Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vendors as Stakeholders--
In my candidacy for 2VP for the Society of Technical Communication (STC), I have been using this blog to develop my platform. My central theme has been that STC should forge collaborative relationships among its principle stakeholders of practitioners, academics, vendors, and employers. In my blog on November 3, I discussed the role of academics, and today I would like to discuss the role of vendors.

The Tool Keepers and Trainers
Whereas the role of academics is to be the keepers of the body of knowledge and to be the educators, the role of vendors is to be the keepers of the tools and to be the trainers. This reveals an important aspect of my perspective on our profession: Tools are an important part of what we do and how we are defined as a profession. We are not merely the writers of content; our job is also to design and build the engines that deliver that content. We are a technology-based profession both in our content domains and in our production and delivery channels of that content.

By vendors, I mean those companies and individuals who sell to technical communicators and whose involvement in STC is largely motivated by a desire to be close to their market. Typical vendors are providers of tools such as Help Authoring Tools (HATs), Desk-top Publishing (DTP) systems, Content Management Systems (CMS), as well as services. These services can range from content translation to consultation and training. Conference sponsors that target technical communicators, such as WritersUA and DocTrain fall into the training and conference arena. Consultants are a more slippery category and I classify them as vendors or practitioners based on who's paying for their services. If the TechComm manager has brought them in to help formulate a CMS strategy, I see them as a vendor. If those same consultants do the same thing but for the director of engineering, I see them as practitioners (operating in a contract capacity).

As I have said in an earlier blog (October 31), I think STC has a great opportunity to bring vendors and academics together to serve the integrated need of helping practitioners build well designed solutions that work (all kinds of puns intended). Currently STC is doing some strong things in this area. Lloyd Tucker, the director of Education, has implemented vendor-sponsored webinars that seem to be very popular (given that the one I tried to sign up for filled up faster than a Hannah Montana concert). The active training presence we see by the vendors at our conferences is another example.

So my position is that tools are an important aspect of our profession. I already know more grammar rules than my readers do. My occasional lapse into using "display" as an intransitive verb or writing "Click on Submit" rather than "Click Submit" is not going to diminish my end user's ability to be successful with the products I support. But if I can't figure out how to use social networking technologies, XML-based authoring systems, and a really good content management system, my users will be handicapped with how well they can get to information that influences their success.

And that is where vendors step in. I want our STC to be a collaborative environment that helps practitioners and vendors connect in ways that make both sides more successful than if STC had not been there,

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