This year’s Write the Docs conference in Prague marks the fifth year of great talks, amazing organization, and inspiring atmosphere. Looking back at the conference’s evolution, ELEKS InfoDevs would like to name five things that strike us the most.
Having attended a handful of European conferences for technical writers and not only, we have been stunned, how responsibly the organizers create an equal, inclusive atmosphere for all the participants. Timely announcements, comprehensive communication channels, and above all, Code of Conduct. We cannot stress enough, how helpful and crucial CoC is. It contains a unified approach towards behavior, attitude, and message to all the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, and attendees. Due to their CoC, Write the Docs conferences have the invaluable aura of openness and comfort for anyone who wants to be part of them. This feeling is one of many reasons that make you return to the WTD events again and again.
Also, the WTD team has always been actively seeking feedback and reacting to every single comment or complaint. After returning from the event, we received a feedback form in two days and the summary in less than two weeks. Transparency and genuine care—these two things make the WTD team really stand out.
WTD always encouraged attendees to take an active part in a communication process. One of such activities was a Writing Day. Documentarians of various professions—InfoDevs, Technical Writers, Content Specialists, and other—gathered in one room to share their knowledge, experience, and passion for documentation in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Every table discussed a different topic, so we could walk around the room and participate in various discussions. This allowed us to quickly enrich our experience in technical communication and problem solving without leaving the room.
WTD 2018 Prague was the most attended European event in techcomm. Our first WTD was in 2015, and we can confidently say that in four years, not only has the community expanded but also networking has been increasingly fostered. Unconference, social events, our beloved Pac-Man rule, and other activities make networking more comfortable and productive. The fact that the participants can ask questions not during but after talks also promotes networking and allows the speakers and attendees find common topics to discuss and knowledge to share.
From year to year, Write the Docs tries to involve more and more documentarians. This year’s conference went even further in trying to make the event equally accessible to everyone. Live captioning—an alternative transcription of speakers’ talks of all conference and lightning talks. Live captioning helped non-native English attendees and people who are hard of hearing understand speakers’ talks and fully benefit from the conference.
For everyone interested in details, captioning specialists used a phonetic shorthand keyboard. To gain a word, they pressed chords of letters, then the database searched for the chord in a language map and displayed an English word on the screen. And it all happened in less than a second. It was mesmerizing to just watch captioning specialists doing their daily work.
One of the most prominent WTD features, lightning talks helped attendees try their first talks, voice lessons learned, or even free their creative streak. 5 minutes on stage, minimum of setup, several or no slides at all—such a format confines a speaker, at the same time liberating them. Topics can vary from translation to mushrooms (!), and the delivery is fast-paced and concise. Highly informative, lightning talks are very memorable and entertaining. One of this year’s most interesting talks was a musical performance. Definitely worth witnessing!