What Your Website Can Learn From Starbucks

Starbucks logo
Image via Wikipedia

By Gerry McGovern
Like all great self-service organizations, Starbucks knows that you should never keep the customer waiting.
The July 2006 like-for-like sales for Starbucks were lower than expected. This was rare for such a high performance company and resulted in an 11 percent decline in the share price after the news was announced.
According to Starbucks’ chief executive, Jim Donald, the reason why sales had not met expectations was because Starbucks was keeping its customers waiting too long. “We believe we are losing some espresso business due to longer than normal wait times in both cafes and drive-thrus during peak morning hours,” he stated. Continue reading “What Your Website Can Learn From Starbucks”

STC Increase Fees: Is the STC still value for money?

STC LogoSarah O’Keefe (Scriptorium) discusses STC’s new dues structure: Dues are going up; Printed publications are no longer included in basic dues; No chapter or SIG membership are included in the basic dues.
She adds that while reaction is largely negative, she finds value from her STC membership and gives some examples and reasons to join/stay with the STC. I have to confess that I disagree her on most all points.
STC gives Sarah a channel to attract new customers; many prospective customers find her at STC organized conferences. For example:
“During an STC conference a few years ago, I was approached by representatives of a government agency to discuss a major project. (I found out later they had attended my session to see if they wanted to talk to me. I apparently passed that test.) That meeting resulted in a new customer and over $250,000 in revenue for Scriptorium.”

Why join the STC?

Sarah gives several reasons why you should join/stay with the STC.
Here’s my thoughts:
1. If STC succeeds, you are more likely to find jobs that pay well because your work is respected.
I honestly don’t see how the success or failure of the STC has any material impact on my career. I’ve never joined the STC and managed to work for Intel, IBM and others for almost 20 years.
If the STC closed, would technical writers across the planet get their marching orders or see a cut in salary? Don’t think so, tbh.
Re: your work is respected.
I think this depends on the company and people you work for.
STC membership doesn’t automatically earn you any respect, certainly not with the negative perception surrounding the STC, i.e. out of touch and broken.
Most HR and IT Managers are not aware of the STC and rarely if ever mention it in interviews.
2. You are less likely to be the first person laid off in a downturn.
Why?
Most HR Managers make their decisions on budgets, cutback and other factors.
It would be great if this membership gave an extra layer of protection but the reality is that if you’re going to get laid off, all the certs, degrees etc in the world don’t make one iota of difference.
3. You are less likely to find job postings that include general office work among technical communication tasks.
Not sure what this is about. Most job postings I see for technical writers don’t include ‘general office work’, which I assume means admin tasks.
You are less likely to be replaced by another, less skilled, less expensive writer.
Read this s l o w l y.

  • We made cut-backs to the technical writing dept in my last company; most of the technical writing tasks were shipped out to Poland and India.
  • These guys and girls were less skilled and less expensive.
  • Actually, the last 3 months at the place was spent up-skilling the offshore team.
  • The company needed to reduce costs, full stop.
  • The quality of the tech docs is not great but the share price is up. Analysts are positive regarding the company’s stance on ‘fiscal controls’.

4. If technical communication is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.
Now this is an interesting point. Is it valued?
Most of us who write for a living value the written word —that’s why we’re here, right? —but not everyone shares the same enthusiasm.
You could also replace ‘technical communication’ with any other job title and make the same argument.

  • If software development is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.
  • If quality control is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.
  • If network admin is valued, your work is less likely to be viewed like a commodity.

Links:
A mercenary view of STC: http://www.scriptorium.com
Broken STC Model http://www.idratherbewriting.com
Bill Swallow http://techcommdood.com/?p=309
Final Thoughts
Going back to Sarah’s point about drumming up work at events.
My take on the STC and other groups, for example, LinkedIn, is that their value is in proportion to what you put in.
The more effort you make, the greater the returns.
Those that make an effort to ‘use’ the STC (in the best possible way) are likely to see their careers blossom.
If you sit on your hands, then nothing is likely to come your way.
What do you think?
Is the STC value for money?

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Outsourcing Isn't a Problem for Silicon Valley But Is for Detroit

andy-rappaportFor those involved in out-sourcing or off-shoring, Andy Rappaport discusses why outsourcing works for the IT industry but fails in the automobile industry. He writes that “the U.S. IT industry has been able to innovate over the past 20 years even while ceding leadership of component technologies and basic processes.” Continue reading “Outsourcing Isn't a Problem for Silicon Valley But Is for Detroit”

Top 50 Technical Writers on the Web

I’ve made a list of the top 50 technical writers with a web presence. Some of these you might know, such as Darren Barefoot and Tom Johnson. I have also added some other writers from India, Russia and Israel to reach out to a wider audience. I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed. Let me know and I’ll update the list.

I’ve made a list of the top 50 technical writers with a web presence. Some of these you might know, such as Darren Barefoot and Tom Johnson. I have also added some other writers from India, Russia and Israel to reach out to a wider audience. I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed. Let me know and I’ll update the list.
This week’s new additions include Alan Houser, Char James-Tanny, Cheryl Locket-Zubak , Colum McAndrew, Joe Welinske, Michael Hughes, and Paul Mueller.
Continue reading “Top 50 Technical Writers on the Web”

Twitter Updates for 2009-06-23

DITA specialization in Adobe FrameMaker 9

DITA Specialization lets you define new information classifications that can be structural or a new domain specification. Structural specialization in DITA lets you define new topic or map structures derived from base topics and maps, such as concept, task, or reference whereas domain specialization in DITA lets you define markup for a specific information domain or subject area, such as programming or hardware.

DITA Specialization lets you define new information classifications that can be structural or a new domain specification. Continue reading “DITA specialization in Adobe FrameMaker 9”

Follow Friday – News and Views June 3

Follow Friday – News and Views June 3rd 2009. Here’s a roundup of some of this week’s news. Next week, I’ll add more info on upcoming XML authoring software releases and the new Google Wave platform.

smileHere’s a roundup of some of this week’s news. Next week, I’ll add more info on upcoming XML authoring software releases and the new Google Wave platform. Continue reading “Follow Friday – News and Views June 3”