Interview with Kevin Cuddihy, Editor of the STC Notebook Blog
A couple of years ago, the STC started a Notebook blog. Recently I followed up with Kevin Cuddihy, editor of the STC Notebook blog, to see the impact has been for the STC.
How long has it been since STC started their STC Notebook blog?
It's been just over two years—our second "birthday" was on 3 August. The assistant editor for STC at the time, Tara Ebrahimi, started it. I came on board 31 August when Tara went back to school and picked up the baton, posting as Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger ever since. Yes, I was a Spiderman fan growing up. While this is the STC blog, I try to inject some of my own personality into it as well. It makes it more fun for me, and I think it makes it more entertaining for members.
I'm curious to know what the effect has been. Was it a good idea?
I think so, yes. Initially the blog was intended as a replacement for the monthly News & Notes email, but people receive their information in so many different ways that we eventually decided to do both of them. Now, however, News & Notes is more a monthly executive summary of the blog. Members can get the information first and fastest by reading the blog (or subscribing to the RSS feed), but if they don't then we need to make sure they still get that information. And the blog has helped us get that information out faster than we could before.
Does the payoff justify the time and effort?
Absolutely. We're able to get out more information and in a less intrusive way than if we were to email every single notice out to people. We're always looking for ways to reduce the amount of email we send our members, and the blog lets us get information out there without inundating our members with email. And being STC, so many of our members are already taking advantage of social media, so it's a way we know we'll find them, and we know they're familiar with it.
Originally, the blog was supposed to be a once-a-week thing, maybe even less than that, but we quickly saw that an expanded publication schedule was necessary to get readers, and more importantly keep the readers. Keeping the readers, and keeping them interested, is definitely worth the time and effort.
Do people get confused about having multiple sources to go for information?
I don't think so, no. Primarily it's a question of push versus pull communication. Some want the information pushed to them, and for that we have News & Notes and other periodic emails. And, of course, there's the RSS feed for the blog. But regular visitors, or people who see links on Twitter, are actively looking for the information and the blog gives them an easy place to find it. And, in exchange, I try to provide some items on the more helpful, useful, and entertaining side as well—the links of interest, profiles of members and communities, etc. Different people get their information in different methods, and I think the blog provides a welcome option to many.
What have been the most popular topics?
By far, the two most popular topics have been Intercom and certification. Members rank Intercom as one of their biggest benefits, so we've had strong interest in any topic related to the magazine—the Q&As we used to run, the Notes from the Editor, and especially the discussion about open versus closed models for Intercom Online. And certification has long been a topic of great discussion in STC, so it's no surprise that the discussion continues on the blog.
I also received some great feedback on our Paths to Fellow feature, where we invited first-person stories from STC Fellows and Associate Fellows on how they earned those honors. A lot of people loved seeing the paths their fellow members took and the way their careers went.
What technical issues have you run into?
It's not really a technical issue, but continuing a member-focused series has been difficult. People are already overloaded with their day-to-day job, so it's hard to find more than a handful willing to take some extra time and contribute to the blog. I've done community spotlights, the Path to Fellow, Intercom Q&As, and a few other things in the past. Each was well received, but each also had a shelf life, almost, due to the busy schedules of our members. It's something, I think, where I just need to keep coming up with new and fresh ideas to draw people in.
Well, what's next is to come up with those new ideas! I'm batting around a few things that I think will be fun and interesting. I work hard to stay away from being nothing more than an advertising venue talking about things to buy. I try to provide a service to our members. If anyone has any ideas on things they'd like to see in the blog, they're welcome to email me.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.