Write the Docs Prague 2020: Another successful virtual edition - by Deborah Barnard

Deborah Barnard | October 22, 2020


October 18th-20th saw the European timezone edition of the annual Write the Docs conferences. Usually held in Prague, this year’s was online, using Hopin. We were one of the sponsors, and three of the team attended.

Bri Hillmer attended the “Portland” edition a few months ago, and did a thorough review of the virtual conference experience. We also recently published some tips for attending virtual events. So this article won’t focus so much on the format. Instead, I’m providing feedback from the three KnowledgeOwl attendees: our highlights and key takeaways. Hopefully it conveys something of the value and energy of this conference.

Marybeth - KnowledgeOwl CEO

How was the overall experience?

It's crazy how much this felt like actually being at an in-person Write the Docs conference. Seeing the same familiar names and faces. The same overall feeling and tone. Well done to the organizers!

Any favorite talks? Highlights? Key takeaways?

A lot of highlights!

"Organizing a Confluence hoard, or, does this page spark joy?" by Abigail Sutherland -  I particularly like the idea of building a joy detector.

"Be a salmon" - a lightning talk, about going upstream and taking ownership of the words in the software (API names or UI copy, for instance). “When everybody owns the words, nobody does” really stood out.

I loved Paul Brown’s "The Baseline -- Or Technical Writing for Non-Technical Readers". 

Really into Myriam Jessier and her talk "Making documentation discoverable in search engines". I love when freelancers are also presenters. It's a good marketing move. I often want to hire people whose talks I like, and it's great when they are for hire.

Loved to hear from Jen Weaver, "Future-Proofing Your Support Visuals". Love that they have a team for this and are addressing some tough problems. Also I love YNAB! One of my favorite things is hearing from people from companies or products I use and love.

Any thoughts on virtual vs in-person? 

Getting up at 1am for a conference was a new experience for me! It was like being jet lagged without the travel. I'm still recovering. So in that way it was very much like an in-person conference.

I missed the travel part. The boat ride. Exploring a new city and culture. New and exciting food and drink. But travel is also tiring (and expensive) so it's nice to have an option to get the content and community without the logistics.

I do really like the option, so I hope we keep some of the features and functionality of virtual conferences when we are able to meet in person again.

Sorin - KnowledgeOwl Support 

How was the overall experience?

Wow for how well they run this in online mode! Just wow! Hopin is an amazing tool, but how well prepared they were it’s amazing.

There’s an amazingly big community of people that write. And they are all geeks about it! I love that and didn’t expect it.

Any favorite talks? Highlights? Key takeaways?

Minecraft and numbers, what? I actually was having lunch watching that one and I had a friend watching with me, he is a huge fan, he was really impressed about the work that went into it. 

There was a lot of content, lots to learn. Especially as someone who isn’t an actual technical writer that writes docs, but coming from support, it was really informative to see the bigger picture of how people navigate supporting themselves and then resort to support.

Oh, and loved seeing YNAB there!

Any thoughts on virtual vs in-person? As a first-time attendee, will you attend Write the Docs again?

I’d love to attend in person at a conference like this in the future.

Deborah - KnowledgeOwl content and accessibility consultant

How was the overall experience?

Intense! I was tweeting the event for KnowledgeOwl, so ended up attending every talk, as well as the lightning talks. I learned a lot (as always at Write the Docs), and am really looking forward to the videos being available - there are a few I want to re-watch. It all ran incredibly smoothly - the organizers did a great job!

Any favorite talks? Highlights? Key takeaways?

There was loads of good content! I guess the highlights for me personally were the talks that filled some gaps in my knowledge. Abigail Sutherland’s talk on overhauling internal docs is one I think I’ll revisit often: I’m more experienced with writing for end-users than internal teams, and there was some great advice on how to tackle that sort of project. And Karissa Van Baulen’s talk on analytics and feedback in docs was brilliant. Knowing what to measure in docs, and how to do it, is a very gnarly problem that suddenly seems more solvable!

Any thoughts on virtual vs in-person?

I think I’m maybe in the minority in actually preferring virtual conferences! I find it possible to take in a lot more information (I couldn’t have attended every talk at an in-person event). Pre-recorded talks also seem like a great idea generally.




About the author
Deborah Barnard
Deborah Barnard

Deborah is a consultant tech writer who is passionate about readability and accessibility. When she isn't writing documentation, she can generally be found trying out a new static site generator.

You can find out more about Deborah at Starfall Projects, or connect on Twitter.


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