Boston Broadside
May/June 2003
Vol. 60,  No. 5
 Newsletter of the Boston Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication


Copyright © STC Boston 2003

Director/Sponsor's Message

Structural Change

By Jonathan W. Baker

One of the things on my mind these days concerns the issue of whether we are seeing structural changes in the technical communications business or whether things really are OK and once the economy improves, we'll all be back at work. One of the reasons that I am inclined to lean toward the structural change point of view is that in the last several weeks, I've heard from different people who are concerned about technical communications jobs migrating to other countries. I have no facts to verify this, but I do have questions and would be interested in hearing from you about what changes you are seeing in the business.

One of the long-term concerns for STC, if structural change is taking place, would be that our U.S. membership might decline, while our international membership would continue to grow. This has a raft of implications for the Society. So again, let me know what you think about this possibility. Does it worry you? Do you want to see STC become a true international organization? Is this a win-win situation for the membership? How do we get there?

Even if things are not changing stucturally, we are seeing changes. Should the economy kick into high gear tomorrow, for many of us things are already different. During this recession, many of you have: chosen to retire, early or otherwise; changed careers; retooled your career for other aspects of technical communication; or simply held on. However, the long-term issues remain. Technical communicators are a greying group with dwindling numbers. New technical communicators are not pouring into the field. So again, I ask, what are your thoughts about this? Will all technical communicators be in the geriatric ward soon? Does STC need to think differently about what it offers, based upon the notion that we are an aging, diminishing group? Please let me know what is on your mind.

Another interesting aspect to this is that product documentation represents a tiny fraction of what is wrong or broken with a product. At a recent meeting of the Software Process Improvement Network in the Boston Chapter, Capers Jones (an expert in software process improvement) indicated that less than 5% of all problems with software can be identified as belonging to documentation. Pretty astounding. We do our job so well that our clients may be thinking we aren't needed, or at the very least, that documentation is easy to prepare. Not!

Last issue, change. We are in a period of huge change and transition. How are you faring? Do you think you are weathering the storm? Will you have a successful outcome? Have you done the planning that you need to survive and thrive? Let me know how you are doing. This is a time when we should be banding together and helping each other work through these miseries.

Jonathan W. Baker is Director/Sponsor of Region 1. He welcomes responses to this article at .

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