STC Summit 2017

The Technical Communication Summit is the annual conference for STC. The #STC17 Summit was May 7-10, 2017 at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor in Washington, DC.


  • The 2017 theme was ‘Gain the Edge to Get Results’ and spanned more than 75 different sessions during the conference.
  • The San Diego Chapter won Most Improved Community!
  • Browse through all the #STC17 Tweets.

Sara Feldman at STC17 Summit

Hot Topics

These topics either had multiple sessions or a lot of interest among conference attendees.

  • Strategies for Introverts
  • Terminology management and translation memory
  • DITA – Even if you don’t have the business case to implement DITA, more people are catching on that you can apply DITA principles to non-DITA setups, a.k.a. structured authoring.
  • Analytics & Reporting – TechComm is paying more attention to content analytics, well beyond just article feedback and ratings.
  • Journey Mapping – Capturing customer interactions has been around for a while, but this specific methodology is getting extra attention lately.
  • Accessibility and ADA Compliance – This is starting to get more attention from a content-perspective.
  • Agile Writing – 4 different sessions explored this topic.

Originally posted for STC San Diego: 2017 Technical Communication Summit Summary

10 Questions to Include in Every Software RFP

Originally published on the MindTouch Blog.

Knowing how to identify and purchase the right software successfully is not something you should have to learn through trial and error. If you are faced with putting out a software RFP, you may be tempted to confine your specs to functionality alone.

That’s a rookie mistake.

Whether you’re seeking an on-premises, hosted, or SaaS product, the following ten questions can apply to almost any software RFP.

1. Is your code developed completely in-house? If not, who writes your code and where are they located?

Outsourced code development is more likely to produce a product that doesn’t always functionally align with expectations. A development team that is tightly integrated with other company processes and operations often produces a higher quality product that more efficiently adapts to customer needs.

2. What is your QA and beta process?

You want to be assured of a thorough and detail-oriented QA and beta process so that testing doesn’t ultimately fall on customers. The process described should clearly cover system configurations and use cases that impact you.

3. What is your release cycle for updates and bug fixes?

This information will indicate how often you can expect enhancements and improvements. Some bugs are inevitable in all software, but release cycle frequency indicates if you’re more likely to wait six weeks or six months for a fix.

4. Can you share all your product documentation before we sign a contract?

The only acceptable answer here is YES. If called for, offer to sign an NDA to see it; but do not sign a contract without being able to review available documentation.

5. Can you set up a dedicated test instance before we sign a contract?

With a few possible exceptions, software vendors should provide an option for your team to test-drive the software on your own. Being told some version of “we only offer guided demos so potential customers don’t get confused” is a red flag that the software is unintuitive or overly complicated to use.

6. How many of your customers needed customizations to meet their requirements and what are the most common customizations?

Customizations aren’t just a budget-buster—they can indicate that the software is being stretched for use cases it wasn’t designed for. Consequently, the software might be unable to handle certain customizations efficiently. Some custom integrations aren’t necessarily alarming, but frequent customizations that alter or circumvent core functionality are cause for concern.

7. What are your support SLAs for all tiers of service?

These details are helpful to know well before the contract phase so you can ensure your expectations are aligned.

8. What was your average uptime during past 12 months?

Although uptime ranges should be covered in the SLAs, you want to know what to realistically expect.

9. What is your renewal rate and is it trending up or down?

This is an important indicator of customer satisfaction and can tell you if things are improving or worsening.

10. What is your employee turnover rate?

A high employee turnover rate can indicate issues within the company or, more importantly, it’s a risk that the product experts you plan to depend on could leave.

How to get a job via LinkedIn

I landed my last 2 jobs via LinkedIn without even trying.

Spoiler Alert: When I say I landed these jobs “without even trying” – I mean that I wasn’t directly job hunting when these opportunities landed in my LinkedIn inbox. This process still takes effort 🙂


Step One – Pack your patience

This is a long game, or at least it was for my last two moves:

  • The first one happened because a recruiter found me and set up a call with the hiring manager, who I clicked with. That position was filled internally (heard that one before?), but a year later when another position opened, I was the first person she reached out to and I landed the job.
  • The second time, over a year later, another direct message on LinkedIn turned into another positive job change. This position description was never even posted online, but I was in the right place at the right time on LinkedIn.


How do you show up in the right place at the right time on LinkedIn? See Step Two.


Step Two – Do all the things

Or at least, always be doing some of the things. Even if you’re not job hunting right now. What things?

Optimize your LinkedIn profile

At least once per quarter, do a refresh to add your latest accomplishments and new key words. Learn how to consider profile SEO and prepare your profile for a job huntThe recruiter I mentioned above found me based on new key words I had just added to my profile.

Watch webinars

They are free and full of valuable info about new tools, strategies, lingo, and resources. They are also a great way to expand your network with the right people … “Hi Ms. Expert, I just watched your webinar on XYZ and I’d love to connect.” Here’s a list of free Webinars for Technical Communicators or Google [your industry] + webinar. Pro tip: If a live webinar is scheduled for a time you can’t attend, still register and you’ll likely get a link to the recording.

Network with your local professional community

I joined the leadership team of a professional chapter for my industry. If you don’t have time for that, attend events when you can. Meetup is a great place to find local events for your industry. Learn the names of people and companies to follow and then engage with them on LinkedIn.

Post, write articles, comment

Have something to say about what you do. Contribute to discussions your network is starting in their posts and articles, and they’ll be more likely to return that engagement. My most recent opportunity happened because the right person saw a relevant article I had just published on LinkedIn. You don’t need to be an Influencer to write an article that gets noticed.


Don’t be complacent if you’re in a good spot now. Your network and credibility is something to build over time, not switch on for a quick return after a missed promotion or unexpected layoff.


Recommended Reading: Jeff Goins wrote an excellent piece on Medium – “We assume great careers happen because one extraordinary person makes a big bet that pays off. That’s not how it actually works most of the time.

Google featured snippets paradox

Google featured snippets create a tricky paradox (brought to my attention via The Hustle) …

The snippet allows users to get their answer without clicking through, which ultimately hurts the website (due to less traffic) that the snippet is generated from.

Some reward for writing effective content that beats even the #1 search result! With little control about what appears in the snippet, there’s limited ability to add a CTA or encourage engagement.

What’s the solution and how will this relationship evolve? I’ll be watching.

Featured snippets in Google search

P.S. I’m loving the Hustle – you should sign up.
“The Hustle is an email newsletter for savvy forward thinkers interested in business news. We find, explore, and uncover original content on stories that inspire.”

Do you know about Knowledge-Centered Service?

KCS Methodology
KCS Double Loop Process for Knowledge Capture

Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS®), formerly called Knowledge Centered Support, is a methodology to integrate knowledge creation and maintenance into your day-to-day processes.

KCS becomes the way people solve problems and creates knowledge as a by-product of problem solving.

KCS Goals

  1. Integrate the reuse, improvement, and creation of knowledge into the problem solving process.
  2. Evolve content based on demand and usage.
  3. Develop a knowledge base of collective experience to date.
  4. Reward learning, collaboration, sharing, and improving.

My Favorite KCS Concepts

  • Knowledge Is User-Centric. Information becomes knowledge when it is actionable, which means it is demand-driven. Customers are the catalyst for information becoming knowledge. – so frame information from their perspective.
  • Collective Ownership. Knowledge ownership applies to all who use the knowledge, therefore, knowledge workers and users are part-owners of the content.
  • Continuous Improvement. Double loop learning means that solving problems creates knowledge, and evaluating the knowledge helps it evolve.

Get Trained & Certified

KCS v6 Fundamentals Certification – Entry-level understanding of the methodology across groups of knowledge workers.
KCS v6 Practices Certification – A more thorough understanding of KCS methodology and adoption.

Recommended Resources

LinkedIn Group for KCS
KCS v6 Fundamentals Certification Study Guide *Start here and read “KCS Principles and Core Concepts”  for free, to see if the concepts interest you*

Image Credit: Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) by MindTouch

KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.

Panel Discussion: The Nuts and Bolts on Technical Editing and Writing

I enjoyed joining Mark Fogg and Elizabeth Gray in this panel discussion for San Diego Professional Editors Network (SD/PEN). We answered questions about how we became technical writers and editors, the various tech industries and opportunities in San Diego, how to succeed in the field, and more.

Technically Speaking: The Nuts and Bolts on Technical Editing and Writing (March 16, 2017)

Mark Fogg, Sara Feldman, Elizabeth Gray

Discussion Highlights

  • Learn to love style guides. Technical Writers will reference various style guides, depending on the subject-matter or client. Whichever one is required should become your new best friend! A great house style guide example is the MailChimp style guide (which happens to be included in Websites I like).
  • Technical Editors vs. Technical Writers. Interestingly, my co-panelists had a much clearer distinction between these roles than I’ve encountered in my experience. I’m researching this topic and will post more about it soon.
  • Contractor vs. Full Time Employee (FTE). We all noted that contract positions appear to be more common now than FTE opportunities, at least in San Diego. Contract positions unfortunately don’t come with benefits. On the other hand, FTE positions can come with extra hours (especially around major deadlines or product releases) while contractor hours are much more consistent and predictable.

Moderator, Chris Zook

Learn More

  • SD/PEN has a mission to “To support and develop top-notch editors and to promote their services to writers, publishers, businesses, and others whose success depends on effective communication.” Check out the next SD/PEN event!
  • STC San Diego connects you with networking, educational and job opportunities so you can grow in the rewarding field of technical communication. Check out the next STC San Diego event!