another stc year draws to a close by housework


More Info
									The Newsletter for the Southwestern Ontario Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication

May 2001

Volume 12

The Quill
Number 8

Another STC year draws to a close
Almost time to hand off to our successors for 2001-2002
by Lynda Baxter


I can’t believe that the STC year is nearly over! At our May council meeting we will welcome the incoming 2001-2002 council. I am personally delighted to hand the Presidential torch on to Ted Edwins. He’s been a staunch chapter supporter and brings a wealth of expertise and experience. Ted will be working with a great team and you can look forward to some innovative programming in the months to come. As I review what’s happened this year, I have to say a big thank you to the outgoing council. It’s been a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of volunteers. The job always gets done with a sense of pride and professional flair. Of particular help to me, Past President Holly Curtis has been a wealth of advice and support, as well as working incredibly hard on the nominating process. I also want to thank our VP, Sherry McMenemy, for assuming most of the Program responsibilities this year, as well as numerous other tasks. Here are some highlights:


¨ ¨

An experiment with broadcasting the November meeting over the Internet. We haven’t taken it any further yet, but in the future it could be a way of reaching out to members who can’t come to our meetings. Interesting editions of the Quill each month Chapter Leaders workshop with Carolyn Watt.

Chapter Service Awards Congratulations to Ted Edwins and Brian Gamble who recently received Distinguished Chapter Service Awards from the Society. Both have been heavily involved with our chapter. Brian served for several years as treasurer and workshop registrar, and also cooked a mean BBQ dinner! Ted, who has served officially as Competition manager, Program manager and Webmaster, also wears many other hats as needed. Thanks, guys!

Council also had many achievements:


Streamlining council operations: managers working with committees, shorter meetings!

¨ ¨

Review of chapter resources: establish specific committee roles, reduce number of general meetings, encourage special interest programming . Establishing an electronic archive. Val Clark culled old newsletters to compile a record of chapter service for the last twelve years. Use of a new portfolio form to ease the transition to the new council. Managers are collecting information to pass on to their successor. Organization and fine-tuning of portfolio budgets and monthly financial statements. Thanks, George, for keeping us on track!


Another STC year draws to a close ........................................ 1 April meeting featured UW Prof. 2 Tools for HTML-based Help ....... 3 Nomination process ................... 4 What’s in store ........................... 5 April council meeting .................. 6 Puzzle ........................................ 7 Council contacts ......................... 8

¨ ¨ ¨ ¨

A successful Publications/Online Competition featuring an exchange with the Southwestern Ohio chapter. Another acclaimed workshop in February with Ginny Redish. The best ever Scholarship competition in February. Company Recognition Award to Quarry Integrated Communications.


It’s been busy. Thank you all for the honor of serving as your President.v

Stupid People Tricks

April meeting featured UW Prof. Randy Harris
“Natural language interface design” topic of informative presentation
by Rob Glover

Stupidity in Service: This week, all our office phones went dead and I had to contact the telephone repair people. They promised to be out between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. When I asked if they could be more specific, the pleasant gentleman asked, “Would you like us to call you before we come?” Stupidity at the Checkout: I was signing the receipt for my purchase when the clerk noticed I had never signed my name on the back of the credit card. She said she couldn’t complete the transaction unless it was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signatures. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they matched. Stupidity in the Neighbourhood: I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on our road. The reason: too many deer were being hit by cars and he didn’t want them to cross there anymore. Stupidity in Food Service: My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for “minimal lettuce.” He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.

Last month’s general meeting was held on April 3 in the usual location in the UW Davis Centre. The meeting started with two STC members being recognized for their outstanding contribution to the Southwestern Ontario Chapter: Brian W. Gamble and Ted Edwins. Brian Gamble was given a Distinguished Chapter Service award for his outstanding work at managing the chapter’s money for the past several years. Ted Edwins, nicknamed “Ted of All Trades” by his fellow chapter members, was given a citation by the chapter for all the work he has done over the years. It is worth mentioning that Ted was responsible for developing the “calibration” process that our chapter uses in judging entries in the Publications and Online competitions. Following these awards, Professor Randy Harris offered his presentation on designing natural language interfaces. Mr. Harris is an instructor in Rhetoric and Professional writing in University of Waterloo’s English Department. His field of research is developing natural speech for automated systems. A current example of a voice interface is a voicemail system. Harris noted that although these systems have been around for years, only recently have companies attempted to make them more “natural” and less irritating. For example, it was traditional to announce the action before the option (“Press 3 for Option A”), but it is now more common to put the action after the intention. With the advent of handheld wireless devices, the need to convey complex information in the simplest way is greater than ever. But, as with the software designers of ten and fifteen years ago, the engineers of today need to develop methods to make the technology workable for the average user. One example is confirming input. An engineer might feel that it makes sense to confirm that the input was the right one;

however, to a user, having the system respond “You have selected Option A. Is this correct?” is not only unnatural, but very irritating. One way around that would be to have the system respond based on the task, not the word. Instead of “Did you say ‘News’?” the system could respond “Would you like news?” Harris played three examples of voice interfaces where the user asks a question, and the interface replies with the desired response, with a natural rhythm to the interface’s speech patterns. Unfortunately, Harris noted, the items he played were still “menu-driven,” guiding people to a preselected set of options. “And people,” he noted, “don’t like being led by the nose.” The more effective path is to have the system conform to the caller, not have the caller conform to the system. Harris brings to his research his understanding of conversation, and he feels that there’s still a long way to go. One major obstacle is credibility. It may not be politically correct, Harris notes, but people tend to give more credit to those who are more like themselves. That’s why some telemarketers use people of a given ethnicity to call a neighbourhood that has a majority of the same ethnic group. With voice-based interfaces, it isn’t enough to have the voice interface converse with the user and sound natural doing it; the system, to be more effective, must also sound more like the user.v

Pg Dn


The Quill w 12:8 w May 01

“The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’...”

Evaluating current tools for HTML-based Help
With new tools appearing almost daily, it’s difficult to choose
by Catherine McNair

Southwestern Ontario Chapter Announcements

What are the options for producing crossplatform application help? When faced with documenting a cross-platform application, I had to find an answer. It was easy to decide to do something HTML-based, but a little harder to figure out exactly what. So I downloaded and evaluated a number of tools, and I thought I’d share the results with you. ForeHelp ( ForeHelp is a fullpriced, full-featured help authoring tool—and it’s rock-solid. No crashing, no bugs. It produces a wide range of help formats, including the cross-platform JavaHelp and its own InterHelp. It had some good advanced features, and excellent documentation. For me, though, its negatives outweighed the positives. Primary among these was its user interface. It’s as though they had never heard of drag’n’drop or right-click menus. For example, to change the name of a Contents topic in RoboHelp, you select the Contents tab and click and retype the name. In ForeHelp, although it also has a Contents tab, you have to select a command from a menu, select the topic in a dialog box list, click a Modify button, make changes there—unless they’re advanced, in which case… And most of its features were buried like that. If stability matters most to you and you’d rather not deal with raw HTML code anyway, this might be the product for you. HelpBreeze ( Compared to others, this is a tiny product. And considering its price (free), it wasn’t bad. It didn’t add anything at all to the basic help tool set (contents, index, search, pop-up), but certainly made the creating of those elements faster than doing it by hand. It was a bit unstable, though, and had some weird and annoying bugs. As well, the only type of cross-platform help it produced was JavaHelp, which I found too limited. So it wasn’t the product for me. It’s still in development, though, so if you have to produce JavaHelp or Microsoft HTMLHelp on a low budget, it might be for you.

HTMLIndexer by Brown Inc.: Not a fullfeatured help tool—it will just produce a keyword Index in various formats, including JavaHelp, MS HTMLHelp, and basic HTML. This product took some getting used to, but it had excellent documentation. The downside? For basic HTML indexes, formatting options are still a bit limited, and it does not allow you to have a linked main entry with linked subentries. Dreamweaver ( This was the one product I already had. It’s not a help authoring but a Web site development tool. It has a very cluttered interface which takes time to learn, but once you do it’s quite pleasant to use. It offers many excellent, timesaving features, it can be extended, and for a WYSIWYG application, it produces very clean code. I feel that a help file really needs a Search and Index, though, and Dreamweaver doesn’t help you with these. In the end I felt that I could only use it with some other tool. Currently in development is DevaHelp (, which adds features to Dreamweaver that allow you to produce Contents, Index, and Search from it. I will be checking it out when it’s released. RoboHelp ( As a past user of the WinHelp version of this product, I have to say that one way to develop a deeper appreciation of it is to try its competitors. This was the product I finally decided on. RoboHelp’s indexing tool has an excellent interface. Its cross-platform HTML-based help solution was the most attractive I’d seen, it produces JavaHelp, and it integrates with Dreamweaver. Perfect? Well, no. I have had some instability problems. And a couple of times RoboHelp got hold of my cascading style sheets (CSS files), and wouldn’t let go. (This is a known bug.) I still feel that this was the best tool for me, for now. With new tools appearing almost daily, that may not be true a year from now. v

International Competition Results
All of these titles were submitted to the STC International Publications and Online competitions. To be submitted to the International competition, an entry must receive an award level of Distinguished or higher in a local competition. The Digital Field Trip to the Desert won a Distinguished award in the International competition. TitleMotion Get Results - Fast received a Distinguished Technical Communication award. The following titles received an Excellence award: Nexus Speedware Autobahn Course Workbook These titles won an award of Merit: Khalix Reference Guide, version 2.4.11 The AXIS Point-of-Sale User’s Guide The following titles were submitted to the competition but did not receive recognition at the International level: The Maple Research Reactor LSF UNIX Installation Guide F3 Robot System User Guide

“...meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’...”

The Quill w 12:8 w May 01

Pg Dn

Body Bits

Nomination process yields encouraging results
Seventy-five percent of positions are filled
by Holly Curtis, Nominations Manager

Our nomination process has produced some encouraging results. We have 75% of our positions filled, but we still have some vacancies that may bring about some changes for next year. None of the positions were contested, so no election is necessary. The human hand has 27 bones and 35 muscles. The skeleton of an average 160 pound body weighs about 29 pounds. The average human eyelash lives about 150 days. Piercing nipples with rings and the like is not a new punk fad. It was popular among ladies in the late 1800s. (And if you think I’ve got a graphic for that, you are sadly mistaken.) Human skin has about 100,000 bacteria per square centimeter. Ten percent of human dry weight is attributed to bacteria. The thumb is such a major player in the human body that it has a special section, separate from the area that controls the fingers, reserved for it in the brain. The goal this year has been to find new volunteers, since our familiar pool of volunteers is depleted due to maternity leaves, career growth and shifts, and other personal circumstances. Also, some council members who have been volunteering in many different capacities year after year are taking a well-deserved rest. Still, we have a few newcomers on the council for next year and there’s a significant increase in student volunteerism and UW participation. Meet the incoming council for 2001-2002 Please welcome the council for next year! President: Ted Edwins Program Manager: Shannon Hilker Program Committee: Holly Curtis, Sherry McMenemy, Paul Beam Special Programs Manager: Sherry McMenemy Membership Manager: Carrie Spira Treasurer: George Zador Newsletter Editor: Andrea Braniff Newsletter Committee: Holly Curtis, Shannon Hilker, Margie Yundt Employment Manager: Heidi Marr Webmaster: Stephen Burke Web Committee: Ed Czuchnicki, Catherine McNair, Karen Hess Competition Manager: STC Toronto Competition Committee (consultants): Nancy Halverson, Robin Dube Education Co-Managers: Heather Martin, Janice Hlinka Education Committee: Holly Curtis

Recorder: Opal Gamble, Terry Shantz Hospitality Committee: Paul Beam & volunteers Scholarship Manager: Brian & Judy Gamble Scholarship Committee: Cathy McNair, Sherry McMenemy, Nancy Halverson Academic Liaison: Paul Beam Student Liaison (UW): Opal Gamble Student Liaision (WLU): Terry Shantz Email List: Paul Kostiuk Volunteer Coordinator: Lori Shantz Online SIG Coordinator: Opal Gamble CIC SIG Coordinator: Elaine Garnet The vacancies We have the following vacancies (all time commitments are per month.) Committee Volunteers—We still need extra volunteers for the following committees: Program, Education, Public Relations, Competition, Newsletter and Hospitality. Committee work is a minimal time commitment, so if you have some time to spare, we could use your help. Management SIG Coordinator—We have a small but active Management SIG that meets to compare notes and discuss issues. This position requires about 2 hours and duties include maintaining SIG membership information and chairing meetings, chats, or discussion groups. Hospitality Manager—This person welcomes attendees to general meetings and collects meeting attendance data. The Hospitality Manager organizes the meeting sign-ins, welcomes guests and arranges parking passes, keys, and refreshments. (Paul Beam and some of his students will

Pg Dn

The Quill w 12:8 w May 01

“...meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.”—Larry Hardiman

help with bookings and other University arrangements, we need an organizer for the helpers.) This is a 5 hour commitment. Public Relations Manager—The PR Manager increases public awareness of the chapter using advertisements, writes press releases and posters, attends job fairs and other events, and assists the Program, Education, and Scholarship Managers. The time commitment can range from 5 to 10 hours, depending on the goals set by the incoming PR Manager. Vice-President—The VP is a candidate for a future chapter President. Responsibilities include supporting the President and other council members in their duties (10-15 hrs). If you are considering volunteering for any of these positions, contact me or Lynda

Baxter. If you cannot take on a role by yourself, you might consider sharing a role. We’ve had lots of success with this approach in the past. Plans for the transition The incoming council members were invited to our April 24 council meeting to get oriented and meet others. The official “hand-off” happens at the May 15 council meeting. Outgoing council members bring their files, contacts, templates, spreadsheets and other administrative “stuff” to the meeting and hand it over to the incoming council members. Chapter president Lynda Baxter has asked all council members to prepare a summary to help the newcomers get started in their positions. Lynda will also be leading an effort to post the job responsibilities on the chapter’s website.v

Southwestern Ontario Chapter Announcements

Fanshawe College’s Technical Writing Program
Good news for career switchers! Fanshawe College in London, Ontario is now offering a Technical Writing post-diploma program. About 25 people have applied so far for the program which is starting in September. The courses will be delivered evenings, weekends, and through Web-based learning in order to accommodate people who are already working but want to get their certificate. Southwestern Ontario STC veterans will recall that when the college first considered setting up this program almost three years ago, they turned to our chapter for help. Members of our chapter joined the college’s Technical Writing Advisory Committee and played a vital role in proving to the Ontario government that the proposed program was needed. Fanshawe also sought our advice in setting up a curriculum to cover the full range of skills employers look for in a technical writer. For more information on Fanshawe College’s Technical Writing post-diploma program, see the college’s web site,

What’s in store for next year’s council?
by Holly Curtis, Nominations Manager

The planning process for next year is already well underway. The Education Comanagers are already sniffing out a potential speaker for next year’s workshop. The Newsletter Manager is already on this year’s committee, so that the transition will be easy. The Program Manager has more than half the general meetings lined up. And the new SIGs are led by people with lots of energy and ideas. New council meeting schedule We’ve learned that the monthly council meetings have been an added burden to some already overworked council members. We envision portfolio managers taking a more active role by organizing regular meetings with their committees. Then, portfolio managers will report to the President via status reports and at council meetings, which will be held every few months. More decision-making at the portfolio level will mean more expeditious and less frequent council meetings. Publications and Online Competitions Thankfully, the Toronto chapter has agreed to take responsibility for most of the

competition next year, which results in much less work for our volunteers. We still require volunteers for the competition committee, to help Toronto organize and receive entries. General Meeting and SIGs We are proposing to reduce the number of general meetings next year from 10 to 8. The December meeting typically has lower attendance, due to holiday schedules and the threat of bad weather, and the February meeting is awkward timing because it usually coincides with our annual workshop. With the new chapter-based Special Interest Groups we’ll be able to provide extra meetings and speakers for these areas. People who want to join these SIGs should contact Opal Gamble ( for the Online SIG and Elaine Garnet ( for the CIC SIG. Sherry McMenemy, Cathy McNair, Deb Maskens and Margie Yundt all talked to potential volunteers and provided support for Lynda and me. I also owe thanks to the great people at Campana who stepped up to volunteer in record numbers (some even without coercion). v

“Everything of importance has been said before...”

The Quill w 12:8 w May 01

Pg Dn

Cn U Rd Ths?
1. M O M A N O N

April council meeting a first for new executives
Some of next year’s leaders attended to get a feel for how things work
by Sandra Ford, Recorder

2. E C N A L G


The council meeting was held on Tuesday, April 24th at the offices of Inscriber Technology. The main topics of discussion were the list of nominations for the 2001– 2002 council, the transitioning to the new council, and the final planning of chapter events for this year. The first order of business was a report on nominations for the 2001–2002 council. Lynda Baxter, the current president, was pleased to announce that Ted Edwins has accepted the nomination for president. Lynda also extended a heartfelt thank you to Holly Curtis and Sherry McMenemy for their efforts. This year’s vote saw responses from less than 10% of the membership. As a result, council decided to look at ways of making next year’s vote more accessible to the membership. Another topic of discussion was the transitioning to next year’s council and several new members of the future council were present to get an idea of how the council works. The council was pleased to welcome the following nominees: Andrea Braniff (Newsletter Editor), Elaine Garnet (CIC SIG Coordinator), Shannon Hilker (Program Manager), Heidi Marr (Employment Manager), and Lori Shantz (Volunteer Coordinator).

4. N N N N Land 5. VAD ERS 6.

The official handover of portfolios will take place at the council’s meeting in May. At that meeting, outgoing portfolio managers will provide the new managers with a report on the duties and responsibilities of the position, together with any committee files and resources. George Zador, Treasurer, will also provide each manager with a report on the finances of their committees. This will be helpful for preparing budget estimates. Council approved a new portfolio for next year: the Special Programs Committee. This ad hoc committee will look at organizing special events aimed at specific interests within the membership. The events would be separate from the regular monthly meetings and could take the form of one-day workshops covering more advanced topics. A final task was to wrap up the planning for the remaining events of the year:


7. J YOU U ME S T 8.

¨ ¨

The May 1st general meeting—with presenter Deb Maskens speaking on usability in mobile computing. The annual BBQ in June—tentatively scheduled for June 8th at a location to be determined.


Next month’s meeting, on May 15, will be the last meeting for the current council.


Computer Jokes (Try these on your kids)
Q. Why did the computer catch a cold? A. It forgot to close its windows. Q. Why was the computer so tired when it got home? A. Because it had a hard drive. Q. Why don’t fish use computers? A. They’re afraid of getting stuck in the net. Q. How does a computer order food? A. Using a menu. Q. What’s a computer’s favourite sport? A. Surfing.

Last month’s puzzle answer:

1. Man in the moon, 2. Backward glance, 3. Just under the wire, 4. Foreign land, 5. Space invaders, 6. Standing ovation, 7. Just between you and me, 8. Sitting on top of the world, 9. Ring around the rosie

Pg Dn

The Quill w 12:8 w May 01

“ somebody who did not discover it.”—A. N. Whitehead


Join us on the council


et involved in the decision-making process at our monthly council meetings.

Tuesday May 1 General Meeting 7:00 pm UW Davis Centre Room 1302 Tuesday May 15 Council Meeting 6:30 pm Inscriber Technology Friday June 8 Summer Barbecue Location TBA

More Stupidity
Stupidity Sighting #1: I was checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, “Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?” to which I replied, “If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?” He smiled knowingly and nodded, “That’s why we ask.” Stupidity Sighting #2: The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with a coworker when she asked what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. She responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?!” Stupidity Sighting #3: At a good-bye luncheon for a coworker who was just “downsized,” our manager commented cheerfully, “This is fun. We should do this more often.” Not a word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare. Stupidity Sighting #4: I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the life of her couldn’t understand why her system would not turn on. Stupidity Sighting #5: When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver’s side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. “Hey, it’s open!” The mechanic replied, “I know - I already got that side.”

This year, meetings are being held at Inscriber Technology, 25 Peppler Street, Waterloo. When you arrive, please enter from the parking lot side of the building.


Getting there

rom Highway 401, exit onto Highway 8 West to KitchenerWaterloo.

From Highway 8 West, take Highway 86 North to Waterloo. Exit onto Bridgeport Road and continue right heading West (the road becomes a one-way street) for about five minutes, passing over Weber Street. At Peppler Street, turn left and Inscriber Technology will be on your left at 26 Peppler Street. Parking is located at the second entrance just behind the building.

Criss-cross puzzle: Mobile computing and communication
by Christine McKarney

Word List
GTS GUI Web ISDN modem speed voice remote cables laptop carryon testing cellular mobility portable computing interface intuitive organizer usability productive travelling flexibility recognition

Answer in next month’s Quill

“Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.”–Anon.

The Quill w 12:8 w May 01

Pg Dn

About the Quill
The Quill is the official newsletter of the Southwestern Ontario chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). The Quill is published in Waterloo, Ontario monthly, except in January, July, and August, and distributed free to all local STC members. Material in this publication may be reprinted, provided the author and the Southwestern Ontario chapter of the STC are acknowledged. All readers are welcome to submit short articles, letters, and other interesting items relevant to technical communication to the editor, Please submit items by one week prior to the date of the general meeting. Editor: Karen Hess Copyeditor: Deb Gardiner Print manager: Andrea Braniff Contributors: Lynda Baxter, Robert Glover, Catherine McNair, Holly Curtis, Sandra Ford, Christine McKarney

STC Southwestern Ontario Council Contacts PEOPLE for 2000-2001
Hello, Mom?
President Competition Co-manager Student Liaison (UW)

Lynda Baxter 519.836.0834

Robin Dube 519.744.5238

Opal Gamble 519.884.5292
University of Waterloo Liaison

Sherry McMenemy Ted Edwins 519.822.2417
Past President E-mail List Manager

Conestoga College Liaison

Holly Curtis 519.747.5222 ext 239

Paul Kostiuk 519.748.4575 ext 258
Hospitality Manager

James Weare 519.725.1706
Volunteer Co-ordinator

George Zador 519.742.7984
Membership Manager

Elaine Ruddock
Employment Manager

Leanne Rollins 519.746.6210 ext 290
High School Competition Manager

To submit advertising, please consult with the editor, Advertising combining text and graphics must be supplied in graphic format.

Kristi Champ 519.570.9111 ext 311
Public Relations Manager

Ursula McCloy 519.749.9554
Quill Editor

Stephen Burke 519.748.4575 ext 266
Education Committee Manager

Heather Martin 519.747.5222
Scholarship Manager

Karen Hess 519.621.8037 ext 3217
Auxiliary Mailing List Co-ordinator

Business card $10 1/4 page $30 ($20 for 3 or more issues) 1/2 page $40 ($30 for 3 or more issues) Full page $80 ($60 for 3 or more issues)

Catherine McNair 519.747.1278 ext 253
Competition Co-manager

Pamela Sittler 519.885.5394

Christine McKarney 519.621.8037 ext 3220
Canadian Issues Committee Representative

Sandra Ford 519.883.3261
Student Liaison (WLU)

Leanne Logan

Nancy Halverson 519.744.5238
Program Manager

Terry Shantz 519.722.4166



Designing the future of technical communication
“Facts are stupid things.”—Ronald Reagan

The Quill w 12:6 w Mar. 01

To top