quality and highly relevant technical documentation to the internet. WebLogic writers applied an automated continuous-improvement update cycle to what used to be static information.

Dee raised quite a few eyebrows by insisting that a writer’s first duty was to the customer who just found an issue in a “released” document, and that the writer should and could update that documentation right away.

She also pushed the writers to prioritize examples as their most-effective deliverable.

As a result of this focus on quality, the WebLogic documentation website became a go-to site for Java developers, and was copied and emulated by other companies.

Dedicated to bringing the customer even closer to the content, Dee is now deploying wiki solutions throughout the technical information development cycle at Embarcadero Technologies.

The March 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: What Medical Writers Do
Speaker: Nancy Katz, Ph.D.
Slides: What Medical Writers Do (PDF)

Nancy Katz, Ph.D., will describe what medical writers do and what it takes to break into the medical writing field.

Nancy will draw on her 14-year experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, which includes heading up the Medical Writing group at PDL and the Developmental Editing group at Genentech, as well as her current work as President and Principal Medical Writing Consultant of Illyria.

Nancy will talk with us about:

  • Medical Writing Projects: What medical writers do.
  • Medical Writing Competencies: What medical writers need to know in order to do what they have to do.
  • Medical Writing Jobs: How to get started, and ultimately hired, as a medical writer


Nancy Katz, Ph. D.Nancy Katz, Ph.D., is President and Principal Medical Writing Consultant of Illyria Consulting Group, Inc. ( Illyria provides writing services for the biopharmaceutical industry, specializing in documents for eCTD-based submissions.

    Nancy recently completed a 4-year term as a core committee member of the DIA (Drug Information Association) Medical Writing SIAC (Special Interest Area Community) and now serves on that SIAC’s E3 task force. She is a member of the pharmaceutical content subcommittee of OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) and mentors writers through AuthorAid, an organization that helps researchers in developing countries publish their work.

The February 2010 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Beyond the Practitioners’ Lore: Reading the Research
Speaker: Susan Becker
Handout: Reading the Research: Sources Cited

You don’t need to be an academic to read a research article. Even if you don’t read every word, you can find support–and new directions–for your thinking.

As technical communicators at work (aka practitioners), we make countless decisions about document design, sentence structure, vocabulary, typology. Many of these choices we base on our education, training, corporate guides, or department policies. But many we just make up based on what feels right to us–on our “practitioners’ lore.”

Basing our work on research has always been vital to technical communication. It can ground our decisions in reality, introduce new possibilities, and enliven our style committee meetings.

This presentation explores how we can improve our work by reading research articles. Susan Becker uses as examples several guidelines from the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Style Guide for Voting System Documentation and shows how they were developed through a process of reading the research, reviewing the current accepted guidelines, and critiquing sample documents.

You will learn to:

  • Find sources to explore a question in technical communication
  • Read a research article
  • Apply what you learn from a research article to what you do on the job


Susan BeckerSusan Becker is a technical communicator and online user assistance developer with extensive experience in writing, editing, document design, and information architecture. She is currently an Information Developer at IBM, providing user assistance for IBM Informix Dynamic Server. Prior to her work at IBM, Susan co-authored the Style Guide for Voting System Documentation for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with Dana Chisnell. Susan has taught at San Francisco State University in the Technical & Professional Writing program and the English department. She is an STC Associate Fellow, past president of the San Francisco chapter, and a member of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA). Her online and print documentation have received local STC awards

The January 2010 Annual Chapter Party and Touchstone Awards

Date: Saturday, January 16, 2009
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Berkeley STC Annual Party and Touchstone Awards

Join us to relax with fellow communicators, enjoy a buffet dinner, and celebrate excellence in the profession.

Winning entries in the 2009-2010 Northern California Technical Communication Competition will be announced and winning entrants will receive their awards. This year produced a large number of impressive entries, and best of which will be sent on to the International Technical Communication Competition.

The winning entries will be on display throughout the evening.

During the evening we will also recognize and honor competition judges and Berkeley chapter volunteers for their contributions to the chapter and the profession.

The December 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2008
Times (p.m.): 6:00 to 7:00 Networking, conversation, & dinner; 7:00 Announcements; 7:15 Presentation
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: How Technical Communication Supports High School Literacy
Speaker: T. R. Girill

This talk explains how a decade-long East Bay STC literacy outreach project has helped underperforming high-school students (and their teachers) improve basic nonfiction writing skills by applying a cognitive apprenticeship approach, adapting real-world instruction and description cases into age-appropriate practice activities, and introducing participants to professional usability techniques.

T. R. Girill has recently retired from a 30-year career in technical communication at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he led the computer documentation project at the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center for over a decade. He has published numerous technical articles, and has taught students at the College of Alameda and other professionals at U.C. Santa Cruz Extension. He is an STC Fellow and he served as editor in chief of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Journal of Computer Documentation from 1995 to 2000. Since 1999 he has also managed a technical literacy project for the East Bay chapter of STC. It is this project he will talk about tonight.

The November 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, November 11, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Planning for Success
Speaker: Ted Marsh

Join us as Ted Marsh, a master coach to leaders at all levels, leads us through an exploration of strategies for reinventing ourselves. We will distinguish short-term demands, long term considerations, lifework, and life meaning.

We can all benefit from winning strategies for surviving and thriving through these tough economic times by identifying what is important and keeping life in perspective.

Ted Marsh is a master coach to leaders at all levels faced with the challenge of manifesting change. A skilled facilitator, he is able to link critical strategic issues facing institutional organizations including cultural diversity, performance enhancement, and creative learning.

Having served in a wide variety of executive management positions, including CEO, he has been able to merge an extensive technical marketing background with strategic planning and designing effective work cultures. He has broad experience in marketing, technical sales, and quality assurance programs.

The October 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, October 14, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Ten Legal Tips for Current and Would-be Independent Contractors
Speaker: Dana H. Shultz

Working as an independent contractor can be exciting, challenging, and gratifying, all at the same time. Yet, before proceeding down that path, technical communicators should make sure that they are not exposing themselves to legal risks unnecessarily.

This program will help you identify and avoid those risks. Examples of what you will learn include:

  • How to choose the right type of legal entity (sole proprietorship, corporation or limited liability company)
  • How to identify and protect your intellectual property
  • How to collaborate with other service providers
  • How to distinguish independent contractors from employees

Dana Shultz is a business-savvy licensing and intellectual property attorney with in-depth knowledge of law, business and technology. Dana provides legal services to startup and early-stage companies and, on occasion, to individuals who provide their professional services as independent contractors. He publishes the High-touch Legal Services Blog at

The October 10, 2009 Saturday Workshop

Date: Saturday, October 10, 2009
Location: Global 360 Offices, Alameda, California
Topic: Topic-based Authoring: Getting Your Feet Wet
Speaker: Linda Urban

Topic-based authoring is a technique for writing content as discrete, stand-alone pieces (“topics”) that can be combined and reused in different ways.

The topic-based approach has been getting a lot of attention recently because it is an integral part of DITA (the Darwin Information Typing Architecture) and other XML-based solutions. However, topic-based authoring has actually been around for quite some time, and does not require DITA or XML.

Using a topic-based approach can improve consistency and usability of information, and can make it easier to reuse topics in different contexts. It can also simplify maintenance, speed up the review process, and facilitate shared authoring.

This hands-on workshop provides an overview of topic-based writing concepts and principles, and then lets you try your hand at using a topic-based approach. We will define key concepts (such as topic, information type, and element), look at examples of different types of topics, and discuss pros and cons of a topic-based writing approach.

You will get a chance to work with actual content, as you

  • Identify and define information and topic types
  • Chunk linear information into topics
  • Assess what kinds of changes are required to make individual topics work effectively for users
  • Consider how to connect and cluster topics, to provide a cohesive collection of information for users, even when content is complex

Along the way, we will touch on related questions such as:

  • How long should a topic be?
  • What’s the difference between topic-based writing and structured writing?
  • Do you need to use DITA to benefit from topic-based authoring? Do you need a content management system?
  • Just how hard is the shift to a topic-based approach?

Recommended: Please bring a sample of your own content to consider during the workshop (10 to 15 pages, printed single-sided).

A laptop computer is NOT required.

Linda Urban has over 20 years experience in technical communication. As a consultant, Linda designs and develops documentation, training, and online user assistance. She focuses on providing solutions that meet user needs and company goals, and her work has received local and international STC awards. Linda also works with writers and teams to improve the quality of their documentation, focusing on both usefulness and usability.

Linda is an instructor at the UC Berkeley Extension. She teaches classes in technical writing, developing online help, usability, and information architecture. Her company is Linda Urban Communications, LLC, and her website is

The September 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Forensic Linguistics: Real-Life “CSI” with Word People
Speaker: Joseph J. Devney, M.A.

Ransom notes, terrorist threats, stalker letters…the language used in these documents can give clues about their authors. Forensic linguists apply linguistic analysis to legal documents of all types, and work both with lawyers and law enforcement. This presentation will focus specifically on analysis of written evidence—criminal or potentially criminal communications—using real-life examples. Learn about what the language used in the document can tell us about its author, and the techniques used to find those clues.

Joe Devney is a “word person” himself. He has been a Bay Area technical writer (and STC member) for many years, but his lifelong interest in language is now taking him in a new direction. He took a sabbatical to earn a Master’s degree in Linguistics, and found out about the fascinating field of Forensic Linguistics.

You may know Joe from his STC activities. He was president of Berkeley STC for three one-year terms, and has served as a judge for technical communication competitions at both the local and international levels.

The August 23, 2009 Workshop

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2009
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Strategic Planning for Your Life
Speaker: Judy Glick-Smith
Handouts: PDF of worksheets

For details of the workshop and available supplementary materials, visit the following website:

Judy Glick-Smith is an STC Fellow and a past president of the Society. She is a speaker, writer, executive and life coach, and conflict resolution specialist. She loves helping people discover their life’s purpose through her workshops and presentations on conflict management, leadership, and living an authentic life .

 The August 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Acting Lessons for Interviewees
Speaker: Stan Stansbury

Job interviews are among the most stressful situations anyone ever faces. The stress can be managed and put to good use.

This presentation offers a new paradigm for interviews that can help you stay relaxed and in control of the process. It demonstrates techniques borrowed from method acting and presents a little experimental psychology. With increased awareness of non-verbal communication and a modicum of practice, these techniques can make the challenging process of interviewing more enjoyable and more effective for technical communicators.

Stan Stansbury has a checkered past covering acting, teaching, training, and technical writing. He’s survived literally thousands of interviews, and is now passing along techniques that have worked for him.

The July 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Resume Secrets that Might Surprise You
Speaker: Jack Molisani

Says Jack Molisani:

“For years, I resisted speaking about effective resumes, thinking that everything that could possibly be said about the subject has already been covered. But after seeing candidate after candidate rejected based on what they had (and didn’t have) in their resumes, I realized it’s time for me to step up and share what I’ve observed over the years—resume secrets that might surprise you.”

Have you ever submitted a resume for a job but were never called for an interview? Don’t miss our July meeting!

Jack Molisani started his career as project officer in the Space Division of the US Air Force and is currently the president of ProSpring Technical Staffing, an employment agency specializing in engineers and technical writers:

Jack also produces The LavaCon Conference on Professional Development. The seventh annual LavaCon will be held October 25–27, 2009 in New Orleans: Jack will be raffling a free entrance to LavaCon at the meeting, so be sure to bring your business card for the drawing!

The June 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 10, 2008
Times (p.m.): 6:00 to 7:00 Networking, conversation, & dinner; 7:00 Announcements; 7:15 Presentation
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Software Localization Practices and Issues
Speaker: Bing Hong and Dan Claessens

Software companies that grow to a moderate size typically have to address localization to sell to multinational enterprise and international markets. Large companies that have offices all over the word require that their software be localized. This talk describes issues that surround localization and their impact on the companies in general and particularly technical writers.

Bing Hong is the manager of Localization and Technical Writing Services at OSIsoft. She started to build this department in 2006 when she joined OSIsoft. Bing has managed this group for software internationalization, localization, and documentation. Before that, she was the Sr. Engineering Manager of Asian Localization Center at Sun Microsystems. Bing has worked in the software internationalization and localization for more than ten years. Her roles and responsibilities extended from software engineer, technical lead, project manager to engineer manager

Dan Claessens is the localization project manager at OSIsoft. Prior to that he was the international product manager at Brio Technology, in charge of localizing and supporting foreign language products. He also worked as an independent consultant for several years and started his software career as a technical writer.

The May 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: MythBusters: I’m Working So Hard It Hurts!
Speaker: Erik Anderson of Remedy Interactive, Tim Brent, Ergonomic Consultant, and Tonie Flores of OSIsoft

Tim Brent & Erik Andersen will discuss computing health.

Bring your questions about office workstations and accessories.

Erik Anderson, Vice President of Customer & Partner Relations at Remedy Interactive, focuses on maintaining strong relationships with Remedy Interactive customers and partners. He is also responsible for the RSIGuard software product line, including relationships with ergonomics consultants and therapists who use RSIGuard to prevent and manage injuries.

Erik is in his sixth year at Remedy Interactive, and prior to that he spent 13 years at in business development and supply chain management at PeopleSoft, HP, and FedEx. Erik earned his Bachelor of Science from UC Davis and his MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Tim Brent is an ergonomic consultant. For the past 20 years Tim has devoted himself to graduate education, specialized training, and professional practice in the field of ergonomics. He is especially noted for the personalized and innovative solutions he brings to the ergonomic process.

Tim is a Certified Ergonomic Evaluation Specialist, has completed advanced training in movement education from both the Feldenkrais and Egoscue methods of corrective exercise, and holds an M.Ed. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Ohio University. He has worked with book publishers, writers, and a wide array of other office-based occupational groups. Tim is comfortable addressing issues of injury prevention, as well as intervening when an injury has occurred and ergonomic solutions are needed.

Tonie Flores, Senior Technical Writer at OSIsoft, recently developed a repetitive stress injury while working on a project with an aggressive timeline. Tonie will share what she learned from her painful experience about how to prevent future injuries.

The April 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, April 8, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Hard Times, Smart Choices
Speaker: Meryl Natchez, TechProse

Times are tough; jobs are scare; rates are decreasing. The economic crisis touches every aspect of business and every person who works. What can you do to survive and thrive in this environment? Meryl Natchez, an international speaker and founder of Bay Area-based consulting company TechProse, has survived three previous recessions and will discuss strategies for consultants, employees, managers, and business owners to navigate this downturn. Don’t miss this rare local appearance by Natchez, a longtime technical communicator and entrepreneur who has endured recessions and emerged stronger each time.

Meryl Natches has been CEO of TechProse since 1982. Natchez developed TechProse from a single person operation to a corporation with over 75 employees. TechProse places technical writers, instructional designers, communications professionals, and project managers on a contract basis. TechProse also provides turnkey solutions to clients for entire projects.

Natchez has received numerous awards for business development and community service. She is a co-founder of OPTIC, now Opportunity Junction, a nonprofit organization that provides low-income Contra Costa, Calif. residents with technology, literacy, and life skills to become economically self-sufficient. She has spoken to business audiences across the US, Europe, and Japan.

The March 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, March 11, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Using Word Templates Effectively and in the Shared Environment
Speaker: Steven Zegas

While a single author who knows how to use Word styles and templates can easily manage documents, when multiple “non-writer” authors are involved, Word files often take on a life of their own. This presentation demonstrates several custom templates and teaches how to create and use templates for single or multiple-user environments, where consistent and clean formatting is desired.

Come see the mysteries of Word styles revealed, learn innovative techniques, see how to quickly conquer massive formatting mess-ups, and how to standardize templates for many documents (without attaching a template file such as “”.) (Presented in Word 2003, applicable to Word 2007; does not cover XML or ODF.)

Steven Zegas is a technical communications consultant who has worked for 15 years with leading Bay Area companies in telecommunications, medical devices, health care, security, networking and other verticals. He frequently develops custom Word templates for both technical publications teams and general business use. Using novel approaches and common sense, he combines recorded macros, custom toolbars, and best practices to address design and usability, with the goal of de-mystifying Word and drawing on its strengths. He has been active with the Berkeley and Silicon Valley STC since 1995, and has been a judge in five Touchstone competitions

The February 2009 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Learning Game Design
Speaker: Clark Quinn of Quinnovation

Simulations, properly supported, are powerful learning environments.
Games help add an emotional component that makes learning more effective by bringing in motivation—but is developing these types of interactions an art, or is there a systematic design process that lets us reliably design learning experiences that deliver the outcomes we need?

In this session, the author of Engaging Learning: Designing e-Learning Simulation Games shows us why simulation games are effective practice environments and demonstrates a process for designing compelling scenarios. The process is grounded in theory and honed in practice to create meaningful learning experiences.

Clark Quinn, Ph.D., is an internationally known consultant, author, and speaker. He delivers eLearning solutions including games, mobile learning, performance support, and organizational strategy through Quinnovation, and blogs at

The January 2009 Annual Chapter Party and Touchstone Awards

Date: Saturday, January 17, 2009
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Berkeley STC Annual Party and Touchstone Awards

Berkeley STC Annual Party and Touchstone AwardsJoin us to relax with fellow communicators, enjoy a buffet dinner, and view winning competition entries from the 2008-2009 Northern California Technical Communication Competition.

We will also recognize chapter volunteers, competition judges, and winning entrants.

The December 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: Write More, Write Less: Embracing the value of crafted words and images
Speaker: Joe Welinske of WritersUA

While the word “content” is a good shorthand for words, audio, and images, it unfortunately can move us farther away from the core competency of developing good information. The theme of this presentation is that documentation teams are often spending too little time writing well; and at the same time spending too much time writing little-used information.

Research and professional observation suggest that not enough time is being put into crafting text to be exactly the right text for a particular context. And writing resources for doing “agile” user assistance would be more readily available if writers would prioritize topic writing based on user need. “Writing More” while “Writing Less” can result in better utility for users and can reduce the need and load on the overall documentation development process and content management. Technical Communicators of all backgrounds will benefit from this thought-provoking presentation.


Joe Welinske is the president of WritersUA, formerly known as WinWriters. WritersUA is a company devoted to providing training and information for user assistance professionals. The WritersUA/WinWriters Conference draws hundreds of attendees each year from around the world to share the latest in user assistance design and implementation. The free content on the WritersUA web site attracts over 20,000 visitors each month. Joe has been involved with software documentation development since 1984. Together with Scott Boggan and David Farkas, Joe authored two editions of the popular and pioneering book Developing Online Help for Windows. He has also taught online Help courses at the University of Washington, UC Santa Cruz, and Bellevue Community College. Joe received a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1981, and a M.S. in Adult Instructional Management from Loyola University in 1987. Joe is currently serving his second term as President of the STC Puget Sound Chapter.

The November 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Location: Highlands Country Club, Oakland, California
Topic: A Glimpse of Microsoft SharePoint: What is it, and how does it relate to tech writing?
Speaker: Jennie Abbingsole of Global 360, Inc

What is SharePoint? What is it good for? What does it look like? If you’ve only heard of SharePoint, or maybe used it for document management, come for an introduction to  some of the things it can do, and find out whether it’s a wiki or a website or a development platform (hint: any or all of the above). SharePoint can be used many ways, and, like most highly extensible technologies, it can be hard to understand without seeing and playing with it.  Jenny  will show you pieces of  her company’s intranet, what a custom application can look like, and share what  she’s  learned so far about the benefits and drawbacks of a SharePoint intranet.  Time permitting,  she  will touch  briefly on how to get context-sensitive help into a custom SharePoint application.

Jennie Abbingsole has been working as a staff technical writer in Alameda, CA, since 1997 with an Engineering team working for ViewStar, which became Mosaix, then Lucent, Avaya, eiStream and now, since 2005, called Global 360, Inc. Currently one of a small documentation team, Jennie develops and maintains HTML Help projects of various sizes for system-administrators, API help for developers, and custom help for SharePoint applications and web parts. She was also on the pilot team that launched a SharePoint intranet for the company and remains active as a site manager for her team sites.

The October 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Topic: Content Page Design Best Practices
Speaker: Luke Wroblewski of Yahoo! Inc. and LukeW Interface Design

In today’s social, distributed, search-driven Web, customers are finding their way to Web content through an increasing number of distinct experiences. Yet when people arrive at most Web pages, the experience they get isn’t optimized for this context. Instead, the vast majority of content pages online remain more concerned with their own context than the context of their users: where did a user arrive from and where are they likely to go next? These pages remain designed as if they were primarily accessed from a Web site’s home page or a carefully thought-out selection from the site’s information architecture.

To address these issues and more, this talk outlines a set of best practices for Web content page design that focuses on appropriate presentations of content, context, and calls to action. Specifically: how can content be optimized to meet user expectations as they arrive from a diverse number of access points; what is the minimum amount of context required to frame content appropriately; how can the most relevant calls to action be presented to maximize user engagement? Applying these considerations enables information architects to deliver content experiences that take full advantage of emerging opportunities online and the existing assets within their Web sites.


Luke Wroblewski is an internationally recognized Web thought leader who has designed or contributed to software used by more than 500 million people. He is currently Senior Principal of Product Ideation & Design at Yahoo! Inc. and Founder of LukeW Interface Designs, a product strategy and design consultancy. Luke applies design methodologies, skills, and principles to create and refine the strategy and user experience of new or existing products.

Luke also publishes “Functioning Form,” the leading online publication for interaction designers. He authored a book on Web interface design principles titled “Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability”. Luke is consistently a top-rated speaker at various conferences and companies around the world, and is a co-founder and former Board member of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA).

Previously, Luke was the Lead User Interface Designer of eBay Inc.’s platform team, where he led the strategic design of new consumer products and internal tools and processes. Luke also taught interface design courses at the University of Illinois and worked as a Senior Interface Designer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the birthplace of the first popular graphical Web browser, NCSA Mosaic.

The September 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Topic: Using DITA with Adobe FrameMaker
Speaker: Scott Prentice of Leximation

DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) is a new XML format that is getting lots of attention these days. It was specifically designed for topic-oriented authoring and supports efficient reuse of content. Aside from its sensible and easy-to-understand data model, a big reason for its high adoption rate is the availability of the DITA Open Toolkit (DITA-OT). The DITA-OT (free and open source) provides samples and documentation, as well as XSL transformations that generate numerous types of online output, including HTML, CHM, JavaHelp, PDF, and others. Adopting an existing and well thought out data model that comes with the tools for getting output, can save you months (if not years) of development time.

Because DITA is an XML format, it can be authored in any XML editor. However, due to DITA’s special reuse constructs, it works best to use an editor that is specially designed for DITA authoring. There are a number of editors that support DITA authoring, the popular ones being XMetaL, Arbortext, and FrameMaker. An advantage that FrameMaker has is its built-in support for high quality PDF output. The only alternative to Frame’s PDF output is through XSL-FO, which for reasonably complex output is very expensive to develop and maintain, and XSL-FO can’t match the quality of Frame-generated PDF.

In order to author DITA content in FrameMaker, you’ll need version 8 or 7.2 (with limited support in 7.1). FrameMaker 8 provides basic support for DITA authoring, and the DITA-FMx plugin offers extended authoring features.

In this presentation you’ll see the whole process of authoring and publishing DITA using FrameMaker 8. You’ll see how to efficiently use DITA maps to generate different deliverables (books or online Help) that share common topics, in addition to using conrefs to reuse content within topics. You’ll also see how quick and easy it is to generate various types of output using the DITA Open Toolkit as well as building a traditional “Frame” book and generating a PDF through FrameMaker.

For more information about DITA, please visit the DITA Knowledgebase at .

Scott Prentice is the President of Leximation, Inc. providing tools and solutions for print and online publishing. He has been working in the technical publications field since 1991, some of that time as a technical writer but most as a tools developer focusing on custom online help and FrameMaker development.

Scott has been involved in DITA development for a number of years, and is the coordinator of the Silicon Valley DITA Interest Group. He developed the core plugin that became the DITA App Pack for FrameMaker 7.2 and was involved with the development of DITA-FMx, an enhanced DITA plugin for FrameMaker. For more information, see

The September 2008 Chapter Workshop

Date: Saturday, September 6, 2008
Topic: Sharing Your Expertise: Putting Together a Presentation or Workshop
Speaker: Linda Urban

One of the best ways to gain visibility for yourself and contribute to your profession is by giving a presentation or workshop. There are lots of opportunities, from local meetings of professional associations like STC, ASTD, and BAYCHI, to international conferences such as the STC Summit, WritersUA, eLearning Guild, IA Summit, and DocTrain. And at work, presenting to your colleagues and management can be a great way to showcase what you are working on, and raise your profile within your company.

Presenting is a “win-win” situation: Your audience gets the benefit of your knowledge and experience, and you get exposure and appreciation for your work. In addition, because you must clearly articulate your ideas in order to present them, you are forced to clarify your own thinking and refine your skills.

Still, it can seem daunting to propose a session. And the idea of presenting can be especially intimidating if you do not have much experience.

Whether you are new to presenting, or simply want a “jump start” on putting together a new proposal, this workshop provides a good opportunity to get started in actually developing a session.

Through presentation, discussion, and practice, we will look first at what makes for a good session and then work through the steps to:

  • Define your topic and clarify what you want to cover
  • Consider your audience
  • Define objectives and outline content that supports them
  • Integrate activities to make the session interactive and help insure that the participants get the most from it

Bring your ideas for presentations and workshops. This is a hands-on workshop, focused on clarifying and developing a specific idea.

Linda Urban has been a technical communicator for over 25 years. In 1995, a friend convinced her to collaborate on teaching a class in Technical Communication, and she discovered she loved it! She’s been teaching and presenting ever since, and finds that it provides a good balance with day-to-day project-focused work.

As a consultant, Linda works on training solutions, software and hardware documentation, online help systems, and product usability. She focuses on developing solutions that meet user needs and company goals, and her work has received local and international Society for Technical Communication (STC) awards. She also teaches courses in technical communication at the UC Berkeley Extension and UC Santa Cruz Extension. Her website is

The August 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Topic: What makes it possible to develop excellent Help Systems? Autodesk’s answer: A passion to serve your customers
Speaker: Melanie Allen of Autodesk

Slides:Presentation slides in PPT format

Writing good help requires a knowledge of your customers—their needs, workflows, and learning styles—and the industry awareness to know how to best serve those needs. It also helps to work in an environment that supports you in discovering and serving those needs.

In this presentation, Melanie will give you tips on how to gather customer information, good places to research current best-practices in online help, and some suggestions for improving your work environment.


Melanie Allen has been involved in creating user documentation for over 25 years, both as a writer and as a designer. She has been an innovator in new help design, winning numerous STC Best of Show awards. She has worked on Autodesk Help for over 10 years and is currently the lead writer for AutoCAD Map 3D, where she works with an incredibly creative and collaborative team.

The July 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Topic: Developing an Interactive Tutorial with Adobe Captivate and RoboHelp
Speaker: Laurie Edelman of Altera Corporation 

In recent years, many companies have recognized the positive and effective use of simulated and interactive learning tools to systematically teach complex concepts, policy, and tasks associated with proprietary material. The software department at Altera Corporation just completed the fourth release of the Quartus II Interactive Tutorial using Adobe Captivate and RoboHelp development tools. The Quartus II software is an advanced engineering design tool provided to customers for the purpose of creating designs and programming Altera programmable logic devices.

This presentation describes the processes and methods used to develop the Quartus II Interactive Tutorial. The tutorial provides an overview of key concepts and software features and, additionally, interactively guides users on how to use the features correctly and tests their ability to complete tasks on their own.


Laurie Edelman is a Senior Technical Writer with Altera Corporation, where she is responsible for creating web-based training targeting programmable logic devices. Laurie has experience creating user assistance documentation within a variety of industries including Education, Software Quality Assurance, and Software Engineering.

The June 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Topic: Getting Published: How to Write a Successful Technical Book Proposal
Speaker: Tim Cox 

Commercial publishing is under strain from corporate consolidation and the influence of the Web. What does this mean for aspiring authors and what opportunities does it present? What kind of proposals stand the best chance of acceptance in this climate? This entertaining and fast-moving talk will consider the situation of technical publishing today and the implications for authors. The keys to a successful book proposal will be discussed along with some of the most anxiety-producing parts of the book contract. Finally, some tips are presented for selecting a publisher, managing the production phase, and estimating financial return. The goal is to learn to think like an editor to achieve a satisfying publishing experience.

Tim Cox is an award-winning editor with over 15 years experience in technical and professional publishing. He has established programs with companies such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard to publish documentation and has also published market-leading college textbooks. Most recently he was a senior acquisitions editor at Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, working in the fields of software engineering, computer graphics, and game development. Currently he is a freelance editor working in the North Bay. He holds a B.A. in literature from the University of Chicago.

The May 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Topic: Avoiding Death by PowerPoint (Why are good presentations so hard to create?)
Speaker: Rick Altman of

Do you quake when you hear the words “Create a PowerPoint for tomorrow’s meeting”? Why? Is it because the software is so difficult? In fact, just the opposite is true. The basics are easy–so easy that most people never take the time to learn PowerPoint properly. Then there is our fear of public speaking. As Jerry Seinfeld put it, people would rather be in the coffin than deliver the eulogy.

This talk will look at the primary factors that make up presentations and offer ideas and practical wisdom on how to break out of the rut in which so many presentation content creators find themselves.

Rick Altman is the creative director at, which provides consulting and coaching services to companies and individual professionals who seek better results with their presentation content and delivery. His expertise covers the full range of presentation needs, from message crafting through slide design and software technique. He is known for his common-sense approach and pragmatic advice.

Rick is the author of Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck, and how you can make them better, published in May 2007.

Rick came to presentations through graphic design, having worked with the Corel products throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and having hosted the CorelWorld User Conference across three decades.

The April 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Topic: Moving from FrameMaker/WebWorks to XML/DITA and Flare at
Speaker: Mysti Berry of .

As demands on publications departments to lower costs and provide translated text increases, the push to move from non-structured to structured writing becomes stronger. At, we moved from FrameMaker source and WebWorks/PDF outputs to XML/DITA source and a combination of Flare and homegrown build scripts to produce PDF and HTML (and for a while, even CHM) outputs, with rich and complex interaction between document sets and complex translation requirements.

This talk will explain how we made that transition, and provide a closer look at the Flare setup required, first as a standalone step and then as an integrated part of the build process. This transition allows us to produce documentation with about five keyboard strokes. I will describe our experience with Flare vs. RoboHelp, and explain how we came to choose Flare as part of our build process.

Mysti Berry, M.F.A., is an award-winning technical writer with a B.A. in linguistics from UC Santa Cruz and an M.F.A. in writing from University of San Francisco. She has more than 17 years of experience designing and developing technical information for companies as diverse as Oracle and 20th Century Fox. Berry currently works for, a cutting-edge software company in the SaaS (software as a service) space.

The March 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Topic: Management Panel: Putting Together the Right Team
Speakers: David Jackson of Oracle, Lis Fraser of Tesla Motors, Stewart Florsheim of Advent Software, and Judy Burkhart of IBM 

This month we are pleased to host a panel of managers and directors of technical communication groups from around the Bay Area. They will provide insight into what it takes to put together (and keep) a strong team.

Join us to learn what these managers value most in their staff and contractors, what qualities and expertise they really look for when hiring, what challenges they face, and more.

Stewart Florsheim is the Director of Learning Products at Advent Software, a company in SF that makes software products for money managers. Stewart and his team are responsible for all the documentation and training materials, and Stewart also manages the company’s client Web site. Stewart has over 20 years experience in tech pubs management.

Lis Fraser has over 20 years experience building and managing documentation teams for both large and small high tech companies. Lis has held long-term management positions at Epic Data and Orbital Sciences in Canada as well as at Hyperion Solutions, Adaptec, and most recently, Tesla Motors in Silicon Valley. She specializes in building highly-productive teams whose skill set and value is recognized throughout an organization.

Judy Burkhart is an Information Development Manager for IBM in San Francisco. Judy has been in the tech writing field for 20 years, and her management experience has included tech support as well as documentation teams. Judy specializes in being acquired — her fourth and most recent acquisition occurred in 2001 when IBM acquired Informix software.

David Jackson is a group manager for Oracle in Pleasanton. David’s group creates product guides and online help for various customer relationship management applications. His group is geographically dispersed, with its members spread across seven cities and three countries.



Special Hands-on Workshop: March 1, 2008

Date: Saturday, March 1, 2008
Topic: The Wiki Way: Knowledge Management for the People
Speaker: Stuart Culshaw of ILOG Paris 

Wiki (Hawaian for “quick”) could be considered as more of a philosophy than a tool. What started out as a simple set of scripts to edit, format and link web pages has evolved into a powerful and affordable new approach to knowledge management. An increasing number of organizations are adopting wikis as an alternative to complex and expensive web content management systems.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-learn and simple-to-use content management tool for an upcoming personal or professional project, or if you’re just curious to find out more about the technology behind the success of Wikipedia, this workshop will introduce you to wiki’s basic principles, walk you through the creation of your own wiki site, and give you the confidence and guidance you need to take your first steps on “the wiki way” (and convince others to join you on the journey).

This is a hands-on session. Please bring a laptop computer with wireless connectivity enabled. Two or more participants can share a machine if necessary.

Stuart Culshaw, Web Communications Manager at ILOG, has over 15 years experience as a technical writer and web developer. An Englishman abroad, Stuart has lived and worked in France since graduating in 1993 and is fluent in French, HTML and CSS.

As a freelance web developer and project manager, Stuart has worked with various web content management systems over the years. He discovered wiki on joining ILOG in 2005 and has never looked back. As a member of ILOG’s ONE Web Program team, Stuart is helping to redesign ILOG’s wiki-based corporate intranet and is charged with evangelizing Web 2.0 technologies throughout the company.

Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in European Business Studies from the European Business Program (Groupe ESC Bordeaux/University of Humberside) and a professional certificate in technical writing from the American University of Paris. Stuart is a Past President and current Vice President and Webmaster of the STC France Chapter.

The February 2008 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Topic: Creating Online Help for Eclipse: A Case Study
Speaker: Kim Rathbun, Leapfrog 

Eclipse, as a platform, is widely adopted for building development environments because it offers a universal platform for tools integration. LeapFrog has adopted Eclipse to develop its software development kits and internal applications. Because the Eclipse platform is a plug-in environment, it presents some additional challenges when developing online help.

This presentation focuses on how LeapFrog has adapted its single sourcing environment using FrameMaker and WebWorks ePublisher to produce online help for Eclipse applications. Kim will explain the process involved in taking HTML topics generated from ePublisher–or any other source–and making them work within an Eclipse online help plug-in. This involves creating a table of contents file, a context sensitive help file, and then testing them within the Eclipse environment.


Kim Rathbun is currently a senior technical writer at LeapFrog Inc. She has over 25 years experience working in the computer industry as an engineer, trainer, and technical writer. As a writer, she has designed and written user manuals, online help, training materials, and e-learning modules for a variety of industries. At LeapFrog Inc., her current focus is developing user manuals and online help for their Eclipse-based applications.

The January 2008 Holiday Party

Date: Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Topic: Berkeley Chapter Holiday Party

Join us to relax with fellow communicators, enjoy a Brazilian-style gourmet buffet, and view winning competition entries from the 2007-2008 Northern California Technical Communication Competition. We will also recognize chapter volunteers, competition judges, and winning entrants.

The December 2007 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Topic: Single-sourcing through a CMS for a Small Writing Team, using AuthorIT
Speaker: Chris Muntzer 

Chris Muntzer leads a small team of writers who produce both hardcopy and Help from a single source CMS (content management system) using AuthorIT. Chris will share his expertise and discuss how to:

  • Set up and maintain consistency with multiple writers when single sourcing through a CMS
  • Analyze a project to break it down into reusable chunks of information
  • Develop a localization strategy that synchronizes changes in the source and translated projects


Chris Muntzer was born in and raised in the UK where he trained as an electrical engineer. In 1978, he moved to the USA and has since become a US citizen. As an engineer, he became increasingly interested in technical documentation and, seven years ago made a career change to become a full-time technical writer.

As a technical writer, he has explored the practical implementation of single-sourcing and content management systems (CMS). For several years he has led a small team of writers, creating documentation for several products out of an AuthorIT single-source CMS.


The November 2007 Chapter Meeting Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Topic: Using Learning Objects to Manage and Reuse Learning Content
Speakers: Ray Eisenberg and David Sanchez, Autodesk

This presentation focuses on how Autodesk has adopted a strategy to facilitate the efficient development, modification, and reuse of learning materials using a single-source asset-based approach to content development and delivery. Using a learning content management system (LCMS) and a learning object approach based on information mapping principles, the presentation shows how Autodesk has been able to meet the demands of its over 6 million user customer base and deliver content to multiple constituents, in multiple languages, in different modalities from a single source repository.


Ray Eisenberg is currently a Senior Manager in the Autodesk Learning department at Autodesk. He has spent the last 18 years in various capacities in Technical Publications and Training teams at Autodesk. In his current role, he is acting head of the Training Content Development team in the Autodesk Support and Learning Division. He is currently responsible for the development of technical training content for traditional instructor-led end-user customer training, and for e-learning. Prior to Autodesk, Ray was a lead technical writer with Ingres, and a CBT courseware developer with Blue Chip Courseware and Micro Courseware Corporation. Born in Manchester, England, Ray spent his formative years as a city planner for the city of London. He has a BA in Sociology, and a BA City Planning, and is currently close to completing his Masters in Education and Online Learning.

David Sanchez is currently Senior Learning Architect, Strategist, and Evangelist at Autodesk. He has 22 years of experience in training, education, curriculum and channel development in the technology and engineering fields. He has been in Autodesk Learning for over 12 years and is currently responsible for the learning ecosystem at Autodesk. He has led the single-sourcing strategy within Autodesk Learning and implemented the technology (LCMS) to facilitate the development, management, and delivery of learning assets to customers and partners. Prior to Autodesk, David consulted with large engineering firms to manage change during the adoption of technology. He also founded and managed Autodesk Authorized Training Centers (ATCs) in the Sacramento, CA area.

The November 2007 Special Adobe Meeting

Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2007
Topic: Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite and Adobe RoboHelp 7 (Special Presentation)
Speakers: Michael Hu and others, Adobe, Inc.

Michael Hu and other Adobe personnel will present the Adobe Technical Communication Suite, which Adobe bills as the most comprehensive suite for technical communicators, instructional designers, and eLearning professionals. They will explain what this means for us now and in the future. They will explain how this suite will affect the content we create and how it will affect our customers. They will also tell us about Adobe RoboHelp 7.


Michael Hu is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for the Technical Communication Suite, for Adobe, Inc.

The October 2007 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Topic: Lessons Learned from Web Applications and User Centered Design
Speakers: Sarah B. Nelson and David Verba, Adaptive Path 

Recent developments in web applications, commonly referred to as Web 2.0, have taken advantage of existing technologies in new and sometimes surprising ways. This has allowed web developers to take a more sophisticated approach to the usability of their applications. Many lessons have been learned along the way. Sarah B. Nelson and David Verba will discuss the current state of web applications and provide new ways to keep users in the center of your work.

The evening will be divided into two parts: first, a presentation that introduces concepts and design principles associated with Web 2.0; second, a discussion of how these principles can be applied in technical communication.

Sarah and David will cover both general principles and lessons that can be learned from the most recent round of web applications making the news today. You should leave with a language and vocabulary both to discuss and to understand several specific design issues.

After starting with a broad discussion of Ajax, Sarah and David will move on to other Web 2.0 topics. They will present four principles for interaction design, providing examples from current applications and showing why these principles make for better user experience. Digging deeper, they will present the common threads in Web 2.0 applications that can be applied to wider and different contexts, with an emphasis on the display of information.

Next we will turn our attention towards the application of interaction design principles within the world of technical communication. Linda Urban will lead a discussion with David, Sarah, and the audience that will focus on how technical communicators can apply these principles to their work and ways that technical communicators can become more involved in interaction design.

Sarah B. Nelson is a design strategist for Adaptive Path She has ten years of experience in interactive media, designing kiosks, mobile and online experiences for clients in a variety of industries. Sarah has a particular passion for practice development, conducting research into methods for improving collaboration, supporting creativity, and encouraging innovation.

David Verba is Director of Technology for Adaptive Path, a leading user experience company. His many years of technical leadership and architecture experience cover a broad range of projects and strategies.

The September 2007 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Topic: Speakers: Writing for a Developer Audience: User Assistance for an Integrated Development Environment
Speaker: Kathryn Munn, Oracle Corporation 


Writing technical documentation for software developers is not unlike writing for any end user. An IDE, integrated development environment, is software that assists developers to author, modify, manage, compile, deploy, and debug software. In this presentation we will explore writing for a developer audience using a graphical, menu driven IDE, Oracle’s JDeveloper, to illustrate user assistance developed by a technical documentation team.

We will examine many familiar aspects of technical documentation applied to developing user assistance for an IDE:

  • Audience analysis – Who are the users of an IDE? What is their technical expertise? What types of information are needed to support a developer audience?
  • Documentation planning – How does technical documentation interface with the software development process? What roles can the technical writer serve on the team?
  • Subject matter experts – What resources and people are available to technical writers in developing user assistance?
  • Tools – What software is used by technical writers to produce user assistance for an IDE? What skills are useful for the technical writer to have or develop?


Kathryn Munn is a principal technical writer with Oracle Corporation in the software development tools division. She has over 10 years experience in software development and internet services writing help systems, software documentation, and training materials. Kathryn teaches in the technical communication program at UC Santa Cruz Extension.

The August 2007 Chapter Meeting

Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Topic: Increasing Visibility and Value: Reframing the Work We Do
Speakers: Linda Urban (Linda Urban Communications, LLC) and Joan Lasselle (Lasselle-Ramsey, Inc.)

It’s time to reframe technical documentation from what we do to how we add value.

To do so, it’s important to consider questions like these:

  • Do you know the major business objectives for your company, for this year? What are three critical goals or initiatives?

How does the work you do help or hinder those objectives?

If you don’t know your company’s key objectives, how can you find out?

  • How are documentation and training perceived by upper management at your company?

Is your work a checkbox on the requirements list, or is it a critical success factor?

  •  Does the work you do help to solve customer problems?

Are you focused on documenting features, or on making sure your customers have information that can help them solve problems?

Do you have the support you need to develop the latter? Do stakeholders within your company realize the value you can bring?

  • Is the glass half empty, or half full?

When you propose changes, do they come across as complaints, or as innovations that will significantly add to your organizations’ competitive advantage?

We know we need to think about these kinds of issues, but it’s hard to do so when our day-to-day work is focused around meeting tight schedules and getting deliverables out the door.

Bring your experiences, ideas, and questions to this interactive session for an opportunity to stop and think about your role in the organization, and identify what you can do to increase your visibility and focus on your value.

Linda Urban is an independent consultant with over 20 years experience in technical communication. She works on product usability, help systems, software and hardware documentation, and training. Linda focuses on developing solutions that meet user needs and company goals, and her work has received local and international STC awards. She also teaches in the technical communication programs at UC Berkeley Extension and UC Santa Cruz Extension. Her company is Linda Urban Communications, LLC.

Joan Lasselle is founder and President of Lasselle-Ramsay, Inc., a professional services company that develops business information and learning solutions that drive superior user experience, productivity, and change. Lasselle-Ramsay focuses on four practice areas: content management, technical documentation, training development, and on-the-job information tools. Since 1982, Lasselle-Ramsay has worked with major high-tech manufacturers to develop technical documentation solutions for commercial products.

The July 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Topic: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Resumes and Portfolios
Speaker: Andrew Davis, Synergistech Communications, Inc. 

Andrew Davis will explain how to optimize your resume and make best use of your portfolio, covering in detail what works, why, and how to get the results you want.

This is the age of black-hole electronic job applications, keyword search tools, and anonymous recruiting generalists. Knowing what hiring managers want from you — let alone how to present your credentials and work samples to best effect — has never been more challenging. Andrew will help you parse the job description and accentuate aspects of your resume and portfolio accordingly. He will explain how to make hiring managers eager to speak with you.

If time permits, Andrew will explain how to handle uncomfortable inquiries into your employment history, compensation expectations, telecommuting preferences, and other issues.

Andrew will give a brief formal presentation, to leave time for a lively and candid Q&A. To make the most of this meeting, go to and beforehand to review the resume- and portfolio-related articles there. Bring your specific questions for Andrew to answer.


Andrew Davis runs Synergistech Communications, a local recruiting firm for staff and contract technical communicators. Andrew is a former writer of system administration and software developer documentation for companies such as Oracle (documenting relational databases on minicomputers), IBM (UNIX hypertext authoring tools), Informix (Windows database tools), Network Equipment Technologies (PBXs and routers), and Verity (enterprise text search tools). He is well connected in Silicon Valley’s software and telecommunication documentation communities. He also recruits technical trainers, instructional designers, medical writers, and user experience (UX) professionals on both coasts.

The June 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Topic: Human Factors for Technical Communicators
Speaker: Andrea Ames, IBM 

The mind is a mysterious thing, but you can improve your documentation by leveraging what we do know about human cognition and the ways people process information through perception, learning, problem solving, and memory. Join Andrea Ames for a fast-paced, fun trip through the four key human factors affecting human information processing. She will introduce the factors and lead you on an interactive discovery of how knowledge of basic problem solving and memory can change your approach to information architecture, design, and development.

Andrea joined IBM in 2001 as an information architect for the Information Management division of IBM Software Group, where she is currently an information experience strategist and architect, responsible for driving broad initiatives to improve the total information experience.

With nearly 25 years of experience in technical communication, Andrea is a Fellow and past President of STC. She designed, coordinates, and teaches in the University of California Extension, Santa Cruz, certificate program in technical writing and communication. She has published more than 50 papers and articles, as well as the award-winning technical trade book, The VRML Sourcebook. She is a sought-after international speaker for technical communication and information development conferences and professional organization meetings.

The May 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Topic: What does Web 2.0 Mean for Technical Communication?
Speaker: Tim Bombosch, Lasselle-Ramsey 

Web 2.0 is a concept without a definition. Think of it as wikis and blogs, collective intelligence, multidirectional communication. Technology often innovates faster than businesses can adapt, and Web 2.0 is no exception. This new webscape’s challenge to technical communicators is profound:

  • How can technical communicators maintain complete, accurate, and easy to use documentation in an environment that is constantly evolving and invites both participation and customization?
  • What is the evolving role of technical communicators in this paradigm?
  • What technology and production issues do technical communicators face?

On a deeper level, the role of technical communicators changes most dramatically because, in a Web 2.0 world, the value and role of information changes.

Instead of an add-on expense to product development, technical communication holds all of the pieces of Web 2.0 technology together. In addition to integrating help files and PDFs into product packages or interfaces, technical communicators become deeply embedded in marketing communication, support, and e-commerce.

Tim Bombosch is a certified project management professional (PMP) and technical communication consultant with Lasselle-Ramsay in Mountain View, California. He is currently a project manager for information development projects. He also implements content management systems and plans strategically for the future of technical communication.

Tim has over 8 years of experience in the technical communication industry. He worked at Mindjet, Sygate Technologies (now Symantec), IBM, Web MD, and Kaiser Permanente. Before beginning his career as a technical communicator, Tim taught media studies at Stanford University, where he completed his PhD in German studies and wrote extensively about German cinema.

The April 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Topic: Automating API Documentation, and a DoxyS Case Study
Speaker: Monique Semp, Write Quick, Inc. 

API Documentation is a fast-growing and highly-paid specialty in Technical Writing. As Monique Semp explains, you can write an API Reference in FrameMaker and publish it as a PDF, but such a document is difficult to maintain and unlikely to satisfy your target audience: programmers. Programmers expect online, hyperlinked reference material that’s exactly in sync with the API elements (such as classes and functions).

This presentation shows how to use automated tools to generate an HTML-formatted API Reference. Monique will give us an overview of automating an API reference’s production and tell us the advantages of such an approach over a manual solution such as FrameMaker-to-PDF. She will give us guidelines for choosing the right tool, and discuss concerns such as imposing coding standards and workflow changes on the engineers. She will demonstrate how this all worked when, using DoxyS, she developed an API Reference for a 700+ function ANSI C API.
A Senior STC member, with more than 15 years of documentation and software experience, Monique has won STC Touchstone and Berkeley competition awards of merit and excellence every year since 2001. Monique began her career as a software engineer writing PL/M and C code for automated train control (the “people movers” in airports) and the accompanying user manuals. Her career evolved and she’s been a technical writer since 2001; her first project was producing API documentation for Java-based wireless applications. She has her own company, Write Quick, Inc., and provides many technical writing services, including API references, programming guides, configuration manuals, and technical processes and procedures.

The March 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Topic: Agile Documentation: Help’s Role in the Development Process
Speaker: Jennifer Abbott, Global 360, Inc. 

Agile development is an approach to developing products that relies on an iterative process in which each iteration can be as short as a few weeks. The team sets its goals for the iteration, works for the prescribed time, then evaluates where they are, and sets goals for the next iteration. The output of an iteration is a complete piece of the product, including documentation. It’s fast paced and not for everyone!

Jennie Abbott is a technical communicator who has worked on agile development teams. She has developed a way to use online help to coordinate the development process. She will describe how, early in the development process, she used RoboHelp to turn the initial development documentation, written by the project lead, into a help file in the product.The project team used the help file to coordinate their work. It served as an internal reference and central repository of information about the product throughout the development cycle. Conditional build tags allowed the information to be available for internal use, yet remain hidden from customer-facing output. Having a help file before there was an application ensured a solid place for documentation in the consciousness of the developers — and on the team.

Jennie will summarize the best features of this work and show how you can apply the same techniques to your projects.


Jennifer Abbott has been working as a staff technical writer in Alameda since 1997 with an Engineering team that has rolled with the waves of corporate changes from ViewStar to Mosaix to Lucent to Avaya to eiStream to Global 360, Inc. Currently one of a small Documentation team, Jennifer develops and maintains HTML Help projects of various sizes for system administrators and API documentation for developers.

The February 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Topic: Where Is STC Going — Six Strategic Objectives
Speaker: Susan Burton, STC Executive Director 

Our February meeting presents a rare opportunity. On Valentine’s Day, STC’s executive director, Susan Burton, is coming to Berkeley for her only Northern California chapter visit. She will tell us about the STC Board’s six strategic objectives and about the many STC members who have volunteered to help. Susan has been travelling around the country listening to the concerns of STC members. This is our chance to tell her what we think and to hear what she has to say.

Susan has managed associations for a living for 30 years. She became our executive director in August, and she has been moving fast since then. Under her leadership, STC is evolving into a flexible and responsive association that can continue to meet the needs of our members and our profession for many years to come.

Members of other chapters are always welcome at our meetings, but this time we especially encourage STC members from all over the area to join us in welcoming STC’s executive director, Susan Burton.
Susan has a 30-year track record of association management successes, as president and CEO of the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), CEO of the Vision Council of America (VCA), and vice president of marketing for ADAPSO (the computer software and services association).

Susan earned her CAE (Certified Association Executive) credential from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). She is an ASAE Fellow and Honorary Fellow of the American College of Health Care Administrators and the Italian Opticians Association. She attended the University of Illinois where she studied history, specializing in Chinese history.

The January 2007 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Topic: Speakers:
STC Berkeley’s Holiday Party
Our January meeting is our annual post-holiday party. It is at the Highlands Country Club, 110 Hiller Drive, Oakland (the same location as last year’s party during January 2006).

In addition to good food, nice music (CDs from Jim Dexter’s collection), a great view, and a party atmosphere, we will recognize some of the chapter volunteers who make our activities possible.

As a highlight of the evening, we will announce and display the winners of this year’s technical communication competition. For the second year in a row, the Berkeley Chapter has sponsored a local technical communication competition managed by and benefitting the STC Kenneth Gordon Scholarship. The entries this year are especially interesting and of high quality. Two of them will be advancing to the international competitions, but you can see them first.

The cost of the event is $25.00.

The December 2006 Membership Meeting

Topic: MadCap Flare and the RoboHelp Saga
Speaker: Mike Hamilton, VP of Product Management, MadCap Software 

The Flare authoring tool is widely perceived as the successor to RoboHelp. While it is far from a RoboHelp clone, Flare was developed mostly by developers who worked on RoboHelp. Mike Hamilton has been in the middle of this story from the beginning. He knows who did what when, and he’s going to give us names and dates — to put to rest any rumors we might have heard.

Flare uses XML as its internal format, but help authors don’t need to know about or work directly with XML. Mike will show us how to use Flare to build help systems.
Mike Hamilton is the vice-president of product management at MadCap Software, where he is working on the Flare help authoring tool. Previously, Mike was product manager for RoboHelp from the early days of Blue Sky Software, through the name change to eHelp, and then the takeover by Macromedia. He left before Adobe took over Macromedia and became one of the founders of MadCap.

The November 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, November 9, 2006
Topic: What Makes Websites Useable?
Speaker: Harris Kravatz, Oracle Corporation 

After valuable content, the number one reason why people return to a website is ease of use. People spend more time on a website they find usable; they subscribe to its services, buy its products, and tell their friends about it.

Harris Kravatz will show us what makes a website usable and teach us techniques we can use immediately.

Agenda: What Makes Websites Usable?

    • What is Usability?
    • 3 Keys to Usability
    • Top 5 Web Design Mistakes
    • 7 Usability Best Practices
    • Customer-Focused Design Process
    • 10 Tips for Good Design
  • Web Usability Exercise

Benefits of Attending this Presentation

    • Learn techniques for increasing website profits
    • Learn 3 things you can do differently tomorrow
  • View websites from a different perspective

Harris Kravatz is a user interface design and usability consultant with 20 years of experience in the field. He works with clients to improve the profits and productivity of their software and websites.

Harris began his career at IBM, where his positions included Software Development Manager and UI Architect, and he was instrumental in the design of IBM’s OS/2 User Interface. He is currently the senior member of Oracle’s User Experience group.

Harris has written articles on web design and usability and has spoken on design and usability at industry conferences, including the Usability Professional’s Association (UPA), Society for Technical Communications (STC), and Association of Internet Professionals.

The October 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Topic: Finding Work Outside of the Technical Documentation Box
Speaker: Judy Herr, Well Chosen Words 

Technical communicators sometimes wonder how their skills, talents, and expertise apply to other careers or jobs. Judy will help us identify the qualities we bring to the table as technical communicators. She will help us understand the value that these qualities bring to other career opportunities.

Judy will lead a highly interactive discussion, starting from an inventory of our skills and experience. You can download the inventory survey form before the meeting, or just show up ready to interact. The file is in Microsoft Word format.

Based on the results of the inventory, Judy will show us how we can use our skills in other positions. For example, she will show how our skills enable us to coordinate proposals and grants or provide consultative support to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

Finally, Judy will lead a discussion of opportunities, successful transitions, and lessons learned.
Judy Herr has worked as a technical communicator for 25 years – as a writer/editor, public health worker, trainer, and documentation department manager. She is the principal of Well Chosen Words, a consulting company that provides consultative support and services in technical communication and knowledge management, occupational health, environmental science, and business acquisition. Her projects include preparing proposals to win government and commercial contracts; documenting computer system design; conducting design reviews; documenting scientific, environmental, emergency preparedness, and occupational safety programs; teaching adults, facilitating events and training; and conducting public relations and marketing.

Judy is an STC Fellow and the advocate for SIGs at the Society level. Her many former STC positions include president of the East Bay chapter, director of the Touchstone technical communication competition, and, most recently, leader of the Management SIG.

The September 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Topic: Documenting APIs: Your First Week on the Job
Speaker: Jim Bisso, Bitzone, LLC

For a technical communicator, the task of documenting an API can be overwhelming. By having a defined methodology for documenting APIs, the technical communicator can bring order to chaos.

This presentation illustrates one such methodology for understanding the API documentation process and documentation deliverables. The presentation will provide a high-level overview of:

  • Defining your audience, including requisite domain knowledge
  • Understanding the place the API occupies in the company’s marketing strategy
  • Planning the documentation deliverables
  • Researching the API
  • Preparing to interview the engineering SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)
  • Effective interviewing techniques 

James F. Bisso, M.A., has almost 20 years of experience writing API documentation for such companies as Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Inprise, and Taligent. Jim has also taught computer science and documenting APIs at UC Berkeley Extension, Golden Gate University, Mills College, and the University of San Francisco. Currently CTO of Bitzone LLC and a staff software engineer at Sun Microsystems, he has also been a corporate trainer for Oracle University and Bitzone LLC.

Jim is co-author of Documenting APIs: Writing Developer Documentation for Java™ APIs and SDKs, published June, 2006, which is available from

The August 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Topic: Posture and Power: The Dynamic Use of Your Body at the Computer
Speaker: Ann Grassel, Licensed Physical Therapist

Learn how to “find neutral” in sitting and how to use your body in a dynamic and powerful way while at your computer. Integrate stretching, breathing, toning, and strengthening programs into everyday activities and discover whether your environment supports the changes you are making in your body. Ann Grassel is president of The PowerBoard Company( and a licensed physical therapist with 27 years of experience. She received degrees in physical therapy from Northwestern University Medical School and in physiology from the University of Illinois.

Ann’s specialty is sports medicine and movement re-education, including work as a trainer/therapist at the 1984 Summer Olympics. She now focuses on computer workstation ergonomics.

When Ann performs evaluations, she sees the body as a whole. She teaches her clients how they can use movement re-education, bodywork, strengthening, and stretching to change the holding and postural patterns that often contribute to pain and injury. She teaches people how to use their bodies in a powerful and supported way and then how to modify the ergonomics of their environment to support and maintain these changes.

Ann wants to educate people to use computers at home and at work without injuring their bodies.

The July 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Topic: Managing documentation under pressure: lessons from Apple Computer
Speaker: Sandy Korzenny, Senior Manager of Apple Product Documentation 

At Apple, we face multiple challenges in creating documentation for a wide and varied audience–among them rapid software development cycles, late-breaking changes to software, and highly confidential product development. Yet, in spite of this–or perhaps because of it–we continue to evolve our product documentation solutions. This talk will focus on how we address and handle these challenges through teamwork and innovation. As an example, I’ll talk about our recent re-design of onscreen help for the iWork and iLife applications. In addition, I’ll touch on challenges and solutions in our print documentation products.
Sandy Korzenny is the Senior Manager of Apple Product Documentation. Her group is responsible for all documentation (onscreen help and print) that ships with Mac OS X, iLife, iWork, .Mac products, hardware, iPod, and Server. Sandy has held positions in product documentation in technology for many years, starting out designing computer-based training courses at Control Data Corporation, then designing leader-led courses at Tandem Computers, and finally documenting products and managing product documentation groups at Apple. In an industry of rapid growth, the best part of her job is getting her staff together to find solutions to the tough problem of how to get users to their answers–in the most efficient, effective way possible. Sandy received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Instructional Technology from Michigan State University.

The June 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Topic: One topic at a time: writing books, help, and websites in DITA XML
Speaker: Erik Hennum, Advisory Software Engineer, IBM Corporation

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based, end-to-end architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering readable information as discrete, typed topics. Topics can be used in print, in help systems, and on the Web. DITA has seen primary initial adoption for technical communication. The standard is advanced through an open process by the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, a group that encourages new participation from developers and users.

Erik’s presentation will give a high level overview of the basic principles of DITA and how to produce deliverables from DITA content.

To research the topic before the meeting, there is a ten-page white paper from IBM.
Erik Hennum is a member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee and an Information Strategist for IBM Systems and Technologies Group. For IBM and Informix, he has worked on Information Architecture as well as design and processing of XML and SGML documents. For DITA, he helped shape the principles of domain specialization. He has spoken about DITA at the Society for Technical Communication, the Writers UA conference, the Content Management Strategies Conference, the OASIS Symposium, the Extreme XML conference, the Semantic Technologies Conference, and elsewhere.

The May 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Topic: Essential Interaction Design Tools – The Design Blueprint
Speakers: Lane Halley, Principal Consultant, Cooper

Technical writers have a saying, “if it’s hard to explain in the documentation, it’s going to be hard to use.” Did you ever wish it was possible to write the documentation before the product is built? Have you ever felt that you understood the user better than the implementation team who built the product? Come learn about ways to reduce confusion, frustration and lost time in the software development process through Goal-Directed™ Design.

Goal-Directed Design is an interaction design methodology developed by Cooper, a consulting company in San Francisco. Every feature in a Goal-Directed design can be tied to user research through personas and scenarios. Goal-Directed designs are documented in a design blueprint that communicates the intent, architecture and behavior of the interface in text, pictures and storyboards, before the product is built. Implementation teams use the design blueprint to evaluate technical difficulty and create accurate project schedules. Managers use design blueprints to gain consensus on what to build, and to gain funding.

Please join Lane Halley to learn about team roles, useful meeting tools and documentation techniques used at Cooper.
Principal consultant Lane Halley began her Cooper design career in 1997. Ms. Halley is responsible for many of the best practices used by Cooper teams and taught at Cooper U. She was responsible for several of the design projects featured in founder Alan Cooper’s book The Inmates are Running the Asylum.

Over the past 20 years, Lane has gained first-hand experience with the software development process by working with software development teams at Microsoft, The Software Toolworks, Mindscape and SenSage. She has designed and delivered successful desktop, Web, and enterprise products.

Lane was a founder of the Silicon Valley chapter of Women on the Web. She has been a presenter for the Inland Empire chapter of the STC and Jared Spool’s UIE Roadshow.


The April 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Topic: How to Be a Stellar Consultant
Speakers: Val Swisher, Mary Rosberg

Want to be a rock star? We’re talking about you, a sought-after writer who stands out in the technical communications field. You already have the technical and communication skills your clients need. How can you also become the kind of contractor or consultant that your clients are eager to bring back, and recommend to their colleagues?

Val Swisher and Mary Rosberg will give you tips for standing way out from the crowd, becoming a superstar for your clients.

If you are currently a contractor or a consultant, or if this is a direction your career may take, come learn from Val and Mary about the business and customer service end of the consulting life.
Val Swisher started Oak Hill Corporation as a one-woman show in 1994, and has built the corporation based on dedication to developing client and contractor relationships. Today, Oak Hill provides technical documentation, marketing collateral, and training development services to over 50 nationwide clients in a variety of industries, with more than 125 senior contract professionals.

Before she started her own business, she was Manager of the Technical Course Development Program for SynOptics, Inc. (now Nortel Networks). She was also an instructional designer and technical instructor for 3Com Corporation. Val is co-author of “The Comprehensive Guide to Computer Telephone Integration,” published by CT Institute Press, and “Mastering Network Management,” published by Numidia Press. Val is a mentor for the Women’s Technology Cluster, a business incubator in the US dedicated to women leaders building technology-driven businesses.

Mary Rosberg has accrued 15 years of publications and project management experience working for Autodesk, Neoforma, Openwave, Documentum, and others. Mary enjoys learning about companies’ business needs and putting together the right solution for every different situation. She is particularly adept at building “SWAT” teams of the writers, illustrators, editors and production specialists that are optimal for each project.

Mary is president of the board of San Francisco Women on the Web, and a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the National Writer’s Union. She is a relentless networker, and attends numerous professional organizations and gatherings around the Bay Area.


The March 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Topic: What Every Tech Writer Needs to Know about Java
Speaker: David Peyton


If you haven’t had prior experience with Java, but you want to learn how to document Java code, this seminar is exactly what you might be looking for. David Peyton takes you through the basics of the Java language, and how object-oriented code needs to be organized and documented. Mr. Peyton will also introduce you to his company’s first software product, a tool for reducing the time to document Java code from weeks to hours.

David Peyton is Chief Executive Officer of Altadero Systems. Mr. Peyton has served as Chairman of the Altadero Systems Board of Directors since the company’s founding in 2002. Prior to founding Altadero Systems, Mr. Peyton had several years of experience as a technical writer, following 6 years of experience as an engineer in the semiconductor industry. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and from Harvey Mudd College with a BS in Engineering.

The February 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, Febuary 8, 2006
Topic: When to Move on from a Job that Isn’t Helping Your Career
Speaker: Andrew Davis

Have you been holed up in a job you have outgrown? Do you suspect there may be better ways to spend your time at work? Listen to Andrew Davis explain how to read the signs that you are no longer in the right job, and what you can do to make positive changes in your career. Andrew Davis was a Tech Writer of sysadmin and developer documents for eight years before starting his recruiting firm, Synergistech Communications, in 1995. He has worked with many technical communicators to help them advance in their careers.

The January 2006 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Topic: The 2006 Annual Berkeley STC PARTY!
Speakers: Joe Devney, Richard Mateosian

The January STC Berkeley party is a chance to have an (almost) entirely social occasion. Come to meet your peers, the chapter officers and volunteers, guest speakers from the past year, and members of other writers’ organizations. There will be food, music, great raffle prizes–including some of your favorite tech writers’ software products–and maybe a surprise or two.

Just Added!

Fifteen award-winning documents from the 2005 Berkeley Chapter Technical Publications Competition will be displayed, and the winners of the competition announced at the meeting. Congratulations to all the award winners!

We will meet at the Highlands Country Club in the Oakland Hills. Bring your friends and colleagues!

The December 2005 Membership Meeting

No Meeting (as usual for December)

The November 2005 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Subject: Salary Negotiation: How to Develop an Underappreciated Asset
Speaker: Wren Withers

Facing a discussion about a raise or promotion? Accepting a new job? Most of us plan more for a trip to the grocery store than for such upcoming salary negotiations. Yet knowing how to discuss our worth can help us come out dollars ahead. In this safe, interactive presentation, participants will learn about salary negotiation facts and myths, gain an understanding of the major components of a salary negotiation, and examine common emotions that arise when we talk about money and worth.

Wren Withers, Principal of Salary Negotiation Consulting, has developed her own unique tools and methods to help clients articulate the value of what they bring to an organization (profit or nonprofit) so that they can be appropriately compensated for their skills and experience.

In addition to her salary negotiation consulting experience, Wren has decades of professional experience as an individual contributor and manager in the fields of technical writing, biotechnology, software, manufacturing, and photography.

The October 2005 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Subject: Design for Non-Designers
Speakers: Barbara Sikora

Are your programs sparsely attended and your services not being used? Are your newsletters, flyers, documents, and web sites being overlooked?

Design can make or break your image and your effectiveness in delivering messages. This presentation will cover the basic principles of design.

Learn to create eye-catching layouts by learning simple design techniques.

Barbara Sikora is an instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College and teaches the Non-Designer’s Design Workshop around the country. She heads Deltagraphics, a design studio in northern California. Barbara has had the good fortune of learning from and working with Robin Williams since 1992.

The September 2005 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Subject: Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI): Recognizing the Signs, Confronting the Injury, and Compensating with Voice-Recognition Software
Speakers: Barbara Forsberg and David Schorr

Do you ever experience pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or arms after putting in long hours on the computer? When you do, do you push on and postpone self-care until you’ve met the current deadline (and the next, and the next)? We all know that we should take frequent breaks, stretch and change position often, and set up our workstations ergonomically, but how many of us actually do all this? If you need some incentive to start taking your body’s signals seriously, come hear the lessons learned by one “Type A” technical communicator who learned the hard way.

You’ll also see a demonstration of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition software that shows what the software can do, and what it cannot do. Our Dragon NaturallySpeaking consultant will discuss hardware requirements, third-party software compatibility, training experience and needs, funding issues (workers’ comp, rehab, corporate), and reasonable expectations for use of voice recognition software.

David Schorr , the owner of 1stVoice (, has consulted on Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software since 1996. He has worked with clients with a broad spectrum of needs, in many professions, throughout the Bay Area and northern California.

Barbara Forsberg has worked for more than 12 years in the field of technical communication, half of that time as a technical writer and half as a manager. Her other computer-intensive jobs in the past two decades have included Japanese pre-press production, Japanese software support, and data processing. She started experiencing symptoms of RSI in early 2003 and was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in the fall of 2004. Voice recognition software has allowed her to continue using the computer during her recovery and to avoid injuring herself further.

The August 2005 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Topic: A New Level of Edit: Usability Evaluation by Channelling Personas
Speaker: Dana E. Chisnell

The new usability method is a persona-based, task-based, heuristic-based review that simulates usability testing and the think-aloud process that goes with it. Although most usability experts believe strongly that the only way to really know if something works well for a given group of users is to have representative users try out the site through usability testing, there are times when the scope of the project as well as time and budget constraints do not allow for that needed testing. The success of this new method in a study sponsored by AARP suggests that others might want to adopt or adapt it as well.

Dana E. Chisnell is an independent user researcher and usability consultant operating UsabilityWorks in San Francisco, CA. Dana has been doing usability, user interface design, and technical communications consulting and development since 1982. Dana is a senior member of the usability community, an associate fellow of the STC, and a member of the San Francisco STC community as well as the Usability and User Experience and the AccessAbility virtual communities. She is the Assistant to the President for Virtual Communities for 2005-2006.

The July 2005 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Subject:Stalking the Wild SME Bird
Speakers: Susan Becker, Melody Brumis, and Gwaltney Mountford

SME birds (subject matter experts) are the major source of information for technical writers. Most often found in the guise of engineers, they can be elusive, overworked, uncommunicative, or down right difficult. In this interactive session, Susan Becker, Melody Brumis, and Gwaltney Mountford will share with you tips for getting what you need, when you need it, from SME birds in a variety of environments.

Susan Becker has nearly twenty years of experience as a technical communicator and online user assistance developer, working primarily as a contractor in software development for the financial services industry. Susan is currently on a contract at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), developing test procedures for hardware and electronics. She is immediate past president of the San Francisco chapter, a former director of Touchstone, and a past winner in the competition. She has presented at the STC Annual Conference and regional events, and has taught in the Technical and Professional Writing Program at San Francisco State University.

Melody Brumis has been studying wild (and elusive) SME birds as a technical communicator for the past 20 years. Her specialty is in gathering information from the highly technical (all-knowing) SME bird. Melody is on contract with Chevron writing server documents, and maintaining a documentation Web site. She’s an active member of the East Bay STC chapter (near San Francisco). Her awards include Volunteer of the Year. She has presented SME birds and other topics at STC conferences and chapters.

Gwaltney Mountford has about 25 years of experience as a technical communicator focusing on solving the communication needs of end-users. She and her husband, Carl, own Mountford Group Inc., a consulting company specializing in developing custom Web-based business and data warehouse applications. An STC Associate Fellow, she is a past president of the East Bay chapter, a former director of Touchstone and the Region 8 Conference, and was on the Society’s Nominating Committee. She has presented at the STC Annual Conference and at regional events, and teaches at UC Berkeley Extension.

The June 2005 Membership Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Subject: Working as a Writer in Medical and Scientific Fields
Panelists: Martha Silverspring, Susan Becker, Wren Withers, Mark Evans, Sharon Tellyer, Linda Urban (Moderato

Bio Tech. Pharma. Medical devices. Laboratories. Scientific research.

There are lots of companies in the Bay Area with a medical or scientific focus. They’re often in the headlines. Ever wondered what roles technical writers play at them, and whether they might be a good fit for you?

Join us in June to hear from our panel of technical writers who have worked in a number of different medical and scientific companies around the Bay Area. They’ll tell you a bit about their work, how it’s similar and different from writing about computer hardware and software, whether expertise in the domain is required, how to find work in their area, and more. Bring your questions–there will be time for Q&A at the end.


Martha Silverspring works at Varian Medical Systems in Palo Alto, and writes about how to use radiation therapy equipment.

Susan Becker is working by contract at SLAC (the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), where she writes procedures for testing the hardware and electronics of GLAST, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2007.

Wren Withers has worked as a writer at a medical device company, at a chemical company that manufactured DNA and peptides for biotech use, and for 7 years at Chiron Corp. (She currently manages a team of 9 writers at Siebel Systems.)

Mark Evans is the documentation manager for Velocity11. He also writes and does all of the print and online help development. Velocity11, located in Menlo Park, designs and manufactures robotics equipment used for automated sample preparation and drug screening by big pharmaceuticals companies.

Sharon Tellyer works at Scios, Inc., a pharmaceutical company in Fremont, that develops treatments for cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disease, and cancer. She writes documents used in clinical trials and FDA submissions and is standardizing writing processes and templates.

Linda Urban (Moderator) is a technical communications consultant at Linda Urban Communications, LLC. She also teaches in the Technical Communication programs at UC Berkeley Extension and UC Santa Cruz Extension, where students frequently ask her about breaking into medical and scientific writing. Her company website is