Customers as Advocates Conference 2016

I thought I’d mention a conference I’ll be attending this month – The Customers as Advocates Conference.

“Customers as Advocates” focuses on the challenges of creating successful customer relationships that lead to reference and case study programmes.”

Although it is aimed at professionals that sell and market enterprise technology, I found it very informative, as a great deal of it relates to User Assistance and other forms of technical communication.

I attended this (free) conference last year, and I particularly enjoyed the presentations on developing and nurturing a thriving community of advocates.

“More than 70 percent of the buying journey is complete before a customer looks at your marketing or engages with sales. Who are your prospects and customers speaking to, and what are they sharing about the experience?” Ian Williams, Director, Jericho Consulting

The conference will be held on Thursday 26 May, in London.

Reflections on last week’s mini-conference on documenting APIs

Last Friday, I attended and presented at the Write The Docs mini-conference on documenting APIs, held at the Government Digital Services (GDS) building in Holborn. My presentation was called “What makes Technical Communicators uneasy about API documentation, and what can we do about it?”, and there were a number of questions and comments regarding some of the slides that I felt I should expand on.

1. Are there really so few people with API documentation experience?

I showed the results from searching on LinkedIn for Technical Authors in the UK who have API in their profile, to give a rough indication of the number of people with API documentation writing skills and experience. It’s hard to provide accurate figures because:

  • People writing API documentation are not always called Technical Authors.
  • There’s no Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code in the UK for Technical Authors, which means there aren’t any official statistics.
  • There are approximately 30 million working people in the UK, and only 19 million of them are on LinkedIn.

However, even if we double the number found in the search results, it’s still a very small pool of suitably qualified people.

2. The difference in the skills required for Technical Authors and API Documentation writers.

A lot of people photographed the slide describing the differences in skills required. In the presentation, I pointed out that the priority of the skills could change, depending on circumstances. It’s not in a fixed order.

The main difference is that API documentation requires a much higher level of knowledge about the subject matter. To create an end user guide for an accountancy package, where you are describing mostly tasks, you don’t necessarily need to know a great deal about accountancy. To create an API guide, where you are describing mostly facts, you need to have a greater understanding of the subject matter.

3. The differences in the readers.

I said that Technical Authors tend to describe technical information to a non-technical audience, whereas API documentation writers tend to describe technical information to a technical audience. Some people challenged this statement. I should have said that Technical Authors tend to describe technical information to a non-technical and a technical audience. I believe it’s true to say that the readers of API documentation are more competent technically, and so there will less explanation of basic concepts in API guides.

The event was excellent, with many very interesting speakers. The GDS is working on developing a design pattern for Gov.uk APIs – for example, for the Local Waste Service Standards Project and for the Companies House API. It’s clearly early days for the GDS, but I suspect, where Gov.uk leads, others will follow.

Reflections on the TCUK15 conference

I was one of the presenters at last week’s Technical Communication UK 2015 (TCUK) conference. TCUK is the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators’ (ISTC’s) annual conference for everyone involved in writing, editing, illustrating, delivering and publishing technical information. It’s an opportunity for Technical Communicators from the UK and mainland Europe to meet up and mingle, learn and present.

auditorium at tcuk 15 conference

Here are my reflections on the event.

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Ellis will be speaking at MadWorld 2016

MadWorld conference

Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking again at MadCap Software’s conference on technical communication and content strategy conference. MadWorld 2016 will be held between the 10th and 12th April 2016 at the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa, in San Diego, California.

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Presentations at Technical Communication UK Conference, Autumn 2015

Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt will be speaking at Technical Communication UK 2015, which will be held between 29th September and 1st October 2015, in Glasgow. Ellis will be speaking twice, about:

  • Creating an academic course in technical communication, and
  • Help in the User Interface – a case study in first user interaction and embedded Help formats.

If you’re planning to attend the conference, we look forward to see you there.

Destination San Diego

madworld banner

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.