Going Live and Looking Back: The Beginning
Breaking the Fourth Wall – Musings of an InfoDev Pro
Thoughts about my personal experiences as an information developer, an entrepreneur, and a general misfit with big dreams
Tina M. Kister
October 13, 2021
It’s October 13, 2021, and I just announced that the InfoDev Insiders community is live! It’s so exciting! It’s been quite a journey up to this point, and it’s far from over.
In a way, it all started back in 2015, when I wanted to give a presentation on managing information-development projects at the annual summit of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).
I was submitting my proposal for the presentation, and one of the required fields on the submission form was “Company Affiliation.” This kind of stumped me for a while because, while I was working full time for a company as a training documentation specialist, the company didn’t support my professional development in any way, and wasn’t paying for me to attend the summit. Not only that, but I was going to have to use my accrued vacation time to attend. So, it didn’t really seem to make sense for me to claim affiliation with the company.
I must admit that I had a certain degree of resentment, but that wasn’t the only consideration. Because the company wasn’t supporting or sponsoring me, it didn’t seem right to align myself with them in a way that might make it seem as if my presentation was endorsed by them or somehow represented them.
After much thought, I decided to start my own company – just so I would have something to put into that form field. So I filed the paperwork to create a limited liability company, and I called it “Nanatoo Communications” – a name I deliberately chose for it’s nonsensical-ness so I could take the company in any direction in the future without being limited by the company name.
Several weeks later, my submission to present at the STC summit was accepted. Several weeks after that, the day of my actual presentation finally came. I was absolutely terrified as I stood in front of the room. My mouth was dry and I was shaking. In really stressful social situations, I also get this weird thing where my eyes start watering and it’s hard to visually focus on anything.
I got through it by reminding myself that it wasn’t about me – it was about the ideas I wanted to present. I also reminded myself of past humiliations, like the time I was performing with my high school dance team at Homecoming half time and, due to a last-minute change in the choreography, I ended up out in front of the entire team, by myself, dancing as if I was the star of the show – which I definitely was not.
This exercise in remembering past humiliations might seem counter-productive, but it’s actually quite freeing. I know, for certain, that I can do something really, really ridiculously stupid, and the world won’t end. In fact, after a little time has passed, it makes a great story to tell my friends.
At the end of my presentation, the editor of STC’s journal Technical Communication (the wonderful Sam Dragga) came up to me and asked if I was interested in publishing a paper on the topic. I said yes, and I think it was that moment that really launched me into this long and ongoing journey of working to empower information developers to be more successful.
Launching the community has been a lot more stressful than that first presentation. It’s been excruciating to spend the last three years barely knowing what I’m doing, banging around with this and that to try to bring my vision to life.
I know, for certain, that there will be issues. There are a lot of moving parts, and we’re just getting the whole machine up and running. Something’s bound to seize up, come loose, and even fall off. We don’t have everything figured out, and there are constantly last-minute changes to the choreography.
But I’m dancing my heart out anyway.
Content inside Content
On being a content professional who makes a living creating content...
This article is part of a series focused on my personal experiences as an information developer, an entrepreneur, and a general misfit with big dreams.
One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur who specializes in talking about information development is that we live in this sort of infinitely reflective world, in which we do what we talk about, which is what we also do. We talk about strategically managing content in content that we’re strategically managing. Or we talk about using science-based content design in content we’ve created using science-based content design. It’s very “meta,” and can it make your brain hurt of you think about it too much.
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