Consulting, Publishing, Engineering

Lessons learned from Intelligent Content Conference

First lesson here is about myself. I tend to want to do and see and say everything all at once, and in a way, that kind of paralyzes me. I have had this recap of Intelligent Content Conference (short version: it was great!) in my Drafts folder for almost a month now. I’ve been adding to it as time permits, but really I should have just gone ahead and posted the bits and pieces as they come to me. A blog entry is NOT a book . Now here I sit with dozens more ideas of things rattling around in my brain, and this poor little draft is in danger of going unposted.

So, in all it’s lateness, here are some of the things I learned from the Intelligent Content Conference 2010 in Palm Springs, CA.

I was fortunate enough to attend Ann Rockley’s Intelligent Content conference last week, and it was great! She did a terrific job getting top-notch speakers with really fascinating stories and new ideas, vendors who seem to really care about the industry and helping us all get better at what we do, and an attendee list that made me proud to be a part of this event. Because Intelligent Content (IC2010) is smaller than some of the others I’ve attended, I had an opportunity to really spend time with the speakers and other attendees, and am still sorting through all the things I learned.

One of the nice things about the IC2010 was that there was an opening keynote and another featured speaker each morning, which meant I didn’t have to choose which sessions to miss! We started with a keynote by Gabor Fari from Microsoft. Gabor has had an interesting career, has worked all over the world, and has a solid background in the pharmaceutical industry (and an engineering degree). His talk emphasized the need to move away from documents (”there’s no intelligence there”) and toward a new way of processing and managing all our content. As we’d see throughout the program, the key words seem to be XML and metadata. He also talked about OASIS: “Standards are like parachutes: they work best when they are open.” One of Gabor’s projects at Microsoft is the “Intelligent Content Framework”, a way to extend the metatagging that is inherent in DITA so that each piece of content is easier to find (a problem that I’ve personally run into more often than I like). It was a great intro to the whole conference!

The most inspiring thing about the sessions I attended was learning that the really big companies are making strides in content strategies. Presenters from IBM, Microsoft, U.S. Air Force talked about the same issues we all face, though their scale may be a bit different. Mary Miller (from AchieveGlobal) talked about creating and delivering classes for 3,000 people PER DAY worldwide. 40 countries, 32 languages. Paul Wlodarczyk (from Early & Associates) had to build a system starting with 30 YEARS of legacy content.

One interesting side note – Joe Gollner, as always, completely wowed the crowd with a great presentation, this time tied to the movie “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (fun!). He also included occasional slides entitled simply “Tweetable” with a summary point in 140 characters or less. He sure did know his audience!

With many sessions split into two rooms, there were quite a few sessions I had to miss. Luckily, Ann Rockley and the conference organization had this covered – most of the slide decks were available online for attendees to download during the event. I particularly regret missing Natasja Paulssen (from SDL/Quatron) talking about “The Magic of Intuitive Content Access”. But I was able to spend time chatting with Natasja that evening and later the next day. One point she made – and one I saw repeated more recently in other venues – talks about bringing fun into the employee experience, and seeing measurable improvements in company success. If you ever get a chance to see her speak, grab it!

Breakfast and lunch was included both days, so I spent a lot of time chatting with other attendees as well as the speakers and organizers. I had a particularly good time running around with Maxwell Hoffman, whom I’d seen speaking several times before (he’s usually speaking at events like Web Content 2.0, the now-defunct DocTrain series, and globalization/translation events).

The conference closed up with a talk by Scott Abel, who, as usual, was bold and slightly controversial and completely engaging.

The entire conference was reported in real time on Twitter (#ic2010) although it looks like that hashtag is already being used by another event. Scott and I did our best to tweet pretty much constantly, but we were totally outdone by Max Hoffman! You can see the program and presenters at the official conference page (where they promise to post pictures soon!) at Ann Rockley’s site.

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