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.


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.


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.


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


Communicating Our Differences


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.



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?
Portland Landmark Sign

Guide to Attending LavaCon 2014

Hi everyone–I wanted to drop a note before I head to Portland, Oregon to say that I’ll be at LavaCon 2014! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me! If you are missing LavaCon this year, you can register for the online track that you can attend from home or work.

If you need me to help troubleshoot technology issues (WiFi, laptops, tablets, smart phones) or general directions around Downtown Portland, find me on Twitter at @RogerRenteria or call/text me at 505-750-1057.

Look forward to seeing you soon! Below is my quick guide to attending LavaCon!

Portland Landmark Sign

Portland Landmark Sign

Before we begin next week, I’ve reworked my conference guides from past years for this one. The following guide will help you navigate LavaCon as well as get yourself up to speed with general conference tips.



  • Spend about 20 minutes planning which sessions you want to attend. Read the Conference Program provided to you in your conference bag. Also, use the Lanyrd Conference Website to help you decide!
  • Select primary and secondary sessions for each hour, some session material may be available for preview on SlideShare.
  • Determine within the first 5 minutes if a session excites you; if not, go to your secondary session (it’s not rude–you are attending a conference for professional development!)
  • Ask questions at the end of the session.
    • Be persistent! As a presenter, I love when people ask me questions. So, do it!
  • Complete post-session speaker evaluation(s).
  • Look for presentation slides after the sessions from presenters on SlideShare.


Socializing and Networking

Socializing and Networking

  • Spend about $30 for business cards from VistaPrint if you have none. Remember to pack them.
  • Hand out business cards to anyone you meet.
  • Write a note on the back of each person’s business card to remind you how you met them.

Break Times

Portland Food Carts

Portland Food Carts

  • Offer and/or accept invitations to dine with attendees. We don’t bite.
  • Visit the vendors and check out the bookstore.
  • Attend evening events with attendees.
    • Tweet Up
    • Karaoke
    • Culinary Tour
    • Food Cart and Microbrewery Pub Tour
  • Share your professional experiences.

After the Conference

  • Continue networking via Twitter, LinkedIn, and e-mail.
  • Plan for next year, and convince your company to pay for it!
  • Look for a for Call for Speakers via e-mail; maybe you can present next year.
  • Keep up with current trends—check TechWhirl for LavaCon coverage.

It’s your conference experience and make the most of it! Also, find me during the conference!

Photographs Example

Photo Tips to Increase Your Social Media Impact

When you browse social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, what attracts you to a post? Is it the neat picture, the impressive thought of the day, or someone else’s shared post?

For me, it’s usually interesting topics and neat pictures. Pictures are liked twice as many (or more) times than text posts.

It’s true. I first experimented with posting more photos in March 2014 when I went to Washington DC and New York City. I did the same when I went to Rochester, Toronto, and Chicago on separate instances.

Lately my photos have been fairly well-received from my social media network. Even Klout notices my social media impact.

Klout Social Media Engagement Impact Score

Klout shows how much of an impact I have on my Facebook network.
The more filled in dots, the greater the social media engagement I have on my posts.

What prompted me to take more pictures is to share my world with my network and elevate the experience people get when browsing sites like Facebook. I also want to set the standard for showing what you can do with a smart phone, great timing, and a few photo processing steps.

The first time I heard about using graphics to increase social media engagement wasn’t from my experience, but from Viqui Dill, who mentioned posting graphics and images on social media during our co-presentation at the STC 2013 Summit Leadership Day pre-conference seminar. She is absolutely right that photos will increase the chances people will engage more often, such as sharing or liking your photo.

My Simple Guide for Using Photos in Social Media

Having quality content is key to increasing social media interaction. For example, I think about the following actions when taking a great photo on my smart phone to get the most social media attention.

Take multiple photos

Take half a dozen or more shots. You can delete unwanted ones later. It just takes a few more seconds, but you’ll have more chances to get the right photo.

Multiple Shots

I took multiple shots of my subject matter. Mostly because she couldn’t stay still for the shot that I eventually wanted. One shot is never enough and I can always delete the ones I don’t like (especially the blurry ones).

Compose your shot

Adjust your photos for lighting, focus, and composition (tap your smart phone to adjust for lighting and focus; zoom in or get a closeup for great compositions). For more composition techniques, read up on how to use your camera phone for taking great photos.

Adjusting Composition

Adjust the composition, such as zooming in or tapping the screen to adjust the focus or brightness.

Choose your photo

Pick one that looks great out of your smart phone shoot.

Adjusting Composition Better

After tapping the screen to focus the lens, the picture turned out better. It’s not perfect for this example, but you clearly see the idea in action.

Enhance your photos

Use the built-in photo app to add filters, crop, or rotate (or use another app like Adobe PS Express for finer tuning)

Adjust Filters

The basic Facebook app is pretty nice to make quick adjustments before uploading your photos.

Use Other Apps

Other apps like Adobe PS Express gives you basic to advanced tools to adjust your photos.

Up, Up, Upload away

Upload the great photo to social media and watch social media engagement increase!

Experiment with your posts

Experiment with a variety of filters and adjustments. It really depends on what your audience likes, but now you can take better photos on your smart phone and post them to increase your social media engagement!

Photographs Example

Here are some examples of what you can post on Facebook using your smart phone. I simply adjust the colors to emphasize the photo.

Share your life

These techniques work for personal and business social media interactions. Plus people will always love a great photo of what you do in life.

Fun With Friends

Yep. You can get a lot of social media engagement just by having fun and posting great photos.