For the sake of this particular post, I am going to put aside my conference wrangler/WTD organiser hat and instead blog as someone who writes content, words for a living.
Why would I be interested in attending this conference in November?
What can I learn in 2 days?
How can I benefit from spending 2 days with a largely unknown group of people?
Read on then…
It’s local! (At least for some of us)
Sure, I could possibly convince an employer to sponsor my travel to a relevant conference in Chicago, or Florida or Berlin or even Singapore. The cold hard fact staring at me right now is that I work primarily as a contractor and need to pay for my own travel, accommodation, and registration, not factoring in loss of income while I attend a conference.
The Write the Docs conference is as local as it gets (Melbourne) and while people are welcome to fly in from anywhere in the world, as an Australian, I’d happily pay to travel locally within Australia. While I’ve been to other tech writing conferences in Australia and NZ, the Write the Docs conference is a bit broader in the sense that it is targeted at anyone who writes documentation as part of their role, so it is not just aimed at technical writers. In fact, last year, the split between tech writers and non-tech writers was about 50-50.
Plus, it is Melbourne, the cultural capital of the country and one of the cities that really understands “coffee”.
Documentation is not simply an afterthought
There is plenty of evidence around to indicate that content rules and has been quite significant for quite some time now. There are conferences entirely dedicated to content – strategy, writing, design, planning, metrics. As a technical writer, there is no better time or opportunities to contribute to the user’s content experience. Irrespective of what your primary role in an organisation, sooner or later, you will be involved in writing documents of some sort – be it documentation plans, requirements, design, user, product or system.
I would like to see where this content journey will take me and attending a conference like Write the Docs gives a lot of people a lot to think about documentation.
Listen to different perspectives
Documentation isn’t just a writer’s thing anymore and perhaps never has been. Anyone who can, should absolutely contribute to the organisation’s content. The more people care and are involved in the documentation can only be a good thing for the organisation.
I want to share my experiences and soak in the knowledge, people from various roles bring to documentation. As a technical writer, sometimes, you are limited to how you view documentation, but as I’ve learnt by talking to a whole lot of skilled individuals in organisations I’ve worked in, there are so many ways you can assist the end user when it comes to content.
A conference like Write the Docs brings all these talented individuals in a single room and it opens up a whole new level of collaboration when it comes to docs.
A busperson’s holiday
I don’t mind looking at sales pitches and seeing demos of and trialling new products that can make my work easy, but I gain the most out of other people’s experiences. I would rather learn from their mistakes, lean in on their gotchas and takeaways and make something out of it. It is also a good feeling to sometime sit in a room full of intelligent people from various areas of expertise and just listen.
Last year, attendees got a chance to work on open source projects as part of the Write the Docs Day. It was great fun creating documentation while you are on a day off from work (where you create docs). Kind of a busperson’s holiday.
As a contractor, I am constantly learning, reusing my skills and sharing my knowledge to add to my professional equity. The better my network, the better are my chances to work on a wide range of products and projects.
Staying relevant with where content is going, how it is delivered, where it is been published is critical and this is where meetups, conferences, and workshops are important. At a conference like Write the Docs, not only do I get to listen to presentations, I also get a chance to network, present my ideas (in a lightning talk or host an unconference session), write documentation for open source projects (doc sprints) or be hands-on in workshops that span a range of tools and techniques.
Write the Docs conferences are very affordable and a terrific return on investment with the kind of activities they cover. No other conference in my opinion (or at least the ones I’ve paid to attend) come close to the value the Write the Docs provide.
But, for me, it is more for me than that. It is about a community that cares about documentation and loves sharing their experience and knowledge.
So, I’ll be at the Write the Docs Australia conference this Nov in Melbourne. Here’s the schedule of the conference: http://www.writethedocs.org/conf/australia/2018/schedule/
Maybe I’ll see you there too?