Write The Docs 2013

April 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM

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.

The What

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.

The Talks

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.

The Future

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.

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