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conferences documentation technical writing

Overview: Write the Docs, Portland 2020

This year’s WTD conference was online/virtual only. This shift to virtual conferences make them more inclusive and accessible to attendees whose work, personal responsibilities, finances, or other constraints would normally discourage them from participating. Although this conference was well-attended by folks on the West Coast, by my estimate, half of the attendees were from other regions in the US and Canada; and a handful were from other parts of the globe. I enjoyed breaks and mealtimes with my family and sleeping in my own bed.

Day one, Sunday, August 9th was a pre-conference day with two sets of ten breakout sessions.

The writing day sessions were my favorite part of day one: We got to meet members of the doc teams from GitLab, Microsoft, and Mozilla and contribute to their open-source projects. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in our tools and workflows.

The event hosting platform, hopin.to, worked well. I stubbed my toe on a few potential improvements, but quickly adapted and had no trouble navigating the event site. The sessions were all live hosted on YouTube, which made it easy to pause the live feed, step away, and then return. I couple of times, after taking a quick break, I caught up with the live session by setting the playback speed to 1.25 or 1.5x. If you’re interested, WTD will probably published the recordings from this year’s event in a month or so. If you’re interested, you can also watch these recordings of last year’s conference.

Days two and three featured a series of fascinating speakers on the main stage.

There was also an unconference, where anyone could sign up for a “table” to give brief talks or discuss anything of interest. For example, shown below is the unconference schedule for the first half of day one.

These unconference tables were the best forums to discuss subjects of interest and meet fellow documentarians (the preferred term for everyone involved in this business). I got to meet more than a few of the main speakers to ask questions about their work.

I’ll probably write a few more posts about some of my favorite sessions. If you’re interested, here is a link to the complete three-day conference schedule.

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