Attended Tom Johnson’s podcasting presentation yesterday. Three years ago, Tom was just another STC member and tech writer, but today he’s probably one of the best-known members of our profession both within it and outside of it.
Tom launched I’d Rather Be Writing in 2006. It wasn’t the first tech comm blog, but he was consistent and focused on tech writing issues and technology he was exploring. He also talked a lot about blogging and became known more broadly in the blogosphere (especially in WordPress circles) than other tech comm bloggers before him. As an activist in the Sun Coast Chapter he was deep into the technology of Web sites and blogs even earlier than that, for example, converting the chapter’s Web site into a blog. Tom then jumped headfirst into podcasting with Tech Writer Voices. Again, he blogged about podcasting and inspired others to take it up as well. Another contribution was the Tech Writers Blog Directory, a magnet for tech writers and tech commers who are blogging.
This year Tom was a speaker at WritersUA, DocTrain, and here at the STC Summit. At these conferences he doggedly pursues other innovative thinkers and doers in our profession (or closely connected to tech comm) and records podcasts with them for the rest of us to listen to, ponder, and grow.
I can’t think of a better single resource for practicing technical communicators than Tom’s blog and podcasts.
Yet Tom’s accomplishments have gone virtually unrecognized by the STC, which has an explicit goal of elevating our profession’s visibility and standards of practice.
Some other people who are making similarly important contributions to our profession:
Scott Abel, who has been running The Content Wrangler since 2002 and more recently initiated the Content Management Community a great social networking tool for tech comm people. Scott also runs the DocTrain conferences that are growing in popularity each year.
Joe Welinske of WritersUA, whose conferences and WritersUA Web site have been a valuable source of education, knowledge sharing, and new ideas for years.
Anne Gentle who has been writing and blogging about wikis and content management.
The STC doesn’t have a way to recognize people who contribute to our profession the way that these people do. I think it’s something we’ll need to address soon as part of defining and winning respect for our profession.
During Sunday’s presentation of the STC’s strategic plan, Robert tweeted: “We need to invest in being trailblazers instead of just road pavers.” He’s concerned that STC’s gap in this category is part of our difficultly in retaining younger members. I think he’s got a point. The crowd at Tom’s podcasting session was markedly younger than the other sessions I attended.
We need a way not only to recognize innovative and visionary thinkers in the STC, but also to foster them. That is one of the paths to gaining the respect we seek as professionals.