Sunday, November 21, 2010

Igniting Minds at STC India Conference

I participated in the STC India Annual Conference this year. The conference was held at Sheraton, Saket, New Delhi from 11 Nov - 13 Nov 2010. This was the first time that STC India Conference was held in New Delhi. 
This was also the first time that I participated in the conference. If that wasn't motivating enough, I also got an opportunity to present! This post is a reflection of some of what I took away from the conference. But this wasn't all. Just as Benjamin Disraeli says “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” 

The agenda of this year's conference included topics that have never been presented before. I am not surprised because my own presentation focused on 'design walkthroughs and reviews', which is not the kind of topic that the technical writing community is used to hearing about (more about that later). Certainly, the topics extended beyond the usual language and tools and allowed the community to discuss about technical writing as a career, the future for Indian TechComm, and various trends in technical writing, training and technology. The underlying theme of most presentations was to encourage technical writers to move from 'being a technical communicator to a knowledge manager - curating and aggregating content and knowledge'.

All presentations were split into three tracks: General, Knowledge Unlimited, and Open Up. Since these three tracks were running in parallel in three different rooms, there were many interesting presenters that I would have loved to hear...but couldn't. But from the sessions that I did participate in, here are some that made the most impact on me: 

1) Knowledge, wisdom and the joy of writing - Rachel McAlpine - Director, Contented
  • Write to find out what you will write.
  • Write small things that may or may not fit together.
  • Don't even think about being published.
  • Break all the rules. Write what you feel like writing.
2) Freelancing Survival Kit - Ravi Kumar - Principal Technical Writer, Progress Software
  • (Initially, as a writer...) Dabble in everything. Find a niche for yourself in the long-run.
  •  Be conscious of your digital footprint. Search yourself frequently. Take charge of your online brand.
  • If you don't show up on Google, you don't exist.
3) Keynote Speaker - Dr. Naresh Gupta - MD, Adobe India

Trends of Technical Communication
  • Movement from unstructured to structured authoring
  • Device explosion necessitating multi-screen, multi-channel publishing
  • Easily searchable, highly personalized content
  • Increasing demand for rich media in technical communication
  • Collaborative content creation
  • Single-sourcing of technical communication and training content
In the natural world, we interact with information by seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, and smelling. (When it comes to technical communication), we must get back to the natural way to interact with information.

4) Interactive and Web 2.0 Delivery Mechanisms for Technical Documentation -Ankur Jain - Product Manager, Adobe RoboHelp
  • There is a fundamental shift in the way people experience ideas and information today.
  • There is a changing mindset about technical communicators. From a necessary evil, technical communicators are now a strategic asset.
5) Collective Intelligence: Convergence of Enterprise 2.0 Technologies and Learning Trends - Nafay Kumail - Co-founder,
  • In the new economy, training is the number 1 source of competitive advantage. 
  • Knowledge is a function of collective information. 
  • Collective knowledge = social expression


My Session at STC India Conference

I delivered a 45- minute session on Day 2, on the topic 'An Effective Design Walkthrough - a step towards delivering the best design' within the 'Knowledge Unlimited' track of the conference.

As a part of the development process, design reviews usually happen when designing any product (or service). However, many reviews fail to capture the mistakes or flaws in the design or end up critiquing the designer more than the design! Conducting effective design walkthroughs is both a science and an art. My focus was to share best practices and tips about how to plan, prepare (for), and conduct a design walkthrough in order to make it effective.

The concepts discussed in the presentation were applicable to conducting a design walkthrough of software, user interfaces, manuals, technical papers, and training design.  The presentation aimed to highlight the importance of a design walkthrough as a quality practice that allows designers to obtain an early validation of design decisions. I had an interesting audience who was curious and yet comfortable exploring new ideas about design review and walkthroughs. 

I had a lot to learn and share during this conference. I thank STC India to give me this opportunity to present my views and also participate and get energized with an intelligent and bright community! I look forward to participating in other STC events and hope to bring many more ideas back and share them with my readers.