Diving into Documentation: Write the Docs 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Write the Docs conference in Portland, Oregon. This unique event gathers together people who are passionate about documentation for two days of speakers, discussions, and learning. I’d heard great things about Write the Docs and was excited to attend and soak up some knowledge.

I’m lucky that Write the Docs takes place in my hometown of Portland. Over the last year or so, my job has involved a lot of documentation work as we shifted from our old site organization and built the shiny new theeventscalendar.com. I fretted over the organization of our new knowledgebase and probably drove the support team nuts with my attempts at project management. I jumped into the deep end of documentation and learned to swim from there.

WTD swag

Attending this conference was both inspiring and affirming. I didn’t have any formal training in information management before working on our knowledgebase, and it was very vindicating to be watching speakers and think “Hot damn, we got that part right!” Of course, there is a lot more we can do to make our documentation better- and that inspired many scribbled notes and ideas that will shape the future of our knowledgebase and beyond.

One of the biggest takeaways was the need for us to make better use of the available analytics tools. We need to understand how our customers find our documentation, and how we can help make tutorials more searchable. As Kevin Burke pointed out in his talk, if a user searches and doesn’t find what they are looking for, they probably aren’t going to try different search terms- they’ll think that documentation doesn’t exist. It’s our responsibility to make sure that users can find what they need.

Similarly, we need to know more about what our customers think about our documentation. Is it helpful? Do our tutorials provide enough detail? Too much detail? One of my new goals is to add a ratings system to our knowledgebase so that users can more easily share what they think. Additionally, I’d like to make it easier for people to submit feedback about specific tutorials. Got some feedback to share now? I’d love to hear from you!

I’m excited to move forward on the new ideas and goals that came out of my days at Write the Docs. If you want to get some inspiration of your own, I recommend checking out the Write the Docs Youtube channel to watch some of the wonderful featured speakers. Or even think about attending next year- or Write the Docs Europe in August 2015!

My time at Write the Docs was invaluable. It was great to see so many other people who are as excited as myself about tutorials, taxonomies, and information management. A huge thank you to the conference organizers for a fun, informative, and well-run affair. See you next year!