BarCamp Boston 7 Continues to be Awesome.

Yeah, okay, BarCamp Day 2. I did a horrible job of blogging about Day 1 live. I’ll try to do better today.

The Cuba + libraries + information technology presentation went very well this morning. The other presenters who had signed up for that slot canceled, so if folks wanted to attend a talk, they were “stuck with me.” 😉 In thirty minutes, I gave a broad overview of the six days we Special Libraries Association delegates toured Cuban institutions and libraries and met Cuban librarians (which I still need to really tell you about). Folks have lots of questions, so the conversation continued in the hallway through the next time slot. Addendum: Because I spoke extemporaneously while a slideshow of 180 photos ran in the background, I don’t have any materials from the talk I can put online.


At noon, Buck gave 12 of us a contradance lesson, including an unsuspecting couple we pulled out of the hallway so we’d have a good number of dancers.


Now I’m learning about a genome project friends work on that involves trying to get people to voluntarily give up genetic material for the purpose of scientific advancement. As part of the work, people’s DNA will become public. There are many legal and other complications (surprise, surprise). Some people fear discrimination based on genetic data. For example, if they have certain cancer genes, will getting health care become a problem in the future? There’s a case where a lady whose results revealed a BRCA mutation who was laid off claims the employer chose her because of the potential of her developing cancer. Some companies are working on home genetic testing kits that give portions of someone’s DNA code. Real, thorough DNA testing is very expensive.

When she had her test, she learned her ancestors came over on the Mayflower (which isn’t terribly rare among certain groups of Americans) and some other useful and curious things about her biology.


Model train technology with Brian: Apps for running trains off smartphones mean barriers to entry are much lower. Some people understand the train apps easier than via a different controller because of how similar the apps are to other common phone apps. Also, not having to buy more equipment eliminates another barrier.


Technical writing is a varied role with many components. Writers can write for programmers, colleagues, the pubic, clients … Some technical documents are written with a 7th grade education level in mind. Does anyone read the doc? Why write things down? How do you make the documentation short enough to hold people’s attention spans, yet long enough to be thorough and useful?

Part of technical writing is figuring out how the software works in the first place and how the customer is going to use it, then documenting that path. Organization is important. Steps should be in order. The structure of the content should be clear and useful. Forget about the rules about using the same words over and over. Short sentences referring to the same things using the same terms are less confusing to the user.

If a program has 100 features and your client is most likely going to use only 20 of them regularly, you need to find a way to direct the client to those 20 essential features while also documenting the other 80.

How basic you need to be with the documentation is based on your audience’s experience level. If you’re writing for completely new users, you may need to explain everything. If you’re writing for experienced users, you may be able to assume they know how to handle basic functions.


The crash course in Arabic was fun.


The pool game lasted through the closing session. Ooops. I tried to clear the table quicker.

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