Category Archives: work


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?

STC PMC – “Seeking Sunshine in Cloud Tech”

As technical communicators upgrade technologies, one thing we should consider is moving to the cloud. Before soaring into the clouds, we should take a moment and find out more about the history of cloud technology, the tools we currently use, and what cloud tools are available to increase our productivity and maximize our return on investment (time and money). In this presentation I gave to the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Technical Communication Conference, I went into the details about cloud technology, the pitfalls, and provide insight from fellow technical communicators on their usage of cloud technology.

I also want to give many thanks to the STC Philadelphia Metropolitan Chapter for putting together such an amazing event this year. They were kind and gracious to accommodate me in Pennsylvania to present. Many thanks goes to the conference chairs, board members, and volunteers who set this conference up.

If you have never been to a professional conference, I highly recommend starting out with regional conferences and this one is very accessible to many technical communicators within the Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York metropolitan areas. We had such a great time at the conference, Danielle Villegas felt the conference was better than the previous year. As an added bonus and I am quoting Barrie Byron on an earlier conversation, these weekend conferences offer “high value and are low cost.” The return on investment is extremely great. Why not attend one?

Now, the presentation. If you want to check out more presentations from this year’s Mid-Atlantic Technical Communication Conference, almost all of the slide decks are uploaded on SlideShare and tagged as STCPMC14.

Warning #1: Spoiler Alert

If you plan to attend the STC 2014 Spectrum Conference, attend my session and skip these slides. If you are unable to see my talk, feel free to check my slide deck below.

Warning #2: Spoiler Alert

Try Google Helpouts

Ever heard of Google Helpouts? Most likely you may have heard of Google Hangouts if you use Google+. Helpouts is the professional sibling of Hangouts, which experts in anything can share their knowledge for free or for a price. Depending on what you need help in, you can schedule a session for advice on medicine, science, technology, writing, and much more.

Screen shot of Roger's Helpouts Listing

Roger’s listing on Helpouts

When Helpouts premiered in November 2013, ArsTechnica wrote a small piece about it. I felt it was neat to see that an online tech news site covered Helpouts and that I was part of this new venture. It was a wide rollout that can show how Google and everyday people can monetize face-to-face interaction.

The underlying technology of Hangouts is no different in Helpouts. For example, you can have a two-way video and audio conference with customers and service providers. All that a user needs is a webcam, microphone, and a high-speed internet connection. Additionally, tools, such as Google Drive and screen share are extremely useful. In my case, both are wonderful collaboration tools for me to review, edit, and provide feedback on documents.

Screen shot of Hangouts

Helpouts looks similar and has the same tools found in Hangouts.

Right now, my scope includes documents, but it could expand to screen sharing, remote computer service, and training. These Helpout sessions remind me of the work I once did as a Writing Tutor for the Center for Student Success at New Mexico Tech. I would consult with students about their papers for 15 or 30 minutes. Essentially, I’m doing the same but for a small fee and via the internet.

Currently, the marketplace for these services varies and I understand that people’s time and money is valuable. If you want to try Google Helpouts for my services, I would greatly appreciate the business. Google says that you will like Helpouts and offers a 100% money back guarantee.

Check out my 15 minute Helpout for documents that are 500-1000 words (1-2 pages long)  or my 30 minute Helpout for documents longer than 1000 words .

Your documents deserve better with some editing and feedback love.