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Going to Atlanta, #stc09

by Tom Johnson on Apr 30, 2009
categories: technical-writing

This week I'm heading off to Atlanta for the STC Summit, where I'm giving three presentations:

  • Introduction to Blogging: A New Technical Communicator Role. Monday, May 4, 3-4:30 p.m. (ppt | pdf)
  • What You Learn By Watching Others Use Your Documentation. Tuesday, May 5, 8:30-10:00 a.m. This is part of the Usability SIG's "Designing and Assessing the User Experience" progression, so my presentation is only about 20 minutes long and informally given around a table.
  • Quick Reference Guides: Short and Sweet Documentation. Tuesday, May 5. 5:00-6:00 p.m. I'm presenting with my colleague, Ben Minson.

Feel free to say hello to me at the conference. I was also going to give a workshop before the conference (if you can believe it), but it was canceled due to lack of participants. As a result, I'll be there a day early with some time to explore the city.

I hear the overall attendance at the Summit will be less than last year, which was, I believe, around 1,300. I'll be interested to see if there's a noticeable difference. Alan Porter wrote a good post about quality versus quantity when it comes to conference attendance.

If you're going to the conference, you should definitely sign up for Twitter -- it makes the conference a lot more fun. You can sign up for a Twitter account at Then during the conference, go to and search for #stc09. All tweets with this #stc09 hashtag will be aggregated through this search.

When you tweet about something conference related, include #stc09 anywhere in your tweet and it will be aggregated with all the other tweets containing this same hashtag. You can also set as your home page to follow the running list of conference tweets.

Not only can you tweet to let others know about cool sessions, interesting events, venue details, book signings, or other relevant conference information, you can also let others know about meetups and other informal gatherings in the evenings. This is important because after 6 p.m., the conference sessions end and you don't want to go back and sit alone in your hotel room. You want to connect with the group of other conference attendees.

Also, Twitter is useful for giving feedback to presenters. You can send replies to conference presenters by adding @ before their Twitter ID in your tweet. This provides a convenient way to let others know how they're doing without having to free up their time. For example, you could tweet something like @tomjohnson Great presentation, but next time stop fidgeting so much -- it was distracting and at times I wanted to strangle you.

At the last STC Summit, there were maybe a dozen people on Twitter. I'd be sitting in a session and see a tweet come across Twhirl (my desktop app for Twitter) from another person in the same session. It was cool to see how the speaker's presentation resonated with others in real-time. In another session, the AC stopped working. I despised the heat silently, but then I saw a tweet about the heat from another person in the same session. I joined in to complain. After a while, someone came to fix it. How cool was that!

Most people at STC Conferences aren't like those on Twitter at SXSW, where (two years ago) they collected in mob-like action to cheer Sara Lacey practically off the stage. Still, if a presentation is poor or if something isn't right, you might tweet about how to improve it.

By the way, speaking of Twitter, there is a scheduled tweetup for Monday night from 9 pm to midnight. I'm not sure what goes on in a Tweetup, but then again no one else does either. I believe we all compare our favorite Twitter icons.

On the topic of the STC Summit, you should also know that both keynote speakers, Jared Spool and David Pogue, have engaging podcasts. Jared Spool's podcast is called BrainSparks, and it's all about usability. David Pogue's podcast is more of a videocast that goes with his weekly New York Times Technology column. I've been subscribed to both of these podcasts/videocasts for a while and enjoy them. They are among the best out there.

Finally, if you miss my presentations, you can check out these three posts to get a better feel for what I presented on:

If you're trying to find me, send an email to [email protected]. I should hear some kind of morse code vibration on my mobile device, which I'm still adjusting to.

See you in Atlanta.

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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