Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My conference plans

It's not unusual for me to list of my boss (as well as other co-workers who might be attending) the sessions that I plan to go to at the conference. But without a job this year, no audience exists for such content. So I'll do it here.

Fair warning: The sessions that I think are right for me might not be for you, and the opinions here are my own, not those of conference organizers. And I reserve the right to make last-minute changes to my planned conference itinerary.

Hopefully, this might help you make up your mind if you're having trouble deciding what to attend, especially for those times where you want to be in two or three places at once, such are the riches at this conference.

Three all-afternoon supplemental sessions are on the Sunday calendar. I usually spend some time in all three to get some snippets for Monday's newsletter.

If I were to choose just one, I think I'd attend "Information Modeling in XML." To me, this looks like useful foundation for DITA-type work, and DITA is the in thing in management these days (even if it isn't a panacea).

The Acrobat sessions looks interesting. And the "Writing Help Procedures That Work" looks like the content that would be taught in the first course of a good technical communication curriculum, so if you've not had formal training in the field, here's something that you can hang your hat on.

9:00-10:00am: Opening panel
An experiment in participative social media.  We'll see where this goes.

 This is going to be a tossup between ""The Mobile User Experience - Trends and Practices" and "Embedded User Assistance: Where Does It Belong." My thoughts on the latter's question is as close to the point of need as possible, but it'll be interesting to see where Rob Houser takes this. On the other hand, so many people are going mobile, that anything that improves the user experience is going to be vital. More than anything, the UI has to communicate its function. You can get away with a programmer creating an obtuse UI in a desktop app, or sometimes even a web app, but not with a mobile app, and this is a perfect fit for the "communication" part of "technical communication." Meanwhile, Matthew Ellison has something of interest: getting feedback on help. Perhaps more interesting will be the collaboration idea.

Another tough one. So many hiring managers seem to be under the notion that DITA will be their technical documentation savior, and as aresult are adding it to job requirements. So Tony Self's session on "An Update on DITA Features, Tools, and Best Practices" seems to be a no-brainer. But Dave Gash is holding his first session at the same time, on the topic of "The Power of Controlled Language in UA." While I'm not sure the topic will be as useful, Dave is one of the best speakers at the conference, even if his pre-presentation funny signs have been bowdlerized. The case studies on getting user feedback also looks to be tremendously useful.

So two session time slots, and already I'm wishing I could clone myself twice and be in three places at once. Par for the course for this conference.

I'd love to take part in the two-session hands-on session that introduces Adobe's Technical Communication Suite 2. But I don't think I can. Not only is Char James-Tanny really smart and a great speaker, her topic, "Structures, Semantics, Controls, and More: HTML 5 Is Here!" is an incredibly important one. HTML 5 is where everything on the web is going, and if you don't know it, you're going to be behind the curve.

Another DITA-based session rears its head: "Enhancing DITA Web Help with TOCJS and Zoon Search Engine." This may be aimed at folks who are fluent in DITA, so it might be over my head, but understanding the ideas about how to extend DITA-based docs could still be useful. Then there's Scott DeLoach talking about "Strategies for Web-Based User Assistance," ideas than I can definitely add to me repertoire. I have to say, though, that while I love Scott to death--he's smart, and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet--his speaking style is very, very dry. And late in the afternoon, if I go to this one, I will definitely need a jolt of something to keep my eyelids up. The XMl session also looks interesting.

That's a busy day, and it's only day one. The networking mixer goes until 6:00pm, and then I have to spend several hours putting together and printing Tuesday's newsletter.

I hate Tuesday. It always starts early, after a long, busy, and very full Monday. And once again, I have choices to make. I'd love to do the two-session hands-on (again), this on on single-sourcing in Flare. But I also want to be at "Using DITA as a Content Delivery System fo Mobile Devices," "Think Simple - A Minimalist Approach to User Assistance," and "Introduction to eBook Devices and Formats." Right now, I'm leaning toward the last of these, but that might change once I get to see the sessions slides.

Joe Welinske is talking on ""UA Design and Implementation for iPhone Apps." This one's a no-brainer.

Blankety-blank hands-on sessions. Once again, I'd love to spend two session times on one, this time on "Building Your Own AIR Help Application." But I can't. I actually want to go to all 4 of the other sessions: ""Understanding Gestures in User Interfaces," Cultural Dimensions of Software Help Usage," "Microsoft Help Preview," and the double-scoop case study session on DITA. I'm wondering how the issue has changed over the years since I took my "International Technical Communication" class as a part of my TC curriculum. But I also want to learn about Microsoft Help, and I'm chomping at the bit to learn more about DITA. Again, I'll have to rely on slide review the night before to reach a final decision.

While I am intrigued by the double-scoop case study session on eLearning, I'm leaning toward the "Where User Experience and Software Engineering Meet" session.

This should be interesting. Conference attendees will be selecting--and some will be hosting--topics that they select and vote on. Stay tuned to this space to see what comes out of this experiment.

Wednesday's early start is mitigated by the fact that Tuesday session package ended early with product demos. As usual, there are two sessions at this time that I am targeting. First, "eBook Conversions: A Tutorial for UA Professionals" looks really useful for learning how to convert content to eBook formats. But the double-scoop case study session on single sourcing, where one speaker is doing DITSA and another wikis looks really useful.

While the double-scoop case study on agile looks useful, the ""The Psychology of User Interface Responsiveness" session looks really, really interesting.

This turns out to be one of the few time slots during the conference that is a pretty easy choice, at least for me. "Interaction Design Meets Expertise: Representation, Understanding, and Problem solving" is right up my alley. To be fair, a couple of other ones do look interesting. "Writing for Mobile Devices: An End-User Approach" looks tremendously useful to prepare for the ongoing explosion of mobile computing devices., even though this presentation is by someone from Microsoft and focuses on Windows Mobile, and I'm (now) an iPhone geek (although I've had multiple Windows Mobile devices in the past). And "Google Wave and User Assistance" could provide some interesting tidbits on making this often-puzzling service a bit clearer.

For me, this one's an easy call. Even if the topic didn't focus on DITA, I'd be going to ""Introduction to DITA Conditional Processing" for the speaker: Dave Gash. Even though Dave loves highly technical topics--and this is one--making it sometimes tough to muddle through, if you can't have the ever-entertaining Jared Spool ending the final day, a Dave Gash presentation is perhaps the next best thing. 

This year, the conference ends with a panel that has in the past begun the proceedings: a group that looks at the future of user assistance. This year, some new faces will grace the stage, and it'll be interesting to see what they have to say as they send attendees on their way to prepare for next year.