Write the Docs Conference

I had an incredible experience at the technical writing conference, Write the Docs, in Portland, OR.

Most tech meetups I have attended are for developers and programmers. Many programmers that I talk to have not heard of technical writing before. So you can imagine my thrill when an organizer asked all the tech writers in the room to raise their hands and 200 of them did. I had found my own community and a conference that was catered to people like me.

The conference included approximately twenty-three talks. Five stood out to me the most.

1. Two Great Teams that Work Better Together: Bridging the Gap Between Documentation and Customer Support by Neal Kaplan

At my current job, I work with many customer support team members. It was fantastic to hear his tips for technical writers working with customer support to create a great user experience.

2. Copy That: Helping Your Users Succeed with Effective Product Copy by Sarah Day

This presentation gave great advice on creating product copy, something that I feel will be especially useful to me in my budding career as a writer for technology. She gave examples of both good and bad product copy from Goodreads.com and the iTunes App store.

3. What Writing Fiction Teaches You About Writing Documentation by Thursday Bram

I love writing fiction. So I was especially excited to hear this talk. I thought that it would be entertaining, but I didn’t expect it to be as useful as it was. Ms. Bram had some great tips about narratives in documentation and writing documentation concisely à la Ernest Hemingway.

4. How to Publish Wild-Caught Articles by Sharon Campbell

Ms. Campbell works at a company called Digital Ocean that publishes freelance tech articles. It was fascinating to hear how a tech company could work with freelance writers in this way. She explained how freelance tech writers are somewhat different than regular freelance writers because the technical editors look for technical ability just as much as writing skill.

5. Documentation with a Human Connection by Hannah Gilberg

Ms. Gilberg showed how she used Peter Elbow’s writers guide, Writing Without Teachers, to create documentation with a solid voice that also explained technical jargon clearly to non-technical readers.

In addition to these talks, I also hung out in the downstairs area reserved for relaxing. The conference organizers encouraged attendees to pick and choose which lectures to attend and to relax in the downstairs area when a lecture that might not be applicable to them was happening.

But the best part about this trip was seeing Portland for the first time and meeting my Outreachy mentor, Joni, in person. Portland is an amazing city and Joni is an amazing person. I feel so lucky that I got to meet her face to face a second time.

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