AODC Conference 2008: Day 1

May 14, 2008

Well, Day 1 of the AODC conference is over, and it’s been a feast. A feast of information and a feast of food! I’ll deal with the food first… There were cupcakes and other goodies at morning tea, a pizza and salad lunch (which sounds far more ordinary than it was), sandwich fingers for afternoon tea, and heaps of drinks and *substantial* nibblies for the post-conference ‘networking function’. More than enough, and all good.

The opening session was by Jonathan Halls (ex-BBC) who challenged us with the concept of “The new grammar”: how technology is changing the world, how young people are interacting with this technology, and what this all means to us as technical communicators now and into the future.

The key changes he identified were:

  • Multimedia: Instead of multimedia, think in terms of multiple methods.
  • Narrative: Moving from linear to non-linear.
  • Interaction: Control shifting back to the user; and personal.
  • Shared authorship: The pro/am (professional/amateur) connection (such as wikis, citizen journalists).
  • Audience: Shift to community.

His practical tips for making the shift to enrich text included:

  • Avoiding ‘the karaoke syndrome’ (“I can do that” even if it’s not appropriate). For example, don’t do all audio or all video just because you can, or for the sake of it.
  • Audio – is lousy for detail and complexity; good for warmth, intimacy and stories
  • Video – is lousy for detail, complexity and non-action; but good for action (TV: ‘if it bleeds, it leads’)
  • Text – slow to read and not immediate; great for detail and complexity
  • Photos – lousy for detail and context; but instant, so great for emotions and storytelling
  • Information graphics – lousy on details and specifics; but immediate, great for abstract mental models
  • Animations – can be distracting, lacks detail; can be useful to show action/abstraction over time.

Jonathan’s key questions for us were:

  1. How do I make my message quicker and easier to understand?
  2. What’s the most effective method? (consider when NOT to use a method)
  3. How can I share authorship?
  4. How can it be more interactive?

Next up (after a fun networking session and morning tea) was Joe Welinske who updated us on the changes currently happening with web technologies. This was an expansion on the introductory session he did late yesterday for the newcomers, and was a great overview of some of the stuff happening with the standards groups, with hybrid technologies, open source technologies, and with some of the propietary stuff coming out of companies like Adobe and Microsoft. Joe had some great examples, particularly the interactive Flash simulation example.

After lunch Sarah Goodall showed us how the company she works for, TACTICS Consulting, is using DITA to streamline and automate the process of doing sales proposals. It was the first ‘real world’ example I’d seen of DITA, and it was a great case study. I finally ‘got it’. Up until now, all the stuff I’d seen and heard on DITA had been at a higher, more theoretical level, but this was very real, very practical, and very compelling.

Finally, Matthew Ellison did his presentation on creating table ‘styles’ using CSS. This was the same presentation that I attended at the WritersUA conference in March, and was as good the second time round as it was the first.


  1. Hallo Rhonda,

    An excellent summary. I’m attending the conference too, and I do so agree about the “feasts” — both the sessions and the food are excellent. So is the fun. This is my first AODC year, but I’d like to achieve the venerated status of “super-veteran” someday.

    I’ve posted some of my own summaries of the sessions I’ve attended too. It’s good to see different viewpoints of the same content.

    See you at the Trivia Contest tonight :)

  2. […] Rhonda runs her own technical communication and consultancy business, CyberText Consulting. She has posted her summary of the AODC, day 1. […]

  3. […] Rhonda Bracey’s posts about day 3 of AODC 2008, day 2 and day 1. […]

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