31-Day Blogging Challenge Wrap-Up

April 30, 2014
amphora-403615_1280

I’m not sure what happened to April (or the second half of March for that matter).

With the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc), I started out strong, with posts every day. Then, life happened, work got insanely busy, and it’s been a month since I last posted. I was a bit discouraged by this failure at first, but I learned a few things along the way.

For veteran bloggers, this information might be something you already do, but for us newbies, it was helpful advice:

  • Block out time in your schedule every week to blog. For me, just putting it on my to-do list isn’t enough. I need to plan time in my schedule where I don’t answer the phone or schedule meetings during that time.
  • On days that you have time, write multiple posts so that you have filler material when you are slammed with work. I was too literal about the directions in the challenge. I only wrote one post a day, even on the days when I was on a roll and could’ve written more. It took me awhile to realize that I could set the publishing date in WordPress.
  • Jot down your ideas when they occur to you. I carry around a small notebook where I can jot down ideas when they occur to me, even if I’m not near my computer. The trick is remembering to look at it later when I’m staring at a blank screen.
  • Set a publishing schedule. Publishing content on a regular schedule helps your readers know what to expect.
  • Publish a few posts before publicizing the blog. Several people recommended this to me when I started. They suggested getting some blog posts up and getting into the habit of posting regularly before you start marketing the blog. It’s good advice because it allows you to decide if you are serious about the blog or not. I will start publicizing the blog more widely once I have some more of my website pages filled in. I hope to launch both by the STC conference in Phoenix.

What recommendations do you have for maintaining your blog? Post your comments here.

creativity, Uncategorized

Zentangle: Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

March 18, 2014
indian-art-467709_1280

Day 17 of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc)

jpg of a zentangle tree; pen and ink drawing

Zentangle Tree by Kit Brown-Hoekstra

At an STC conference a couple of years ago, Andrea Ames, Brenda Huettner, a few others, and I were sitting in the bar. Andrea told us about this cool meditation technique that involved drawing. She then introduced us to Zentangle. For the next hour, we drew shapes on pieces of heavy paper that looked like bar coasters. Andrea instructed us in the most basic shapes and we all drew the same thing. Yet, everyone’s drawing came out differently.

I was hooked! I don’t do it as often as I would like, but when I do, it always amazes me how different my drawings look, even if I use the same shapes and patterns in the drawing.

Andrea uses it to play with patterns that she often then incorporates into her incredible quilts. Brenda has done some really cool stuff using the outline of an animal, plant, or object. My niece drew a face and used the zentangle technique to draw her hair and clothing. Mine are still pretty rudimentary, but the point is to play and have fun, not to be perfectionistic.

As technical communicators, we spend so much time using the analytical side of our brain that we often don’t nurture the creative, non-verbal side enough.

I did the Zentangle Tree yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve tried to draw and actual object rather than abstract patterns. It took me about an hour. When I started, I was feeling a bit stressed about work, but by the time I finished, I felt calm but energized. And, the solution to a thorny problem popped into my head as I was working on this.

I find myself needing to be reminded to step back and play a little. Try this out if you need a mental break! The Zentangle website has insteructional videos and an online store where you can order supplies.

I also found a book, The Art of Zentangle by Walter Foster, at the library. It contains even more patterns and ideas. Have fun playing!

Uncategorized

Blogging Challenge: An Update

March 17, 2014

Day 16 of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc)

Well, you might have noticed that I missed a few days this past week. Life happened, and between work, STC, and home, the blog fell by the wayside for a few days. But, it’s been bugging me that I haven’t worked on it.

Lesa Townsend (the 31-Day Blogging Challenge leader) says that this is normal and that it’s OK as long as you don’t quit. She’s been great about sending suggestions and ideas every day, and my topic idea list keeps growing and growing.

One thing I am realizing is that I need to block time out in my schedule at least once a week to do the blog. And, if I’m feeling inspired or have a lot of pent-up creativity, I can create multiple posts and either schedule them to publish automagically, or push Publish on a day when I’m not feeling inspired.

With work travel every other week for the foreseeable future, this knowledge will help me keep posting even during my busy times.

I realize this isn’t earth-shattering news to anyone who has been blogging for awhile, but for us newbies, it was helpful advice.

STC

STC Elections This Week! Vote By 21 March 2014!

March 11, 2014

Day 11 of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc)

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is currently holding its annual election for the Board of Directors and Nominating Committee. You can read about the election and candidates at http://www.stc.org/election.

We have a great slate of candidates this year! Please take the time to review their qualifications and to vote.

These positions are key to helping the Executive Director and the staff meet STC’s strategic goals and fulfill its mission statement. Yet, less than 16% of the membership typically votes. Let’s change that this year and increase participation and engagement.

The new Board and Nominating Committee will be sworn in at the annual meeting on 19 May 2014. I will be Society president in 2014-15.

Note: You must be a member in good standing as of 31 January 2014 in order to vote in the Society level elections. If you meet the criteria and did not get an email with voting instructions, please contact the STC office.

global communication, language, localization

Meeting People Where They Are: Speaking Their Language

March 10, 2014

Day 10 of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc)

(This post originally appeared as a comment on Val Swisher’s blog, Content Rules, on Feb 11, 2012. The post was called. “Everyone Speaks English, Right?”)

One poster on Val’s blog commented that, if you want to truly connect with people, you have to meet them where they are, and do it in their language. I’m a firm believer that many (if not most) of the problems we have on this planet are a direct result of poor communication and lack of cultural understanding.

Language by the Numbers

To put some numbers around this, as of 2012, approximately 1.9 BILLION people spoke Chinese as their native language, compared to 406 Million who spoke Spanish natively or 335 Million who spoke English natively (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0775272.html). Millions more people speak English as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language, but at what level of fluency?

Speaking of fluency, here are some numbers that provide context:

  • Basic Oral: 2,000 words; this is the level of a 1.5-2 yr old and, while you can get your needs met, it’s difficult to have a real conversation.
  • Basic Written: 3,000 words. You can read street signs and maybe a simple children’s book. You can probably understand basic oral directions.
  • Technical: 4-5,000 words. You can understand technical terms in your specialty, most safety and warning information, and simple instructions. You would struggle to understand most user’s documentation. You can have simple conversations
  • University texts: 10,000 words. You could follow most discussions and understand the textbooks (with lots of help from a dictionary).
  • Fluent: 20,000 words. You can have conversations on a variety of topics, read literature and articles in the language and communicate effectively with native speakers. You probably still struggle with idioms and some cultural nuances, however.
  • Native Speaker(adult): 30-40,000 words. This is an average. Translators, people in Tech Com and others who work with words regularly often have a higher vocabulary. (http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/ETD/image/etd518.pdf)

BTW, Google estimates that there are over 1 million words in English as of 2011. (http://www.languagemonitor.com/no-of-words)

There are also different kinds of fluency: comprehension (listening), speaking, reading, writing. People tend to progress in one area faster than others, depending on their learning style and on what they are exposed to most…

The Bilingual Brain

Then, there are the studies that have come out recently that indicate that learning multiple languages helps your brain be more flexible and has a protective component against dementia (see Science News, search “bilingual” or “language acquisition” http://www.sciencenews.org)

Even if you aren’t fluent, it’s just more polite to at least attempt to interact in the local language. You will get better service, maybe make a new friend, and have a lot of fun (especially if you can laugh at yourself). In addition, knowing even the basics of another language and culture can help you create better content.