I attended and spoke at DocTrain East last month, and it was wonderful. First of all, there were even more attendees than I expected (I believe it topped out around 270). While still much smaller than an event like the STC Summit, this was more than twice the size of the PCOC event I attended just a few weeks earlier. It was small enough to feel intimate, but large enough so that I had lots of good friends AND plenty of new people to meet.
The sessions were, of course, great. I particularly liked the keynote from Albert Chu when he was talking about the way that our home digital experiences are starting to merge – for example, he showed a video of someone using a cell phone like a remote control. This fits in nicely, I think, with lots of other things that are beginning to converge – a word that I unabashedly steal from Rahel Bailie’s “Content Convergence” conference held last spring.
DocTrain East included lots of talk about DITA and XML, and lots of talk about social media and collaborative tools. My own session on controlled languages went well – there are lots of people pushing this approach (particularly the Simplified Technical English proponents and vendors) but there really is more to it than buying a software checker. Alison and I tried to show the potential challenges as well as the potential benefits from controlling the language you use. I think the audience walked away with some useful information!
One of the things that sets DocTrain (both East and West) apart from other events is their pre- and post-conference workshops that are included as part of the admission price. Several of my favorite instructors were scheduled to do workshops for this event, including Char James-Tanny (customizing HTML in Author-IT), Alan Houser (2 sessions – one on FrameMaker and one on the Adobe Technical Communication Suite), and Mike Hamilton (Flare, of course).
Overall, the biggest problem with this conference was that there were 5 concurrent tracks, and I typically had a very difficult time deciding between all of the excellent speakers.
On a personal note, it was great having my sister-in-law there. I am an independent contractor, working primarily from home. No one in my immediate family really understands what I do, or why I find events like this one so compelling. Having Alison along gave me the opportunity to share something I love with a family member, as well as gave her an insight into the field that I’m in. She even admitted that there were several things she learned at DocTrain East that she thought she’d be able to take back to HER work and implement right away!
Overall, a wildly successful week! I hope they invite me to speak again next year.
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