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Tag: technical communication

Coming clean at the 2017 soap! conference in Krakow

I fell in love with soap in 2015. No, not that material you use for washing. The technical communication conference in Kraków, Poland, called soap! with the lower-case “s” and the exclamation mark.

Pink poster of the soap! conference with another small sign showing arrow pointing to the right

I returned for the 2017 soap! experience, which is what I want to share here. I am providing a summary of the conference design, some useful links for additional reading, and all my personal, rather raw notes from the talks. Those are shared “as is”. If you wonder what I meant by something, leave a comment!

I hope some of the information here will inspire you to consider joining the “soapy” community next year in Kraków.

Note: This is a very long post because it covers two days of info from a conference. I wrote it as a reference article for storing my notes.

Where can you find more information about the soap! conference?

The soap! team has a great video summary of the soap! 2017 conference. Watch it if you think this post is too long and too much to read, or watch it for inspiration for your first or next attempt at summarising an event with a nice video.

Other links are:

What is the structure of the soap! conference?

This conference is run by a dedicated group of volunteers and supported by some great sponsors and a registration fee. The conference ran for three days with the main conference on Thursday, 8 June, and Friday, 9 June. On Wednesday, 7 June, there was an all-day Edu Summit filled with workshops ranging from one hour to seven hours. The Edu Summit was only open to the main conference attendees. Topics ranged from DITA to UX to structured authoring.

On Thursday and Friday, the conference ran from 9.00 to 18.00. The doors opened half-an-hour before so attendees could grab a coffee and a bite to eat and say hi to the other attendees.

The location was perfect for this time of year. We used the conference room at the beautiful Manggha museum on the banks of the Vistula River, just across from the Wavel Royal Castle.

Entrance to Manggha Museum in Krakow, Poland on a sunny day with blue skies

The skies were blue and the weather was just right for all three days, with the clouds staying away until we all dispersed after the conference. Sitting on the terrace outside the Manggha café with that lovely view seemed to keep the conversations going non-stop.

This volunteer-run conference also included great evening events: bowling after the Edu Summit, a concert on the banks of the river at the end of Day 1, and a brew pub (T.E.A. Time) after the conference.

The conference always has a theme. This year’s theme was “problem solving”.

They solicited our thoughts for the theme for 2018. Four proposed themes were written up on a whiteboard, and we could vote for a theme with soap! stickers. “Artificial intelligence and content” won the popular vote. Now the committee will evaluate how to make that work as a theme for the 2018 edition of soap!.

What is so great about the soap! conference?

I have to quote one of the speakers, Oded Ilan, on this. He summed up my sentiments in the video summary of the conference.

I see so many young people engaged and interested in [this technical communication field]… That’s the most powerful thing I saw at this event. – Oded Ilan

Why is it called the soap! conference

I learned about the soap! name at the 2015 conference. Gosia Radymiak, head of the soap! team and conference, said it was a fun idea that came up in conversation. They called it “soap” to stand for strategy, opportunity, advancement, and professionalism. Think of it as a fresh, clean start, said Gosia. “It’s something we can relate to, something we ‘just gotta have’.” I think a lot of writers know many manuals that could use a good scrub to get a fresh, clean start! It’s a great analogy.

What was the biggest takeaway from the soap! conference?

It’s all about people and communicating with people. Talk to people. Learn from people. Those people can be those using your products or services and they can be those you work with every day. They can be those you work for or those who work for you.

The talks – my notes and the videos

The remainder of this blog post is a list of all the talks in the order that they were presented along with a link to the video of their presentation and whatever (raw) notes I took.

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The Getting Things Done workshop at TCUK15

At the TCUK15 conference this year, John Kearney and I gave a workshop covering some techniques for “Getting Things Done” as well as general productivity tips. All of this was aimed at helping our technical communicator peers get all the things done.

Prior to the conference, we sent out some optional homework.

  1. You can start by looking at Karen’s TCUK14 slides. Note the link on the last slide that goes to a bigger reference list on her website.
  2. That brings us to the second homework item: Reading about the science behind GTD.
  3. Think about a project (or the pile of stuff you need to do) that you can bring to the workshop. Having a real-life example to work with is ideal. You can bring it on an electronic device or in a notebook or just a few sheets of paper.
  4. Consider bringing a “GTD tool” with you to the workshop. A notebook and a pen is just fine. If you are bringing an electronic device, try downloading Evernote or OneNote. Both are free and very popular to use for organising tasks. We’ll use them to demonstrate GTD principles, but it’ll be up to you to find what tool or method works best for you. After all, you are the one getting things done! By the way, if you are already using a tool that you rather like, bring it along for a show-and-tell during the workshop.

The workshop slides are on SlideShare, which will please those of you who have asked for them. The rest of this blog post is the raw (and very long) script that we put together for structuring the workshop. It grew from our discussions and planning sessions on Skype, Google Docs, and Twitter DMs! Thank goodness for technology when two speakers live in two different countries! By the way, the script is not verbatim.

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Continuing to get things done – UA Europe conference follow-up

I had the good fortune to give a presentation for UA Conference Europe 6 June where I had a time slot of 45 minutes to share content for a lifetime. My next action after the presentation was to share the various articles that inspired my talk design in the early months of 2014. Not all were directly related, but they all gave me “getting things done” inspiration and got me thinking about the things that I need to or want to get done. My talk was an introduction to the concept of getting things done. My talk was tool-agnostic, but I am using certain tools: Microsoft OneNote (I use it at work), Evernote (I am user number 640,681 out of the 100 million using the six-year-old app), and Cultured Code’s Things (Mac). Yes, it looks crazy to use three different tools, but it’s working for me so far. The list…

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