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Copyrights on the Web
Future Tense 2001
Expand Your Horizons
Creative Job Searches
In Every Issue
Letter from the Editor
Meet the Staff
Copyrights on the Web
by Steve Gage
Many technical communicators turn to the Internet to publish technical
information. Wide use of web publishing, a fairly new practice, attracts
many people. However, both novice and experienced users appear to take the
convenience of web publishing for granted. In direct response to the ease
of publishing information on the Internet, questions about web copyright
laws have started to surface and multiply in the field of technical
Under US copyright law, "any original work fixed in a tangible
medium is automatically protected by copyright regardless of whether any
copyright formalities are done." The absence of a copyright notice
does not grant automatic permission for use. Copyright permission exists
through implication. People often overlook the need to apply for
permission to use information and images found on the Internet, due to the
ease of copying facts and available data.
The ease of pirating information did not begin with the Internet. Tape
recorders used for copying audio clips, videocassette recorders used for
copying movies, and recordable compact discs used for copying computer
software contribute to infringement of copyright laws. Copyrights for
these materials are rigidly enforced. Legal battles with Internet sites,
like Napster, result from interpretations of these copyright laws. When
considering all the information that is posted on the Internet, the size
of the problem magnifies and leaves little wonder why so much hype
surrounds this problem.
Technical communicators keep from infringing on copyright laws by
always asking for permission from the owner to use posted material.
However, obtaining permission to use something on the web becomes just
that: a web. For example, if technical communicators get permission from a
webmaster to copy something from his/her site, the technical communicators
know better than to post the information or graphics indiscriminately to
their sites without fear of liability. Unless the work being copied
belongs exclusively to the webmaster, an entire web of people may need to
be contacted in order to secure the necessary permissions. Technical
communicators must discover who really owns the work they wish to copy.
United States copyright laws do permit some copying without permission
from the copyright owner. You may use material without permission "so
long as the copying falls within fair use."
Fair use opens the door to tricky interpretation. Copying small
portions of information may fall into fair use more likely than copying
larger portions of information. The intended use of copied material also
merits consideration when determining fair play. An Internet site,
www.patents.com/weblaw.sht, suggests using links to other sites instead of
copying the information. That protects the user from copyright
Copying images from other web sites may cause difficulties, though. One
option people choose, in order to avoid this, uses a new feature called
IMG (Image) hypertext reference. This feature replaces a copied image with
a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). If you visit a page which uses an IMG
reference, your browser obtains
the image from that site and shows the image on your web page. This
does not slow the link with the IMG reference, but it does slow the link
of the other web site. This may disadvantage your web site. Be sure the
slow- down does not affect the use of your site.
Several reasons exist for not using IMG references. Primarily, if the
site you reference edits or deletes its image, you may have a hole in your
page, and presentation of your sight would suffer. Since copyright laws
pertaining to IMG referencing remain unresolved in the courts, the
Oppedahl & Larson Patent Law home page suggests that "the safest
course of action is to avoid the use of IMG references except in the
special case where permission has been obtained from the owner of the site
having the image file."
Copyright laws pertaining to the Internet continue to evolve. Time may
solidify copyright guidelines, making adherence to the law easier to
follow. However, enforcement of those laws on the Internet may prove more
challenging than viable in most cases.
The moral and legal course of action implies obtaining reliable
permission for information or images copied from any source on the
Several other Internet copyright issues deserve attention. For
additional information, visit<http://www.patents.com/weblaw.sht> for useful and abundant
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Future Tense 2001
from the STC Twin Cities Web Site
The Twin Cities chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC)
invites members to join them in February, 2001 to share in the present and
to peek at the future of technical communication.
The confirmed keynote speakers are Joe Welinske and David Chittenden.
Joe Welinske "Software User Assistance: Today and the
Future." In this opening session, Joe will provide an overview of
the impact that current trends in the software industry will have on
technical communicators, like the use of browser-based Help, embedded
Help, XML, and the increasing role of technical communicators in the
development of the software user interface. He will talk about the types
of skills most in demand. He will also attempt to separate the hype from
what is ripe regarding the latest technologies.
The session will also include a brief look at some of the latest Help
design models from Microsoft, Macromedia, Apple, and other prominent
David Chittenden became Vice President of Education at the
Science Museum of Minnesota in 1993 following 15 years as director of the
museum’s Continuing Education program, where he initiated and developed
what has become one of the largest and most successful museum-based
education programs in the country.
Chittenden has extensive experience in museum education as developer
and project director for major statewide and international exhibit and
education projects funded by such agencies as the National Science
Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute. He is the recipient of several national program awards
including a CINE Golden Eagle Award for his development of the Explore
Antarctica videodisk and accompanying software.
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Geographical Information Systems
by Nathan Graham
As a geography major interested
in technical communication, I constantly challenge myself to find
intersections for both areas of study. Using geography involves effective
and accurate communication of technical information. Geographical
informational systems (GIS) involves much expertise in technical
A computer system, GIS assembles, stores,
manipulates, and displays geographically referenced data. Essentially a
network of tools, GIS relates real-world geographic features such as stop
signs, power lines, or city boundaries to computerized geographic
features. All this information, gathered in a specific manner, gives
detailed information on a map (see example on the left).
GIS and technical communication require much thought to determine how
to relay technical information through the use of maps. GIS technicians
use several steps, including collecting data, analyzing the data, and
relaying the data to pertinent sites.
GIS technicians manage several different job responsibilities. A
technician's work involves compiling, editing, producing, and maintaining
computer-generated maps and geographic data. Specific job duties that a
technician carries out includes the following:
1. Prepare, revise, and maintain
2. Perform research and data collection necessary to compile,
draft, and edit maps for city staff, the business community, and the general public.
3. Create, edit, and manipulate
computerized files to support the city’s mapping and geographic
4. Research and review information such as plans, maps,
drawings, and survey data; conduct field investigations to confirm and
obtain additional information.
Several different professions use the services of
1. Urban Planners use GIS to show the distribution
of land and resources in towns and cities.
2. Civil engineers use GIS for planning the routes of roads and
canals and to estimate construction costs.
3. Police departments use GIS to give them the spatial
distribution of types of crimes.
4. Medical organizations use GIS to help research areas of
sickness and disease.
5. Retail businesses use GIS to show the best locations for
marketing and store locations.
GIS also helps simulate possible disasters. If chemicals from factories
near a wetland accidentally spill into a river, GIS could simulate the
route of the chemicals by calculating the direction and speed of the
Components of GIS
Three basic components of GIS consist of
hardware, software, and data.
1. The hardware used in GIS includes
personal computers, workstations with Unix platforms, minicomputers, and
2. The software used in GIS helps technicians relay information
in a useful manner. GIS uses Arc View, Arc Info, Geo Media, and Map Info.
3. The data used for GIS receives careful analysis due to heavy
reliance by so many different organizations. Data is put into maps via two
options: vector or raster. Vector data, such as poles, wells, or
trees, shows up as an x,y coordinate
system. Raster data, such as precipitation, appears as grid cells
that show distribution.
GIS technology helps many professions by providing very specific
information in several useful and various ways. GIS technicians relay
information on maps to help with understanding the processes and effects
of global changes on all aspects of life.
GIS relays technical information to the world in unexpected ways using
diverse and uncommon applications. However, the use of this vital and
important information remains a critical component for the success of each
job in several different industries in the private and public sector.
Because technical communication emphasizes clarity, conciseness, and
precision, people in GIS related work admit that technical communication
deserves a lot of the credit.
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Expand Your Horizons
by Samantha Massaglia, Media
Relations for Governor Jesse Ventura
I entered MSU’s graduate program in technical communication, I never considered
handling public relations for a 6’3", plainspoken, former professional
wrestler known as The Body, who ran for Governor (and won). I credit
the experience and skills I gained as a member of the MSU technical communication
program for opening that door.
Technical communication in the work of a political spokesperson can be
summarized in one word: clarification. When I write a position paper for
the governor, I seek to clarify his beliefs about that issue. Writers need
a comprehensive understanding of their subject matter and must anticipate
questions the reader might have, answering those questions in a clear,
concise manner before the reader asks.
Some argue that the purpose of technical documentation is to instruct,
whereas the purpose of public relations documentation is to persuade. That
may be true, but one can successfully integrate the skill set they learn
as a technical communicator into other areas of the communications
industry. While at MSU, I studied subjects like audience analysis, web
design, editing, desktop publishing, and technical literature. These
topics helped me become a better technical communicator, and each one has
come in handy while working for the governor.
I must frequently write for several different audiences, ranging from
reporters, to legislators, to the public. Each audience has different
needs, and how successfully I communicate with them (which, ultimately,
influences how effectively the governor communicates with them) depends on
my ability to analyze their needs as an audience. I learned how to do that
in the technical communication program.
The ‘technical’ part of technical communication comes in handy,
too. The Governor’s office has a website, which is managed by the
communications department. When we first began strategizing the purpose
and appearance of the website, I was able to play a significant role in
the discussion because of the background I gained in web design as a
technical communication student.
Technical communication is as narrow or broad as we make it. You must
let employers know about your versatile skills. You will be surprised at
how many doors your training as a technical communicator will open.
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Creative Job Searches
by Marge Freking
The Career Development and
Counseling Center (CDC) uses many resources to help students find jobs.
Knowing your personal level of achievement helps with planning strategies.
Sophomores and seniors differ in their needs and expectations.
Internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer organizations allow students to
reap the benefits of the skills they need in their chosen careers.
Fields related to an area of study may introduce unexpected career
paths. Know your talents and which kinds of businesses might capitalize on
those talents. Deenna Latus, a career counselor in the CDC, advises
students that finding a job in a chosen field can boil down to something
so simple as a matter of exposure to people who can create opportunities.
"We have the capability to direct you to information resources, as
well as to specific information you require. The CDC has information on
employers, contact listings, and referrals, as well as being equipped to
direct the search to related career fields."
offers workshops geared to assist the student with the tools necessary to
ease the transition from classroom to boardroom. Intern awareness, job
search strategies, credential files, resumes, cover letters and thank you
notes, career exploration, job searches, Internet job searches, tips for
interviews, practice interviews, portfolio development, and government
position exploration represent some of the services students receive free
of charge. The CDC can assist students in marketing their diverse talents
and highlighting those talents
on their resumes.
In addition to career help, the CDC offers
"Discovering Yourself," a series of 50-minute workshops designed
to help students understand how to cope with test anxiety, academic
stress, parent-student relationships, and personality issues like anger,
loneliness, shyness, and perfectionism. Getting one's personal life in
order allows the student to concentrate on academic preparation for the
The Career Resource Library in the CDC
catalogs job postings and available internships. Check campus departments
for information, too.
Research the companies that offer jobs. You do not want to walk into an
interview without basic knowledge of the company and/or their product.
This library can help you discover that information.
The CDC posts recruiting schedules and also has online versions of
these schedules, which often contain links to the employer's home pages.
Call human resources at the company you research. Ask about the position,
requirements, and history of the company. They can also tell you about
their dress code. You do not want to arrive for your interview in a suit
if Friday means jeans and t-shirts.
No Credit Internships
If you want an internship without
credit hours, you may go through the CDC. However, if you want credit
hours for an internship, the CDC can help you with your search, but you
must go through your academic departments. A contract between the student
and the employer must be signed which specifies duties, expectations, time
limits, and responsibilities. Someone in your academic department must
then approve the contract. Each academic department has its own internship
coordinator, and the CDC has that list.
Begin your initial contact with the faculty and staff,
since many faculty members worked in the fields in which they teach.
Consequently, they may direct you to someone to assist you in your job
search. Word of mouth also works well, since the more people who know of
your job search, the better your chances to secure employment.
Cold letters can help, too. Send a cover letter and a copy of your
resume to a company that interests you. Tell them what skills you can
offer them and why you wish to work for their company. This shows
initiative. If a job opens up within their company, they may contact you.
After all, ninety percent of available jobs never get advertised.
Ask others how they got their jobs and places where they think you
might look. Attend job fairs in your field and look for job postings while
you are there. Be sure to bring resumes with you when you attend job fairs
so you can give them to potential employers. Read journals and magazines
published in your major field of study. Advertisers in those journals are
legitimate and may have opportunities you seek.
The CDC helps prepare students for several job
search events each semester. Every fall the CDC hosts MSU Career Week, which
includes Business Career Day (sponsored by the College of Business) in the
Centennial Student Union (CSU) ballroom. Social and Behavioral Sciences Career
Day and the Graduate and Professional School Fair also provide job search
opportunities for students. The CDC encourages all students to attend these
In spring, the Minnesota State Universities Job Fair offers students the
chance to visit potential employers at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Later in the spring, the Minnesota Education Job Fair, also held in the
Minneapolis Convention Center, gives students pursuing education degrees an
opportunity to discover which career paths they might choose to pursue. The
CDC posts information about all these events.
Start your job search early. The immediacy factor
suggests that recruiters hire students as much as nine months in advance. You
want to send your application well ahead of the time you want the job. Cold
letters take time to compose, send, read, and return. Often the replies
suggest that the writer keep looking.
They Want To
The CDC helps students capitalize on their academic
backgrounds and interests. Visit the CDC soon to invest in your future. The
help, though free, is priceless. If you want special help, call for an
appointment. They want enough time to help you do a thorough job search,
because that is why they are there.
For further information, visit their web site at <http://www.mnsu.edu/dept/cdc
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by Suzanne Laurent,
Director-Sponsor Region 5
The TEAM concept is very
powerful. When group members work together to benefit the whole
team, everyone wins. Positive aspects of teamwork include, but are not
limited to, the following concepts.
To function effectively, team members need
flexibility, trust for one another, and wholehearted support for each
member to achieve team goals.
Team members must work together and assist one
another to help the team succeed.
When people learn to support and trust one
another, they share what they know. When information flows freely,
communication benefits the whole team. Collaboration and support in a
group relies on communication among the members. Clear messages lead to
people working productively and effectively.
Efficient application of resources, talents, and
strengths occur because people apply them willingly and share them with
other team members. When one member of a team lacks knowledge or
competence, another can often fill the gap. Camaraderie builds confidence
and compatibility as members apply their skills to help solve
Decisions and solutions sometimes happen
simultaneously. When consensus occurs, those solutions often exceed what
even the brightest person could imagine alone. Several minds accomplish
more and better solutions.
Members must learn to make decisions and affect
responsible solutions. Taking ownership of decisions and solutions helps
members to commit to the group more solidly and helps the team reach its
Achieving quality and accuracy makes the team look
good. When team members work collaboratively, members get their needs met
from the team, leading to the best possible team conditions.
As people on teams learn to respect one another at
face value, they build trust and reliance, which leads to credibility.
When people trust one another, their teams function better in agreement,
helping members resolving differences as they arise.
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Letter from the Editor
In this issue of Techniques, we tried to explore the diverse
world of technical communication. To limit oneself in any venture creates
frustration. That is why job seekers must try to combine their interests
with the discipline they study. Only lack of imagination can limit the
focus of technical communication skills.
Samantha Massaglia writes in this newsletter from her perspective as a
media relations expert for Governor Jesse Ventura. Certainly, Sam never
envisioned the job she found in the administration of the governor’s
office. But she also refused to limit the focus of her job search.
Deenna Latus, a career counselor in the CDC (Career Development and
Counseling Center) at MSU, directs students to resources to assist them in
their job searches. More importantly, the personnel in the CDC help
students to focus on their talents and incorporate those interests with
their academic backgrounds and achievements.
The Techniques staff brainstormed job opportunities and
discovered that technical communicators contribute to many sectors in
industry. Nathan applies his technical communication training to
geographical information systems (GIS). Steve’s interests lie in web
development and contract services for the Internet. Melissa plans to work
in computer programming while Marge hopes to find a job in a publishing
company as a copy editor.
Jobs for technical communicators vary as much as the people seeking
those jobs. The following represents a partial list of jobs technical
communicators might consider combining with hobbies or other interests
they may enjoy:
• biology communications
• business analysts
• environmental educators
• historical researchers
• instructional designers
• legislative assistants
• media relations
• medical writers
• music promotions-specialists and writers
• photographic assistants
• special events associates
Think on a grand scale. Detail and precision apply to all career paths.
Writing clearly, concisely, and precisely contributes to excellence in all
fields. Before you decide on a career, choose the field you most like and
create an opportunity for yourself. When you like what you create, sell
yourself to an industry that can use and appreciate the talents and
interests you bring to the job. And never, ever limit yourself.
Marge Freking and Melissa Goodwin doing an edit
Steve Gage and Nathan Graham taking a break
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Twin Cities STC Chapter
Future Tense 2001 Third Annual Conference
Doubletree Park Place Hotel - Minneapolis.
Minnesota State Universities Job Fair
February 26, 2001
Minneapolis Convention Center Students of all majors
Minnesota Education Job Fair
April 23, 2001
Minneapolis Convention Center Teaching majors
Watch the CDC website for more information.
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Meet the Staff
Steve Gage, a junior at MSU,
works as an online editor for Techniques. Steve's major, computer
engineering technology (CET), coincides nicely with his minor in technical
communication. His interests lie in online development and desktop
publishing. Steve currently works part time as a webmaster and brochure
creator for a tour company in his hometown, Rochester, MN.
One of Steve's proudest accomplishments occurred at age 17. After
placing 11th in a national applied physics competition, Steve was selected
to have an article of his published in a scientific publication.
Steve is active in the national honor society of Alpha Lambda Delta, as
well as in the Society for Technical Communication (STC). When he is not
working, Steve enjoys spending time with his friends and his family. Steve
also enjoys participating in sports such as hockey and softball.
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