Madworld Day 1

I am at MadCap software’s MadWorld conference for the first time this year. The fact that it takes place in San Diego is a big plus and I wish I had arrived early like the smarter folks at the conference did.

In the morning I attended a session presented by Matthew Ellison about how to maximize re-use with Flare. He helpfully defined his terms and said of re-use that it means, “Never typing the same information twice.” This is an obvious but challenging definition of the term!

He defined “maximizing” as taking every reasonable opportunity for re-use. We can get obsessed with re-use and not focus on what value it provides to the end user.

I won’t delve into everything he said, but one “why didn’t we think of that” moment came when he discussed creating a default table style in a snippet which you insert and convert to text over and over. Scottt DeLoach probably taught us that when we were learning Flare, but I forgot and this solved a nagging hassle for me.

Over lunch I was able to hit up the MadCap folks at the Hospitality Lounge and hassle them about bugs and feature requests. They were great in hearing us out and I think we made some good progress. The face time with their team is a high-point for the conference.

In the afternoon I attended a couple very solid sessions, one from Daniel Ferguson on Responsive Design, and another from Mike Kelley on WET versus DRY CSS. Ferguson ran out of time before he could run through everything he wanted to, but he was doing some good under the hood work with the CSS and I advise getting his slides and checking it out if you mess with the CSS much at your job.

Mike Kelley taught us that DRY CSS means “Don’t Repeat Yourself” and WET CSS means “Write Everything Twice.” Some benefits of DRY CSS are that pages should load faster because browsers don’t have to parse all kinds of wasted lines, and also it is much easier to maintain a stylesheet that doesn’t look like garbage (my words). To me, what Mike was teaching was just a form of the same minimalism that we should ideally be bringing to our documentation. Reduce words, apply Orwell’s rules, simplify, etc. This is what he was advocating but in the CSS world. Mike is a genius and should get a raise!

The best part of any conference is the people you meet and this has been no exception. It is a privilege to meet other people in similar situations and compare notes. I wish we could do it all the time and not just at the occasional conference, and no, online forms of communication, while great, are no substitute.

I hope Day 2 is just as good, and I wish I had stayed longer!