May 19, 2012 No Comments

Tech Comm Certification

In March 2012 I achieved a world first: I was awarded the designation of Certified Professional Technical Communicator™ (CPTC™) by the Society for Technical Communication Certification Commission. This certification is on a par with MCSE, PMP, CMC, CPA and other professional designations. It indicates that I have met the criteria for certification as an expert in my profession of technical communication.

The road to Certification for technical communicators has been a long one. Forty years in the making, we now have acknowledgement of our skills and abilities in a way that is meaningful to employers and clients. Because the profession encompasses so many aspects of technology and communication, it took a long time for technical communicators themselves to reach consensus on what capabilities should be evaluated during the certification process.
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Filed under: Improvement, Leadership, TechComm

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April 4, 2012 No Comments

Technology Transfer

I’ve written lately about a new fusion reactor and how the scientific process should be applied to test it. Let me take those ideas a step further by saying that innovation is necessary in this complex world, but technology transfer is even more necessary.

Technology transfer is the passing of knowledge from one person or group to another. We can have the most innovative and useful technologies in the shop or the lab, but unless the word is spread about them they remain unknown. We often cannot count on the inventors to tell us about their creations. Their skills like in making the technology or the discovery, not in marketing or publicity. Besides, a publicity effort would take their valuable time away from further development of their ideas.

Economist Paul Zane Pilzer has written about the “technology gap”: a backlog of technologies in various stages of development that have not yet made it into widespread use. The technology gap exists because the public does not know about these inventions or discoveries. Another reason is because the need for them is not pressing enough; the problems they solve are not urgent problems. While many new products are interesting and even pretty cool, unless they meet a genuine need, they are likely to languish in the development stage. (more…)

January 20, 2012 No Comments

The Professional Gadfly

I often tell my students that as technical communicators, we are professional gadflies. It is our job to buzz persistently, and bite when necessary, to get certain things done. We cannot move forward with documentation on a product that is languishing, so we interact with the developers to see how things are going. We ask for prototypes and working versions. We query them about deadlines, especially “When’s code freeze?”.

We often become de facto project managers on the projects to which we’re assigned. In managing our documentation projects, we encourage, inspire, assist, and even require others to meet their production and development deadlines so we can take that deliverable and add its information to our documentation. Another rule of our craft is that a product never, never, never is delayed for release because of documentation. When that product is ready to go, so is the documentation, and often it’s that the docs are done and just waiting on the final touches to the product. (Cleanup, not changes.)  (more…)

December 5, 2011 No Comments

New Reactor Promises Clean Energy

Andrea Rossi has convincingly demonstrated his E-Cat reactor that produces more energy from a reaction than from a purely chemical process. Nickel plus hydrogen, 80 watts in, 15,000 watts out and no radioactive residue to get rid of afterward, only a little copper.

Strangely, the scientific press are remaining silent on this discovery. Perhaps having been burned by previous “cold fusion” claims that remained unproven, they are twice shy. However, when scientific heavyweights no less than Nobel prize winner for Physics Brian Josephson of Cambridge University talk about an invention, we need to pay attention. Rossi is clearly on to something. Given the size of the reaction chamber, it can’t be other than…fusion.

I am surprised that the scientific media are declining to cover this story. It is their responsibility to publicize science news so that the broader scientific community can become aware, then question, probe, investigate and even validate any claims. If something attracts the attention and support of respected scientists such as Josephson it deserves its moment in the spotlight.

According to NASA Chief Scientist Dennis M. Bushnell, reactors of the Rossi type are already in production and may be capable of “completely changing geo-economics, geo-politics, and solving climate and energy.”

Video on UCAM site with transcript.

June 24, 2011 No Comments

Technical Communicators as Knowledge Hubs

As a working technical communicator, I often found myself as one of the few people (and sometimes the only one!) in the company who knew exactly what products we were working on and where they fit into the company’s vision. To do my job of documenting the products and consulting on their usability (how a product helps users achieve their objectives with it), I spoke to every department in the company at one point or another.

I was mostly involved with the research and development departments, but I frequently spoke to or worked with marketing to understand the customer they were trying to reach, and to sales to find out what aspects of the product(s) buyers were most interested in. This information gave me a sense of who the end user would be and what their needs were for the product or service they were purchasing. In that way, I could orient my documentation more effectively toward the user’s tasks.

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May 23, 2011 No Comments

Social Media Ripples

Like dropping a stone into a calm pond, building your social network starts ripples that will pay off in ways you cannot even imagine. When I talk about networking for business, I mention the analogy of planting seeds. The harvest doesn’t come instantly, but when it does, it usually turns out to be well worth the wait.

A ripple spreading out across a pond takes time to travel, too. It may collide with other ripples, started by other stones — yours or someone else’s. Our social media activities are small gestures, just 140 characters, or a short status on Facebook, maybe even a brief comment on a blog. This is far less work than traditional business networking activities. You can achieve more with less effort.

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May 17, 2011 No Comments

Networking in the Connected Age

Traditional businesses in the offline world, or “bricks and mortar” companies, had the same needs as anyone doing business online today: getting the word out about their products and services. Way back when, pre-1992 and the Web, we used personal networking as a powerful channel to tell other people about our businesses and get referrals.

We joined the Rotary Club, hoping for the chance to be a guest speaker and have the opportunity to talk about our business. We joined the local Chamber of Commerce and charitable organizations; we served on committees, meeting people who could, it was hoped, refer clients to us, especially after they got to know us and knew of our integrity and business smarts.

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