TCCamp 2016

Two weekends ago, I attended the fourth TCCamp (the third I’ve been to). As always, it’s a great chance to meet with fellow tech writers at an informal “unconference” that relies on the attendees to choose the discussion topics.

I volunteered this year, and I’ll admit that I was having second thoughts about that. Not only because I had to wake up early to be there before the morning sessions started (although I’m never very fond of waking up very early on Saturdays), but also because I was worried that I would miss most of the conference. Fortunately, I was wrong. It was a great experience, and I don’t think I missed anything.

So, let me tell you about moving tables around…

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The case for Minimum Viable Documentation

I attended the TCCamp conference…er…unconference last weekend. Short review: I enjoyed it (again!). I attended Tom Johnson’s great intro to API documentation, I talked to some interesting people, and I got some practical advice during the three discussion sessions.

And I won an iPad Air 2 (thanks to XMetaL/JustSystems), which is FREAKIN’ AWESOME.

But I want to focus on one topic that came up during the “Technical Communication in Agile” discussion: the concept of Minimum Viable Documentation.

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What did I expect to get from conferences?

I really like Tom Johnson’s recent interview with Pawel Kowaluk, who is organizing a techcomm conference in Poland. After a much appreciated compliment, he explains that he’s trying to include topics that show how techcomm is a vital component of a company’s business practices, and not an afterthought, a bolted-on requirement that gets included because it’s just how things are done.

Which is what I’ve been trying to get to, and why I keep wandering around the point of why I think techcomm is important. And also why I’ve been frustrated when conferences become advertisements for tools or specific processes, without really explaining how we make the business case for our existence.

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What I’ve learned in a week (and a bit longer than that)

After the great response to my previous post, I should probably write another post about something else that tech writers are doing wrong. And although there is a part of me that would love to write a purely contrarian article for the hell of it (“Structured writing: Threat or menace?”), the responses to my post were so intelligent and reasonable that I need to focus on positive contributions.

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I don’t get conferences

I’ve been over-analyzing the process I use for content creation. In fact, it’s pretty simple, and the requirements are low. I don’t require a lot of technical overhead to create documentation for my company, and that includes written content, videos, screenshots, and diagrams. And tags and links and comments and a bit of organization.

I’m not creating a set of manuals, or building in-product help. (Not yet, anyway.) Which is what the majority of tech writers do, and I think that’s why I don’t get a lot of value out of most tech writing organizations and conferences.

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