The last day of the conference felt like the last day of school before summer vacation. Everyone was buzzing around in a great mood, trading business cards (the professional equivalent of “sign my yearbook”), saying last-minute goodbyes to their newly forged friends, and taking silly photos. It was obvious that we had a great time because everyone was a little sad to leave.
There is a lot of great information presented at the sessions, but probably the best part about attending conferences is the networking, side conversations, and personal connections made. Sharing stories, venting frustrations and just getting away from the office and chatting with people who actually get what you do and what you go through is just fantastic. I feel like I have found friends and mentors here that I will definitely keep in touch with and maybe even see again someday (another conference perhaps?).
I attended four sessions:
- Improve User Productivity with Just-in-Time Advice
- A Survey of DITA WebHelp Formats
- Thinking About UA as Performance Support
- All About Hyperlinks
I have to say that the first and last session benefitted me the most. The middle two were really interesting, but ended up not very relevant to my current work (I’m not using DITA). The last session was led by Matthew Ellison from the UK and he was one of the best speakers. I learned a lot about the origins, uses, and best practices for hyperlinks.
Just before lunch they had a fabulous peer showcase where 16 of the top industry professionals showed their innovative work. I watched 3 of the quick, hands-on presentations and voted on them:
- Creating Flash Rollover Images with Captivate and Snagit – Fer O’Neil took standard screenshots that when you moused-over the image, animations would appear in a flash video-style. Very cool!
- Using a Web-based Product Lifecycle Roadmap and Customized Search to Increase Documentation Usability – Timothy Rosa used amazon.com-style “sticky searches” and roadmaps to help users find the info they need faster and easier.
- Engaging Users with Documentation that doesn’t feel like “Documentation” – This was the best of the 3, my top pick, and the winner of the peer showcase contest! Steve Stegelin illustrates his own cartoons and graphics and integrates them with very contemporary walk-through guides that make reading them fun!
After the showcase we had lunch at Automatic Slims which was really tasty. The conference closed with another real-time audience-response session led by WritersUA President Joe Welinski. He asked us to predict the future of the field of User Assistance and the results were surprising, but probably true. Technology is rapidly changing everything – it is difficult to keep up with at times.
I ate a duck cookie (pictured below), said my goodbyes, and shared a taxi to the airport with several other writers. I came to Memphis excited and nervous, not knowing what to expect, and left with a head full of information and a pocket full of business cards.
To read my session summaries, visit the Tech Writer Today Magazine website.