It was 2005 when I enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Technical Communications course at Swinburne. Documentation (especially the part where you create it) had been around for years before that, but yet somehow, it was still getting treated like a secondary citizen.
I learnt so many amazing things with the Grad Dip and by the time the course had finished, I had secured my first gig as a Technical Writer. I met so many wonderful people at and outside Uni who were passionate about documentation.
As a newbie tech writer, it was crucial for me to meet other people in similar positions so that we could share experiences and learn from each other. I wanted to be a part of the technical writing community, just sit and absorb all that knowledge out there. I wanted to work with companies where documentation was valued and the company took pride in this aspect of the customer experience.
About 5 years back, I got an opportunity to participate in a documentation sprint. Working with a team of developers, product owners and other writers over a period of 3 days to create documentation for users. This was not for a company I worked for. This wasn’t even in the city I lived in. I travelled 2 consecutive days (self-funded) to spend 8-10 hours learning the product, playing around with it, troubleshooting it and documenting it for their users. It was perhaps the most exciting thing I did at that point in my career. Read my experiences here.
11 years later, I have worked through a number of permanent and contract roles across a range of industries and know what still bothers me? The lack of understanding around the role documentation plays in the whole customer experience.
For many companies I worked for, I was the first technical writer and they had no idea of what to expect in terms of documentation. For a number of big organisations, the role documentation played was minuscule and not that significant. There were only a handful of places I worked where the people that mattered got it. They understood how providing good documentation, be it internal or external, made a huge difference to their reputation, to their user satisfaction and even within the organisation. These were places where the culture brewed right out of a user guide, wikis, knowledge bases, and a system of good documentation habits.
As technology proliferates and customer and user experience drives businesses to come up with better, faster and efficient products, documentation is the thread that binds everything together.
Why am I rambling on about this?
Over the last 15 months, I’ve been working to get a community of documentarians (that’s what we call ourselves) going in Australia. Write the Docs is a worldwide community of documentarians and they are growing in numbers exponentially. In Australia, we have had around 13 events so far across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. But that’s only half the story.
We have a whole day of documentation goodness coming to Melbourne on 24th Nov (Friday).
You want to participate in a live documentation sprint and contribute to open source projects at Google? We’ve got that covered.
You want to hear about how chatbots UIs will influence writers or writing documentation that meets the requirements for all levels of users. We’ve got speakers from overseas sharing their views.
Feel overwhelmed before writing and want to know how to make use of all that information, or want to know how to supercharge your docs, or maybe try to use the principles of minimalism in your docs? We’ve got some great speakers helping you out there.
I would have given my right arm to participate in something like this when I started out as a technical writer. The good thing is it won’t cost you that. You can buy tickets now and enjoy all of this at a price you would normally spend on an airport shuttle to get you to the city and back.
Here’s the schedule: http://www.writethedocs.org/conf/au/2017/schedule/
Here’s the link to buy tickets: http://www.writethedocs.org/conf/au/2017/tickets/
Over to you. Go.