All posts by Scott Prentice

March Meeting: Leveraging Structured Authoring/DITA Techniques When All You Have are Unstructured Tools

Join us Wednesday, March 15, 2017, at the Petaluma Library from 6-8pm. The presentation, by Monique Semp, will start promptly at 6:30.

You’ve heard the buzz about structured authoring and DITA: how great it is for efficient content reuse, how it enforces consistency, how it guides our writing for topic-based presentation… But what if there’s no budget for new tools, no time for training to “become a DITA writer,” and no time to migrate legacy unstructured content? Don’t despair! You can easily leverage many structured authoring best practices even when using unstructured tools. This presentation demonstrates tool-agnostic techniques such as writing a good short description, designing task-focused documents, and increasing content reuse. You’ll also see how to use FrameMaker (unstructured), Word, and Flare features to style content semantically, standardize textual navigation aids, add metadata, and perform multi-channel publishing. Whether you’re a DITA beginner, a structured authoring guru forced to use unstructured tools, or a strategist contemplating a legacy conversion project, you can immediately apply the techniques in this presentation to your daily work.

Monique Semp is a Senior STC member, and has won numerous STC Touchstone and Berkeley competition awards of merit and excellence. Monique began her career as a software engineer writing PL/M and C code for automated train control (the “people movers” in airports) and the accompanying user manuals. Her career evolved and she’s been a technical writer since 2001, documenting a broad range of applications such as early Java-based mobile geo-location applications, consumer product review platforms, and internet security. She has her own company, Write Quick, Inc., and provides many technical writing services, including API references, programming guides, configuration manuals, and technical processes and procedures.

Please RSVP to <>

The Petaluma Library is located at 100 Fairgrounds Drive in Petaluma. Take E. Washington Street south from 101, then left on Fairgrounds Drive. Parking may be limited, so please leave an extra few minutes in case you have to park elsewhere and walk.

August Meeting: API/Software Authoring Environments

Join us Tuesday, August 11, 2015 in Petaluma at 6pm for a round table discussion on API/software authoring environments. Topics may include discussions around the effective use of lightweight environments such as Google Docs and Wikis, or how (or if) certain authoring environments are more suited to specific types of APIs.

Anne Gentle ( / @annegentle) and Tom Johnson ( / @tomjohnson) have agreed to join in remotely to offer their perspectives and experience, but this is a round table, so we look forward to input from all!

Audio stream (1.5 hours) or download 60MB ZIP.

Chat log from the discussion. Scroll down for many links and references!

May Meeting: Consulting Pro/Con Round Table

Join us on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Petaluma at 6pm, for a round table discussion on the pros/cons of consulting. We’ll discuss various options for running a techcomm consulting business, as well as whether it’s a good idea at all. We can draw from the first-hand experience of a number of our members, and hopefully address those questions that you’ve been concerned about.

Should be a fun and informative meeting! Please join us and bring your questions and experiences to share.

February Meeting: Making Yourself Marketable in 2015

Join us on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, in Petaluma, for a presentation by Andrew Davis.

Making Yourself Marketable in 2015

I envision this presentation as a mashup of the detailed job search advice I’ve offered over the years — preparation, resumes, portfolios, applying, interviewing, and negotiating — with lots of room for candidates’ Q&A and, if I’m asked, even some advice for hiring managers and other recruiters.

As anyone who has spoken with me realizes, I serve the more technical and software-centric end of the local tech comms job market. I am proud that I’ve helped motivated souls enter that sphere and get good at serving it, creating stable and lucrative careers. My comments will, however, also benefit those who’d prefer to avoid authoring API references and writing code samples in Python. I can’t promise stability and bidding wars, but I do promise attendees the keys to a much more confident and efficient job-seeking experience.

You may leave actually looking forward to your next job search.

I’ll keep the focus squarely on marketability, so will redirect questions about LinkedIn and ageism, my two most recent speaking topics, to those presentations’ slide decks and speaker’s notes viewable from my LinkedIn profile.

Slides from Andrew’s presentation:

Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis has recruited technical content developers in the SF Bay Area since 1995. He is a former software industry Technical Writer and has a reputation for both understanding and championing the role of content development.

Andrew enjoys helping those who communicate complex information get ahead by recognizing and refining their value to technology companies. He’s candid and connected and, just as importantly, he likes to help tech industry workers achieve their goals and achieve independence from intermediaries.

Andrew ran Synergistech Communications during the Internet Gold Rush years and has recently returned to solo recruiting mode. He remains focused on recruiting great technical content development talent for discerning local technology companies. Join him on LinkedIn ( to learn more.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @synergistech.

October Meeting: Growing Your Tech Pubs Group

Join us on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 for an informative, interesting, and insightful presentation by Rebecca Firestone.

Growing Your Tech Pubs Group

How do you know when your documentation team needs to grow, and how do you make it happen? As a lone writer who’s not accustomed to dealing with upper management, this can be a huge challenge. Rebecca Firestone, Senior Technical Writer at Zep Solar, Inc., faced this problem earlier this year. She had to convince her own management that there was more work than one person could do, and that they needed to create a second job position. Not being a manager, she had no idea how to frame her arguments as a value proposition. She asked a few other professional Tech Pubs managers and HR recruiters about staffing and various ways to allocate resources. A lot of it is knowing which questions to ask, in order to choose an approach that will best fit the company’s unique situation. In the end, however, the first hurdle was convincing people to create a new position. Rebecca will share candidly what ultimately worked and how she successfully persuaded her company to create, and fill, a second position.

Rebecca Firestone

Rebecca is an award-winning technical writer, content developer, course developer, and trainer with 20 years’ experience. Since 2012 she has worked as a Senior Technical Writer at Zep Solar in San Rafael, CA, where she is responsible for product documentation for Zep Solar’s patented photovoltaic rooftop mounting systems. In the past, she worked with various Bay Area architectural design firms, creating over 90 full-length articles for two blogs: The Architect’s Take (, and Green Compliance Plus ( Prior to moving to architecture in 2006, she spent 15 years producing documentation and training materials for complex enterprise software applications. As a trainer, she developed and delivered industry-specific hands-on courses for the Arbor/BP telecom billing platform. Rebecca has a keen interest in the effective use of graphics for effective communication, and has created product brochures, presentations, and video storyboards to showcase products and projects. She has also worked with supply-chain analysts to create business articles and white papers on a variety of OR/MS topics such as the use of expert systems for supply-chain optimization.