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STC's 49th Annual Conference: Report from Nashville
2002, Q2 (June 03, 2008)
By Lars Nelson, President of NCSU Student Chapter


I would like to start off by saying the conference was spectacular. I thought that it was informative and well organized. I was glad that I could meet so many people and they were all helpful. We won a chapter of excellence award! I would like to thank all the members of our chapter for their hard work, especially Ann Roy, who was the previous president. I would like to thank Regional Director Chris Benz for introducing me to so many people, including Meredith Blackwelder the incoming North Carolina Chapter President. We talked a lot about this coming year and realized that the North Carolina chapter and the student chapter have similar goals.

The conference was interesting for a number of reasons. One facet of an international conference that gets overlooked is meeting people from all over the world to talk about technical communication. I was happy that my chapter is in Region 2, which includes chapters from Europe. I got to meet people from there who had many interesting stories about the language and cultural barriers that exist when writing for a foreign audience. I could relate to this, because I worked in Tokyo for three years as a technical editor.

I tried to choose technical sessions and networking luncheons to discuss topics that were of interest to me personally. I am writing a book on thermodynamics, and I thought that it would be useful to ask people questions regarding book publishing. I found many people willing to help me with any questions I had. For example, a person told me that I should use Adobe FrameMaker to design a style sheet for my book. I told her that I was writing it this summer and had not used FrameMaker before, and she told me that she knew a woman who designs layouts for books. She said that this woman could design the layout and I could then use it without having to learn everything about FrameMaker, while at the same time try to write my book in FrameMaker. It helps facilitate sessions if you have specific questions that you need answered, because everyone loves to talk about their expertise.

All the technical sessions were informative, especially for someone who is attending the conference for the first time. I would like to focus on one session, which was titled "Designing Web Pages with Cascading Style Sheets" by Joel Sklar, for two reasons. One is that the talk was informative, and I think the topic is useful in a number of situations.

A cascading style sheet is used to create a template for a web page so that each page looks the same even though the content is changed frequently. This can be achieved in a program like Dreamweaver by setting up a template or it can be created using only extensible markup language (XML) code in a browser window. XML is easier and more versatile to use than HTML, although it can only be used in addition to commands used in HTML.

Joel provided many tips on using XML without giving yourself a headache. XML is case-sensitive; whereas HTML is not, so try to keep the case the same in HTML. Originally, HTML was never designed to be used for all the different web pages that are seen on the web today, therefore there are many limitations to using it. There is a program called HTML tidy that can clean up old HTML code for use in the new standard XHTML that is out now. I could go on about markup languages, but if you are interested in anything from basics to all the latest tools and standards I recommend going to http://www.joelsklar.com and downloading his demonstrations.

I recommend going to the conference because it is a lot of fun. I will be there
next year. End of article.

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