Month: May 2015

Time for a name change by Tom Vradenburg, EAC NCR Past Chair

In case you missed our last meeting of the season, the branch is considering a name change.

What first motivated us that our web pages advertising our seminars do not get picked up by Internet search engines. In the process of analyzing our competition in the seminar market, we discovered that having “National Capital Region” as our branch name makes for poor ‘search engine optimization’. We tried multiple search terms: in many cases, the EAC national website scored higher on search lists.

We are struggling with growing seminar competition from training companies. Not being found in online searches is a liability we should be able to address.

The new national branding creates a timely window of opportunity for a name change for this branch. This normally would not be a high-priority item, but we would like to catch the rebranding train too.

Changing our national organization’s branding—its everyday self-identification, as opposed to the name in its constitution or incorporation papers—is also partly motivated by search considerations. We have long had “editors.ca” as a domain name for the national website and for EAC’s webmail service. So, the move to Editors Canada national branding—with the new logo, typeface and colours—is being done, in part, for similar reasons.

Our other reason, less pressing, is that “NCR” is an abbreviation that is understood only, and not universally, ‘inside the Queensway’. Our members do not live in a true federal district, like the District of Columbia, but mainly in two cities, Ottawa and Gatineau. Some Eastern Ontario members, closer to Kingston, rightfully gravitate to the Kingston twig.

This post is the start of a short process to discuss whether we need to change, and what exactly the new name should be. After the two-week window, a vote will be held on the candidates proposed.

I encourage you to comment here on the blog, where others can see and debate your opinions: click Leave a comment at the bottom of this post, and enter your comment in the text box. You may also email comments to tomv@bell.net.

I would like to wind up the discussion by midnight, Friday, June 12. Thanks for your continued support of EAC in Ottawa.

May’s meeting: serious stuff—elections and a name change— then fun stuff By Tom Vradenburg, EAC–NCR Chair

Naming or re-naming organizations, companies and products is always a fraught process. The name has to be spellable and pronounceable: it should sound positive, and even describe the activities of the organization. Today, the advent of search engines, and the need to be ‘found’ by them, adds another variable to consider.

Changing our national organization’s branding—its everyday self-identification, as opposed to the name in its constitution or incorporation papers—is partly motivated by search considerations. We have long had “editors.ca” as a domain name for the national website and for EAC’s webmail service. So, the move to Editors Canada branding—with the new logo, typeface and colours—can be seen as part of the same trend.

The new national branding has also encouraged NCR’s executive to propose a name change for this branch. This normally would not be a high-priority item, but we would like to catch that rebranding train too.

What motivated us to head to the station was ‘search engine optimization’. In the process of analyzing our competition in the seminar market, we discovered that having “National Capital Region” as our branch name has been impeding recognition of our seminar pages by Google and other search engines. Depending on the search terms tried, the EAC national website scores higher on searches, even when “Ottawa” is included in the terms.

We are struggling with growing seminar competition from training companies. Not being found in online searches is a liability we should be able to address.

Our other reason, less pressing, for a name change is that “NCR” is an abbreviation that is understood only, and not universally, ‘inside the Beltway’. Our members do not live in a true federal district, like the District of Columbia, but mainly in two cities, Ottawa and Gatineau. Some Eastern Ontario members, closer to Kingston, rightfully gravitate to the Kingston twig.

I hope this explains why the branch executive would like to do this, and why it is suddenly urgent.

Seeking new executive members

Election of executive members for 2015–2016 is also on the slate for May’s meeting. Several positions are in play at this point:

  • membership chair
  • seminar co-chair
  • marketing chair
  • speaker nights co-chair
  • vice-chair.

Please consider volunteering for one of these: to learn more about what each position involves, and which is the best fit for you, written job descriptions are available for each position: feel free to email me. I can attest that the executive is a collegial, supportive and efficient  group.

Then, the fun stuff

The lighter, latter portion of May’s meeting involves games, similar to the format of previous May ‘game nights’. Expect a combination of group activity and individual trivia and logic questions. The competition may be keen, but these games will be much more civil than the hockey playoffs. Details to follow!

When: Wednesday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capital Hill Hotel & Suites, 88 Albert Street, Laurier Room
Free for members, $10 for non-members
Pre-registration is not required for this event.

The Canada.ca Web Content Style Guide: An unofficial preview by Tom Vradenburg Chair, EAC NCR

It has been nearly 20 years since Public Works published The Canadian Style. At January’s meeting, I summarized this new ‘content style guide’ published by Treasury Board on GCConnex.ca.

Where the guide fits

While not exactly a replacement for The Canadian Style, the guide says, “in situations where this document disagrees with Canadian Style, follow this document” (quotes mine). And so much about publishing has changed in 20 years, so an update is nice. What I really appreciate is how this document consolidates things that editors should know from several other Public Works documents about publishing, such as the standards on web interoperability.

The greater emphasis on plain language is good to see: Canadian Style does mention it, over a few pages at the back of the book. Here, the message is stressed throughout.

This new guide presents itself as the rulebook only for publishing on the canada.ca site, which will carry content from many departments. But if you work in any government department, this new web content style guide, with the weight of Treasury Board behind it, may be good style guidance you can take to the boss.

My presentation, in PowerPoint format, is posted.

05_E_CanadaWebGuide (1)

How April’s town hall went By Tom Vradenburg, Chair, EAC NCR

Before relinquishing the chair in May, I wanted to bring forward some questions about the progress and future of the branch—some straightforward; others, difficult. This is why I held April’s membership meeting as a town hall.

I am worried about the eroding of branch membership, which has slipped gradually from 300 a decade ago to 200 or so the last few years to 173 as of this month’s report.  However, size is only one indicator of the health of a branch: a less tangible one could be called ‘vitality’. Buying an EAC membership represents a basic level of commitment; coming out to meetings, taking part in discussions and volunteering are subsequent rungs on that ladder.

In late 1990s, we had 130 or 140 members, but 30 to 40 people came out for a meeting. In recent years, we have had 200 or more members, but lower attendance at meetings. The meeting programs year after year tend to cover similar subjects, and are of good quality and value to professional editors. Why is such a small portion of our membership coming out to meetings? What has changed?

I asked the town hall for suggestions about the meeting format. Some members said earlier meetings would be better. If meetings started at 6:00 or 6:30 pm, they could leave work, get together for dinner, then go to EAC. The executive meeting, now held before the membership meeting, would have to be held at another time.

As well, people like to socialize at meetings, and the current format leaves little time for that. Sometimes I have started meetings 5 or 10 minutes late, just to give people a bit of mingling time. In the 1990s, meetings typically started with a short segment of association business, then 15 minutes to socialize, then the program.

So, there’s more than one way to manage meetings. The executive is working on options for a different meeting format for next year: I hope a new format will inject some new vitality.

Opening Lines: The Hunger Games By Jean Rath

A few weeks ago on the EAC-NCR Bulletin, Bhavana posted an interesting article about the power of opening lines in books. I could relate to what she said about them. A few years ago when (on the recommendation of some teenagers) I first cracked open The Hunger Games, the first paragraph drew me in:

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.”

This paragraph does the triple job of setting the tone of affection between sisters, displaying the poverty that the main characters endure, and creating the atmosphere of fear that oppresses that world.

A few paragraphs later, the author cements the setting of hopelessness and fear with another description:

Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn’t until two. May as well sleep in. If you can.”

Those paragraphs made me want to keep going. I wanted to find out why the beaten-down residents of the Seam couldn’t sleep. So I kept reading… right to the end of the series.

The Hunger Games is the only Dystopian series I’ve read. Some of author Suzanne Collin’s literary techniques make me want to haul out my red pen, but that is completely cancelled out by the great storytelling. I think the series is very well done. The things that drive that world are so close to our own reality that it’s almost uncomfortable: most notably our culture’s strange custom of reality TV. We put people in situations that are bound to create drama, film them, and then gleefully watch them. The gamemakers in The Hunger Games are not that much different from the producers of reality TV shows: appease us (give us drama) and we will shower you with good things.

The Hunger Games speaks to the nature of power and the complications of popular resistance. It brings the tale of a revolution to a personal level and creates a very intriguing story arc. The main characters are ordinary likeable people thrust reluctantly into extraordinary circumstances. If you’ve ever wondered what a Young Adult Dystopian series is like, I recommend this one.