NEO Society for Technical Communication

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Workshop 2012

Writing Canvas Workshop

In recognition of the National Day on Writing, NEO STC will host the Writing Canvas Workshop at John Carroll University on Saturday, October 20, 2012!

Session Descriptions

Creating Mobile Apps without Coding - Morning Workshop with Neil Perlin

After a decade of false starts, mobile has taken off in the mass market. Thousands of apps are available for iPhones, Android phones, and other devices; is there room for more in this seemingly saturated market?

Surprisingly, yes. Many of those existing apps are simply variations on a few themes and often don't address the needs of internal markets—think Internet vs. intranet. Who’ll create these new apps to address these internal markets? More to the point, can technical communicators create them?

Until recently, the answer was usually no because app creation required a professional programmer. Today, however, new GUI mobile app development tools are emerging. These tools hide most or all of the coding and let the authors focus on the app's content, functionality, and appearance.

Morning Workshop:

Morning Workshop:
Observational Learning Experience


  • create a simple but functional native app with no coding using an app development tool called ViziApps Studio.
  • leave with an overview of app design principles and an actual app with data you can modify without being a programmer.
  • have a good sense of what you can create and the initial knowledge needed to research other tools.
  • work hands-on, alternating between viewing explanatory slides and actually creating the app.


  • leave with an overview of app design principles.
  • have a good sense of what you can create.
  • get the initial knowledge needed to research other tools.


  • A laptop running Windows XP or above, preferably Windows 7, or a current Mac. Note: You will need to bring along your own laptop or Mac to the workshop.
  • IE 9, Firefox, or Chrome.
  • An iPhone running iOS 5 or an Android phone running Android 2.2 or above. Note: You will need to bring along your own iPhone or Android to the workshop.


  • None


  • You’ll receive specific setup instructions about a week before the workshop. Setup should take under an hour.


  • None

Take Your HAT Mobile - Afternoon Breakout Session with Neil Perlin

The hands-on workshop in the morning looked at how to go mobile by creating a native app using a new tool, ViziApps Studio. But what if you’re looking at mobile but not ready to get into new tools or learn new processes? Can you go mobile within the boundaries of familiar technical communication operations? Can you go mobile by using a standard help authoring tool, or HAT?

Yes. Two HATs, Madcap Flare™ and Adobe® RoboHelp®, have supported mobile outputs for several years and boosted their support for mobile in recent releases. In this presentation, we’ll review the mobile outputs supported by the latest versions of these two tools and look at the main supporting features and technologies behind those outputs. Why use HTML5 output? Is that mobile? What are relative units and why do they matter? What’s a medium, how does it differ from a media query, and why does it matter? And more…

If you’re a Flare or RoboHelp shop, this presentation won’t tell you everything you need to know to go mobile within the bounds of your HAT, but it will give you a foundation for investigating mobile outputs without having to buy and learn a new tool.

Writing Across Genres - Afternoon Breakout Session with Lynn Nickels

As technical communicators, our thought processes veer toward the more logical aspects of writing - instructions, processes, etc. Although more apparent in technical writing, there are logical formulas to all forms of writing. How does the formulaic-type writing of technical communications compare to other genres of writing? What are the logistics present behind other forms of writing? Can these principles be applied across all genres? Can anyone who has technical writing ability write other forms of text, even though they may not be formally trained in that genre, just by applying the basic formulas to these types of writing?

Each genre does have its particularities; however, the basic premise behind each type of writing genre is the same - there is a basic formula at its foundation that is technical and logical in nature. Essays, features, news, user manuals, release notes, fiction, non-fiction, study guides, scripts (advertising, movies, etc.), advertorials, press releases - all have a logical and technical formula behind their creation.

Lynn’s presentation will delve into these basic formulas by sharing some of her background in these forms of writing, as well as by sharing handouts with the audience.

Technical Writing and New Trends - Afternoon Breakout Session with Denise Kadilak

This presentation will explore the occupation of technical writing and the various disciplines associated with the field: web design, coding, content management, information architecture, and yes, even writing. We will also take a look at where the profession is headed and the trends that are guiding it, such as DITA, Wikis, social media, authoring tools, collaborative authoring, coding languages, and much more.

Writing about Health and Environmental Issues - Afternoon Breakout Session with Carrie Buchanan

In this hands-on session, Buchanan draws from her extensive journalism experience and shares topics from the Health and Environmental Writing course she teaches at JCU. She lets you “become a journalist” during this session to learn how journalists approach a breaking story involving risks to human health and/or the natural environment, and how public relations people can support them. The healthcare industry is massive, encompasses people who work in almost every profession, and remains among the fastest-growing. Environmental career opportunities are thriving in numerous sectors and around the globe. Technical communicators work in both the healthcare and environmental industries, writing safety instructions, designing product/machine warnings, and collaborating with public relations and training teams.

Speaker Biographies

Neil Perlin is an internationally known consultant, strategist, trainer, and developer for online content in all forms ranging from traditional online help to mobile. Neil helps clients design their content, select outputs, understand the coding, and select and learn authoring tools. To do this, he brings 33 years of experience in technical communication, with 27 years focused on online in formats and tools past, present, and future (having represented STC to the WorldWide Web Consortium). He is Madcap Certified for Flare and Mimic, ViziApps Certified for the ViziApps Studio mobile app development platform, and renewing his Adobe certification for RoboHelp. He is the author of Essentials of MadCap Mimic 6 and Advanced Features in MadCap Flare 8.

Neil writes columns and articles for STC’s Intercom and is a popular conference speaker. He is an STC Fellow and the founder and manager of the Bleeding Edge stem at the STC summit. You can reach him at

Lynn Nickels has been published as a journalist, entertainment writer, technical instructions writer, advertising writer, technical study-guide author, essay tutor, magazine editor-in-chief, and most recently, as an information developer of technical documentation at Rockwell Automation since 2008. Her educational background includes a master’s degree in English/Professional Writing and Editing, a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Photography, an associate’s degree in Technical Writing/Layout Design, and an associate’s degree in Computer Programming.

She has presented at the Quest Conference at Youngstown State University, for students in an English class about being a writer in today’s marketplace at Youngstown State University, and for fellow professionals in her master’s degree program.

Denise Kadilak is an Information Architect with Blackbaud, Inc., headquartered in Charleston, SC. In her 14 years with the company Denise’s responsibilities have ranged from that of a writer creating and maintaining 1000s of pages of user-end documentation to technical-project lead investigating new tools and workflows for a 19-member documentation team.

She presented on moving content from Adobe FrameMaker to Madcap Flare at the 2011 WritersUA Conference, the Agile-based development process at the 2010 WritersUA Conference, and demonstrated her company’s online help system in the Peer Showcase at the 2008 conference. Denise has also presented on topics such as structured authoring and indexing at local STC meetings and conferences as well as the international STC conference in 2007. In addition, she will be teaching a Technical Writing course at John Carrol University. The course is offered as part of the new Professional Writing minor offered through the university's English Department.

Carrie Buchanan spent 15 years as a journalist in Montreal and Ottawa, 12 of those with the Ottawa Citizen, one of Canada’s top 10 daily newspapers in circulation. She has a master’s in journalism from Carleton University’s School of Journalism, and did her PhD in mass communication while teaching in Carleton’s J-School between 2001 and 2006. Before, during and after her career as a journalist, however, Buchanan had a second life as a science geek. She double-majored in biology and psychology at Bryn Mawr College, and worked for two years after graduation in a pharmaceuticals research laboratory. During her journalism career, she took every opportunity to write health and environmental articles, including doing her master’s thesis on the environmental issues surrounding garbage disposal. When she left the Ottawa Citizen in 2000, Buchanan spent 18 months working for the City of Ottawa’s public health department, most of that doing a literature review and writing reports for non-experts about the scientific evidence concerning health effects of pesticides.

In 2006, Buchanan moved to Cleveland with her husband, a minister whose work brought him here. She is now a tenure-track assistant professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts at John Carroll, where she teaches journalism; political communication; media literacy; editing and design; and health and environmental writing. She is also the immediate past president of the Cleveland chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and adviser to John Carroll’s SPJ chapter. She edits SPJ Cleveland’s e-newsletter, Writer’s Week, which has more than 1,100 readers and covers events, jobs and internships of interest to journalists and other writers in Northeast Ohio. Her Twitter handle is @Carobella3.


Two Mimic 6 books - this will be a selective raffle for those people who are using Mimic 6, have MadPaq, or are considering an eLearning authoring tool. Thank you to Neil Perlin for this donation!


John Carroll University
DJ Lombardo Student Center
20700 North Park Blvd.
University Heights, OH 44118


Complete and submit the Writing Canvas Workshop Registration Form.


View packages and pricing

If you select "PayPal" in your registration form, we will invoice you for payment. If you select "Cash or Check" in your registration form, you will pay at the door the day of the event.

Please note, we require notice if you need to cancel. Anyone canceling after close of business on October 5, 2012 is still required to pay their registration fee.


If you have questions about the workshop, please contact Amy Vogt ( or Janean Voss (


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