Destination San Diego

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Ellis will be in San Diego next week, speaking at Madcap Software’s MadWorld 2014 conference. If you’re going to the conference, be sure to say hello.

Madcap makes a big thing about the conference cookies, so any questions in Ellis’ conference sessions will be rewarded with biscuits or British sweets.

You can follow the conference on Twitter via the #madworld2014 hashtag.

Ultralight conferencing

Ultralight backpacking by http://www.backpackinglight.comPrompted by Scriptorium Publishing’s Sarah O’Keefe’s one bag method for travelling (she doesn’t check any luggage into the hold of an airplane), I’ve been looking at ways of reducing the weight I need to carry when flying to conferences or to clients. I’ve called this “ultralight conferencing”.

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TCUK 13 presentation: Planning user documentation when you are a startup business

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We will be presenting “Planning user documentation when you are a startup business” at the Technical Communication UK conference in September.

We’ll look at how to plan a user documentation project when you’re working for a startup technology company. Working in this environment gives you the opportunity to work “from a clean sheet,” but it also has its own challenges of working in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.

We’ll look at the issues around planning user documentation and the additional considerations when you are a startup. Your budget may be limited and the product or service in development may be constantly changing, so how should you work in this situation? What should you be developing, and what is the value of user documentation for a startup?

We will cover:

  • What is different about working for a startup
  • Lean startup strategies
  • The value of user documentation for a startup and why should you provide it
  • How to document in this environment
  • What you should document
  • What you should measure?
  • What to do when budgets are limited
  • What to do when there is no clear audience

For more information, see Technical Communication UK conference.

See you at the MadWorld conference, 7-9 April, San Diego

MadWorld conference Some of us will be at the MadWorld conference next week, which is being held in San Diego. Cherryleaf’s Sales and Marketing Director, Ellis Pratt, will be speaking on both days of the conference. If you’re going to the conference or will be close by, then you’re welcome to come and say hello. Email us to find out our precise schedule and whereabouts.

Surprising feedback from Technical Communications UK 2012 conference

We’ve just been sent the delegate feedback from my presentation at the Technical Communications UK 2012 conference:

Ellis Pratt – What does the iPad 3 mean for Technical Authors?
Brilliant, very thorough, very comparative, very useful, bit fast through slides – can we have a copy of slides please? … Knows his stuff, makes me want to find out more! … Very enlightening content, expertly delivered. Lots of ‘take away’ information. Very engaging and informative … Excellent informative presentation … Excellent session, plenty of food for thought and more research to be done by me! Ellis knows his subject inside out and is a great resource … Excellent! In-depth understanding of this topic … Really learnt a lot from this … This has been a highlight of the conference for me – incredibly well researched presentation and very up to date. Brilliant, thanks Ellis … Interesting and very useful … Very good – stuffed full of useful info. Very informative, clear and thought provoking … Excellent very informative session. Very informative and useful from a clear and competent expert in his field … Always interesting to hear Ellis’ views. He never tries to sell anything and he always seems to be one step ahead of everyone. He’s tech comm’s best futurologist.

This was quite a shock. I was trying to sell!

We’re available to work on new documentation projects, consultancy and training requirements. Contact us to discuss your requirements.

Looking back on Technical Communications UK 2012 conference

Technical Communications UK 2012, the conference organised by The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, ended last Thursday, and I’ve had a few days to reflect on this event.

What was new

There was a more of an international feel to the conference this year – there seemed to be more overseas speakers and delegates than in previous years. There were many new speakers and perhaps more case studies than before. Some of the new speakers had interesting content, but came across as a little nervous.  It’s great to see new speakers, and I’m sure the nerves will go as they as do more presentations.

We saw new topics such as publishing content to tablets and other mobile devices. Technical Communicators are in a good position to make best use of these new technologies, because of our experience of publishing information to more than one medium, the abilities of the software tools we use, and because our approach is not to have the presentation format and content “baked together”. This ability to adapt to future trends might explain the greater confidence that seemed to be around the conference rooms.

Other new topics were:

  • Developing community based content instead of user generated content. The former is getting users to write to a shared common goal. The latter often ends up as being “all about me”.
  • Media synchronization. This is something I covered that seemed to generate a lot of interest. This is the idea that a user can move from watching a video, to listening to an audio narration, to reading text instructions, and back again. All the media are synchronised, so flow of information is seamless.


There were very few negatives. The audio of presentations were all meant to be recorded, but unfortunately not of them were.

There was one question left hanging in the air: How do you get non-Technical Authors to write in DITA or in other structured ways?

A good conference – roll on TCUK 2013

I look forward to next year’s conference. I’d like to see more discussions on how some consumer technology has become simpler and more ubiquitous, and how technical communicators should be adapt to that. Does that require a new style; does it now fall outside of the work that technical communicators do?

I’d also like to see a little more on using wiki-based technologies.

We work in a fast paced industry – it’s surprising how many new topics there are to explore at conferences such as these.