Thursday, 11 June 2009

Notes from Vienna

Let me put your minds at rest - despite the possible pun in the title, this is not a posting about Mozart. (I leave that sort of musing to my STC colleague Tom Johnson.)

Tom and I have both been in Vienna this week for the 10th Anniversary Conference of the STC TransAlpine Chapter. Tom gave a workshop on WordPress, and two other sessions, while I gave my talk on ignoring users (I'm against it, by the way) and took part in a panel discussion about trends in technical communication. These prosaic and unmusical notes are about the conference themes and that discussion of trends.

Most of the conference was about the basic challenges that technical communicators face. We talked about getting messages across to users, improving the documentation we create, and trying to improve the product we write about. I was very impressed by the lively discussions from the audience, and the spirit of collaboration and participation at all the sessions I attended. The feedback I received to my own presentation was particularly valuable, and I hope my next audience (at Technical Communications UK 2009) will benefit from some of the ideas my audience in Vienna suggested.

The panel on trends in technical communications covered a wide range of issues. We talked about the impact of the world-wide economic slowdown on job prospects for technical communicators, and the need to keep our skill-sets up-to date as part of our response to this. We talked about the continuing need to demonstrate value to our employers and our clients. We talked about the challenges and opportunities to technical communicators presented on the one hand by the growing adoption of structured authoring techniques such as XML and DITA, and on the other hand by the growing importance of user-generated content through blogs, wikis, and discussion forums open to customers and the public at large. Despite not being able to provide definitive answers, I hope the panel discussion highlighted areas of interest to watch in the coming months.

As is usual, the social aspects of the conference were important too. It was also a great event for meeting other professionals, with delegates from a dozen countries. I enjoyed being introduced to the sights and sounds, and to the tastes, of a new city, and I really enjoyed a very worthwhile trip. My thanks to all the organising committee for inviting me.


Janette Lynch said...

David, your contribution was exactly what we needed and your presence was greatly appreciated! You were a valuable asset to our conference. Thanks for being there.

CJ said...

David, as President of the TAC Chapter, I want to say it was a delight to have you at our conference. Your insight into our field was very valuable - I know we all learned a lot. Thanks for sharing with us.