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Conference draws nearly 400 delegates from 23 countries
2000, August (March 04, 2007)
Contributed by G. David Heath, Carolina Communique editor.

Forum 2000 Report

Nearly 400 delegates from 23 countries attended Forum 2000, which was held at the Commonwealth Centre, London, England, June 12-14. The conference drew a wide spectrum of technical communication professionals including writers, editors, educators, usability professionals, Web-site designers, and translators. Forum 2000 was organized jointly by the STC, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), the IEEE Professional Communication Society (PCS), and tekom (Germany).


The conference was largely based on the "Forum" format pioneered by Ulf-L Andersson. This format is intended to encourage the spontaneous exchange of information and ideas. It consists of "Idea Markets," theme tables for lunch, and "break-out" groups where ideas generated in the Idea Market are explored in greater depth. The Idea Markets are based on short papers written by session "activators" and published prior to the conference to provide a basis for discussion rather than simply impart information. Ideas coming out of the discussion were recorded by the activators and will be included with the revised original papers in the Conference "PostHarvest." For a list of all the presentations, go to the ISTC Web site at http://www.istc.org.uk.

Topics covered in the Idea Market and lunch table discussions included: hardcopy vs. online information, measuring information quality, modular documentation, Web-page design, academia-industry relationships, globalization, and professional skills.

Chapter Speakers

STC Carolina Chapter members Mary Cantando and G. David Heath made important contributions by activating Idea Market sessions and hosting theme tables.

Mary Cantando, Vice President of the e-Publishing Division of Interleaf, Inc., activated an Idea Market session titled, "Why XML?" The discussion focused on reasons for migrating to XML and the lessons learned in such migrations. Rather than discussing XML from a technical perspective, she focused on the business and user capabilities of XML, discussing both the positive and negative aspects. With the Idea Market participants, she explored the current and future capabilities of XML, when to use XML timing issues (inertia factors and accelerators), DTD issues, and the challenges encountered when converting to XML. Mary also hosted a theme lunch table with the topic, "Becoming an active mentor in your business environment."

David Heath of IBM Corporation, Research Triangle Park, activated an Idea Market session titled, "Building an editing team through mentoring." It identified critical editing skills in the current work environment and discussed the mentoring techniques that he uses to develop the skills in new editors. His editing team has to deal with everything from technical-support information on the corporate Web site, through traditional hardcopy customer and service documentation, to sales collateral — much of it against a very tight deadline. David also activated an Idea Market session titled, "Editors face new challenge with Web-based technical support." This dealt with the problems that editors face when the World Wide Web replaces the telephone as the medium of choice for providing technical-support information. David hosted a theme lunch table "Measuring quality in technical communication."

Other key speakers

Forum 2000 also included presentations of formal papers and debates of interest to all delegates. One of the more lively debates, between Barbara Giammona, Manager of Information Technology Documentation for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, New York, and Bogo Vatovec, a Senior Human Factors Consultant with Icon Medialab in Germany, explored the concept of information quality. End of article.

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