South of Sherwood Forest

Our impressions from the TCUK 2017.

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Not far from the Robin Hood statue, the oldest inn in England and the river Trent, about 250 cheerful companions met in late September to talk about various aspects of technical documentation. The TCUK (http://technicalcommunicationuk.com/) took place this year in legendary Nottingham, and we from kothes were part at it.

As a conference sponsor, we had a stand in the trade fair area where we were able to represent kothes. As well as a small trade fair with exhibitors, participants of the TCUK were able to attend workshops on the first day of the conference and presentations on the two following days.

Presentations and workshops

In line with the motto of the day, which was “Staying on Topic”, the presentations were mainly concerned with the switch from Word to XML-based text creation. This practical approach was probably popular with many of the visitors; after all, the conference is mainly attended by Technical Editors. But over the course of various conversations it also emerged that some participants would enjoy some more innovative topics as well.

Creating an Integrated API Documentation Experience for Users

Rob Woodgate and Chris Smith both worked on the “Companies House” project, a government website for company registration (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house). In their presentation they provided a fairly solution-based report on the dos and don’ts of API documentation.

They currently encounter the following problems in plenty of API documentation:

  • No structure
  • No consistent terminology
  • Bad UX design
  • API specifications are based on code instead of the reverse.

These are all points where we believe companies can benefit from working with a service provider. On the one hand, a service provider can give competent advice and support when it comes to structuring and terminology work; on the other, working with a service provider forces developers to provide clear specifications.

Workshop: Topic-based writing in the molecular world

The workshop run by Rahel Anne Bailie and the presentations by kothes were the only events to discuss the topic of “Industry 4.0”. After an exciting introduction essentially stating that contents should be offered to the user instead of just being supplied, the exercises dealt with the question of how to write with a focus on a specific topic or variant.

kothes presents Industry 4.0 documentation

During his presentation entitled “Mechanical engineering and Industry 4.0 documentation” Tom Schubert, a key account manager with kothes, provided an overview of what we mean by information 4.0 and how a company can get there.

He answered the following questions:

  1. What effects does Industry 4.0 have on the management of technical product information and information?
  2. What challenges and opportunities does Industry 4.0 present for documentation departments?
  3. What skills are required in terms of tools and processes for a successful documentation flow within a company?
  4. What – and whom – do we need to bring together in order to transform the current situation into a powerful solution for the future?

At the end of the presentation we took a look at an example showing how ERP can be connected to an editorial system and how the manual can be output in PDF format. Here we were able to call on the ERP software programmed by kothes IT services.

There was a lot of positive feedback, particularly regarding the practical solution that we had presented. So we believe we succeeded in explaining our customer and user-focused approach. 

Exhibition and overall impression

As a whole, the event had little in common with a tekom conference. But the familiar framework, a generous coffee nook, plenty of breaks between lectures and a gala dinner on the second evening meant it was often possible to resume and continue interesting conversations with other participants.  

We look forward to building on the contacts we made.

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