I picked two to watch consecutively: his interview with usability consultant Whitney Hess; then his discussion with Char James-Tanny and Bill Swallow about the pay-for-content model for online content. Although the two talks were not strictly on the same topic, I think they each provided insight on where STC can improve and why it’s not irrelevant, yet (in my humble estimation).
Johnson’s questions to Hess were about the “old guard,” the generation who established and defined our field, vs. the “new guard,” the emerging generation that is perhaps more comfortable with social media and other new methods. Hess suggested that the old guard will make themselves irrelevant, and that the new folk should go around unnecessary barriers set up by them. She raised the question of whether we need such formal associations as STC.
In the Tanny/ Swallow interview, Johnson asked for their thoughts on the pay-for-content model: can it work and does it have value online, where so much can be obtained for free? Both suggested that exclusive, vetted content can be worth paying for online.
I think that the reasons why paid online content makes sense in some cases are the some of the same reasons that STC and its conference make sense: the exclusivity, the curation, and the vetting add value to the association, as well.
- The formality of the association adds to employer perceptions of us, and having STC associated with a webinar or class I want to get paid for makes it much more likely to get approved. I’ll venture a guess that this is more valuable to some of us than others. There are many consultants in STC, but meanwhile, I’m still finagling invitations to the right meetings at my job.
- I think our publications are excellent. For a long time, they were one of the biggest benefits of my membership.
- Speaking of quality products like our publications, there is something to be said for the level of planning that goes into our activities. The TCBoK has a 15-page charter. I don’t think that’s too much for a project of that magnitude, and it’s a good precedent for our work projects. Not everything is a complex project that needs that level of planning, but it’s a skill to know the difference.
- Chapter meetings have been enormously beneficial, and the same goes for the conferences: the programs get a 90ish % from me, overall, and the people I’ve met have given me an education in tech comm. I think I wouldn’t get that depth of knowledge if all of tech comm was an un-conference with people my age.
- The organization is sandbox for the work world and a place to prove ourselves. We get to practice audience analysis, and UX, and web development, and everything else by serving this community. Not to mention selling books to it, in some cases. But . . .
I absolutely think we need to cut the unnecessary trappings fast. Bylaws: why are they pages upon pages? It’s intimidating and unusable, and it dates us. No wifi? Unacceptable—cut something else, period. A new, monolithic social platform for all members? Where was my survey? And maybe it’s time to start thinking about funding more regional conferences with lighter footprints rather than one, large conference. If the TCBoK will be paid content, why are we holding our hands out for content like we’re taking charity?
We’ve got to have more of these discussions at the Suncoast chapter level, so don’t think I’m leaving myself out of this. For example, I got some (gentle) criticism about having a fancy catered dinner at the Doubletree for our competition awards banquet, and then handing out paper certificates (with professional graphics, thanks very much) to the winners. In past years we had fancier plaques. I’m still figuring out where to hang mine, but it sure is pretty.
Meanwhile, we have sizable minority of unemployed members, and you’ll find nary a developer at our meetings, even the ones about XML and content strategy. Nor do we venture out to represent STC at the dozens of dev-focused meetups in our area.
Hess’s point about our siloed professions was a good one. Our industry relies on tech, and it intermingles with the UX community, among others. For example, during the STC Usability and User Experience SIG meeting, I learned that it was a couple of STC folk who founded UPA (can’t find a link for this, unfortunately). I think we can take cues from some of the more tech-y conferences: partly to save money on things that are less important to the “new guard” (sorry, can’t type that without air quotes), like centerpieces and centralized, mega-conferences, and partly to facilitate cross-over, which can get everybody more jobs.
At the UUX business meeting, we identified some goals for this year that I think could be good for the Society, in general: finding our synergy with other communities: with the larger UX community, with other SIGs, with the TCBoK. Why do people join the STC and the SIGs and not other groups, or in addition to other groups? Are we a gateway into those other communities, a supplement to them, or do people need our particular focus on docs? Where do we fit in?