Challenge to STC: Recognizing innovators

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. 

Scott Nesbitt and Aaron Davis of DMN Communications who have been podcasting regularly on tech comm-related topics. 

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. 



7 Responses to Challenge to STC: Recognizing innovators

  1. Gordon says:

    Totally agree with you, particularly outside of the STC and the US of A, I’d suggest the above mentioned people, plus Matthew Ellison should all be made honourary MVPs or something.

    Of course you can always add to the list of names but you have an excellent start.

    I’m slowly trying to get the ISTC to take blogs more seriously on this side of the pond (I contribute a monthly blog roundup article to the newsletter), and it’s going down quite well, or so I’m told.

  2. hharkness says:

    Yeah, I was hoping commenters would name others. Matthew Elllison is another good example.

  3. Gordon says:

    Ohh you want names? Ann Rockley, Ginny Redish… both for different reasons I guess (and have they already been ‘rewarded’ anyway?)

  4. hharkness says:

    I’m particularly thinking of younger people who are doing new stuff that is important to the profession. So I wouldn’t include Ginny Redish or Ann Rockley. And it’s true they have been recognized. Ginny won an award last night.

    It takes 15 years in the profession to become an Associate Fellow. We need some way to recognize people who haven’t been in the profession too long, but are doing interesting things.

  5. Lindsey Robbins says:

    I couldn’t agree more especially being so new to the field (2.5years as a tech writer). I came from a m.a. program in professional communication and it’s taken me some time to find the people I think will shape our profession in the years to come and not just the established ones. I like connecting with the people you mentioned above because I know they will push me to be this type of advocate of our profession in the future. I have so much to learn and it’d be nice if those who inspire, motivate, and guide me would be recognized. I realize that some of those people recognized at the keynote must have done something great to get recognized but it’s the people you mentioned that I would give awards. Thanks for the great post Holly!

  6. annegentle says:

    Heck, being recognized by fellow bloggers is plenty flattering to me, so thanks! 🙂 Let’s have a bloggy award ceremony and I will start the nominations with Gordon McLean and Rahan Prabakhar in addition to the fine folks you mention.

    As far as STC recognition, I’ll admit that I should hit that 15 year mark soon, and I have a Distinguished Chapter Service award plaque on my wall for my contributions as a mentor to the Miami University student chapter. Not that I’m “full up” on recognition, but I certainly would come in last place compared to the other contributors you list! 🙂

    Side note: This week while brainstorming topics for STC Intercom, I realized that I’d like to find and hear from STCers who are aged 22-29, just starting out in the workplace, and gain insight into their perspective on our profession, to recognize and find out more about their contributions as well. If you fall in that category and won’t be annoyed by a “GenNext” set of questions, contact me, please! 🙂

  7. Phylise Banner says:

    I agree with you completely and welcome all recommendations for invited speakers for the 2009 conference — let’s get more of these “hot” folks on the program!

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