An Attendee Reviews Yesterday’s Virtual Conference

by Kevin Cuddihy on 10 November 2011

STC held its first-ever virtual conference yesterday, Applying Research in Practice. Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger reached out to one of the attendees, Bonni Graham Gonzalez, to get her thoughts on how it went.

Applying Research in Practice Virtual Conference Provides Valuable Insights

On Wednesday, 9 November, STC held its first-ever virtual conference, a day-long event titled Applying Research in Practice. Led by Saul Carliner, this event explored several hot research topics. Presenters exposed the results of their research and discussed how practitioners might use this research to improve their projects and work life. The webinar covered topics from Social Media to copyright law, providing valuable insights into current thinking in those areas.

There, now that the basics are covered, let me take off my marketing hat and just share what I found so valuable about this webinar. Anyone in STC who’s talked to me at any point in my membership knows that I am a strong proponent of drawing a direct line from academic research to practice. This conference is a great first step to doing that regularly.

The sessions were informative, and the guest speakers were all very knowledgeable in their fields. Some take-away nuggets included:

  • For social media, the rules and best practices truly are still evolving as much as we thought they were (some nice validation, there).
  • Particularly for technical communication’s purposes, there are several key topics of research yet to be covered (and I hope the many students in the “room” took that as a direct challenge!).
  • “Comfortable with” does not equal “expert in.” Although the “digital natives” generation may have embraced new technology more thoroughly in terms of daily use, they are not necessarily more expert in using it effectively.
  • At least in the healthcare arena, people are willing to share personal details (particularly those that would be protected under HIPAA) if they see a social or personal benefit.
  • Content management systems are as hard for everyone as they are for each of us (and it seems misery really does love company), but that there are some reasons:
    • Content management is a cultural shift that needs to be managed as thoroughly as the technical aspects do.
    • There’s a training gap: the training from many content management vendors simply focuses on “here’s what the system does” rather than “here’s how you implemented the system and here’s what that means to your workflow.”
  • eBooks are cool and will ultimately be very useful to tech comm. Professionals and the reader technology stabilizes so our authoring tools can provide that output (and I personally am stealing the idea of putting a QR code label on devices that links directly to an Internet-delivered help system).
  • Copyright law is complex (duh). Also:
    • Creative Commons and Fair Use are not the same thing.
    • You can cite your sources and still be in violation of copyright law (although not, generally, in an academic setting).
  • Dave Farkas has a cool new tool called QuikScan that makes it easier to create summaries and link them to internal content for readers who skim (you know, like executive managers…). Check it out: http://quikscan.org/.
  • SEO is constantly evolving (somehow I missed the memo on how metatags aren’t really used anymore).

Next a few words about the format. I love it! You get the great information and the ability to chat and share about it without being rude to the speaker. I’m not good at shutting up and not exploding with connections I’ve just made between the speaker’s material and, well, any random thought I just had. With this online format, and the chat room, I can share those thoughts and refine them with what others are thinking in real-time. And I can do it without interrupting the speaker or whispering to my neighbor. Also, it gives speakers control over when and how to answer questions.

And you can attend in your jammies if you dial in from home.

STC plans two more of these webinars in 2012. I’d get in on this, if I were you.

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