Year One: Master of Science Program

Many of you know that I am working on my Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication. Back in the summer of 2016, I chose to get a masters in my field from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Earlier this year, I posted a recap of my fall class experience. After completing my third class, I thought about sharing more about my studies.

In 2010, I would not imagine continuing school after finishing my Bachelor of Science. Now, I am a third way through my program. Currently I’m only taking one class at at time so I do not go crazy and I can keep my social life.

Online Classroom Life

LaptopThis program is offered online. Assignments, such as reading and participation are on a per-project basis. Deadlines are set up throughout the week. The bulletin board format helps facilitate discussion with classmates.

In the last year, I’ve learned more how to communicate with emerging technology, design a usability study, research and analyze social media content, and design an infographic. Since being in the field of technical communication for over 10 years, I still learn new techniques.

Perspective

Selfie of RogerIf you are considering a masters program, I highly recommend finding a job in your field after completing your bachelors degree. After a few years, consider getting your masters degree. There is something about getting experience before even considering a masters program. When you have real work experience, you can apply that work ethic and skills during a masters program. It definitely adds a new dimension for how one can appreciate completing a masters program.

Lastly, if you have any questions or want to learn more, I’m happy to expand. For now, I’m in the world of digital marketing, web content management, plain language, user experience and content strategy. This is where I believe we will see how analytics will drive content creation; research drive content and design decisions; and content strategy pulling everything together.

Six Years of Write Techie

Believe it or not, May 22, 2011 was the day I launched writetechie.com! It has been a wonderful journey developing this website on WordPress. My first post, Post-STC 2011 Summit, reflected on the Society for Technical Communication 2011 Annual Summit held in Sacramento, California.

I celebrated my first year anniversary with a followup post with some analytics. As customary, here’s the rundown of stats from May 2016 to April 2017.

Analytics

  • Number of Sessions: 5,592
  • Unique User: 5,346
  • Page Views: 6,216

Most Visited by Country

  • United States
  • India
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Australia

Most Visited by State

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Georgia

Top Most Visited Pages

Technology Changes Throughout the Years

Some of the most major changes have been under the hood with my website. For most, I moved to my third web hosting company since launching my site in 2011. Lessons learned from my first website meltdown, a site revamp and theme template refresh, and moving towards using HTTPS.

My first attempt through HTTPS was ad-hoc and not exactly a correct implementation of HTTPS. It was through CloudFlare and was a total mess with my non-HTTPS web hosting provider. In order to make the move to an HTTPS environment, I had to pony up more money to my (now former) hosting provider to allow certificates and buy my own certificate OR move to a web hosting provider that has HTTPS capability as a standard feature.

I understand that my website is my playground to test new things, make revisions, and improve my skills with web content and WordPress skills. I was a complete novice using WordPress before launching writetechie.com. What I knew about WordPress was through the (now defunct) STC New Mexico Kachina Chapter.

Slowly I’m putting more effort into my website and I’m ready to share more about my experience I’ve had with content strategy and web content over the last couple of years. I felt there was an embargo on what I could share about my experience and I think it’s time for me to share what I’ve learned over these few years. In addition, I have a better perspective about some of the things I’ve been doing. Lastly, I think I’ve broken my “writer’s block” on writing articles for my blog because of my experience writing for my master of science courses.

Look Forward for More

In the next few months, I’ll be back to writing some rather refreshing articles about the field. I’m back with some exciting stuff I want to share. I also want to play with my new screencasting tool and make some fun documentation videos.

MSTPC - Communication Strategies for Emerging Media

Musings on Communication Strategies for Emerging Media

Last fall, I participated in the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout) Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication (MSTPC) program class on communication strategies for emerging media.

During the class, our assignment was to write blog articles about the assigned readings and discuss with the class about our take on this field. Below are my blog posts. Feel free to read them as I make my journey to become a master in the field of technical communication.

Each of these posts I wrote has a compelling story as well as a fresh perspective on the field. My approach in this class was to write in a casual and professional mode. My intent was to write to a wide audience who would enjoy reading about technical communication, communication strategies, and emerging media. Let me know in the comments what you think and maybe point to any topic I should cover next on my own blog!

I’ll be back regularly posting about my experience with usability testing, user experience studies, and content strategy soon. There has been a lot I have been working on in the last few years that I want to share with you.

Writing for the Web – Simplify Your Words!

What does writing for the web mean? Do we write in a way that is simple for anyone to understand? I keep going back to my technical communication college days and wonder what it means to write and I go back to my first technical writing job that I had which I was introduced to Plain Language writing style.

What I learned from understanding Plain Language: write stupidly simple. Why? The internet is not entirely a formal place for communication and most of the time its to share information.

Nowadays, I think that effective communication should be simple, easy, short, and to the point. Does that mean I’m lazy? Can I use complex language to transfer my knowledge to someone else or can I use simple words to get my point across? You be the judge of that last sentence.

Even during WWII, Winston Churchill wrote a memo which asked for simpler language when communicating within his team. He wanted short and crisp messages, include headers, and remove “wolly” phrases because he felt it was merely padding. Why? He didn’t want his staff to waste time reading long reports when there is a war going on.

Getting back to web writing: there is a lot of stuff written out there for anything. As a technical writer, how can we simplify what we write? Rewrite a sentence? Make it easier to understand? Can we save someone’s reading time?

My job these days is to convince stakeholders that easier and simpler content will make their jobs easier and their customers fully figure out a process without stopping in the office or making a phone call. [Edit–I had an entire paragraph written before writing this next one] Basically I help remove complexity, make stakeholders happy, and customers happy.

Drilling down to my point: make your job easier to make your reader’s job easier with clear content.

My recommendation is check out Marcia Riefer Johnston’s books, Word Up! and You Can Say That Again. These books are great resources to improve your writing skills. 🙂

Template Refresh for 2015 and Beyond

Over the weekend I changed the theme of my website once again. This theme is the third iteration since 2011. I decided to go to with a theme created by Automattic, the people who create WordPress.

WriteTechie - Light Theme Color

Write Techie – September 2011

Why was it time to change? I wanted to start with a clean slate. As a web developer, I experimented with minor improvements to an old theme for better functionality. At some point those changes got in the way and caused more harm than good.

I decided that trashing an old design I’ve customized for years and start something new was a better solution. In this case, it’s not as new as you might think. I chose a familiar WordPress theme that I’ve used on another website for a few years.

Write Techie - September 2015

Write Techie – September 2015

I also want to emphasize the current trends of web design and writing in this version of my template refresh.

Fonts

Despite higher screen resolutions on mobile devices, sans-serif fonts are still better to read than serifs. They’re still great to use, but serifs are better for printed material. I chose to cut the serif fonts in favor of sans-serif for the reason that it is easier to read on screens.

Responsive Design

There is nothing new here except to make sure that any website is responsive to an unlimited number of screen sizes and resolutions. There is no excuse for websites to show up incorrectly on an iPhone, a 32-inch monitor, or a display on Times Square.

Simplicity

Web writing is a completely different world than other types of writing. Keeping it simple will give users the right information the first time and show them how to do the tasks they came for.

Content

As with any template refresh, so comes the content. The more concise, the better.

Drawing

Communicating Our Differences

Argh!!!!

Ever wonder why sometimes the other person on the other end of an email, phone, or conference room doesn’t understand what you say? Try this activity out and reflect on your experience!

One of the neatest exercises I’ve done was write a procedure for drawing one of the world’s famous cats, Garfield. (Yes, I am aware that Hello Kitty is another famous cat). We were given a picture of the feline and told to write instructions for about ten minutes. Then we passed that sheet to our neighbor and asked them to draw Garfield based on those instructions–literally.

Reading someone else’s instructions is an interpretation of what they see that you should understand and perform. Sometimes those instructions are vague and not clear. Whatever the case, the task was to draw the cat the way you read their instructions.

Smug Looking

My drawing was ugly, but smug. I took the instructions literally and came up with what I thought Garfield was supposed to look like.

Drawing

Drawing

The purpose of the exercise was to understand that we need to communicate in a clear and concise way that can lead others to understand us. Also this exercise gave us the opportunity to see how other people interpret our instructions. We can see difficulty communicating our thoughts easily and how those thoughts can be hard for someone else to understand.

Mind blowing? Yes! Not everyone understands the way you think and you can’t assume they can figure out what you say.

Thoughts to Consider

Think about it the next time that you communicate, are you:

  • communicating clearly?
  • writing concisely?
  • understanding where others stand?
  • making sense?