TC Camp

The Techcomm Unconference

Suggest and Vote on Unconference Topics

Help make TC Camp 2018 exactly what you want by suggesting and voting on unconference topics. The topics listed here will be available for "dot voting" on the day of the event. We're throwing out the old topics and starting fresh with new ones, but we need your help!

Remember to come back to this page the week before camp so you can make a final pass on topics that come in. You can always change your vote up until the day before the event!

What? You don't know what TC Camp is? Look here for the details!

Online voting/suggesting is no longer available!

Save up those ideas and write them down at camp on Saturday before the dot-voting begins. The topics below will be available for voting on Saturday.

Download the blank session proposal form and fill in the title and description for your proposed topic, then bring that to camp with you on Saturday. We will have these forms to fill out as well.

Currently proposed topics

  (17 votes)   [more]
Many of us will be coming from the API Documentation workshop the previous day. Let's have a session to discuss and share what we learned.
  (17 votes)   [more]
Let's continue discussing some of the topics regarding minimalism from the morning workshop.
  • How have you implemented a minimalist approach in your writing?
  • Describe some of the benefits you've seen from a minimalist approach.
  • Any down-sides to minimalism?
  (16 votes)   [more]
The DITA OT is an open-source tool. And it is an important one. It is used in all of the commercial DITA publishing tools that I am aware of.
However, it has a small group of people who develop and support it as opposed to many other open-source tools that have many people contributing to it.
Does this mean it is a dead-end tool that will shrink and fade with time?
Is it's use expanding or contracting in companies?
  (15 votes)   [more]
Let's continue discussing some of the topics regarding chatbots from the morning workshop.
  • Where do chatbots and techcomm intersect?
  • Is your company considering implementing a chatbot?
  • Have you seen/used chatbots "in the wild" and were they effective?
  (13 votes)   [more]
Simplifying complexity is one of the core values tech writers add to a technology organization. But ... how exactly do you reduce the complexity of content? What techniques and tools do you employ? From navigation maps to plain language, step-by-step procedures to topic chunking, we employ a variety of techniques. But could we do something more, something truly innovative in order to master this skill? In this discussion group, we'll examine other ways to approach and simplify complex content.
  (13 votes)   [more]
"Friendly" is a buzzword that features heavily in requests from upper management, but what does it look like? What document and style components are friendly (or unfriendly)? Is friendliness compatible with strict avoidance of slang, idioms, and cultural references? What's the friendliest documentation you've ever used?
  (12 votes)   [more]
Let's continue discussing some of the topics regarding WordPress/SEO from the morning workshop.
  • Describe your experience in setting up a WordPress website.
  • If you've implemented SEO techniques, were they beneficial?
  • Is WordPress the right platform, or are there better options?
  (9 votes)   [more]
As eLearning is becoming more mainstrean, what role can/does documentation play? What changes are necessary to doc structure, media, and format to make synergy and reuse possible?
  (8 votes)   [more]
One reason that cyber security is challenging is the complexity of the conversations about it in every area of society.
Explaining things simply is complicated. Technical communicators have made complex information accessible in other fields. How can technical communicators apply skills that we already have to champion global cyber security?
  (8 votes)   [more]
Why are tech writers constantly at the bottom of the IT totem pole? How can they establish greater value to the organization, removing those questions about headcount, job reqs, to backfill or not, etc., when they arise? In this discussion group, we'll explore ways to communicate, measure, and track value added by tech writers in an organization.
  (6 votes)   [more]
What are the best and worst companies to work for in the Bay area? Which companies pay the highest salaries? Which companies might have a strong brand but a terrible tech pubs department? Are there startups that are especially hot? Which companies do you want to avoid at all costs? In this discussion, participants will share their experiences and insights working for different companies in the Bay area, providing tips and advice for future employment.
  (6 votes)   [more]
Silicon Valley's demands on tech writers lead many to consider other careers.
Let's discuss ways we (or tech writers we know) hope to succeed professionally after leaving the doc business.
Some ideas: project management, "content writing," UX, training, proposal writing, product management, patent writing, engineering, website design, investing, sales, marketing, fiction writing, medicine....
  (5 votes)   [more]
How to freelance as Technical Writer in the Bay Area. Finding clients; customer pain points; How much to charge; Tips/advice, etc...
  (5 votes)   [more]
There are a lot of methodologies for becoming more productive -- agile, kanban, Getting Things Done. Even Tim Ferriss explains how to reduce your work week down to just 4 hours using his own methodology. Tech writers are caught at the crossroads when it comes to integrating into software development methodologies. Agile seems like a good theory, but it often doesn't work due the problem of being a shared resource. Kanban has a good philosophy, but can you really push back on the incoming flow of tasks? In this discussion, participants will share what work methodologies they use for managing documentation tasks and projects.
  (5 votes)   [more]
Keeping track of feedback. When and when not to listen to metrics.
  (5 votes)   [more]
Creating documentation for an open-source project differs from creating documentation for proprietary software in these ways:
  • Engaging your community of developers to contribute docs to the project
  • Building your documentation tools to enable collaboration from non-staff contributors
  • Enabling continuous updates through a transparent review process
Share your experiences in helping to create docs that are useful for the developer community.
  (4 votes)   [more]
When you land at a company, you're often stuck with the same salary from year to year, with merit increases that barely keep pace with inflation and the cost of living. The only way to substantially increasing your salary is by job hopping -- moving from one company to the next every year or two. Yet at the same time, job hopping creates a sense of disloyalty, reduces your ability to contribute to a company long term, and requires you to start over with your product knowledge at every new company. How can you break out of this conundrum and demand higher salaries while staying at the same company?
  (4 votes)   [more]
Hiring managers and recruiters are an impatient lot. They want to assess your writing ability _before_ the phone interview. An online portfolio can make your phone ring faster.
Let's discuss:
* what to include in your documentation portfolio
* where to host it (Dropbox, LinkedIn, a personal website, GitHub, etc)
* when to include proprietary/NDA'd content
* how to explain your contribution
  (4 votes)   [more]
How can you persuade a prospective client or employer to let you work remotely? Which kinds of teams, organizations, and industries are more (and less) amenable to letting tech writers work offsite?
  (4 votes)   [more]
Attendees who are using tools like Swagger or Postman to help them document HTTP-based APIs can talk about their experiences. Those who are doing it by hand can hear the experiences of others.

The title says REST, but strict adherence to Fielding's definition of REST is not important for this topic.
  (3 votes)   [more]
Share experiences on how you got into documenting APIs.
  • Your programming experience (if any),
  • The language used, format, tools, etc.
  • Tips for getting into this field.
  (3 votes)   [more]
Which department should Technical Writing be situated under? Product Management, Marketing, Engineering, Support or Education?
  (2 votes)   [more]
A big selling point for DITA is content reuse/single sourcing. Managers look at reuse as a means to justify migration to DITA.
  • What are the different ways to reuse content in DITA?
  • How is it done mechanically (conrefs, keys, etc.)?
  • How successful was it?
  • How do you measure the reuse?
  (2 votes)   [more]
  • Can markdown replace DITA (or other structured models) in techcomm?
  • What problems in DITA does markdown solve?
  • What about Lightweight DITA, is that better or worse?
  • LwDITA provides for markdown and HTML "flavors", will you use those?
  • Or, is this all just more craziness?
  (2 votes)   [more]
  • Data modeling concepts
  • How to start thinking about reuse
  • Document architecture options
  • Real-life stories
  (2 votes)   [more]
  • Tools for automating publishing
  • Tools for automating authoring processes
  • Planning and adjusting
  • Issues
  (2 votes)   [more]
There's often functional overlap between "training" and "documentation."
  • Are they the same thing?
  • Can you substitute one for the other?
  • Should corporate training and tech pubs departments be merged, and if so, who's in charge?
  • Which is more advantageous from a corporate perspective?
  • For writers seeking to apply for ID positions, what do we need to know first and foremost?
  (2 votes)   [more]
What techniques do you use to get information from subject matter experts (SMEs)?
Sometimes the SMEs are still formulating concepts and reference material in parallel with the writing. Sometimes the information is split across SMEs.

Do you have any standard questions or standard ways to organize the information?

How do you record this base info and digest it later?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • How do you get your content ready?
  • What are the machine learning platforms?
  (1 vote)   [more]
What best practices exist for documentation navigation?
  • Should you implement progressive disclosure?
  • Shortened navigation titles?
  • How many levels before users tear their hair out?
  • Do users even look at the sidebar?
  • What are some examples of navigation sidebars that succeed and fail?
  • Should you eliminate the navigation altogether?
  (1 vote)   [more]
There are quite a few toolchains for people who make technical documentation. Which tools are best for which situations? This would be a round table discussion with input from all attendees on the capability of familiar tools. The goal would be to map out which tools are frequently used together (identify toolchains) and which common toolchains tend to be used in which situations.
  (1 vote)   [more]
It's simple to use Markdown and GitHub for a simple set of docs.
  • What if you have a great deal of documentation?
  • What can you expect?
  • Should you even try?
  (1 vote)   [more]
Why technical writers are rebranding as content strategists. Is this the future of technical writing?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • Have you created an HTML content delivery system from scratch?
  • What are the preferred tools and skills needed?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  (1 vote)   [more]
What is "The Internet of Things" and what sort of docs, internal or
customer-facing, might be required?
  (1 vote)   [more]
How does your team review electronic content? Why?

If it were up to you, which tool(s) would you use?

Surely there's a better way than circulating PDFs, consolidating comments, and
playing content arbiter.
  (1 vote)   [more]
What's the most effective way to get noticed as a job-seeking tech writer?
  • Do you include a cover note with your application?
  • Do you work with recruiters?
  • Do you just update your LinkedIn profile and wait for your phone to ring?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • Are you allowed to talk to your users?
  • How do you know what you write is meeting their needs?
  • Have you found reliable, affordable solutions for getting constructive input from your audience?
  • When you have your users' attention, what are your key DOs and DON'Ts for interacting with them?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • What is HTML5 (how does it differ from "HTML")?
  • Is it reasonable to use HTML5 for techcomm?
  • Examples of successful implementations?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • Techniques
  • Tools
  • Who are the users? Internal? External?
  • Personalities, Metadata, Taxonomy, Integrating SEO
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • Writing for it,
  • publishing it,
  • managing localized content,
  • process engineering,
  • best practices.
  (1 vote)   [more]
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • What is markdown?
  • Is it reasonable to use markdown for techcomm?
  • Examples of successful implementations?
  (1 vote)   [more]
Many companies that move to DITA end up using XSL-FO for generating PDFs. While this can be a good choice in some cases, often it's a lot of work, is very expensive, and doesn't offer the rich formatting that they may want. There are a number of template-based (WYSIWYG) tools for generating PDFs from XML that might offer more useful features.

Let's talk about what you want from your DITA-sourced PDFs, and which tools might be worth looking into.
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • Good?
  • Bad?
  • Horror stories?
  (1 vote)   [more]
Using a script to:
  • Build a book and output to PDF and other formats
  • Walk a directory structure programmatically and build all other books in a directory tree
  • Summarize the results (errors or warnings during processing?)
  • Set conditional flags on all files in a book
  • What else, and HOW?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • More than just look and feel.
  • What goes it in one?
  • How to look at your docs to create one?
  (1 vote)   [more]
What are the pros/cons of using Agile for techcomm?
• success stories
• failures
• sweet spot
  (1 vote)   [more]
Content for mobile devices
  • How
  • Challenges
  • Tools
  • Applications
  • Cross-platform/multi-browser web output
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • What are these libraries good for?
  • How are they implemented?
  • How complex are they to implement?
  • Success stories.
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • Have you considered using EPUB to deliver your content?
  • Could EPUB be a replacement for a traditional Help system?
  • What are the limitations for not using EPUB?
  • Is this even on the map?
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • All writers are (or should be) involved in product usability
  • Hardware as well as software, APIs as well as GUIs
  • We're the canary in the coal mine (we suffer first)
  • When it's hard to explain, it's hard to use--and docs won't help
  • We're more tuned to consistency than most
  • When we create examples, we notice gaps in the functionality matrix
  • We can identify "dovetailing issues"
  • When we can help to create a more usable product
  • We need to speak more, speak louder, and learn how to make our case better
  (1 vote)   [more]
  • FrameMaker,
  • Arbortext,
  • MadCap,
  • Author-It,
  • XMetaL,
  • Oxygen,
  • Word,
  • RoboHelp,
  • wikis,
  • etc.