June 30, 2010

Professional Organizations and Value

Filed under: Uncategorized — heratech @ 10:14 pm
Tags: ,

Belt tightening I had a bit of a revelation last week. On my way home from Scrum Club last Thursday my brain was a whirl with thoughts, making connections between the speaker’s presentation and not only my work life, but my personal life as well.

And then I got to thinking about the pros and cons of the different professional organizations whose local meetings I attend.

The first organization charges $215 a year for membership dues, $20-30 for monthly meetings (which pays for dinner), frequently schedules meeting topics that have absolutely no relevance to my career or interests, and when I do attend the meetings my impression of the members is that they’re old, out of touch with recent trends, not particularly technical, and even worse, completely uninterested or unwilling to learn or change.

The second organization has no membership fees of any sort, doesn’t charge for meetings and even provides free pizza, recruits excellent speakers sometimes with national reputations, and the membership generally impresses me as intelligent, professional, and technical.

Which professional organization would you rather belong to?

Yeah, me too.

So despite the fact that I wrote a post last year about how I was sticking with the Society for Technical Communications, I don’t see myself renewing my membership next year. I’ve been trying to be more active in the STC, posting to my mailing lists and attending local chapter meetings. I still hate leaving an organization when it’s in trouble, but I stuck with them this year, despite the fact that my dues went up by over $100 and I still lost benefits under the new a la carte pricing system. My STC dues have more than doubled in the past five years. Between the bad economy and their huge price increase, is it any wonder that the STC has had a major drop off in membership this year?

Over the past couple of months, as underemployment has pinched my budget, ROI has become more and more important to me. But the good news is, there are plenty of free resources out there, if you’re willing to look for them.

I’ll miss the STC Lone Writer’s Mailing list. But I’ll still have the TECHWR-L mailing list and HATT Yahoo group and various blog feeds to keep my G-mail inbox supplied with professional development reading material.

MadCap Software has been offering a series of free webinars. Some of the webinars are specifically for MadCap products, but many of them are tool neutral. I recognize the names of the majority of the presenters, which means they’re either industry experts or active on one of my various mailing lists. So far the couple of webinars that I’ve attended have been worth my time to attend. And you can’t beat the price.

The STC charges $79 for webinars. I haven’t signed up for one yet because I’ve attended more than one poor workshop or webinar where I wished I’d spent the money on a good book instead of the event. So far the STC’s track record for events hasn’t done anything to convince me to part with the money for a webinar.

But I think that even more than the money, I’m worried that the STC is out of touch and that the membership is graying. I’m often one of the youngest people in the room at our local chapter meetings. The Boston chapter is supposed to be the second largest chapter in the country (Silicon Valley is number one, natch), but despite the fact that Boston is a college town and has several local universities with TW programs, we don’t seem to be attracting members in their 20s and 30s.

And the fact that national actually put out a request for someone to write an RSS tutorial rather frightens me. I’ll admit that I was rather late to join the RSS party, but I somehow managed to set up three RSS feeds on two different readers without anyone providing me with a tutorial. It’s not that hard people!

So for the foreseeable future, I think I’ll be focusing my professional development and networking efforts on the local organizations that are providing free events in the Boston area:

Nashua Scrum Club

Agile Bazaar

Agile Boston


  1. It sounds like you ought to get involved in your local chapter leadership. If you feel this way about the chapter, there may be many others. Find them and see if you can turn things around. You’re pretty busy, so obviously you’d have to see if STC leadership would fit in your schedule, and also to decide whether it would still be worth the money. Having just been a chapter president, I have seen STC moving some good things forward, and I think it’s worth sticking around another year. However, I have had the benefit of my employer paying for my membership, and I understand that can make a big difference.

    Comment by Ben M — July 16, 2010 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

    • It sounds like you ought to get involved in your local chapter leadership.

      Normally I am one of those people who believes that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. But in this case, I think you missed my point.

      I’m no longer willing to pay large amounts of money to be a member of a dysfunctional organization that I then need to work hard to fix. Not when there are perfectly functional organizations out there. Some of which are even free.

      Comment by heratech — July 20, 2010 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  2. You aren’t missing much regarding the STC Lone Writer’s Mailing list, the content has dwindled to practically nothing. I get the digest e-mail, which used to be sent daily, with a minimun of 10 messages. Not I get the digest about three times a week with only one or two messages.

    Comment by Randi — November 24, 2011 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

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