A few ideas and one scandalous revelation

My last post was number 25 (sorry about missing a week). That means that I’ve been posting for 6 months (I missed a week). My goal is to reach 100 posts and then…well, I’m not sure. If my posts by then are “let’s look at the things on my desk and make them metaphors for technical writing,” then I’ll pack it in. But now that I’ve hit a round and arbitrary number, I’m going to write down some ideas and plans. And I’ll reveal Shocking News!

He’s making a list…

Shortly after I started writing this blog, I wrote down a list of topic ideas. Out of the 13 that I listed, I’ve used 3 of them. It’s nice to have 10 ideas sitting around, but one reason why they’re still unused is that they either aren’t hugely compelling, they need more work, or they require more research than I’ve been able to devote to them.

One idea: Doc tool reviews

At some point, for example, I’ll talk about specific doc tools that I’ve used; but at the moment, I’m looking for tools to complement and expand my current processes. So listing the pros and cons of tools that I’m no longer using isn’t all that thrilling. But once I try a few of the suggestions that I’ve received, I’ll write about those.

Another idea: Book reviews

I also want to review techcomm books that I’ve read. The difficulty is that I need to haul the boxes out of the garage (I tend to build up books during the course of each job, and then I pack them up when I change jobs, and keep 1 or 2 books and store the rest). Offhand, the ones that I’ve learned a lot from are the “polar bear” Information Architecture book, Letting Go of the Words, and Content Strategy for the Web.

I bought Mark Baker’s book, Every Page is Page One, but I haven’t gotten past the intro. Which is not his fault; I just happened to pick up a book on product management at the same time, and I need to read that first to help me work on project planning.

Yes, I know those aren’t the same thing, but picking up some product management tips will be very useful right now.

And I know that I’m forgetting a box full (literally) of books that I’ve read and learned from.

Speaking of learning…

Let’s skip to the scandalous news: I’m going to attend the Write the Docs conference in early May. I’ve been following their updates, and I like the concept of that conference. Once they posted a schedule, I found a lot of topics that not only interest me, but which are directly relevant to things I’m working on now.

Content reuse is something I’ve talked about before, and there are panels about that. But I’m also interested in learning how to build user communities. I have some community forums on my knowledge center, and I want to learn how to encourage participation.

I also want to learn about API documentation. I’ve written API docs before, but I’ve never been fully satisfied with what I’ve done. I’ve focused on clear and correct, but I think there are more factors that I need to consider. Basically: I don’t know what I don’t know, but at least I know that I don’t know.

Clarity is everything, dear readers.

And a few more things

Although I haven’t had a problem with this in my current job, I also want to get more tips about working with other teams, and encouraging collaboration. I’ve done quite a bit of both of those, but, again, I recognize that I can always use more advice.

I promise I’m going to be positive. I plan to spend a very busy couple of days learning about a lot of topics and talking to a bunch of people. I’m going in with specific goals, but with enough variety to increase the odds that I fulfill at least a couple of them.

And if I see something missing, then I’ll put together ideas for a presentation of my own. Fair enough?

The major problem that I foresee is that I’m going to have to visit Powell’s, and further abuse the structural integrity of my house by adding more books to the shelves. Have pity on me.