Write the Docs Conference: Day Two of Two

Continued from day one of the conference.

Day two of the conference but before that, I survived the night whilst having to share a bathroom with others on the same floor of my hotel. Actually, I didn’t encounter another person for those times I had to use the bathroom including when I showered.

True to their word, I found coffee at the front desk before 6 a.m. so that worked out well, too.

Crystal Hotel
Crystal Hotel in Portland

I had dinner last night (as I write this) at the Zeus Cafe which is part of the hotel I was staying at. I had a very tasty and very heavy burger.

Breakfast was lighter; a scrambled egg dish with mushrooms and spinach. It was a very quiet atmosphere, classical music in the background, and my wait staff Amanda was friendly and pleasant.

I’ve managed to talk with a few more people this morning before the beginning of the conference day including yesterday’s keynote Marcia Johnston. She made some pretty good suggestions for my situation as the “lone technical writer” where I work, and I really did thank her for being of the same generation as me. It was nice to have someone to speak with who had the same “memories” as I do.

Today’s keynote is Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the wiki who has a (for me) new idea about the Federated Wiki, the evolution of the wiki, and ultimately, documentation.

45 minutes later I learned more than I imagined even existed. This really isn’t the venue for discussing the potential of Federated Wikis and Blended Learning, but I find it all fascinating.

But two plus hours after breakfast and I was eating a bagel with cream cheese and a handful of mixed nuts. Only one more day of this before I can head home and start eating normally, but that won’t be under Wednesday evening.

Janet Swisher from Mozilla just finished talking about Open Documentation, which figures fairly well in my building a mechanism of getting people in other departments to contribute to technical documentation. I’m hoping most or all of the presenters today will speak on topics that apply more to my situation, but since we have such a variety of attendees and speakers, that may be a vain desire.

There’s another break, and since I already snacked and “bathroomed”, I can sit quietly and sip coffee and water while everyone else is up and about.

I know that Marcia suggested I mix more, and I seem to be more successful doing that on twitter. I’m posting tweets with the #writethedocs hashtag and so far have four followers. You follow me and I follow back, at least under the current circumstances.

Apparently one of the motivations for various companies sponsoring this conference is to hire writers. This is a good place to come if you’re an unemployed or “misemployed” technical writer looking for a job or change in career direction.

Riona MacNamara from Google (yeah, that Google) was hysterically funny, entertaining, and amazingly informative. She works on an enormous scale and her audience is the engineering culture (all 32,000 of them) at Google, so her content isn’t very specific to my situation. However, she did illustrate how, given determination and about a year, you can change your role and change your company.

whole new mindTana Franko from Cisco suggested a new book for me to read and her talk was heavily based on it.

Lunch. Think I’ll eat at the conference rather than go out as I did yesterday.

Oh yuk. I’ve eaten enough Taco Salad for three meals. What was I thinking?

After lunch, I went for a walk. Took a little different direction and kept on that path until I heard someone on the street apparently screaming out of control, then I went around the block and started back. Larger urban environments present a lot of variety and interest, but they are also a little “wild”. I’m just a stranger here.

I actually made it back in time for the lightning talks, where attendees can give a brief, five-minute presentation on whatever they want to, relevant to documentation of course.

Still feel like there’s a rock sitting at the pit of my stomach.

I checked out the Unconference in Lola’s Room but nothing was happening there except people petting a group of kittens (I kid you not) looking for a good home.

My “tribe” at my table has gone elsewhere (although their stuff is still here), so I’ve got the space to myself. Sitting quietly attempting to digest.

In the meantime, I ordered Pink’s book since it seems interesting and is actually relevant to my career.

Interesting. One of the lighting talkers: “My name is Matt Werner and I was addicted to meetings.” Got my attention since I hate meetings. He’s a technical writer at Google (twitter handle @mattswriting). Documents Android and Chrome for work and schools.

I’ve worked at places where nothing happened unless people had some sort of formal meeting, taking up huge amounts of time that I could otherwise use to get work done. Matt’s giving lessons on how to have 20-minute meetings and to have more control on focusing the interactions.

Now three plus hours since lunch and I’m still amazingly full. Had an extended break between speakers so I went for another walk. Found the local Peet’s Coffee on SW Broadway. Ah, real coffee at last. I used to live two blocks from the original Peet’s in Berkeley over 30 years ago so this sparks pleasant memories.

Several speakers later, we have only one left. It’s tough being the very last speaker at the end of the conference because so many of us are at the end of our attention spans, no matter how interesting the presenter or topic. I’m already anticipating dinner and retiring to my hotel room to unwind.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good that came out of the conference, but my neck is still as stiff as a board.


write the docs
Write the Docs Conference 2015

Back to the hotel, a quick dinner, then relaxing in my room for the evening. I was finally hungry again at dinner time but even though I ate a rather modest meal compared to lunch, I still felt full. Actually was slightly hungry again by the time I went to bed, but I think that’s a good thing.

Morning. Found a cup of coffee at the front desk at around 5:30 a.m. Showered and dressed. Waiting for the restaurant to open up downstairs at seven. I have plenty of time to kill until my flight leaves this afternoon. Feels good to finally head home.

I have a lot to process from the past several days but one thing I know for sure. It’ll feel good to hit the gym again Thursday morning for cardio and my new weight program on Friday. It’ll be good to be home.

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.

Eleanor Roosevelt


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