Reflections on DrupalCamp Toronto 2010, part 1  Clip to Evernote

Last Friday, I attended day one of DrupalCamp Toronto 2010, an unconference for Drupal enthusiasts. Drupal being the popular Open Source Web content management system.

To say that my knowledge of Drupal is basic is being generous. So I thought attending DrupalCamp could help expand that knowledge. While I didn’t attend any of the more technical sessions (they were on Saturday, when I couldn’t attend), the sessions that I did sit in on gave me a good idea not only of what Drupal can do but also how to plan an implement a Web site in Drupal and (important to me) how to more actively participate in an Open Source community.

Here’s the first part of a longish report on what I heard and saw.

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I’m a Content Strategist. Or am I?  Clip to Evernote

by: Colum McAndrew

Apologies to UK poet Roger McGough for paraphrasing his poem “The Leader”.

I wanna be a Content Strategist.

I wanna be a Content Strategist.

Can I be a Content Strategist.?

Can I? I can?

Promise? Promise?

Yippee I’m a Content Strategist.

I’m a Content Strategist.

OK what shall I do?

When attending a conference, I always try to summarise the themes and topics that arise as it unfolds. It’s a way for me to summarise to others who couldn’t attend what was covered. A few sound bites here, a few notes there always come in useful in that respect. The 2010 edition of the Technical Communications UK conference was no different. However despite having a formal e-Learning presentation stream running throughout, it was not this theme that caught my eye.

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Idealism & realism  Clip to Evernote

Recently, I had an interesting conversation about a variety of things with another technical writer. During the conversation, he kept insisting that technical communicators need to move to formats that can be viewed on mobile devices. And that we need to do that now.

My response was that this was a good idea, but not-so-good in practice. Without even waiting for me to elaborate, he called me a dinosaur and a Luddite. I called him something that was less than nice …

Let’s get this straight: when it comes to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices I don’t fear them and I don’t hate them. In fact, I’ve been using and writing about them for longer than most.

Yes, it’s true that people are (in the words of many others) consuming more and more content on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. And, yes, you need to know your audience.

But until your customers actually start issuing those devices to employees and those employees actually use them to read documentation, then shifting to mobile formats is nothing more than a nice idea.

Building mobile-enabled documentation won’t make customers buy and deploy mobile devices. They need a bullet-proof business case before they do that. And, of course, the budget. Study after study can say that by whatever year, x% of content will be accessed using a phone or a tablet. For many technical communicators, the content that they’re producing won’t make it on to those devices until customers adopt them. With many businesses, that can be a long time in coming.

What to do until then? Definitely don’t ignore the mobile/portable space. Understand the issues surrounding how to create documentation for viewing on, and for use with, those devices. Understand the tools and the techniques. Be ready for the change. It will happen, but chances are it won’t happen as soon as many people think. That said, it could happen sooner than you expect if you jump to a new job or gig!

Thoughts? As always, feel free to leave a comment.

Photo credit: air from Photoxpress