Documenting Conferences

Last week I attended Write the Docs. As with previous events I took real-time notes of the talks. Over the last two years that resulted in 32,515 words of notes. It seems fitting to spend so much time documenting a documentation conference.

The ephemerality of conferences frustrates me. Events bring a knowledgeable group of people together. During the conference energy and ideas are palpable but when attendees go home that all fades in to the ether. The occasional slide deck makes it online, but we lose so much. The context, references, and verbiage of a speaker are lost. Scrawled notes on paper are rarely, if ever, shared with those who couldn’t make the conference.

Freely available, web-based, text notes persist across time. Those not able to attend can still learn. Those who do attend can reflect and remember. Ultimately, when the conference ends the learning continues. When multiple people publish notes you learn what parts of a talk resonate with whom. You are able to collectively document a shared experience.

In the future I would love to see more people actively documenting conferences. Notes help us move our respective communities forward. With notes speakers can build upon the talks of others rather than reinventing the wheel with each event. Notes help us spread knowledge beyond the few hundred people fortunate enough to attend. With notes we assert control over the ephemerality of conference knowledge.