WritersUA Conference 2008: Tuesday 18 MarchMarch 18, 2008
The day started with breakfast in the Pavilion room – croissants filled with scrambled egg and cheese, and really crispy bacon. Lots of fresh fruit, yoghurt, and breads and pastries as well.
The sessions I went to today were a mixed bag, from the OK to the excellent. Here’s a summary:
Developing Reusable Content with Author-it (Cheri Lockett Zubak): This sort of session is always hard for me to go to, not because I’m not sure whether I’ll learn anything new or not, but because I tend to be over critical as I know the software so well. That’s not fair on the presenter, so I try to not ask any questions or offer any comments unless asked to do so. BTW, I didn’t learn anything new.
Using Visual Hierarchy to Convey Information (Luke Wroblewski): This was a tough decision to make – Luke’s session was up against the one from the Google guy that was all about Google’s design principles. It’s hard when two sessions you really want to go to are up against each other. Anyhow, Luke’s was the one I REALLY wanted to go to as I’ve read quite a bit of his stuff and some of the development team I work with are familiar with his ideas. I was not disappointed. Luke speaks really well, and has some great examples of how applying visual hierarchy design principles to an interface can improve it dramatically. I was then fortunate to sit next to him at lunch (thanks for the introduction, Char). So far, this has been the most impressive session I’ve been to. Oh, and Luke was handing out 15% off discount bookmarks for his new book on designing Web Forms. Update: Luke has uploaded his slides from this presentation to his website.
The Potential of Web 2.0 for User Assistance (Scott Boggan): I felt sorry for Scott. He had a great presentation, but he got a really bad time slot. Straight after a three course hot lunch is NOT the best time for a presentation! Most people just want to take a ‘nana nap’. Scott talked about some of the new-ish technologies, such as AJAX, RSS, recommendation systems, discussion forums, wikis, etc., and how they might impact UA professionals. I’ve heard Scott speak on several occasions, and his presentation was as good as ever. He just had a bad time.
The WikiBooks Paradigm for Collaborative Content Creation (Andrew Whitworth): This session wasn’t quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Andrew is one of the WikiBooks volunteers and he spoke about WikiBooks and the challenges of an authoring and editing environment where everyone is equal and everyone is a volunteer. WikiBooks (part of the MediaWiki group – Wikipedia is the big brother) is all about writing textbooks for classes (school, university, etc.) and making them freely available online.
Author-it demonstration (Paul Trotter): Paul showed some of the cool new things in v5 (I must remember to turn the XTend colouring on and consolidate some of the content that is very like other content…)
On a more social note, the morning and afternoon breaks both had tea, coffee, water, and soda today. The lunch was fantastic – cream of mushroom soup, grilled chicken with a mushroom sauce, risotto, asparagus, and carrot, then a berry concoction in a toffee and chocolate cup! Wonderful. But not the sort of food you want to eat when you have 3 or more hours of conference sessions in front of you! The afternoon break had more food – this time corn chips, avocado, melted cheese, etc. as well as snack packs, trail mix. After the product demonstrations, MadCap Software had a mixer session with a free drink each, and MORE FOOD!! Mini bruschettas, jalapeno poppers, chicken satays, etc. While I have several complaints about certain things at this hotel, the food is NOT one of them. It has been excellent every day.
After the MadCap thing, the crowd for the Australian Cultural Exchange evening gathered under Tony Self’s guidance. We walked about 10 blocks to an Irish pub (Kells). The evening was a bit of a fizzog for me and some others – the Kells people had put us in the downstairs Cigar Room for the evening. The smell of cigar smoke was that bad that at least a dozen of us left the group because we couldn’t cope with it, even though we had the room to ourselves and the general public wasn’t allowed in. The splinter group went over the road to The Thirsty Lion, where we sat in smoke-free comfort and had a nice meal. Interestingly, three cigarette smokers came with the breakaway group as they couldn’t stand the smell either!