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January 2001

Editors

Marge Freking

Steve Gage

Nathan Graham

Tyrone Thomas

Melissa Goodwin

 

Feature Articles

Copyrights on the Web

Future Tense 2001

Geographical Information Systems

Expand Your Horizons

Creative Job Searches

Together Everyone Achieves More

 

In Every Issue

Letter from the Editor

Bulletin Board

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 communication.

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 infringement.

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 Internet.

Several other Internet copyright issues deserve attention. For additional information, visit<http://www.patents.com/weblaw.sht> for useful and abundant information.

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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 software companies.

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 communication.

About GIS

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 computer-generated maps.

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 information programs.

4. Research and review information such as plans, maps, drawings, and survey data; conduct field investigations to confirm and obtain additional information.

Who Uses GIS

Several different professions use the services of GIS.

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 stream flow.

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 mainframe computers.

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

When 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."

 

Workshops

The CDC 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.

 

Personal Counseling

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 job world.

 

Career Resource Library

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.

 

Credit or 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.

 

Networking

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.

 

Job Search Events

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 events.

 

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.

 

Most Importantly

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 Help

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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Together Everyone Achieves More

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.

 

Orientation

To function effectively, team members need flexibility, trust for one another, and wholehearted support for each member to achieve team goals.

 

Collaboration

Team members must work together and assist one another to help the team succeed. 

 

Communication

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.

 

Application

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 problems. 

 

Solutions

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. 

 

Commitment

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 goals. 

 

Achievement

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. 

 

Credibility

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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Bulletin Board

 

Twin Cities STC Chapter

February 17, 2001

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 

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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Last Updated: 10/20/2005