Last week I attended Write the Docs Australia 2018 in Melbourne. Around 100 documentarians gathered to discuss words, code, style, and other essentials relating to technical documentation. There was plenty of food and fun too.
“What’s a documentarian,” you may be wondering? In Write the Docs parlance, a documentarian is someone who cares about documentation. Documentarians include technical writers and communicators, as you’d expect, but also UX writers, software engineers, marketing content writers, and more. If you think docs are a Good Thing, you’re in. 🙂
Approximately 100 people attended Write the Docs AU this year. Attendees came from Australia, the APAC region, and around the world. The following photo is from the Write the Docs photo set on Flickr:
Talks, workshops, and unconference sessions
The talks included:
- Lana Brindley: Facebook, Dynamite, Uber, Bombs, and You
- Mike Hamilton: Responsive Content – Presenting Your information On Any Device
- Kristine Sihto: The Art of Consistency – Creating an inhouse style guide
- Abhay Chokshi: UX writing – Let your product speak
- Alexandra Perkins: Making Yourself Redundant on Day One – Internal documentation to teach the next hire what you’ve learned
- Matthew Borden: Good Code, Bad Code & Code Review
- Nicola Nye: The subtle art of interrogation
- Daniel Stevens: Creating experiences with information!
- Laura Bailey: Backseat Content Strategy
- Mathew Patterson: Power up your support team to create better documentation
In addition to the presentations, we heard a number of informative, entertaining lightning talks. People could choose to attend one or more workshops and run or participate in a few thought-provoking unconference sessions.
These were the workshops:
- Sarah Maddox: Tech Writing 101
- Sara Marek: Let’s create a Style Guide!
- Jessica Parsons: Static Site Generators, What, Why and How
Tech Writing 101 workshop
Around 50 people attended the Tech Writing 101 workshop, which I ran with the able help of Eric Gilmore.
This tech writing stuff is hard. But fun!
Tech Writing 101 is a two-hour workshop on the principles and techniques of technical writing. It leads the participants through a series of pair-work exercises to improve the clarity, readability, and effectiveness of their writing. You can read more about the workshop on the Write the Docs AU page.
By the end of the session, participants also think differently about toothbrushes.
The workshop pre-reading is available in LisaFC’s GitHub repo. A number of the workshop attendees let me know that they plan to introduce that pre-reading to their colleagues, as it’s a great introduction to the patterns of clear writing.
Photos and videos
Tweets and write-ups
Have you written a report on the conference, or come across someone else’s writeup? Let me know by adding a comment to this page or tweeting @sarahmaddox!
My takeaway from the conference
So many people who’re passionate about docs! It was a privilege chatting to engineers, UX designers and writers, and marketing folks, as well as other technical communicators. Thanks to everyone for a great conference!
Are you a software engineer wanting to learn the patterns of technical writing? Or a technical writer wanting to refresh the ABCs of our craft? Or someone who loves debating and exercising good writing styles? Join us for a Tech Writing 101 workshop in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday, 15th November.
The workshop is part of the Write the Docs AU conference, and the cost of the workshop is included in the conference registration.
Workshop name: Tech Writing 101
Date & Time: Thursday, 15th November 2018, 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Prework and what to bring
Before attending the workshop, you need to do a small amount of pre-reading (about half an hour).
This is where you discover that tech writing patterns are interesting and fun.
On the day of the workshop, bring a laptop with a text editor and an internet (WiFi) connection to do the exercises.
The workshop leads you through a series of exercises to improve the clarity, readability, and effectiveness of your writing. You’ll work in pairs, learning from an experienced Google technical writer (me) and from each other.
Topics include the importance of knowing your audience; what can go wrong when you use passive voice; how to avoid getting tangled up in long sentences and disorganised paragraphs; how lists have taken over the world.
By the end of the session you’ll also think differently about toothbrushes.
During the workshop, you’ll apply the principles you’ve read in the prework. We’ve found this method of learning is highly effective. And it’s just plain fun. The workshop has been run at SREcon in Europe 2017 and at SREcon in the US in 2018, where it was very well received. People said they came away with useful skills and cleaner teeth.
The intended audience for the workshop is people who’re interested in learning how to write efficiently and effectively. That includes software developers, support engineers, UX specialists, product managers, technical writers, editors – well, really, everyone who needs to write technical content.
I hope to see you there!
Instead of a picture of a toothbrush (as that’d be a spoiler) here are some patterns from a recent walk in the bush:
Are you in or near Australia in October and November? Then you’re in for a treat. We have two technical writing conferences in a row, within a stone’s throw of each other. Well, for some definition of “stone’s throw”, anyway. 😉
First up is the annual conference of the Australian Society for Technical Communication, which takes place in Surfers Paradise on 12-13 October. The conference theme is Let’s get technical, technical. Learn about CSS smart selectors, rethinking DITA, speeding up your web pages, blockchain, impossible docs, becoming an efficient writer, Simplified Technical English, and more. Follow up with a focused workshop on web coding. Check the list of presentations and fill in the registration form.
Next up is the Write the Docs AU conference in Melbourne on 15-16 November. This is the second WtD AU conference ever, following on from last year’s debut. This event offers a mix of presentations, lightning talks, workshops, and unconference sessions. Check out the schedule and get a ticket.
Found on a walk in the bush – patterns on the bottom of a squashed mushroom. Intriguing:
The next Write the Docs meetup in Sydney is just around the corner:
We have two presentations lined up, preceded by pizza and chatting!
- Michalina will talk about five steps to successful content strategy.
- I’ll follow with a presentation on doc fixits: What is a doc fixit (hint: a way of fixing doc bugs en masse), why would you want one, and what can you do with it once you have it?
Date, time, and location
Tuesday 3 July 2018, at 6pm. We aim to finish around 7.45pm.
At the Atlassian offices, 341 George St, Sydney.
Would you like to join us?
If you’re interested in technical documentation, you’re welcome! Sign up at the meetup and we’ll see you there.
We’ve just announced the next Write the Docs meetup in Sydney:
What happens at the meetup
We currently have one speaker, Michalina, who will talk about five steps to successful content strategy.
There’ll be more speakers, and the opportunity to chat to old and new friends.
Who can attend?
If you’re interested in technical documentation, you’re welcome!
Date, time, and location
Tuesday 3 July 2018, at 6pm. We aim to finish around 7.30pm.
At the Atlassian offices, 341 George St, Sydney.
Want to air your ideas?
If you have an idea for a presentation or a lightning talk, let me know.