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May 15th, 2007

Minneapolis Trip—Day 4

By this morning, all of my GLBT OUTing info stubs were gone except one.



Gluing Their Eyes to Your Screen  (IDI 6J)

Tuesday  10:30-12:00 NOON  (Room: 101GH)
Format: Presentation
Skill Level: All

It has been ten years since the publication of "Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers"-a landmark book in our field. How has information design changed over the past decade? What more have we learned about creating texts for readers, particularly online readers? This session consolidates the latest research on the visual design moves that attract readers to online content -- from typography to visual impression. It explores the empirical evidence on how people engage with online content, with emphasis on typography, grouping, contrast, layout, and visual impression. Learn the practical implications of research for making readers want to linger with your content.

Speaker(s):
Karen A. Schriver, KSA Communication Design & Research

Karen Schriver is one of the giants in the field of Technical Communication. We used her book, Dynamics in Document Design, which is just essential reading in the field, in the very first course I took in the M.S. in Tech Comm program that I'm in.

There are five "tracks" (called "Institutes") around which the sessions at this conference revolve:
  1. Publishing Systems and Content Management Institute

  2. Globalization, Localization and Translation Institute

  3. Sharing Corporate Knowledge Institute

  4. Information Design and Architecture Institute

  5. Web 2.0 Institute
I'm pretty much ignoring them in terms of helping me select sessions and have sort of created my own track, which is essentially a "Tech Comm Giants" track, but in my mind I'm calling it, "The 'Star Struck' Track." That is, I am attending all of the sessions being offered by authors of books we've used as text books in our program.

I'm not sure if that's a prudent way to choose sessions, but I shared this strategy with a friend of mine who is here, who happens to be an IBM colleague of mine as well as a graduate of the Tech Comm program, and she exclaimed, "That's exactly what I did my first STC conference!"

So, if nothing else, I'm in good company.

During the session, Karen referred to one of our professors in one of her responses to a question, "...there's a guy named Swarts at NC State University that's doing work on..." Jason is the one who oversaw the ENG 675 Capstone Course this past semester, and with whom I'll be taking a course with in the Fall and doing some analysis on some of his research work!



Portfolio Management: Developing a Corporate Information Strategy  (MP 7J)

Tuesday  2:00-3:30 PM  (Room: 101JI)
Format: Case Study
Skill Level: Advanced Topic

Publications managers must prioritize projects, allocate resources effectively, and reduce costs while serving the needs of many masters. In this session, learn tactics to balance demands, set priorities, and communicate what you can and cannot do. Specifically, this session explains what portfolio management is, provides examples of successful portfolio management in publications organizations, and provides suggestions for identifying and managing your own portfolios.


Speaker(s): JoAnn T. Hackos, Comtech Services, Inc.

JoAnn is another heavy-hitter in the field, so I had to attend this one. Unfortunately her presentation wasn't very interesting to me, but I knew that going in as I'm not managing any portfolios and don't ever intend to. It's enough that I was in the presence of greatness for an hour or so.



Case Studies in Usability  (DA 8A)

Tuesday  4:00-5:30 PM  (Room: 101E)
Format: Case Study

These case studies look at ways to improve usability. From collaboration between a client, vendor and usability specialist to creative ways to provide direct feedback on documentation -- both show how improvements can be made.

Speaker(s):
Case Study 1

Stephanie Baldwin, Hewlett-Packard 

Case Study 2
Kathryn Bohlke, 3M Company
John Wooden, Fredrickson Communications

This session was interesting, but not riveting. I thought it was unfortunate that though the second case study was about three groups, the third group wasn't there to represent themselves. It would have been a stronger presentation had they been.



At the end of the last session, I met Heather by the Message Board, and we walked to The Newsroom for dinner. I had their Coconut Shrimp, which was quite good.

In the course of our conversation, I was horrified to realize that I totally forgot about the Student Breakfast this morning from 7:00–8:30, to which I had RSVPed, and at which I was to be awarded my pin and certificate for my induction into Sigma Tau Chi. Damnit!



I stopped at Panera's for about an hour, where the first thing I did once online was to send an e-mail to the woman with whom I had communicated with with regards to the breakfast, apologizing for my grievance.

I had an e-mail from an STC Director thanking me for organizing the GLBT social, and he said he'd be joining us after the Honors Banquet tonight. Cool!



I headed downstairs to the front of my hotel at about 9:35. When I got in the second set of elevators, one of the people, Carl (from Dallas), was in it, and spying my GRAMMAR POLICE t-shirt, he offered his hand, "John? I'm Carl."

Once out front, a kid named Daniel (from Pensacola) walked over to meet us, and then I was surprised by Kate, from my department, as she came up to the group.

We waited until just after 9:45, the time I said we'd be leaving, and then the four of us walked over to The Gay 90s together.

Shortly after we arrived, Jeff (from Houston), the STC Director, arrived, and when he did, he said, "Congratulations on your Distinction award."

"Huh?" I said.

"You're the NC State chapter, right? At the Honors Banquet, your chapter was awarded a Community Achievement Award of Distinction. I'm almost positive it was you guys."

A couple more people arrived and then a group of three came together—Alex (a guy from a small town in Georgia) and his two straight female friends, and when he introduced himself to me, he said, "Congratulations on your Distinction Award."

At that point, I had to believe it, and it was just icing on the cake—all the more reason to celebrate cheaply at 2 bourbon and diets for $3.75 all night.

We ended up with a group of about 10 or 12—a few straight women and the rest gay men. My phone rang several times once there, the queers coming out of the woodwork.

I'm trying to remember the other folks' names who eventually joined us:
  • Chris (from Salt Lake City, who didn't know who Jerry Falwell was when I asked him if he heard that he'd died today. "How old are you, honey?" I asked. "30," he replied.

  • Dan (a real cutey from Atlanta, who told me that Hoedowns has "changed"—apparently it's no longer exclusively a country and western place)

  • Phil (from San Francisco, a young guy, but turned out he had a PhD, and complained about one of the sessions [which was supposed to be an intellectual inquiry, I suppose], being "about the worse case of intellectual display that he'd ever witnessed)

  • Marge (who was an older, very short, very, well, let's just say "bless her heart" and leave it at that, and "straight, but not narrow" [as she described herself when she called me before coming to the bar]).
Rachel, a lesbian, was one of the calls I took, and she asked me just about a gazillion questions, and I kept trying to hang up because it was very hard to hear in there and I hate being on a cell phone in a bar. And after all that, she never showed up.

The drag show turned out to be pretty decent, featuring both Drag Queens and Drag Kings, and we all just had a blast. Almost every person thanked me profusely for organizing the gathering, and all said, "Too bad we didn't do it earlier in the conference."

Chris, the naive one from Salt Lake City didn't drink and had driven an SUV to the bar from one of the hotels, so he offered to take a load of the folks with him when it was time to go, which was just perfect.

I walked back to my hotel by myself feeling very good about everything that's happened here at the conference. Life is good.

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