London calling: Congility Conference 2013

In yet another guest blog, Adobe partner Jang Graat gives excellent coverage of last week’s Congility conference on the outskirts of London.

Variety of themes and issues at Congility conference

After the 2-week tekom roadshow I had one week off and then packed my bags again to hit the road for Adobe. This time it was the Congility Conference in London, with a pre-conference workshop and a presentation to deliver. Also, I was there to help out my friend Kapil Verma, (Sr. Product Manager from Adobe), as his colleague had to cancel his trip at the last minute. The conference was conveniently located in the Arora Hotel in Crawley, a stone’s throw away from London’s Gatwick airport. The organization of the conference, by intelligent content solutions provider Mekon, was flawless, and the hotel facilities were fine for this type and size of event.

01 winnersThe theme of the pre-conference workshop, which was held twice on the same day, was the same as in the tcworld roadshow: Changing the engine without stopping the car. Of course, with 3 hours available instead of the usual 45-minute time slot for a presentation, I could go into much more detail about the various steps in the smooth migration from unstructured monolithic documents to structured modular content. The presentation was combined with a couple of live demos, using FrameMaker 11 and a set of prepared files to show what the steps look like in real life. The audience for both workshops showed, not surprisingly, a high number of FrameMaker users, of which a small number had already tried their hands at Structured FrameMaker and XML. For those of you who could not make it to the workshop: I will be adding material about conversion techniques on my blog at Automating FrameMaker.

The workshops ran concurrent with a specialized Congility S1000D conference, during which Kapil was assisted by a couple of guys from France-based Antea. I only had time to stop by during my lunch hour, as the next group of students was awaiting me immediately after. But in the evening we had time to explore the town and have a meal on an outside terrace. And so the first day of my visit to Crawley ended with a satisfied feeling overall.

The conference itself, on June 26-27, featured a series of high-quality presentations on various aspects of agile content and the technologies and methods required to produce and manage such content in today’s world. But even more than today’s content, the focus of many presentations was clearly on the future. It started right away with an excellent keynote presentation by Mekon’s Noz Urbina, who is the main organizer of the event. His talk showed how the development of technologies, but also its acceptance by the general audience, has speeded up dramatically over time. His simple message, possibly not so simple to implement but still very important, is that we need to prepare for tomorrow even if we do not know yet what tomorrow will look like. If we wait until things start happening we will be too late.

02 signsMy own presentation that morning was an example of thinking about the future of version control. In a nutshell, it presented a new paradigm for delivering customized, personalized content that gives users only the information that applies to them, taking into account whatever versions of software the users have installed and even which options were switched off. The basic idea is to move the configuration of user assistance from build time to run-time, by placing an intelligent disclosure layer between the online help system and a library of information building blocks that is available. Instead of building myriads of differently configured information products, programming such an intelligent disclosure layer would prepare us for a much more dynamic world of user assistance.

The remainder of the program featured many very interesting and thought-provoking presentations. Needless to say that next year I hope to be presenting here again. Thanks Mekon, and especially Noz Urbina, for organizing this event.


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Jang Graat

Jang F.M. Graat, Chief Technologist at The Content Era LLC, has almost 3 decades experience in the technical communications industry. After studying Physics, Psychology, and Philosophy, he started on a fast-track career in the high-tech computer industry, working as a systems designer, marketeer, technical author, trainer, consultant and programmer. Jang has delivered countless presentations and training courses around the globe. His talks were always entertaining as well as thought-provoking and met with enthusiasm and often a certain degree of bewilderment. Thinking inside a box is not one of his strengths. After being self-employed for 20 years, he has joined Tom Aldous at The Content Era, where he is developing his often revolutionary ideas into clever solutions. He has done tons of coding in ExtendScript, always trying to make the jobs of technical authors less tedious and more effective. You can also connect with Jang on facebook and follow Jang Graat on Twitter: @4everJang

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