The Write the Docs community is growing. In leaps and bounds. No doubt about it. Their conferences (both the US and EU versions) have been a hit since they first started 2-3 years back. I admit I was a bit late to the party, but I am glad I had this chance to become a part of this community.
When I found out that the Prague conference dates coincided with my son’s school term break, I knew it was time to pack our bags and head to Europe. While this was the 4th Write the Docs conference in Europe, this was the second year in a row that the Write the Docs EU conference was held in Prague.
Day 1 – Writing Day
Day 1 of the conference was an official Writing Day. A huge, all-hands-on-deck style documentation sprint. Documentation sprints are a great way of getting everyone on the project involved contribute to the project documentation, be it internal wikis/knowledge bases or external user facing content. This allows everyone to get a taste of the documentation process and feel ownership of the content produced. Besides, if you are a tech writer, it adds immensely to your professional equity and builds on your network.
The first day saw a lot of attendees present at the conference venue at 9am sharp, surprising even the organisers. Breakfast, lunch and tea/coffee with snacks were included in the ticket. The writing day kicked off with 3 projects put up as needing help with the documentation:
- Mozilla Developer Network – The MDN project was basically documenting how the web works. It was a very cool idea where anyone could contribute via new articles/tutorials, editing or proofreading existing content.
- PyLadies Global – This project involved assisting with the PyLadies blog and working on a new Contributor’s Guide.
- WikiMedia Germany, WikiData and SparQL – You could help with learning and documenting the WikiData Query Service, proofread existing documentation or document SparQL for end users.
Once the attendees had gathered their bearings post coffee, it was all business, with tech writers, support, developers chipping in with their best effort on their preferred project.
I met a number of tech writers, translators, editors and developers from Germany, UK, Romania, Ukraine and other parts of Europe. It was a really good, swapping stories and experiences.
- I discovered that a large number of Europe-based tech writers face similar issues with employers as some of their Australian counterparts do – lack of knowledge about the tech writing profession, small and dispersed communities, plenty of startups offering good opportunities and availability of right tools for authoring and publishing content. (Regardless of who I spoke to, SharePoint was never looked upon with great enthusiasm I must admit).
- A large number of attendees I spoke to were heavily involved in developer documentation or API/SDK content. In Australia, we do not see a lot of such roles regularly, unless you are already a part of companies who do this for their clients.
- Surprisingly, a large number of attendees have never been part of traditional technical writing societies such as STC, TCUK, ISTC etc and instead favour more spontaneous meetup style activities or events to meet other people in similar roles.
At the end of a tedious day, attendees let down their hair and relaxed with a drink or two at the reception. I thought this was a really good way for everyone to acclimatise themselves and warm up for the conference sessions for the rest of the program.
This is my first trip anywhere in Europe and no better place to start off than in Prague. Such a lovely, lovely city. My first impression was that it looked a little outdated, but you soon discover that is entirely its charm. Other places want to modernise themselves, but it is as if Prague set itself a challenge of keeping its heritage listed architecture instead, and succeeded greatly.
My family and I visited the enormous Prague Castle. Built well over 500 years back, it still looks very impressive and intimidating. The gardens surrounding the castle are equally splendid. Although it is a recommended tourist hotspot, there were not many visitors on a wet and cold Sunday evening, which made the visit feel very private and unique. We also did a 2 hour tour of the city on bicycles, which was immense fun as it led us down some interesting alleys and places that we would have otherwise missed.