The Summer of Embargoed Opinions

This summer has been busy and stressful for me as an STC director at large. Since the Summit in May we’ve averaged a conference call every two weeks as we’ve dealt with the Society’s budget shortfall.

During this period we’ve hear from members through email, the STC Forum (since shut down), the TECHWR-L list, the Management SIG list, the STC Ideas group on Ning (set up by Bill Swallow), the STC LinkedIn group, Facebook, and Twitter. We’ve also reached out in a series of open Web sessions (the “virtual town halls”). In addition to participating in Board discussions and decisions, I’ve specifically concentrated on monitoring TECHWR-L, Twitter, and Ning.

Somehow, all this communicating has given me a case of writer’s block on my own blog. Part of the problem has been that I’ve said a lot on other channels. But another part has been that the Board has tried to craft messages carefully and speak with one voice (as a board should). I think our craftsmanship has been mixed, but I think we’ve stayed on message. A personal blog will inevitably be seen as an extension of the Board, and I’ve thought of, then ultimately decided not to comment on, topics all summer.

All the while I’ve taken grim interest in seeing how messages are received and replayed by members. Sometimes we’ve gotten our message out successfully; sometimes we’ve left room for misinterpretation and indeed seen a message misinterpreted; and sometimes people have chosen to take a message the wrong way. As one of us said, sometimes it’s been like going to a rally of a different political party: You hear things that you barely recognize, and other things that you know aren’t true at all. As a technical communicator, I recognize and accept responsibility where we transmitted poorly. Communicating with technical communicators, we have to bring our A game. But willful misinterpretation…! That’s a different problem.

At least I can pick specific questions we’ve been asked and answer them, which will get things flowing here again.

Published by Steven Jong

I am a retired technical communicator, a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), a former STC board member, and chair of the first STC Certification Commission. I occasionally blog about these and other topics.

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