I’m excited to be speaking on “Structuring Topics Without Structured Authoring” at WritersUA Central in Chicago on October 21. This conference for technical communicators has long been one of my favorites, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to attend.

What will I talk about?

I’m going to outline my history of trying to deliver the right information to software users at the right time, and in the right format. Today that means being flexible in developing help for mobile devices, on the web, and for traditional desktop computers. Using structured, topic-based authoring is one of the best ways to do that. Traditional help authoring tools like Adobe RoboHelp don’t always give you a direct way to enforce structure, but with some self-discipline, it’s possible.

What else is going on at the conference?

Over two days, you can get a lot of information from some pretty smart people in our profession. For example:

  • Former STC president Nicky Bleiel on Interviewing Subject Matter Experts and Collaborating in GitHub
  • Scott DeLoach covering best practices in several areas
  • Leigh White on Organizational Challenges in CMS Implementation
  • Mike Baron on WordPress as a CMS
  • Joe Welinske (the founder of WritersUA) on a variety of topics

Good stuff, huh?

More fun stuff

Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago...
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago as seen from the Chicago river (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The conference is at the Willis Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. There’s a visit to the Skydeck on the agenda, so you can see all of Chicago at once. There will be networking lunches, and general fun with available adult beverages at the close of Day One.

So count on some fun too.

Monday, August 31 is the last day for early bird pricing for the conference, so head over to the conference website right now!

Hope to see you in Chicago!

Dirty secret: It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t know what an “indie writer” was. That’s changed in the last year or so, in part thanks to IndieReCon, a free online conference that I first “attended” last year.

This three-day conference is back for a third year, and it’s just as great as I remember last year’s was. It’s a shame I didn’t blog about last year’s event, but I’ll try to make up for it.

What is IndieReCon?

IndieReCon is organized by and mostly for writers interested in, or actively involved with independent self-publishing. That said, there’s a ton of information and inspiration available to traditionally-published and as-yet-unpublished writers.

The conference delivers a variety of speakers in a variety of methods to accommodate the variety of writers (and Internet connection speeds). Consider what I watched on today’s schedule:

Self-Promotion Discouraged

Most sessions last an hour, and several have giveaways associated with the speaker. Now some of you might think that each session is more about marketing the speaker and accompanying products and services. I’ve been through a few of those types of webinar series, and really appreciate that the organizers (this year led by the British-based Alliance for Independent Authors) put an emphasis on the value for the audience. The de-emphasis of self-promotion is so strong, you have to hunt for the sponsor’s website (down at the bottom of the About page, if you want to know)!

Coming Attractions, and Reviewing the Archives

Thursday offers a bunch of practical sessions on self-publishing and reviews of the state of the international self-publishing scene. Here are some of the sessions that I’ll be checking into:

Friday features more “state of the scene” sessions, using Pinterest and live coverage of the London Book Fair Fringe Fest.

Miss an event? It’s all recorded and available to you. You can even access past years’ content under All Events > Archive.

I’ll say it again: If you are considering self-publishing, you’ve got to check this out. If you expect to make a living as a writer, you’ll learn a lot of great stuff. See you over there!

Austin Texas Lake Front
Image by StuSeeger via Flickr

If you’re a technical communicator of any standing, you’ve probably heard of the longstanding TechWr-L (short for Tech Writer) mailing list. With a pair of new owners, the already-lively list has just a bit more life.

One of the signs of that new life is TechWhirl.com, the list’s newly relaunched website. It runs on WordPress (I’m happy to say), and not only looks good, but is generating a ton of new content, dubbed Tech Writer Today magazine.

Another thing I’m happy about is my new membership in the site’s Special Writers Unit. This means I’ll be writing articles regularly about tech comm and related topics for the site. My second piece ran today, and should be of interest to anyone interested in freelance work, small business types and even just folks looking for work in these tough times.

Six Tools to Build Relationships on LinkedIn

Find all my TechWhirl articles on this page.

Now if you are a technical communicator, or manage one (or a team) of them, you’ll want to check out next month’s LavaCon conference on digital media and content strategy in The Live Music Capital of the World: Austin, Texas. The cool thing is that TechWhirl needs some help covering the conference, and two lucky and hard-working folks will get a free conference registration in compensation. Now it’s true, you still have to get there, find a place to stay and the occasional bite to eat, but it’s still a pretty good deal.

One more thing to scare you away: You have to do some of the social-media (Twitter and Facebook) dance to get one of these gigs, but that’ll be easy. All the details are over at TechWhirl.com. You have till this Friday, October 21, 2011 to enter. Good luck!