A Newsy Blog--
Al Hood announced at last week's STC meeting that I am the "Atlanta Conference 2009 Planning Committee Chair." I remember shooting my mouth off that we needed such a committee. Holly Harkness and Al swear I volunteered. (Personally, I think everybody else took one step back.) On a serious note, I think the 2009 STC conference being in Atlanta is a great event to spur us to re-invigorate our Atlanta chapter, and I'm eager to get some folks together and help make that happen. So avoid making eye-contact with me in the next few months, otherwise you will be chairing a sub-committee. (The COOLEST one will be to organize and man our promotional booth at next year's conference in Philadelphia.)
I have a new column out on UXMatters discussing the benefit of collaborative walkthroughs with user assistance. Give it a read when you get a chance.
I'm on a team right now that will be taking our new user assistance design out to the usability lab at Southern Polytechnic State University next month. They have a great lab out there, and I encourage technical communicators to get more involved in the usability of documentation. One of the most important problems we still need to understand better is the conflict between our desire to produce complete documentation and the user's reluctance to get off task for too long. We are hoping where I work to start a long-term research relationship with SPSU to help us understand the roles user assistance can play in the context of solving problems within software applications.
One more sales pitch: My new book A Research Primer for Technical Communication that I coauthored with George Hayhoe is due out today! OK, it's no Harry Potter, but I do think it demystifies research and sets a practical agenda for defining best practices within our profession. Give it a read (and support my granddaughter's college fund).