Tag: <span>UK</span>

Over the coming month or so, I’ll be casting around for opinion and insight from you, my lovely readers, particularly if you are based in the UK and especially if you are a member of the ISTC member.

Why? I hear you ask.

It’s because I’m planning, designing, and building, a community focussed extension to the website (or sub-website, or side-website or.. well that bit has still to be agreed). I’m still figuring out how best to collate the information and requirements for such a website, and where would be best to hold those collaborative conversations that will be required throughout the build and test phase of the website. I’ll announce things here as well as the ISTC mailing list (unless it’s something of particular sensitivity, but as I can’t even dream one up at the moment I doubt that’ll be an issue).

Exciting times ahead then, challenging some would say, and I have to admit I’m really looking forward to getting some momentum going. I’ve plenty of ideas but it’s not about what I want, it’s making sure the new website meets the needs of people who will be using it. With that in mind I’m currently planning on how, and who, is best to get involved.

But before I can ask anyone to get involved, I think it’s a good idea to have a clear vision for what it is we are trying to achieve and that’s what I’ve been working on this week and you can expect an update at the weekend.

Work

Having had a few days to process my thoughts about the Technical Communications Conference I can confidently say that it is the best professional conference I have ever attended.

I’ll post up specific notes tomorrow, but I wanted to touch on some of the themes that seemed to be driven out of most of the presentations I attended. Now at this point I should make a confession, it’s about the presentation I gave on the Thursday morning (the second day) of the conference.

My presentation had a theme, a single word that I was focussing on, so throughout the first day, in all the sessions I attended, I was listening out for that word. That word didn’t appear in one session, and I had to push to get the word out of another of the speakers (the last of the first day).

I claimed that word appeared in all of the sessions I attended, it didn’t. Now, as far as confessions go, it’s not exactly earth shattering news but it’s important to me that I let you all know because, as I said in my presentation, if you are blogging you need to be honest.

The word I was looking for throughout the first day was “conversation”, and I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it crop up in the later sessions of the second day and I admit I was quite pleased when the closing speaker, RJ Jacquez from Adobe both mentioned my presentation and had a similar view to mine.

As for the sessions I attended, I don’t think there was one where I didn’t learn anything, even though there were a couple where I was asked to facilitate when I probably would’ve ducked out to chat to some vendors. It’s good that the speakers, whether well versed in public speaking or complete amateurs (like me), seemed comfortable and relaxed and really engaged with their audience.

And that for me is a good way to sum up the entire conference. I shudder to think just how much hard work went into organising the conference but from the smaller touches (the goodies in the hotel room), to the softer, informal approach that Paul and Rachel embody so well, really made a difference.

Given that our profession is both broad and deep, it was great to have other aspects around the fringes covered as well (cognitive psychology anyone?). All in all I think there was something for everyone, and the benefits of being exposed to other niche areas really made the conference worthwhile.

If you are in the UK next year, if you work in a profession either directly related to, or relatively related to, technical communications then I’d urge you to consider coming along next year. For me the best thing I’ll take away from the conference is the continuing conversation that is happening about our profession.

* #tcuk09 was the hashtag for the conference

Work

I’m still tweaking my presentation for the Technical Communications UK conference, Thursday morning is looming larger and larger in my view so I’m distracting myself with considering the other good things that happen at conferences.

For me people are the primary reason for attending a conference. Don’t get me wrong, the value can be measured by the quality of the speakers and the information provided, but that tends to be transitory, so it’s the connections you make that count in the longer term.

I’m lucky that I’ve met some of the people I know through this blog, and I’m hoping to add to that tally this week. Part of me did consider trying to organise a little “meetup” of bloggers in attendance but I think I’ll leave it down to fate, I’d hate to NOT meet someone because I was concentrating on one small part of the crowd.

At times attending industry conferences can be a bit of a guilty pleasure, it’s only after the first hour or so you realise that yes, you CAN make jokes about the kerning on the dinner menu, or laugh at yet another example of Microsoft Word being helpful. It’s also acceptable to spend your entire lunch discussing whether audience surveys are a good thing, and whether you actually need to learn XML or not.

Obviously the presentations will drive some of the topics of discussion, but (and admittedly this is usual over dinner and a small beverage or two) conversation with your peers can lead to all sorts of other things. Chess boxing being one memorable conversation from a couple of years ago at TICAD.

So, despite still not being quite sure what the final form my presentation will take (I may also adapt it on Wednesday evening to reflect back on the speakers of the day) and not being 100% sure how I’ll get from the airport to the hotel (bus? taxi?), I’m starting to get a bit excited.

There will be a blog post published here on Thursday morning to coincide with my presentation, and I’ve no doubt I, and several others, will Twitter our way through the conference.

If you see me at the conference (I’m kinda hoping at least one or two people turn up for my presentation!) then rest assured, as long as you have either a coffee or a Guinness in your hand for me, I’m very likely to welcome you with a big smile.

Work

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My current role is changing a bit, with some additional responsibilities being added, specifically around line management.

As such, I’ve been reading The One Minute Manager and have to admit it’s given me a lot to think about.

The basic principles are to instill any team members or staff with a simple structure in which they can operate by breaking down the main management tasks of praise, reprimand and goal settings, into one minute activities.

The one minute goal setting helps set, review, clarify and agree on (SMART) goals.

One minute praising and recognition makes sure you are rewarding people as soon as you spot a behaviour you want to encourage, which in turn help set the expectation of how they should behave.

And one minute redirection and reprimand ensures that any deviations from the expected behaviour are caught as soon as they happen, making sure it is clear that the behaviour isn’t acceptable, again setting the expectations of how you expect your staff to behave.

The book itself is told from the point of view of a young manager who is struggling to find his way. He visits a successful manager who slowly reveals all of the secrets of one minute management. It’s not a big book, just over a hundred pages, and it’s certainly not a dry read as you are following the story to see what the young manager will uncover next. Yes it can be a bit over the top on occasion but all of the points are well made.

If you manage a team, no matter how big or small, I’d recommend you pick up a copy as it will undoubtedly change the way you think about how you manage your team.

The One Minute Manager (from Amazon UK, currently less than £5.

Technical Communication UK
22nd-24th September 2009

http://www.technicalcommunicationuk.com

Technical Communication UK is the new annual conference that aims to meet the needs of technical communicators, their managers and clients, from every corner of the industry.

The conference is hosted by the ISTC, and run in partnership with X-pubs.

Technical Communication UK runs on 23rd and 24th September 2009, with pre-conference workshops on 22nd September. It will deliver more than 30 sessions over the three days, with presentations, workshops, case studies, and hands-on product demonstrations from experts in their field.

Let me know if you are coming along, as I’d hate to be sitting in the bar on my own on the Wednesday evening!

Work

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In their own words, the ISTC is:

the largest UK body representing professional communicators and information designers

I joined the ISTC a couple of years ago. They’ve been on my radar for a while now, but to be honest I’ve never been sure of what the benefits have been, nor have I found much need to be a member of a professional body. So what does the ISTC offer members? Well the ISTC website states that:

the ISTC offers opportunities to exchange views and information with other professional communicators. Members enjoy discounts, news, training events, networking and recognition of professional status including the use of FISTC or MISTC (for suitably qualified people).

OK, so you can now refer to me as Gordon McLean MISTC.

Yes, that’s much better than “Oi, twit!”.

I’ve been a member of various committees and charities in my time so there is one thing that I know holds true. When it comes to any organisation you get out what you put in, which would explain why I’ve recently been struggling to justify my ISTC membership.

It’s not that I don’t put in, I write a monthly column for the newsletter and happily volunteered to be on the newly formed members panel which is in the midst, thanks to the outstanding efforts of Rachel Potts reviewing those very same benefits that the ISTC offer.

And it’s not that I don’t get value back out, the ISTC mailing list has proven useful and I’m sure when I attend the conference this year, my first, I will learn a lot and benefit from speaking to my peers

So the question is, am I getting value for money?

Ultimately I believe I am, but I do feel I could be getting more. When I joined the ISTC I was already following some technical writing blogs and already had the beginnings of a network of people who were offering some good advice and interesting thoughts about this profession of ours. Some of those were discovered through the TechWR-L mailing list, others by chance encounters or links from other blogs. It’s the one thing that, as yet, the ISTC hasn’t really managed to grasp hold of, the idea that what they are facilitating is a community of like minded souls.

In a way an organisation such as the ISTC has the advantage over ad-hoc groups, given that all of the members have paid to be part of the organisation. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of the review of member benefits, to see where the community aspect of being a member rates with everyone else. Perhaps it’s just me but I truly believe the ISTC would benefit from increasing the networking/community aspect of membership.

Work

A small reminder to everyone in the UK to remember to put your clocks forward by one hour tonight. Officially you should do this at 1am but making sure your alarm clock is done before you go to sleep is probably all you need worry about until tomorrow.

It’s yet another sign, alongside the buds on the cherry blossom I can see from the window as I type this blog post, that spring is coming.

And that means, once again, the war against our garden begins.

Yes yes, we should’ve been out there already but in a trend similar to last year, every weekend we find ourselves at home and with free time, it’s been raining. We do keep saying that we should go out of an evening and do a few bits and bobs then but given that we leave the house at 7am, and don’t get back in until around 6.20pm most evenings then.. yeah the first priority is usually dinner.

This year we have the porch to re-varnish, the fence to paint (both sides of the garden) and that’s at a minimum. We have other plans but they constantly change and, to be frank, we are still fighting the years of neglect the garden had before we moved in.

When we bought the house the thinking was that we would enjoy being out in the garden, and sitting out of a summers evening but so much has changed since then that it just hasn’t come about that way. We’ve slowly been chipping away at the neglect inside the house but, as yet, we aren’t in a position where we could sell it without investing more money. Not that we are planning to sell up, but given the current climate I’d much rather be in a position to be able to, than be in the position of having to do more work.

So, the chore that is the garden will need to be tackled, it really must. Really. Must. I mean I should stop typing, get up and at least spend an hour or so today, whilst it’s dry and before we head through to visit family. I should. I must. I will.

Just let me go reset my alarm clock first…

Life

I’m off out tonight to have a few drinks with an ex-colleague who is about to head to Merika, for life (well for a while at least). He’s sold up, got his paperwork in order and he, his lovely wife and their still new son will fly over to Texas and setup a home and life there.

It’s an intriguing thought, leaving the UK permanently and one I’ve toyed with a few times. Some times I think it would have to be an English speaking country with Australia and the USA being the main candidates, with Canada not far behind, but occasionally I harbour desires of heading somewhere completely alien to me, where I don’t know the language or culture and really jumping in at the deep end.

Birmingham, perhaps?

It would be a big step but in many ways it’s no different from changing jobs or buying a new house. Obviously the scale and implications are different but ultimately it’s a mindset thing. If I was of a mind to do it I would’ve already. So I’m presuming I’m not.

But then wanting and desiring something like that, something that is a ‘big step’ and quite scary when you sit down and think it all through, is one thing. Doing it, is another.

A few of the blogs I read are by people who have done just that (Fuddland, Little Red Boat, Autoblography, and Plasticbag for example) and I really do admire them hugely for it.

Ultimately I guess I’m either a coward or at some point I’ll run out of excuses to NOT do it.

So, if I rock up at your door in San Francisco, New York, Adelaide, Sydney, Toronto, Wellington or anywhere else outside the UK, do be kind. No doubt I’ll be a complete nervous wreck!

Personal Musings