Monthly Archives: July 2010

Our July 2010 Meeting: A Tour of Virtual Worlds and How They Impact Technical Communicators

In this online-only event, Mike Ziegenhagen shared his growing expertise–and most of all his enthusiasm–ror the expanding sector of virtual world applications. Many are by now aware of Second Life, but Mike documented an application from Forterra Systems called OLIVE ™, an “online interactive virtual environment” that offers the security sorely lacking in the standard, free version of Second Life (OLIVE can be seen as “Second Life in business suit”). His experience with the team was also a great opportunity to work with both artists and actors, to achieve the best possible renderings and life-like actions of the avatars. Verisimilitude is more and more critical to success. Mike also gave a brief tour of Blue Mars, a 3D social networking application, based on high-definition game technology, that is definitely worth exploring.

There are additional applications for hosting secure virtual meetings: Venuegen can be “rented” for under $100/mo. for ten people or so, and 3DXplorer offers an enterprise beta version. Both are browser based. Also, Second Life Work offers an application-based approach for those willing to buy.

Why bother? It turns out that business are seeing the advantages to hosting so-called hybrid events and conferences. Participants who want to meet in meatspace continue to do so, while those distributed around the world appreciate the advantages of entering the virtual world. Indeed, perpetual virtual environments are turning out to be profit centers. Not only that, but they can be really fun (as long as you don’t get lost in layers of consciousness, Inception-style, so to speak. It is actually not all that hard to get lost. But fortune favors the brave and the curious. With increasing bandwidth and video processing power for less and less money, it it not inconceivable to see virtual meeting places become more and more common. They can be used to unite family members, and they provide unique opportunities for training. STC is rumored to have a group (more detail to be provided when it is available), and you can always check out NPR’s Science Friday Second Life.

Next steps?

  • Do some research.
  • Explore some sites.
  • Download Second Life viewer and take if for a ride.
  • Get a good headset.
  • Have some fun.
  • The NorthBay Chapter is looking forward to playing around with this new medium, so stay tuned and let us know if you want to test the virtual waters. It is almost as if the spirit of the early days of computing were back again.

    LavaCon 2010: Manage Your Online Brand (and support your local chapter!)

    OK, you’re on Facebook and maybe Twitter. Now what?

    Join other technical communicators at the LavaCon Conference on Digital Media and Content Strategies, Sept. 29–Oct. 2 in San Diego, CA and learn how to use social media to advance your tech comm career.

    First, read Jack Molisani’s cover article on the June Intercom magazine to see if social networking is for you:

    Then go to to view the LavaCon program and register!

    Note: Register by August 6th using the referral code STCCANB to support the STC-NorthBay chapter and to receive $50 off your conference tuition!

    Introduction to DITA Workshop in Cupertino

    On August 7, 2010 at DeAnza College in Cupertino, the STC Silicon Valley chapter will have an “Introduction to DITA Workshop.” Some of the topics covered will be DITA concepts, tasks, references, DITA maps, tools and technologies (DITA Open Toolkit, XML Mind). There will also be hands-on examples so students will work on pieces they can include in their portfolios.

    Register before July 25, 2010 and pay only $60 for STC Members and Full-Time Students and $75 for Non-members. Register after July 25, 2010 and the fee goes up to $75 for STC Members and Full-Time Students and $100 for Non-members.

    To register visit

    APIs and SDKs: Breaking into and Succeeding in a Specialty Market

    Seminar presented by API/SDK documentation expert Ed Marshall, Marshall Documentation Consulting in Boston.

    Cost: $195 per person (includes breakfast and lunch)
    When: Saturday, August 28, 2010, 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
    Where: Best Western Pony Soldier Inn, 9901 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR

    Since the early 1990s, the demand for application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK) documentation for developers has grown rapidly and shows no signs of declining. At the same time, there’s a shortage of writers in this niche. They enjoy a steady income, higher hourly rates, and often the luxury of telecommuting.

    Contrary to some perceptions, API/SDK writers are typically not computer programmers. They’re technical writers who are detail oriented, who know how to glean information for documentation by reading developers’ code and communicating well with developers. Although having familiarity with one or more programming languages is important, technical writers can leverage skills they already have to add value to API/SDK documentation, such as the ability to organize information, recognizing where important gaps in the content exist, and providing consistency in content and use of terms.

    How do you enter and succeed in this market? Join Ed Marshall, a nationally recognized expert in API/SDK writing, for an introduction to this world of writing documentation for software developers on Saturday, August 28. During this all-day, hands-on workshop, you will learn:

    • What APIs and SDKs are and the similarities and differences between them.
    • Who uses APIs and SDKs and why.
    • The benefits and drawbacks of API/SDK writing.
    • How to gather information, primarily by reading the software code. For example, which files do you read? Which programming keywords are important?
    • What information you can get from the source code and what to look for. What information you can’t get from reading the source code.
    • Hands-on exercises using Doxygen and Javadoc to generate typical online documentation from a set of C and Java source code files.
    • The skills you need to succeed, including common programming concepts, software applications used for creating these documents, and tips for adding value based on your technical knowledge.
    • Where to find training.

    Ed will also show examples of typical API/SDK documents and demonstrate the software tools used to generate documentation from the developers’ source code. He will allocate ample time for participants to practice with these tools. Laptops are needed to complete the hands-on exercises. All the software needed will be provided by the instructor for installing on your laptop.

    About the Instructor

    Ed Marshall is an independent technical writing consultant and sole proprietor of Marshall Documentation Consulting, with more than 22 years of experience. He specializes in APIs/SDKs (application programming interfaces/software development kits), Web services products, and other types of documentation aimed at developers. Throughout his career, Ed has developed expertise in using tools to “let the computer do the work,” such as advanced tools for editing files, comparing files, and searching and replacing text in files.

    Ed is a popular speaker at a variety of professional development conferences, locally and nationwide. His previous appearances include events sponsored by the Society for Technical Communication (STC), WritersUA, and DocTrain.

    For more details and to register, see www.tabbycatco.coml.