Gaining Inspiration, Knowledge, and Fatigue from Conferences

I love attending conferences, and I have attended a bunch in the past few years, including a couple as a “reporter” for TechWhirl (LavaCon 2011 and 2012). Although the majority relate to technical writing, or at least have a general information orientation (InfoCamp Berkeley 2011, for example), I take every chance to attend conferences on other subjects too. Continue reading ...

review northern voice

Conference Review: Northern Voice

Northern Voice is a blogging and social media conference, held in Vancouver every late spring since 2005 that attracts a host of prominent and not-so-prominent bloggers, social media experts, and journalists, and some who wear all three hats. It's “Canada’s first weblogging social media conference.” Even if Northern Voice is not about technical writing per se, it is about writing and it is about technology, so there is much that technical writers can find of interest. Continue reading ...

MadCap Flare 9

MadCap Flare 9 In-Depth: Versatility for Complex Help Authoring Projects

I have been beta-testing MadCap Flare 9 as a TechWhirl assignment, but also with an eye for making a software tool choice for a company that has a huge quantity of complex legacy content. To that end, I tested Flare’s conversion capabilities with various documents, help systems, and books, which had been created over a long period of time in a variety of formats. Continue reading ...

SXSW Eco: A Technical Communicator’s Experience

Like some other lucky people, I won free passes to SXSW Eco, a conference "committed to finding solutions for a sustainable world," which was held October 3-5 this year. I am not an ecologist, city planner, or environmental engineer. Would I be able to get anything from a conference that was quite far from my typical work life? As it turned out, most definitely. Continue reading ...

working with DITA

Working With DITA: The Perspective from LavaCon

My most technical day of the LavaCon 2012 conference occurred on the final morning when I focused on working with DITA by attending two sessions: "Migrating to DITA: How Automated Conversion Works and Why it Matters" (with Patrick Baker of Stilo International) and "Collaboration and Instantiation: Engineering Content in DITA XML" (with Cheri Mullins, of Mullins Consulting, discussing her work at AMD). Continue reading ...

LavaCon 2012 Key Note — Content Strategy: “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

Compared to some other speeches I have heard from Scott, his LavaCon 2012 opening keynote was somewhat subdued, due to at least in part to the head cold he picked up at another recent conference--we know because he apologized on Twitter for being under the influence of sinus meds. However, Scott Abel, in a subdued and medicated state, can still beat just about any speaker for enthusiasm and contagious excitement. I also found this address to be very positively-focused. Continue reading ...

automatic content

Can Computers Write? Advances in Automatic Content Production

In the summer of 1993, I had an enjoyable university summer job. The research interests of the institute that employed me included creating an artificial intelligence system that could produce automatic précis of legal judgments. The idea was that humans like me would create a précis by hand, by selecting enough sentences from the judgment that it provided a reliable summary. My selections were recorded, and the idea then was to use neural network software to learn from the work of the human editors so that the process of creating a précis could be automated. The researchers had uncovered certain linguistic insights. Continue reading ...