ASTC (NSW) conference 2014 wrapup

This week I attended the annual conference of the Australian Society for Technical Communication (NSW), ASTC (NSW) 2014. This post is a summary of the conference, with links to individual blog posts on each session, and a thanks to the organisers.

The conference took place over two days, Friday and Saturday, in Sydney. There were 40 to 50 attendants each day. Because one of the days was a weekday and the other a Saturday, a slightly different set of people attended each day. This has been a characteristic of this conference over the years. I think it’s a clever design, giving more people the opportunity to be there for at least one of the days.


A huge thank you and kudos to the organisers for putting the conference together. From my point of view as attendee and presenter, it ran without a hitch. (Well, except that the presentation gremlins hopped up and snaffled the internet connectivity during my session. But as a few people pointed out, that’s my fault for attempting a live demo during a presentation. 🙂 ) The sessions were interesting and educational. People were enthusiastic and friendly. Networking was fun and productive.

Thanks to the ASTC (NSW) committee, the presenters, and all the conference delegates. It’s a wrap, and a good ‘un.

The sessions

There were six presentations on Friday and seven on Saturday. I attended all of them, presented one of them, and blogged about almost all of them. The links below point to my posts, in reverse chronological order:

There were two more sessions that I attended but didn’t blog about, because their format didn’t lend itself to live blogging:

  • Responsive HTML5 publishing, by Brian Chau of Adobe. This was an informative session in which Brian showed us statistics of the number of apps developed in HTML5, eBook, and native mobile (iOS and Android) formats. The last is growing strongly. Then he showed us how to use Adobe products to author content and then build it into multiple formats as required by our customers. The primary products he demonstrated were RoboHelp and FrameMaker.
  • Using diagrams to improve your writing (and be happier and live longer) by Daniel Moody. This was an interactive session where Daniel described three types of diagrams that are useful in planning a document before you start writing, and we then practised creating each type. The three types are: associative (but I’ve forgotten the exact term Daniel used), mind mapping, and pyramid.

And the remaining session was my own…

My session on API technical writing

The presentation is on SlideShare: API Technical Writing: What, Why and How. (Note that I didn’t include slide 51 in the ASTC session.) It’s a technical writer’s introduction to APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and to the world of API documentation. I hope it’s useful to writers who’ve had very little exposure to APIs, as well as to those who’ve played with APIs a bit and want to learn about the life of an API technical writer.

Here’s a summary of the presentation:

  • Introduction to the role of API technical writer.
  • Overview of the types of developer products we may be asked to document, including APIs (application programming interfaces), SDKs (software development kits), and other developer frameworks.
  • What an API is and who uses them.
  • Examples of APIs that are easy to play with: Flickr, Google Maps JavaScript API
  • Types of API (including Web APIs like REST or SOAP, and library-based APIs like JavaScript or Java classes).
  • A day in the life of an API technical writer—what we do, in detail.
  • Examples of good and popular API documentation.
  • The components of API documentation.
  • Useful tools.
  • How to become an API tech writer—tips on getting started.

Playing with a REST API: During the session, I attempted a live demo of the Flickr API. The internet connection went missing, so I had to just talk us through it rather than show it. If you’d like to play with this API yourself, take a look at the Flickr Developer Guide (and later the Flickr API reference documentation). You’ll need a Flickr API key, which is quick and easy to get. Slide 23 in my presentation shows the URL for a simple request to the Flickr API.

Playing with a JavaScript API: My second demo showed an interactive Google map, embedded into a web page with just a few lines of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I used the Google Maps JavaScript API. If you’d like to try it yourself, follow the getting started guide in Google’s documentation. You’re welcome to start by copying my code. It’s on Bitbucket: HelloMaps.HTML. That code is what you’ll find on slide 28 in the presentation.

There are more links to follow in the presentation itself: API Technical Writing: What, Why and How. I hope you enjoy playing with some APIs and learning about the life of an API technical writer!


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 19 October 2014, in ASTC, technical writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for all your blogging during the conference. The term used by Daniel for the first diagramming method is CLUSTERING. This is from the book “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabriele Rico

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