There is definite value to moving where you work and frequently changing your perspective on your work, when you are looking for ideas. I have gotten some of my best ideas recently from conferences, traveling to PyCon in Santa Clara and this past weekend, Write the Docs in Portland.
Write the Docs is a conference organized to talk about documentation, for those who document, organize, and share information. It originated as a crazy idea over beers, but the founders kept investigating and figured out how they could actually make a conference happen. I found out about it via Hacker News and decided to sign up as a cheap and fun trip to Portland.
The conference was on a Monday/Tuesday. I fly up from San Francisco the Saturday before and hung out for the weekend. On Sunday, there was a meet and greet hike, followed by a meet and greet beer bash. I had a great time: from meeting so many cool people, to getting exposed to many different new ideas about why or how to write. The conference was held in a theatre with a single track of talks and it was a great format to be able to sit back and focus on a talk, without having to worry about missing anything.
If anything, there were too many great talks to process in two short days, but I think everyone managed. There seemed to be a good fifty/fifty mix of programmers to technical writers. Kenneth Reitz was the keynote (or just the first speaker) and gave an excellent argument for the importance of documenting and was . an excellent speaker, as always. Brandon Philips had a great talk on single page documentation that made solid sense to me. Kevin Hale also had a very well presented talk on reaching out to your customers and keeping communication open.
The writing and literary talks were different from what I’m used to as a programmer, but I found them quite refreshing. One talk that stood out was from Matthew Butterick, on the importance of having a succinct message when writing. He then gave out free copies of his book “Typography for Lawyers,” which after finishing, is a very informative and succinct reference on the technical elements of writing.
Hopefully next year, I will have something to present. The organizers said they were looking to hold the conference again next year and I would be very keen on attending, Portland is a great venue. Thanks to the Erics and Troy for a great conference.