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April 20th, 2006

Lavender Idol and capstone presentations...

A colleague and friend of mine pointed me to this fabulous article called, "This Week's Gayest 'American Idol' Moments."


I don't even watch this show, since I lack a venue to do so, but I've been following the news about the contestants enough to know most of the people talked about. Too funny.



I ran a few errands today mostly around an upcoming birthday of someone who sometimes reads my blog, so I can't say to where and for what. :-)




I attended the three "Project Defenses" that were scheduled this evening from 6:00 to 7:30 in Tompkins 126 -- Ben's, Wendy's, and Dana's defenses.

Project defenses are what we have to do in place of a thesis for our Master of Science degree in Technical Communication. The class is called ENG 675 Projects in Technical Communication, and is also referred to as the capstone (noun: a final touch; a crowning achievement; a culmination) course.

Each student chooses to do either a project or a paper to be published in a scholarly journal. The idea is to incorporate everything you've learned in the program into the project, and you have to do a presentation about the project at the end of the semester. That's what I attended.

The student presents for 20 minutes, and then, for the remaining 10 minutes, two professors ask them questions about their work and conclusions, which is the "defense" part. If there is any time left, the floor is opened to questions from the audience, which primarily consists of the 12 or so students in the class, who will be presenting over the next week. And then there was me.



Dana did a web site for the Information Development department (technical writers) she works with at IBM.

I asked her two questions:

  1. "Since I work in a different information development department, and we use several of the same processes that your department does, what percentage of your website content would you estimate to be organization-specific?" My thought being that our department can use this website if it's a low number.

  2. "Since a lot of the other translation-related websites will still be found when searching IBM's intranet, have you done any search engine optimization work, such as with metadata, to "weigh" your site to the top of the search results list, since it's basically acting like a portal?"



Wendy did a training module for RoboHelp, which will be used in a one-time training session in her job with the UNC Healthcare System.

I asked her one question: "My question is an evaluation-related question. You mentioned at the beginning of your presentation that the way you'd know if your training was successful would be by looking at the computers of everyone in the session to see that they created the same project with RoboHelp. Have you thought about how you're going to assess the success of the actual help panels developed -- that is, the content. I assume you will hear if your help didn't help someone get their task done, but will you have any way to know, for instance, that one particular panel really helped them complete a task?"



Ben wrote a journal article called, "The Rhetoric of Technology," in which he analyzed metaphor in the work of Ray Kurzweil.

In contrast to the other application-oriented projects, this one was quite theoretical, and basically took a mind fuck to follow. Ben was eloquent, and in addition to being a handsome guy, I found his intellect quite stimulating. Is that what we're calling it now? Intellect?

I didn't ask him a question, because only one came to mind, and I didn't think it was appropriate. I did imagine myself, though, raising my hand, and, when called on, tilting my head to the right a little and asking, "What in the hell did you just say for 20 minutes?"

I loved watching him in action.

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