Once again, I enjoyed immensely Madcap Software’s MadWorld conference in San Diego.
This was Madcap’s second annual conference, building on the success of MadWorld 2013.
There were a few changes in 2014. About 50% of the presenters had spoken at MardWorld 2013, and this time, most of the presenters had three presentations (last year, they had two). Based on delegate feedback, Madcap had extended the presentations to 55 minutes, and reduced some of the breaks between them. Like nearly all of the changes made for 2014, this was an improvement on 2013.
Stand out presentation
Speaking three times meant I had fewer opportunities than last year to see the other speakers. For me, the most interesting presentation was Lynn Carrier’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Unless You’re Illumina’s End-users”.
Lynn demonstrated how Illumina’s documentation team has created a system for generating custom documentation for their users. Previously, customers had to identify the 500 pages that were relevant to their configuration inside 10 manuals, in order to learn how to use the products. Customers were unclear which documents to read, in what order, and which if-then scenarios applied to them.
Illumina has created an automated custom documentation tool based on their Flare content that can generate any of the 4,570 different possible configurations for their products. This browser-based tool enables customers to select the products and methods they use and generate a single 50 page document containing what the user needs, and nothing more.
I have seen other companies develop custom document generators, but they required some human intervention. Lynn and her team have managed to automate the whole process.
My presentations were on DITA, content strategy and metrics. The content strategy presentation was the most popular of the three, so popular in fact there was standing room only. There were over 20 minutes of questions at the end, which I took as a good sign.
I experimented with running a few videos in the 15 minutes running up to the start of my presentation. This was to entertain the “early birds”, so they weren’t looking at just a static slide, and to build on the musical theme of MadWorld and the Hard Rock hotel. No-one commented on these, so I don’t know if this worked or not. I’m minded to do this again, as it provides some “visual wallpaper” for delegates.
The reviews on Twitter were very positive:
— Will Gaffga (@wily_guy) April 16, 2014
Analytics can help you understand the terms your users actually use. #madworld2014
— Kelly I. Hitchcock (@KellyHitchcock) April 15, 2014
— Cheryl Landes (@landesc) April 15, 2014
I don’t use Madcap’s products, should I attend?
I was asked by two people prior to the conference if they should attend, even though they were not users of Madcap’s tools. It’s an indication of the reputation that MadWorld has built up that people were asking this question. MadWorld has a vendor-neutral track that runs for the duration of the conference, and there are some topics on technologies in Flare (such as CSS) that could be applied to other tools. So you could do it. However, you’d really need to be open to learning what is possible with Flare, Pulse and the other tools (and what might be also do-able with your tools) to get the most out of the conference.
There are 10½ hour direct flights from London Heathrow to San Diego. If you can sleep on a plane, it’s a fairly relaxed journey. The Hard Rock hotel is in the heart of San Diego, California’s second largest city. so there’s plenty to do and see, before and after the conference sessions.