Technical Writers @ Lisbon (December-2020, virtual)

We had planned to meet half-an-hour before the event, to make sure that everything was set up just right. However, the keys to start the Zoom meeting were held hostage by a ROTIP event (random obnoxious traffic in Porto) of force 6, which expanded a 15-minute short trip into a 90-minute exasperation. Without any real means to communicate the delay, we just had to push on and pray for the patience of the attendees. We can't quite know if anyone gave up before the wait was over.

Joaquim Baptista

Report on 16th We had 23 persons when we finally started the meeting at 18h15. I took some minutes to present the organizers and sponsors:

  • Since 2013, Technical Writers @ Lisbon organized 15 formal events (together with EuroSIGDOC and APCOMTEC) with 40 presentations, attended by 346 persons.
  • Since 2009, EuroSIGDOC organized 7 academic conferences and at least one seminar.
  • Since 2006, APCOMTEC has organized events, workshops, a Summer School, and launched a Postgraduate Diploma with ISCAP.
  • Since 1886, ISCAP has been teaching in the Porto region and now virtually.

Paulo Tavares

Paulo started his presentation at 18h23. He pledged to avoid random English to the point of proposing a word bingo with candidate word offenders.

Paulo was Outsystems employee #27, then left for Google and returned years later to Outsystems with an MBA. He noticed the lack of articulation between:

  • Product, which created documentation.
  • Training, which created online and classroom courses.
  • Professional Services, which created a knowledge base.

He proposed to unify the three efforts under the umbrella of Technical Knowledge, with the purpose to satisfy the knowledge needs of users using whatever form made sense. As a consequence of this change in perspective, the unified team:

  1. Focused on covering the needs of users, instead of just documenting product features.
  2. Became responsible for defining the best way to satisfy user needs.
  3. Started to manage the overall knowledge set as a product.
  4. Broke team processes into capabilities, to figure out which parts of the processes could be done by subject matter experts or freelancers.

  5. Scaled work by enabling the contribution of Outsystems professionals, freelancers, and community members. Scaling needed clear guidelines, templates, a process to select who could contribute, and frequent feedback to contributors.

  6. Gave feedback to product developers (as usual with technical writing) to shape the product.
  7. Hosted the documentation in GitHub to accept contributions from the community.

Finally, Paulo wrapped up his presentation with the following advice:

  • Reframe success by defining what are the knowledge needs and measuring what matters.
  • Rethink knowledge as a product, which you need to define and manage.
  • Embrace the needs of the users and stand up for them. Let the users lead the way.

Breakout rooms and questions

As the presentation finished at 19h20, some people left. To give the remaining 14 participants the opportunity to interact “almost like face-to-face”, we randomly split the participants into 3 breakout rooms. The objective was for the participants to network, exchange comments and, hopefully, return with relevant questions.

The presence of several current and former Outsystems employees influenced the networking in each breakout room. When we reassembled the crowd by 19h35, some questions had already been answered. Just like a face-to-face meetup, I might add.

Nevertheless, each group asked a couple of questions. Paulo engaged Outsystems employees in the audience to answer some of the questions.

The meeting ended at 20h45.

Final words

Our profession argues endlessly about job titles, and we take for granted that we just do “whatever it takes”. We seldom see people articulating the value of our profession in terms that make sense to business, and Paulo did that brilliantly.

Thanks to ISCAP for sponsoring Zoom.

— Joaquim Baptista, px@acm.org

Second invitation (12-Dec)

This is a gentle reminder for our meeting next Monday, starting at 18h.

  • Zoom direct link
  • Zoom ID: 839 3807 7126
  • Zoom password: 927953

I look forward to meet you on Monday,

— Joaquim Baptista

PS: Next Wednesday there will be a sister event on UX Writing. Check it out on meetup.

The invitation (28-Nov)

Greetings to all technical writers, and to everyone interested in technical communication!

I miss face-to-face events, but you cannot say these events were ever perfect. For example, last-minute surprises often prevented me from traveling to events.

Virtual events are not perfect either. I miss being close to people. Still, with some ingenuity, we can recreate some of the interactions that made it worthwhile to travel to physical events. And I believe we did this quite well on June 2nd.

Poster So, we are planning a full "formal" event, featuring a presentation, participant interaction and feedback, and a post-event report:

  • Monday, December 14th, 18h00-19h30.
  • Zoom, id to be defined closer to the event
Paulo Tavares (OutSystems) — Technical Knowledge: Rethinking Tech Comm Teams

In a product setting, technical communication exists for one reason: to enable users to accomplish their goals with the product. To successfully accomplish this goal, we need to break down the traditional organizational silos of Documentation, Training, Product and Support, and move the conversation to a higher level: one of Technical Knowledge.

With Technical Knowledge as the focus, each of these areas is empowered and equipped to think about the problem from a unique perspective and to collaboratively – and proactively – come up with the best solution for the user from the early product design stages.

Notes of interest:

  • Paulo will present in Portuguese, and conversations during the event will be in Portuguese.
  • The participation is free, subject to room capacity (300 people).
  • There will be an opportunity for participants to interact, so plan ahead your audio and video.

Feel free to extend this invitation to friends and other interested parties. More interesting participants will improve the learning experience for everyone.

Thanks to our sponsors for all the support: ISCAP (virtual room), APCOMTEC (marketing and more) and EuroSIGDOC (site).

— Alexandra Albuquerque, APCOMTEC president, info@apcomtec.org
— Carlos Costa, EuroSIGDOC chair, carlos.costa@acm.org
— Joaquim Baptista, APCOMTEC secretary and EuroSIGDOC vice-chair, px@acm.org

PS: The 2nd edition of the post-graduate course in Technical Communication starts in January. You can still apply. pea.iscap.ipp.pt/programas/pos-graduacoes-executivas-1/comunicacao-tecnica

PPS: Subscribe to the mailing list to be the first to know about any events. groups.google.com/g/technical-writers-lisbon

Attachments

Report on 16th
23-page report of the virtual meeting, including the slides of the presentation. Note that the 15th formal meeting did not have a report.
Poster
A4 poster created by APCOMTEC for the event.

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