Unconference – TC Camp 2019

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

Two days of learning–technology, concepts, and skills with the best technical communicators in Silicon Valley. TC Camp is an Unconference, where techcomm leaders gather to learn and grow.

This is an event for the elite, for the people who want to be known as the movers and shakers. The people in techcomm who want to be the ones who can handle anything–by themselves, through their networks, and through their capabilities.

And they’re all here to work together to make everyone better!

What’s New This Year?

If you’ve never been to camp before, know that this is YOUR TC Camp. TC Camp is what you make of it.

The main event is the FREE Unconference. There is absolutely no cost to attend the main event. See the schedule…

However, if you want a little help getting your brain going early on a Saturday morning, you can add an optional morning workshop — Dawn Stevens (Taxonomy), Jessica Parker (Website Generators), or Mark Thompson (Collaboration) — for only $40. If none of those strike your fancy, you can always attend Matt Sullivan’s Adobe workshop for FREE. Learn more…

If you’re looking to expand your skills in the hottest growing techcomm sub-speciality, you can also add optional the Pre-Camp API Day for only $140 for a full day of training. We have new instructors with a brand new class! Learn more…

Keynote: The Future of Illusions

At most companies, marketing and technical communications rarely unite even though both professions create content. Also, rumors abound that new technologies, such as chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) might reduce the necessity of both roles or increase internal struggles for their funding. Learn how content created by Salesforce is displacing the future of these illusions. 

In this keynote, attendees will learn:

  • How to solve competitive content requirements across teams
  • How to reuse content to build memorable customer experiences
  • Why different teams across a huge company are creating content together
  • Why techcomm professionals should market their knowledge and curtail their quirks

View the slides: https://www.slideshare.net/gavaustin/the-future-of-illusions-tc-camp-2019-keynote

Keynote speaker: Gavin Austin

Gavin Austin, Salesforce

Gavin Austin is a Principal Technical Writer at Salesforce, where he’s been writing a variety of content for over 14 years. He helped Salesforce radically change its content strategy in 2015, and he has delivered a number of highly-rated talks at Dreamforce, Intelligent Content Conference, Information Development World, Write the Docs San Francisco, University of Washington, Blue Shield of California, CA Technologies, Agile2013, WritersUA, LavaCon, and more. In his spare time, he runs (and somehow finishes) 100-mile ultramarathons. He also loves burritos.

The Amphitheater! (AKA Lightning Talks)

Remember when camp was camp, and we had no fear performing in silly skits? TC Camp does. The Amphitheater is an informal opportunity to get up in front of your peers and try something new, share your expertise, and gain confidence as a speaker. Learn more…

Dedicated API Track!

Because so many people propose and vote on API topics, we’re going to dedicate one table to those topics. We’ve got someone who will curate and choose those topics, as well. This year, you can get down deep into API doc specifics because you’ll have four sessions dedicated to the topic!

Dot-voting and electronic voting!

Unconference sessions are determined by the attendees on the day of the event. Usually we do this with dot voting during the lunch break. You can vote electronically too — only registered attendees can vote, so don’t worry! You can vote now or vote later…

TC Camp 2019 Sponsors

Without our sponsors TC Camp is not possible! Please help us thank them by visiting their websites. They keep this event free.

Camp Ambassador

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 Leader

Docforce is the platform that enables Writing as a Service. It is an advanced collaborative content creation and consulting platform designed to bring on-demand professional technical writing services to companies of any size on a Pay-As-You-Go or Subscription Basis.

JustSystems is a leading global software provider with three decades of successful innovation in office productivity, information management, and consumer and enterprise software. Since 1999 content developers have turned to XMetaL Author Enterprise for the best combination of easy-to-use authoring and tool customizability.

Comtech has been helping clients produce better technical content since 1978. Comtech strives to answer your information development questions. Whether you’re looking for consulting services or you need to train your team, Comtech can help.

Camp Ranger

Camp Conservationists

Camp Counselors

TC Camp Volunteers

When called to serve, these people jumped to our aide! Without them, there’d be no TC Camp.

Everyone who participates in the organization and planning of this event is an unpaid volunteer. If you value this event and want it to continue to happen, please consider being a volunteer next year.

2019 Organizing Committee
Claire Lundeby
Elaina Cherry
June Harton
Li-At Rathbun
Liz Fraley
Scott Prentice
Wendie Ruano

Highlights from the 7th annual TC Camp

TC Camp 2019

Keynote Presentation

View the slides on slideshare: https://www.slideshare.net/gavaustin/the-future-of-illusions-tc-camp-2019-keynote

Video Competition

Three sponsors submitted videos to the TC Camp Bowl 2019. The creativity this year was off the charts and we had a tight race.


This was live. We are waiting on finished video…

Comtech Services

This was live. We are waiting on finished video…


Watch the SimplyXML entry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9VkzrF-tnE

Thanks to the Volunteers

Thanks to all the volunteers who made TC Camp 2019 happen and a success.

To everyone who volunteered the day of the event at the registration desk, organizing the session matrix, answering questions, helping vendors set up and workshops get organized, and all of the 1001 little things it takes for an event like this to happen:

  • Bruce Faithwick
  • Celine Dion
  • Cherie Woodward
  • Claire Lundeby
  • Clarence Cromwell
  • Debra Eskinazi Stockdale
  • Eliana Jain
  • Jill Elhonsali
  • Karie Fraley
  • Liz Fraley
  • Mahesh Rattehalli
  • Paul Fraley
  • Scott Prentice
  • Tonie Flores

To everyone who volunteered at to help transcribe the scribe notes, so we could post it all to the web. We’ve tried automated services, but those who are not in our industry tend to guess wrong when it’s hard to read the handwriting. Thanks so much to everyone who helped out:

  • Bruce Faithwick
  • Claire Lundeby
  • Debra Eskinazi Stockdale
  • Elaina Cherry
  • Li-At Rathbun
  • Liz Fraley
  • Mark Giffin
  • Scott Prentice

To the board members who worked to secure fundraising, the venue, the catering, and get all the supplies; who helped find and secure excellent workshop leaders; who volunteered at the event; and who picked up all those little extra tasks without being asked:


TC Camp 2019 Gallery

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Session 4 Notes – TC Camp 2019


#1 (API) Using JavaScript libraries like jQuery or Node.js

  • What was written on the original topic used in the voting?

Scribe: WHO?

Top takeaways:

  • ….


#2 Lightweight DITA / DITA future

  • What was written on the original topic used in the voting?

Scribe: WHO?

Top takeaways:

  • ….


#3 Markdown for Techcomm

  • What was written on the original topic used in the voting?

Scribe: WHO?

Top takeaways:

  • ….


#4 Freelancing

Scribe: John Perry


  • Know your audience
  • Network with power partners: people who know the people who need your services but don’t do what you do: eg. graphic designers, commercial photographers, are good power partners for writers.
  • Cold calling:
    • Don’t call tech pubs, call a project manager, product mgr, program manager
    • Social engineering: contact sales group and ask for the person in another group (eg project mgt) that you actually want to contact; they’ll transfer your call.
  • Social media presence:
    • blog, facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, facebook
    • professional organizations
    • A youtube channel with over 2000 subscribers gets monetized: monthly royalties
    • blogging
  • Self-publish
    • Cafe press; Lulu – can lead to sales of your book on Amazon
    • Zazzle: photo, drawings, paintings, books on cafe press
    • networking: time intensive not necessarily a lot of return
      • avoid networking that targets general population
      • network of professional business consultants that target Fortune 50
  • Advertising
  • Conferences
    • horizontal network at technology conferences
    • business printers
  • LI Profinder: respond quickly; opportunities close after only a few responses are posted
  • Mom Project: small projects (2 wks part time) to longer term (3 mo) to full time. Meant for moms returning to workforce but you don’t HAVE to be a Mom.
  • Writers Market book:
    • 3000-4000 markets for writers; magazines, newspapers, etc.
    • Uses $ symbol to rate pay of various employers from one $ to three $$$
  • Query letters: how you submit a freelance article to a publication
    • typically for one article but one article can lead to long term work
    • multiple submissions
      • sending more than one query letter a month
      • it’s frowned upon but you can do it anyway
    • evergreen article: general enough to be republished in different magazines
    • Magazines may take two years to respond to your query and 5-6 months to pay you,
    • secondary rights: mention that someone else has published your article
    • To see if magazine takes freelancers look in the masthead for “contributing editor”
  • Contract tech writing
    • last April new law in CA has made 1099 harder to get
    • linksv – venture funded startups:
      • where to find potential cold-call candidates
      • these companies are not going to be on indeed or glassdoor
  • If you post your resume on sites like linked in, glassdoor, monster, dice, you will get spammed a LOT
  • Most Bay Area TW jobs prefer onsite W2 but if you have expertise they need you may have some leverage

#5 Ways to simplify complexity

  • What was written on the original topic used in the voting?

Scribe: WHO?

Top takeaways:

  • ….


#6 Amphitheater

There were no sessions in the Amphitheater during this time slot

Session 3 Notes – TC Camp 2019


#1 (API) API Documentation Practices

  • What was written on the original topic used in the voting?

Scribe: WHO?

Top takeaways:

  • ….


#2 Content Reuse Mechanisms for DITA


A big selling point for DITA is content reuse/single sourcing. Managers look at reuse as a means to justify migration to DITA.

  • What are the different ways to reuse content in DITA?
  • How is it done mechanically (conrefs, keys, etc.)?
  • How successful was it?
  • How do you measure the reuse?

Scribe: Bruce Faithwick

Top takeaways:

  • Topic replication and versioning using mapping is huge benefit
  • Very helpful for product iteration and versioning
  • Helpful to reduce cost and time for content localization, high # of products and repeat publication
  • Output of multiple documents through one FrameMaker template saves time: ie, Java API & Visual Basic API through same template
  • Care in managing content in data warehouse or library required.


  • DITA offers topic replication in two or more maps. You can have custom DITA values placed into topics. Reuse from a central location. (Data warehouse) (Libraries)
    • Reuse notes passages or paragraphs
    • Be careful if reuse of linguistic use, better to keep it as passages such as short descriptions
  • Issue is DITA implementation without consultation with writers. Training for DITA is key  to writer success
  • DITA is a standard and not a tool, therefore two DITA implementations are not compatible
  • Issue is integrating legacy documents into DITA. Best practice is write to DITA
  • Moving forward.
  • Success:
    • Two documents created in DITA using FrameMaker
    • API #1 Java
    • API #2 Visual Basic
    • Both content flowed into same FrameMaker template and to output to PDF
  • Success:
    • Publish to internal & external readers
    • Key referencing: Drop in another map to point to different content
    • How to measure reuse?
    • Compare publish vs authored?
    • How much time do you save?
    • How much are you saving in localization
    • Compare actual before and after
  • Editing library or data warehouse language needs to be careful as data may be used in ten places and could have unintended consequences
  • Use with localization, repeat publication, & high number of products
  • Very helpful for product iteration and versioning

#3 Using GitHub for Documentation Version Control

  • Explore how writers are using it.  If you are the sole writer, are you creating a new branch for each feature?  How are multiple writers using it? Who merges the pull request?

Scribe: Deepa Iyengar

Top takeaways:

  • Managing multiple versions of source in you repo vs. managing multiple output versions in folders.


  • Difference between Git and GitHub: GitHub is the GUI layer and Git is the core.  Git commands are from the point of view of the Git server.
  • Where should your output go?  It should not be source controlled.  Example: Source is in GitLab, build with Jekyll & place the output in the same folder.  GitLab and GitHub are competitors using the same git engine.
  • Note: The main advantage of GitLab is its opensource nature, which allows you to run GitLab on your own servers. GitLab allows unlimited private repositories for free whereas for GitHub, it is not free. GitLab is newer than GitHub, so naturally it is a little less popular than GitHub.
  • Scenario:  Working on multiple versions of the same document.  When you have to update the current branch with masters, you make the change in the master and pull it to the branch.
  • Feature branch can be worked on, edited, merged or deleted.
  • Git pull request for code review.
  • Git merging is merging feature into master.
  • Git rebasing is more linear.  The feature branch is based on master.
  • How to find the commit report for the last week?
  • Git Tower UI gives a view of activity.  Commit many changes on one commit (equash??) vs. one or small change per commit.
  • If you need to publish all versions, have separate folder for each?

#4 Getting User Feedback


  • What was written on the original topic used in the voting?
  • Are you allowed to talk to your users?
  • How do you know what you write is meeting their needs?
  • Have you found reliable, affordable solutions for getting constructive input from your audience?
  • When you have your users’ attention, what are you key DOs and DON’Ts for interacting with them?

Scribe: Cheryl Smith
Facilitator: Dawn Stevens

Top takeaways:

  • Shared mailbox, feedback, link at bottom
  • User conference – inform people of link
  • Support site – feedback about topics – 1 person that tracks, feature not doing what we thought, tracked in Jira, building metrics
  • Do you respond to Users? Plan!
  • Interaction w/support – open tickets for documentation


  • Some have talked to customers directly
  • Based on surveys – Add specific questions: Where do you go for doc?
  • Customer info – get account rep
  • Standard Operating process user AND writer
  • Development Angel – New major release if customer could not figure it out, I looked in doc to find or consult with developer and then incorporate into doc
  • Usability tests on site
  • Only 20-30% of tech writers talk to customers
  • Ways around: social media, tweet, doc-twitter, underused, facebook
  • Thumbs up/ thumbs down – generally not useful
  • 1:1 usually better
  • Surveys – limited use
  • Usability testing of — can they find it?
  • User Experience Design
  • Support – monthly report: what are they asking? If there, why did they call? If not, can we add it?
  • Google Analytics – supporet site analytics, web analytics; what are users looking at; 100 people looked, 10 opened tickets… assume 90% deflection rate
  • Support responds – how many times do they include link to doc?
  • Sit with support to hear problems, what language they use
  • Work with training – are the trainers referring to doc? What do they hear about doc? Training material has examples which people like


  • Set expectations, 5 min – 5 questions
  • Rewards
  • Salesforce (badges, bragging rights)
  • Be polite
  • Respond
  • Be focused/ targeted
  • Thank
  • Tell them the plan


  • Harass
  • Bluff

There was a picture, with 4 quadrants.

  • Horizontal Scale: User knows it/readily available (left), User doesn’t know (right)
  • Vertical Scale: High Priority (top) , Low Priority (bottom)

Quadrants were as follows:

  • User knows it/readily available + High priority = Cover Your Ass
  • User knows it/readily available + Low priority – Don’t Do it
  • User doesn’t know + High Priority = Document
  • User doesn’t know + Low Priority = Inform

#5 Job Market Stuff / Transitioning into Tech Writing


Let’s discuss the tech comm job market in the Bay area. Is it growing or shrinking? What trends are you seeing with opportunities? Is it all develop API type doc jobs, or are there may other opportunities as well? Where do you go to get the inside scoop on jobs — glassdoor, indeed, or other sources? How do you know which companies are toxic and where are ideal? Are will living in a bubble here? Does the high cost of living offset the terrible housing options? Are the sacrifices of living here worth the tradeoffs? Let’s talk about what makes working in the Bay area unique in tech comm.

Scribe: John Perry

Top takeaways:

  • State of the job market
  • Why/How did you get into tech writing?
  • Where do AI/Chatbots fit in
  • How to transition in
  • What hiring managers want
  • Interview the interviewer


Job Market

  • Andrew (Synergistech):
    • Venture capitalists fear a recession; It all changed last fall to W2 onsite
    • A 1099 gets full hourly pay without benefits but gets more writeoffs
    • A W2 gets less per hour but full benefits and more job security
  • Paul Gustafson (Expert Support):
    • Last Fall began converting 1099s to W2s per the new CA law (core competence)
  • Jeremy Lowell (Docforce): There is a still ton of work, wave of opportunity
    • Explaining things without bias drives sales
    • 36% of traffic to IBM site goes to docs first
    • Simplify complexity to make it understandable
  • Prediction: pendulum will eventually swing back to more 1099 contract work

Why tech writing?

  • Motivations of some of the transitioners
  • sw developer: wanted to combat incomprehensible docs
  • like talking about code more than writing it
  • sw developer: frustration with teaching coding camp
  • Law: fell into it from law policy procedure writing, los alamos regulatory compliance
  • American studies undergrad: wrote a lot of research papers but got uninteresting writing jobs (stuff her boss did not want to do.) Discovered that she dislikes marketing writing and likes accuracy, precision, better pay that tech writing provides.
  • chemist: writing SOPs for pharma, designing forms/formats liked improving UX


  • represent opportunity for tech writers
  • Joe D: just completed a bank AI job writing for data scientist, felt underprepped on statistics content. Deliverables included wiki pages to use machine learning.
  • Dave: Natural Language Processing relies on grammar, syntax and context; important for translation. Writers have this skill set!
  • Another important skill: ability to learn new things quickly

Transitioning in

  • A good recruiter adds value by focusing on fit for both the candidate and the employer.
  • Andrew (Synergistech): managers want to see that you can write , and what you know about their product/audience; they don’t want to teach you. At your interview, you should interview the manager to make sure this job will grow not be just a cog in the wheel. Managers are looking for enthusiasm, demonstrated aptitude, initiative.
  • Paul (Expert Support): hiring criteria have changed in past 10 yrs. Managers used to look at your skills and be willing to teach. Now that’s usually not how it works. Exception: brand new tech that can’t be learned outside.
  • Jeremy (Docforce): the recruiter’s reputation is also part of the vendor relationship. Long term relationship: the relationship outlasts the gig.

What do Hiring Managers Want?

  • STC stc-berkeley.org
  • July 2nd Wed of July hiring manager panel:
  • what are you looking for? Who would you hire?
    • excited ability to learn
  • who would you not hire?

Interview the Interviewer

  • How to sniff out the good longterm relationship vs the “use and lose”?
  • Look at the job description: does it demonstrate understanding of the job?
  • Ask at the interview about the long term expectations
  • See Synergistech website for example questions to ask your interviewer

#6 Ninja Talks

There are no notes from these. Anyone who wanted to could come to this session and try!