Unconference – TC Summer Camp 2017

Join our unconference and use the day to talk about everything techcomm!


  • Date: Saturday, 9 September 2017
  • Time: 8:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • VenueDistrict Architecture Center (DAC)
  • WiFi will be available, so you can Tweet and blog!
  • Bring: Curiosity, business cards, portable device (for notes, blogging, etc), and a laptop if you’re attending a workshop.
  • Suggest and Vote on Topics: After you’ve registered, you can suggest topics of interest!
  • Questions, feedback, coordination? Email your camp counselors

Unconference Schedule

This is an approximate schedule of the day’s events:

  • 8:00 AM – Registration opens – Continental breakfast, networking, and registration!
  • 8:30 AM – Hands-on Workshops – Workshops run from 8:30-10:30.

  • 10:30 AM – Workshops end – Break, refreshments, and more networking!
  • 11:00 AM – Unconference Begins.  The first general session includes:
      • Overview
      • Session Proposals
      • Voting
      • Lunch (with ticket)
      • Sponsor presentations
      • Expert Panel or Keynote

      • 2:00 PM – Session 1
      • 3:00 PM – Session 2
      • 4:00 PM – Session 3
      • 5:00 PM – Summary of Sessions, raffle, and wrap-up.
      • 6:00 PM – Finished

    Thank you in advance for your notes and summary to everyone who volunteers as note-takers and session leaders!

    Camp organizers invite any help in picking up after the free unconference. Help keep this event free!

    Thanks to all the sponsors:
    TC Summer Camp 2017!

    TC Camp would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. When we reached out for companies to support this unconference, these pioneering spirited companies said YES without hesitation!

    Special thanks to our Ambassador, our Scout Leaders, our Rangers, our Conservationists and our Stewards!

    If you see a sponsor in the wild, be sure to thank them for being a TC Camp Sponsor!

    Camp Ambassador (Platinum Sponsor)


    Adobe’s Technical Communication group delivers best-in-class tools, systems and services aimed at facilitating the end-to-end process of creating ground-breaking content, managing content effectively and efficiently using cutting edge systems, publishing content seamlessly across media and devices, and achieving greater business success. Adobe’s tools and solutions help deliver contextual, consumable and actionable content while offering highest return on investment. With the convergence of marketing and technical content across enterprises – Adobe’s new-age solutions will empower your organization to create valuable experiences that build your brands, drive demand, and extend the reach and ROI of customer-facing content, pre-sale AND post-sale.

    Camp Scout Leaders (Gold Sponsors)


    easyDITA accelerates creating and delivering content. It is a complete DITA authoring, publishing, and component content management system (CCMS). easyDITA’s users can create, share, reuse, localize, and deliver information faster and easier than ever before. We pride ourselves on delivering a complete approach to content development. From authoring to publishing, we’re there every step of the way. Visit us at

    Your Company Here?

    Camp Rangers (Silver Sponsors)

    Your Company Here?

    Camp Conservationists (Bronze Sponsors)

    Your Company Here?

    Camp Stewards (Green Sponsors)

    Your Organization Here?

    Camp Counselors (Assistant Camp Organizers)

    TC Camp Inc is a 501(c)(3).  All donations are tax deductible.

    These companies sponsor members to the TC Camp Board and help make TC Camp happen:

    Single-Sourcing Solutions Single-Sourcing Solutions specializes in everything related to dynamic product information creation, publication, and delivery.
    leximation-300x88 Increase your efficiency with our tools and solutions. Leximation creates targeted solutions that specifically fit your needs.
    Group Wellesley provides writing, publishing, and information management solutions.
    CoolText Senior-level Tech Comms expert, who loves learning new technologies and keeping up with current tools and trends.

Unconference Session #4 Notes – TC Camp 2017

Documentation for The Internet of Things

Top takeaways:

  • We still don’t know exactly how the IOT works or will work.
  • Our end user for some information now includes the machine itself, not a human consumer.
  • We expect an increase in API docs.
  • End user docs may decrease for the human component. If there is user control, there must be user doc. May still be in different forms – i.e. virtual reality.
  • Standards are much more important, not just within your company, but across all devices you work with.


REST APIs must be involved, because it’s a dialog between technology. Processing huge amounts of data. Not sure where doc fits in – it’s machine controlled. Increases need for API doc but otherwise it’s just working. Not traditional doc but still something.

Consumer of our info is changing to the machine. We don’t know how it is going to work. Hairbrush that can analyze your hair. Scales that analyze your weight pattern. Doc for these things are for the app to get that data. Not always just the product app because it integrates with other products who should be doing that dependent doc.

Info req. Depends on device and purpose. If documenting a soil sensor may not need as much as a health care device. Dependent on a standard for all devices to talk to each other so doc needs to also evolve to conform to that standard even if all products aren’t created by you. Smart home devices have different platforms, APIs, etc. but eventually when homes talk to other homes – where’s the common ground. Does one end up winning?

If this then that – website with applets.

If you go to hardware store you don’t get a manual for nails. Similarly if you buy something that talks to something else you don’t need doc.

If there is a user control, it needs doc.

Documentation Automation

Top takeaways:

  • Macros good for automation
  • Standalone tools such as AutoHotKeys
  • Tools such as Ant, Make, Powershell, and run process on the docs.
  • Excel is useful as a step in running automated processes.
  • Flare command line can be used to automate builds of Flare projects.
  • Build tools such as Jenkins to create scripts and run on the docs.
  • DITA-OT QA plugin can be used to automate QA on the docs.


  • Problem generating form Scala code. Could do Javadoc.
  • Can use macros to automate.
  • There are macro applications that work [.. ??]
  • AutoHotKey – macro create, edit, execute
  • Powershell – Windows command line, can read XML and JSON, it turns it into objects and creates an object tree. Modify into MS Office products. Can use it to auto-create PPT. Part of OS in Windows 10.
  • Python has library[?] amd can make [ ??? ] Excel file
  • Regular expressions can use to automate tasks. Lots of tool editors support it and also programming languages.
  • Excel -> Notepad++ -> Regex -> Markdown
  • Excel spreadsheet -> SQL query for database
  • ATOM plugin  generates TOC for MD files, Markdown TOC
  • Make files – simple – can save and run commands. Auto-generation after Make
  • Excel can be used because it’s structured, eg. making files from XML, used Excel to set up commands to run on on XML file (XSLT script could also be used)
  • Flare’s CLI can build your Flare project and you can get it to do some automation.
  • Can use Jenkins automated build tool and create scripts to run on docs. Maybe add parameters for diff outputs (like ZIP).
  • Can write commit tool for Git that does a certain action on a commit.
  • AZARDI – EPUB reader for desktop.
  • DITA-Open Toolkit QA plugin can input terminology and markup condition. Eg. point to set of topics, it checks for conditions and generates a report.
  • Acrolinx – tool in cloud, configure to check docs and generate a report.
  • Hemmingway app – is good for editorial comments.

Effort Estimation

Top takeaways:

  • Scope time and effort, use existing metrics from previous projects, Joanne Hackos.
  • Add sufficient fudge factor (~10%) for surprises and unknowns.
  • Educate others in company about authoring/publishing process.


  • How much time does writer(s) have? What’s absolutely necessary?
  • Use existing metrics to estimate hours. (J. Hackos seminars) Quick time, quality, cost – one or more weeks to give.
  • Schedule back from deadline, 1-2 weeks fudge factor.
  • 40 hours to produce 1-2 hours of training material
  • Use metrics from previous projects.
  • User Assistance (Joe Welinske) – little content based on user testing.
  • Why make the estimate? To get paid fairly, realistic schedule, manage resources.
  • Educate others in company about authoring/publishing process.
  • Schedule impacted by dependencies on developers/other team members, product keeps changing.
  • Freeze dates (code, UI, features) – if not adhered to, impacts schedule.

How to get users’ feedback

Scribe: Julie McMullen

Top takeaways:

  • User feedback does not equal doc review
  • User feedback can be direct (you → them) or indirect (e.g., through Support)
  • Survey is good so you can control what/how is asked
  • Analytics provide feedback indirectly (page counts, search terms, etc.)
  • User forums provide feedback


  • Users = people who user the docs
  • Survey – to mailing list for outtages, etc. – had to get approval
  • Are you even allowed to talk to customers?
  • Figure out what you need to know before creating questions
  • Results are helpful, help identify trends
  • Difference between feedback & review comments
  • Survey could fix this
  • Is it the user’s job to give you feedback, though?
  • One way is “Give Feedback” button
  • Bottom line – get feedback whenever/however you can
  • Feedback – direct or indirect
  • Analytics can give feedback

Style Guides

Leader: Elaina Cherry

Scribe: Share Clare

Top takeaways:

  1. Style guides make authoring easier. You have authority to enforce consistent wording
  2. Look & Feel belongs in a style sheet, not a style guide
  3. Style guide must address higher-order issues, that enable non-writers to contribute content


More than just Look & Feel? Yes! Look & Feel is for the style sheet

These are just a few items to be included:

  • tone, voice, tense
  • capitalization (do headings use title or sentence capitalization)
  • spelling (acceptable variations from American standard spelling)
  • terminology – also what not to use
  • rules such as headings are never followed by headings
  • principles – such as breaking content into steps, using minimalist principles
  • use of abbreviations (e.g., i.e., etc.)

What is it for?

  • Training other writers
  • Settle disputes
  • Used during reviews

Is a style guide important?

  • This topic attracted fewer people than other topics

Who is the audience for the style guide?

  • Engineers (especially non-native English speakers)
  • UX designers
  • Marketing

Getting hiring managers’ attention

Scribe: Aleida Vandenbosch

Top takeaways:

  • Take the initiative to connect with recruiter
  • Research, Research!
  • Strategies:
    • LinkedIn: portfolio sample to LinkedIn
    • Resume: skills on tap
    • Phone: narrate your exp to their needs


  • Who just updates LinkedIn and expects some recruiter to contact them?
    • No one reads every word: Keyword search. – tailor to job you want
    • LinkedIn Profile is forward looking
  • Tailored cover letter with keywords for job description; every application needs tailored cover letter
  • If not getting activity, not qualified and/or change strategy (e.g., LINKSV = profile db companies; do research, direct in mail, get on their radar).
  • How to get on radar of hiring manager – rely on networking and interact with them.
    • Make sure you be gracious, helpful, appreciate initiative, give them an option to say No.
    • Or employee-referral bonus incentive – ok to network with them too.
  • Recruiters: too many out there and inexperienced. Saturated market; new reality-recruiter may not know or talk to hiring manager. Time to fill position taking longer to fill.
  • Portfolio
    • What writing sample is in demand.
    • Make sure portfolio writing sample is linked to LinkedIn, if you don’t have time to build own website.
    • Put something on LinkedIn first – gives hiring manager reason to take seriously.
  • All companys have own self interest
    • e.g. # of social media followers – collect connections; youtube video: video skills/knowledge
  • LinkedIn status updates go to all of your connections
    • Couple times a month and only if you have something to say.
    • Ppl will tune you out if too loud and too often.
    • Keywords will help you.
  • Portfolio Samples (max 4 pg from TOC – no need to be in order – Intro, sub topic, reference).
  • Resume: Skills at top (before work experience) and include categories to show you know how to org info.
  • Job Titles: Current title is just “Technical Writer” but I feel like a Sr. Can I add that level? Yes.

Phone Job Interview:

  • Find out about recruiter and hiring manager
  • They love taking about themselves.
  • What is your idea candidate and narrate to that.
  • Research, research, research.


Unconference Session #3 Notes – TC Camp 2017

Tools for documenting APIs

Top Takeaways

How to choose a tool:

  • See — A website on technical documentation know-how
  • OpenAPI is hot
  • Some writers “do it by hand” in Frame or similar
  • YAML — not a markup language. RAML — REST API markup language. All RAML is YAML, but not all YAML is RAML


What tools?

  • Swagger, PostMAN, RAML, Jekyll
  • Facilitator used Jekyll-based modified to use RAML
  • — publishes on public site (considered a drawback)
  • Box, Android, GoogleMaps, Stripe, Digital Ocean,
  • Swagger (openAPI) takes JSON and makes display
  • Various home-grown tools are out
  • Jekyll is written in Ruby
  • How to do cross-references between a generated doc and expository doc (e.g., developer guide)
  • How to choose a tool?
  • Is there a survey?
  • Google API Discovery Service is similar to Swagger

Large, complex doc systems with markdown and Git

Top Takeaways

  • Top trend, especially with MS Docs; MS to Azure evolution
  • Major challenges: Search, link validation, finding files, reuse, structure
  • Most solutions involve custom programming to scale
  • Check out Ralph Squillace presentation
  • What works on a small scale probably requires more and more programming at a large scale
  • Translation is an obstacle; vendors don’t often accept markdown


  • Does it scale to a gigantic system?
  • Is this trend the future?
  • Can you apply it to different industries (machinery, pharma)?
  • What do you run into at this scale? IBM — you need a custom program
  • How to keep track of topics? Schema for adding structured metadata to find content; reuse; automation; translation
  • Why did MS make this move? Empower employees to write
  • What works on a small scale, may not scale to a larger system
  • How to you validate links? Xenu is a tool
  • Running validation scripts is huge
  • Writer using markdown is aware of potential problems with search and scale
  • One writer uses custom Ruby syntax
  • One writer wants to move to markdown to simplify

Case Studies

Top Takeaways

  • Sources: Marketing docs, Engineering docs, bug reports, field visits, Marketing, engineers, tech support
  • “I know this. Can you tell me the next step?” building a relationship with engineers
  • Ask the right questions; guiding the conversation for what is the problem and what we are trying to solve


  • This skill is important for all tech writers
  • New and returning tech writers find it difficult to gather information
  • Communicating with customers is important in gathering material
  • Users are more important than developers
  • Marketing wish list: MRD, ERD, use case scenarios give information about the product, but not the use
  • Know the user
  • Site visit good source
  • Tech writer’s role to give feedback to developers on usability to improve design
  • Quality of raw material is important; if raw material isn’t of good quality, ask questions
  • If using MRD, QA and tech support are a good source of raw material
  • Bug reports

Creating a Documentation Delivery Platform

Top Takeaways

  • Get buy-in and support from multiple teams
  • Workflow to determine tool instead of vice versa
  • Trade offs for custom-built vs. out-of-the-box solution
  • OK to use many tools and customizations
  • No one right solution


Skills: XSSLI, HTML, CSS, design, getting from source to output

Creating requirements, project management, get buy-in

Development buy-in handy to really get support involved and integrate their requirements

Single domain search

Team ownership: different views, different stakes

In what instance should you do HTML or out-of-the-box solutions?

  • Tools are expensive and require implementation and customization
  • Want to look unique
  • Is the tool over built?
  • You don’t get fixes
  • Must maintain customization

Public vs. Private: depends on content

What tools are people using?

  • Mediawiki: Great publishing tool. Accepts HTML and wiki text. Open source and free development extensions

Tool process:

  • DITA->OxYGen->Git->DITA Open Toolkit->HTML/JSON->support portal->Swift-type->Docs

Tailor things to your internal process

Use Google Docs for collaboration; go to markdown, and then HTML

Workflow more important than having a custom tool


  • Who wants PDF?
  • XML
  • HTML5
  • epub
  • What devices are people using?
  • Research format

Markdown handy for code review

Localization issues

Session cancelled. No notes.

DITA vs Markdown

Top Takeaways

  • No “vs.” it’s a different use case
  • Reuse/conditional text, mapping topics, semantic tagging
  • Large topics unmanageable in markdown
  • Markdown is great for simple authoring and formatting small topics
  • Markdown popular with developers
  • Interest and amount of activity in SourceForge, and markdown capabilities.
  • DITA needs simpler tools to market to SMEs/developers


Tom Johnson: Developers like markdown; kind of like a text editor with some tagging.


  • popular with people who don’t use DITA
  • Format but no reuse or conditional text
  • Purely for formatting simple text — very simple
  • Simple conversion, usually to HTML


  • Criticized for complexity — developers don’t want to use DITA

Markdown so popular, many DITA tools convert it

What can tech writers learn from simplicity of markdown and its popularity?

  • Internal software API — markdown is DEV & QA -> endpoint internal wiki, website
  • Complex use cases will fail: cross links, cross references likely to fail

Markdown source compatible with features like HTML tables, but cumbersome

Consider markdown a tool for SME/DEV

Contributors consider markdown a “young person’s” (millennials) tool

Is there a future if the key players for DITA are gone?

Do we need to produce large document sets?

Better to think of end product, and see what tool fits

Open source and markdown is hot

Key Features Comparison

  • Arrangement/mapping:  DITA (2) Markdown (1)
  • Topic typing: DITA (2) Markdown (0)
  • Basic revisions: DITA (2) Markdown (1)
  • Metadata: DITA (2) Markdown (2)
  • Semantic tagging: DITA (2) Markdown (0)