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The Broken STC Model -- and What's Replacing It

by Tom Johnson on Apr 24, 2008
categories: technical-writing

I attended an STC chapter meeting tonight, and while the presenter had some excellent information, only 6 people showed up -- the presenter, the program manager, a new guy, two regulars, and me. I thought this was okay because we were recording the event anyway, but I'm sorry to report that I botched the recording. The mic jack wasn't snug in its socket, so you can't hear anything.

I walked away tonight convinced that the STC model is broken. In the recent general elections, around 12 percent (if that) of the entire membership voted. I guess this means most people don't really care who runs what. 12 percent is about the same percentage of active attending members in many chapters. I often attend STC meetings out of a sense of commitment rather than desire. Commitment, responsibility, etc. Huh?

About 10 years ago, I hear the STC had a much more lively, active group. My impression is that the regulars who attended back then have kept up the habit, and show up month after month regardless of topic.

Were it not for the annual conference and the Intercom magazine, the STC would wither away. It needs a completely new model of participation. I'm not sure what that is. Perhaps replace evening meetings with lunchtime gatherings? If meetings are truly professional development, hold them during professional hours, rather competing with family time.

I thought virtual meetings might be a good cure, but after some exploration, I'm convinced that virtual meetings will fare the same or worse than physically attended meetings. People like time-shifted and location-shifted media more than to be tethered to their computer listening to bad audio at an inconvenient time.

Last week I joined in a conference call on about WordPress with two experts, and was surprised to see only 11 participants. I have decided to stick with podcasts as the best form of virtual meetings. 200-300 downloads is much more successful than a conference call of 11.

While I lament the dying STC model, I also celebrate the new forms of communication and interactivity that have sprung up globally, without the confines of a professional organization, without the hierarchical structures of chapter organization. Without bylaws and elections and committees. I'm talking about new media and the blogosphere. My real chapter, my body of local colleagues, are those in my feed reader.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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