Write the Docs: Erin Robbins O’Brien – Beautiful Documents – A Language Love Story

I’m at Write the Docs today in Portland and will be post­ing notes from ses­sions through­out the day. These are all posted right after a talk fin­ishes so they’re rough around the edges.

After the morning break Erin started things off by talking about how to help you to continue loving what you do. As she put it, “documentation is not always easy but it’s always worth it.”

Remember why you loved documentation in the first place. For Erin that’s the look of a blank document, the curve of your favorite font, the ability to change the pace of an entire document with punctuation. Knowing the little things about language makes you the master of the language universe.

She included some tips for maximizing efficiency. The University of Virginia found that looking at cute images increases your fine motor skills. Harvard studies on productivity also show that facing your desk away from the window helps you stay on track. You should also try writing docs in a new font. A small change in style, even temporarily, can refresh creativity. Just don’t use Papyrus or Comic Sans. It also turns out that being warm, around 77 degrees, decreases typing errors and increases output.

You should also look at your docs through someone else’s eyes. Talk to students, interns, colleagues, and users who are looking at your document for the first time.

Also, always remember that before you wrote this document it didn’t exist. You are creating knowledge. That’s pretty cool.