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Write the Docs Podcast
59 minutes | 3 months ago
WTD Episode 33: Simplified user interfaces, with Anton Bollen
One of the most challenging and frustrating things about being a tech writer is managing screenshots in your product documentation. How many times have you needed to take complex screenshots of your product and meticulously marked them up with callouts only to be told that a field has changed and you need to do everything again? It’s so frustrating and demoralizing as a writer because it feels like wasted effort. What if there was a way to create screenshots that could withstand the rapid iterations of a product under development while still conveying valuable meaning to your readers. Today we’re joined by Anton Bollen from TechSmith who explains how we can do this using low-detail screenshots, aka simplified user interfaces, that let you focus your users' attention on just the bits of the interface that matter.
54 minutes | 6 months ago
WTD Episode 32: Self-publishing and AsciiDoc, with Mehmed Pasic
Many tech writers are familiar with using AsciiDoc for documentation, but did you know that you can also create fiction and non-fiction books with AsciiDoc, publishing to popular digital formats such as EPUB or PDF, along with HTML? In this episode of the Write the Docs podcast, we chat with Mehmed Pasic from Manning Publications about self-publishing, AsciiDoc, collaborative workflows between authors and editors, trends in book publishing, the most popular devices for consuming content, book versus video formats for technical content, and more.
61 minutes | 7 months ago
WTD Episode 31: Strategies for site search, with Peter Levan
So many documentation websites rely on search as part of their information architecture. But what do you actually need to consider if you want to make your site search return answers for users in relevant, efficient ways? Join Peter Levan from Funnelback with regular guests Chris, Jared, and Tom for a talk all about making search work well on your site. Some of the questions discussed include: Why can't you just let Google do the searching and indexing for you? Do you need to pay big money to get a site search tool? How do you make your docs site talk robot?
62 minutes | 9 months ago
WTD Episode 30: Documentation templates, with Juan Lara
In this episode, Juan Lara from Google joins us for a lively discussion about documentation templates. Documentation templates refer to established patterns we follow for common documentation types, such as quickstarts, how-to guides, concepts, tutorials, reference, troubleshooting, release notes, FAQs, or other information types that have similar, predictable patterns. Templates can be helpful in orienting new writers, but they can also help ensure consistency among larger groups of experienced writers too. Our discussion in this episode ranges from observations about when templates are right for users versus writers, and how templates fit into an overall content strategy and information architecture. Beyond templates, your user's goals and journeys will influence the shape of your help content.
56 minutes | a year ago
WTD Episode 29: Salary Survey results and WFH tips, with Eric Holscher
In this episode, we chat with Eric Holscher, co-founder of both Read the Docs and Write the Docs, about the recent Salary Survey that the WTD group conducted. This survey was launched in Fall 2019, and the results published were recently published. The salary survey covers details such as types of employment, job titles, roles, length of time in role, work location, annual salary, salary breakdowns by state, additional benefits, satisfaction, reasons for dissastisfaction, organization type, respondent demographics, and more. In addition to exploring the survey, we also chat about tips for working from home, especially given that both Eric and Chris have been working remotely for many years.
75 minutes | a year ago
WTD Episode 28: UX writing - Starting and Scaling at your Company, Berlin WTD meetup
Episode 28 is a recording of a Berlin WTD meetup focused on UX writing processes, live streamed on March 9, 2020 at the Humanitec in Berlin. The meetup featured two speakers. Natasha Sarana, UX Writer at FlixMobility, talks about her company's attempts to include UX Writing in their research routine. She shares the main challenges they faced so far and how they deal with them. The second speaker, Roger Sheen, information architect and freelance UX Writer, talks about how the UI copy process at Wire evolved as the product matured. He covers gathering and aligning copy from source code, moving it to dedicated strings files to facilitate version control and localization, and setting up collaboration workflows with developers and external partners.
58 minutes | a year ago
WTD Episode 27: Starting a doc group/process when you're the first
In episode 27 of the Write the Docs podcast, we're joined by Cynthia Ng and Amy Qualls from GitLab to talk about strategies for starting up docs in organizations where there aren't any other tech writers and where you're first on scene setting up shop. What are your first steps as a documentarian when there isn't anyone else, when processes, contacts, tools, and other systems aren't documented or described anywhere? When you're first on scene, docs might not even be your full-time job but rather a task that's on the side of your desk and which you have to bootstrap from ground zero.
64 minutes | a year ago
WTD Episode 26: Tech Writing and Reddit, with Alan Bowman
In episode 26, we talk with Alan Bowman about the technical writing forum on Reddit as well as the WTD Slack channel, comparing and contrasting the two spaces. Topics covered include pros and cons of anonymity on the internet, transparency around sensitive or taboo topics (e.g., salary, masters programs, feelings of overwhelm), age/experience demographics for both communities, balancing honesty with professionalism, responding to posts from overwhelmed tech writers, dealing with recurring topics, strategies for participating, and more.
56 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 25: Researching how developers use API docs, with Andrew Head
In episode 25, we talk with Andrew Head, Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science at UC Berkeley, about his research on how developers use API documentation. Specifically, we focused on a recent article he co-authored titled When Not to Comment: Questions and Tradeoffs with API Documentation for C++ Projects. During the podcast, we chat about the following: where developers look for information, how developers manage information in Google’s unique billion-line code base, when it's appropriate to just let developers read the code directly versus creating documentation, what kind of information developers look for in API documentation, the relevance of document generators such as Doxygen, and more. Andrew also talked about some projects he's working on to build interactive tools for developers to share code expertise.
55 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 24: Conference chatter and the Australian scene, with Swapnil Ogale
In this episode, we're joined by the Write the Docs Australia initiator Swapnil Ogale. We talk about conference wind-downs and ramp-ups, highlights from the just-finished WTD Prague conference, speakers announced for upcoming Write the Docs Australia conference, the Good Docs Project, the tech writing scene in Australia, and more.
39 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 23: How to write inclusive tech documentation, by Lucie Le Naour
In this episode, rather than the usual roundtable discussion, we provide a recording of a WTD Berlin presentation by Lucie Le Naour on how to write inclusive tech documentation. Inclusive documentation takes into account all users, regardless of their gender, culture, or abilities. It uses language that treats different types of people fairly and equally, acknowledging that the words you choose matter in the connotations and attitudes they convey. This presentation was recorded on August 19, 2019 in Berlin.
62 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 22: Managing multiple doc projects across Git repositories, with Giles Gaskell
In episode 22, Giles Gaskell from Squiz in Australia joins us to talk about managing multiple doc projects across Git repositories through Antora. Giles explains how to establish processes such that updating documentation becomes part of the definition of done, how to manage build process across multiple Gitlab repositories, strategies for distributing doc work across engineers through templates, how to scale workloads when you're the lone technical writer in the company, times when dogfooding your own product for docs makes sense and when it does not, pros and cons of Asciidoc versus Markdown, and more docs-as-code topics.
59 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 21: On career growth, leadership, and mentoring in tech writing, with Becky Todd
In episode 21, Becky Todd from Atlassian joins us to talk about career growth, leadership, and mentoring. How do you move up to the next level at your company? Does upleveling require a management track, or there other ways to increase your leadership and influence? We also chat about mistakes we've made, what we've learned, ways to increase our influence and visibility both inside and outside corporate walls, why we sometimes back away from persuasion efforts, the balance between autonomy and micromanagement, mentoring strategies and opportunities, and other career-related topics within technical communication. We also look at the Season of Docs as an opportunity for getting involved in open source projects.
57 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 20: Minimum requirements for good tech docs, with Matt Reiner
In episode 20, Matt Reiner from K15t joins us to talk about minimum standards for documentation - what techniques or standards can you put in place to help engineers and other contributors meet the minimum requirement for good tech docs? What essential sections, headings, or topics should you include in templates? And how do you help non-native speakers with grammar issues? We also discuss how tech writers can work with marketing to create honest and interesting writing. There seems to be the feeling that tech writing is dull but accurate and marketing copy is flashy and fluffy - we brainstorm ways technical writers can better align with marketing writers.
63 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 19: Static site generators, with Jessica Parsons
Jessica Parsons, a documentation engineer from Netlify, joins us for Episode 19 of the WTD Podcast. Jess recently conducted a Static Site Generator workshop at the Australian Write the Docs conference at Melbourne. It was really excellent, and we've been meaning to get Jess on the show for a while to talk shop. In this episode, Jess illuminates the world of static site generators, comparing and contrasting Hugo, Jekyll, Sphinx, Gatsby, and others. Discussions focus on considerations for choosing a static site generator, and how to manage the content they consume, from APIs to Git-tracked markdown files. Headless CMS options like API-driven Strapi and Git-wrapper Netlify CMS make an appearance.
50 minutes | 2 years ago
WTD Episode 18: Recap and thoughts on Write the Docs Australia 2018
In episode 18 of the Write the Docs podcast, we discuss the recent Write the Docs Australia 2018 conference held in Melbourne. Jared was an emcee at the event and shares his inside perspective about what made the event so successful. We dive deep into the unconference format, how to instill the Write the Docs brand into the conference experience, how super volunteers can avoid burnout, what sessions stood out, and more. Also, Chris confesses that he has attended about 40 conferences this year, and explains a few reasons why.
59 minutes | 3 years ago
WTD Episode 17: Structured writing — reasons and approaches
In this Write the Docs podcast episode, we chat with Mark Baker about structured writing, specifically focusing on his new book Structured Writing: Rhetoric and Process. After introducing and defining structured writing, Mark explains the four domains you can add structure: media, document, subject, and management domains. He explains the advantages of working with structure in the subject domain, and why mixing structure across subject and document domains can be inefficient. We also chat about how structured writing connects with SEO and microformats on the semantic web, the limits of structure in Markdown formats, how to implement structure in linking, and more.
64 minutes | 3 years ago
WTD Episode 16: An open-source Grammarly for tech docs?
This episode focuses mainly on testing tools. Last month, some rockstar WTD community members spent a few days at the Pronovix offices in Szeged, Hungary, trying to create a series of open-source testing tools. Specifically, they wanted to create a ‘create a container deployable solution that can automatically check docs’. In more blunt terms, a kind of open-source Grammarly, but integrated into deploys and repositories and focused on tech docs. Host Chris Ward and our podcast guest Anett Pozsar from Szeged (pron. Seg-jed) Hungary also participated in the Test-the-Docs hackathon. Anett recently started in her role as a technical writer, so in this episode we also chat about what it's like starting out as a new technical writer. Finally, we transition from testing tools and linters to templates. Structure and templates can be especially helpful for guiding engineers in writing docs.
53 minutes | 3 years ago
WTD Episode 15: User research, tech writer stereotypes, and conversations
After a short summer break, we've returned to the WTD podcast and taken up our mics again to talk about important doc issues. In this episode, we first chat about assumptions we have regarding our users and the value of doing user research. Basing the discussion on Jen Lambourne's talk at WTD Portland 2018, we talk about ways to capture the user perspective and limitations/workarounds for user research within the corporate domain. Next, we chat about an article by Emily January Petersen on the Make-It-Pretty Philosophy, where the roles of tech writers are reduced to grammar and style editing only, without more substantive updates and revisions to content. Finally, we talk about Tom's research project on healing the academic/practitioner divide and how he hopes his conversation posts will bring both sides more closely together.
53 minutes | 3 years ago
WTD Episode 14: Humanizing your documentation
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