WritersUA day 1: “Let’s Look in the Mirror…”

The most wonderful part of this first day of WritersUA was reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in years. People waved and said hi as though we had seen each other yesterday. I even met people I didn’t remember who still remembered me. It showed how tightknit a community we have remained, even with all the changes in our industry.

The first day also showed how unhip of a community we technical communicators are. (Something my teenage kids already know.) At the opening session, WritersUA president Joe Welinske and speakers Matthew Ellison and Tony Self led a quiz. One question was, “Which of the following actors is not from Long Beach?” The number one answer: Snoop Dogg. Uh, has anyone ever heard Snoop Dogg rap about being from the “LBC”? Has anyone ever heard of Snoop Dogg? (Yeah, but has Snoop Dogg ever heard of DITA?)

?Some other insights from day 1…

  • There seems to be growing interest in eBooks as a documentation delivery format. Scriptorium showed copies of Tony Self’s new DITA Style Guide in ePub and Kindle (Mobi) format. Adobe was demonstrating how RoboHelp 9 can output to ePub format. Although I still think PDF is still the best at presenting printable format, ePub has flexibility in supporting different devices and is easier to generate from DITA.
  • What is the biggest competitor for help? Neil Perlin passed along some wisdom from Elliot Macy: Google is the main competitor for help. People will check for answers on Google before they even ask the coworker in the neighboring cubicle. 
  • Actually, users would prefer not to ask for help at all. This is something Tony Self referred to in his presentation about embedded user assistance. When instructions are provided as part of the user interface and presented in an unobtrusive matter (unlike that obnoxious Microsoft Clippy of yore), it improves product usability.
  • Joe Welinske proved the maxim of “You must be present to win.” Poor Joe had to call out four of five names at a drawing until he could find the winner of some of today’s prizes. (I was present, but didn’t win, though.)