Background
After judging in 2010 for an STC (Society for Technical Communication) competition, Bill Albing posted his opinion on his blog and got quite a number of responses in the comments. After hearing from the General Manager of the 2010 STC International Summit Awards (Jackie Damrau) who said in an email: send your comments or "flames" (I can take it) to me at jackie dot damrau at comcast dot net. Bill decided to formulate some concrete suggestions. This article is the result. It began as a list of Bill's suggestions. Now we are adding an open invitation to anyone who has judged an STC competition recently who would like to provide some ideas for improvements and enhancements. If you are logged in, then you can edit this page. Feel free to add to it, leaving a note of your name and credentials if you would like. This is intended to help STC for future competitions.

Overview
STC competitions and their consequent awards could offer value to the profession but there are some, as we say in STC judging, "major flaws". One of the major flaws is the lack of online resources for handling entries and handling evaluations - by having more online and doing more online, we should be able to make it easier for all involved. At least that should be one goal. Another major flaw, and this can be helped by moving more online, is the unacceptable time lag between entry and result. We should be able to speed up the process. A third major flaw is the lack of acknowledgment of types of entries that should be possible. A minor flaw is the lack of PR surrounding award winners. To remedy those, these suggestions are offered by judges who want only to improve the process.
After each idea are the initials of the one who submitted the idea. The key to the initials is given at the end of this article. For those who wish to submit ideas anonymously, simply put (anon) at the end.

Suggestions for Handling Entries
  1. Do not require four copies of an entry. Only need one and post it online on a secure server. (BWA)
  2. Allow submitters to submit their entry online. (BWA)
  3. Allow a web-based entry - some work could be completely online and not saved to a disk. (BWA)
  4. Allow payment by PayPal or other online e-payment? (BWA)
  5. Provide entry form online. (BWA)
  6. Provide evaluation forms online. (BWA)
  7. Allow online forms to keep data in a database - not just a web page with a printable form, but a real Web form. (BWA)
  8. Emphasize the need for the submitter to articulate the Target Audience and the Purpose of the Entry - I judged one entry badly because I could not tell, honestly, what to do with it or who it was for or how it was intended to be used. Maybe this information needs to come first. It is so important. (BWA)
  9. (The suggestion to include something like "Was it produced on a limited budget or in a short time?" is useless. Everything in technical communication is done on a limited budget and in a short time.) (BWA)
  10. The evaluation criteria (the single words in boxes) is vague. If there are questions behind each, include them or provide easy access to them. The rating system of the old forms was helpful in quantifying the decision about whether to award them. I think we have swung too far the other way, and need to find a happy medium. (BWA)

Suggestions for Overall Operation
  1. Judge and respond to entries within a two- to three-week time frame. Anything longer is useless to submitters as feedback. (BWA)
  2. Have all the rules and evaluation criteria clearly posted on a web site for all to see - transparency is a good thing with regard to competition workings. (BWA)
  3. Display more about the winning entries online than just their name - of course with their permission - can't you display a cover page or a logo or something and an abstract summarizing why they were given that award? (BWA)
  4. Give some recognition that goes beyond posting the name of winning entry. Display the names of the winners and even links to more information about them - capture that information on the submission form "If you win an award, how can people reach you?". (BWA)
  5. Drum up some public relations visibility for the awards - the ceremony and the winners - get online interviews, get Twitter posts, something. This should be major STC news - whether the competition is chapter level or not. (BWA)
  6. Provide online videos and other online tutorial information about how to judge, accessible 24x7. (Provide more than a PowerPoint file and an audio download.) (BWA)
  7. Provide online videos and other online tutorial information about how to submit an entry and what you can expect, accessible 24x7. (BWA)
  8. Come up with a system of document types that can last over time or consider not having categories — at least not in advance — consider forming categories of all submissions and then going from there. Consider polling everyone in the profession (STC members and beyond) to create valid categories that are agreed upon by a majority of the profession. (BWA)
  9. Should entries and judging be tied to a chapter? With online work, there are no geographical boundaries. Consider other types of competition entry and judging. (BWA)
  10. Allow social media entries - blogs, wikis, Twitter chats. Allow web sites and web applications. Enlist the help of other related associations as needed.
  11. Consider using social media as a way to evaluate entries (in real time by a large number of respondents). (BWA)

Key

Anon - Anonymous

BWA - Bill Albing, way past President, STC Carolina Chapter and STC competition judge for at least 3 competitions


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Contributors to this page: Bill Albing .
Page last modified on Saturday, December 11, 2010 04:10:33 pm EST by Bill Albing.

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