Month: June 2011

Glastonbury

I’ve finally been to Glastonbury.

No more can I sit at home, on my comfy sofa, in a dry place with clean toilets, watching the highlights and think that I’d like to go there some day, that it must be an ‘experience’ and that I’m missing out on something.

Been there, done it, got the t-shirt.

“What was it like?” I hear you ask (ok, probably not, but you should know by now that I a) make this shit up b) hear voices in my head c) like to put additional thoughts into parentheses for no good reason).

It was amazing, scary, exciting, huge, wet, loud, crowded, fun, exhilarating, exhausting, sunny and slightly surreal.

We were staying off-site in the Tangerine Fields campsite. I don’t do “slumming it” and this gave us both a clean pitch with plenty of room, decent toilets, hot showers and access to the car. Highly recommended, especially after seeing the chaos of the main campsites and the state they were in after a day of rain.

Arriving on Wednesday morning, after staying at Wookey Hole the night before, we were soon at the car park, parked up and trudging through the gathering gloom towards the campsite. The rain had started by then, a light drizzle, which soon became a down pour so we holed up in the tent for a while until the worst of it passed. Thankfully the sun came back out and so we got sorted and headed down to the festival site.

The next couple of days were spent wandering around the festival site itself trying to get our bearings. No mean feat given both the size of the place and the deepening levels of mud. Away from the main stages/tents there is a whole host of different acts and areas to explore. If we managed to see half of them I think we were doing well but I doubt we even managed that (some of them weren’t open, to be fair).

Glastonbury is huge, seriously large and for a few days of the year, about the size of a small town. I’d guess that on a nice dry day with no-one about it would still take about an hour to traverse, add in some hills, lots of people milling about and after a few hours we were completely knackered. Not a huge problem when there are so many places to stop for a seat and a refreshing pint of cider but it’s the scale of the place isn’t really something you get from the TV coverage.

Would I go again? Yes, I think I would. I’d try and make more time to enjoy the other areas, get off the beaten path a bit more, and will be much better prepared for the weather (from showers, to torrential rain on Friday through to heatstroke inducing sunshine on Sunday!). The vibe of the place is what makes it unique for me. I’ve been to T in the Park and, whilst it’s partly down to the audience, that felt a lot more like a big edgy crowd, with the security and staff acting accordingly. At Glastonbury everything was so much more relaxed and friendly, the policemen were walking about wearing silly sunglasses, and everyone seemed to be much more at ease and just there to chill out and have fun. There were no angry drunks to be found and those that were drunk were either profusely apologeticly as they stumbled about or fast asleep.

And then, of course, there was the music. More on that soon.

Conference chatter

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”

It’s that time of year again, with the UA Conference currently underway (see what people are saying about it on Twitter) and the Technical Communication UK conference just around the corner.

We are lucky enough to be able to get to such events, even though we still need to pick and choose due to budget constraints and, once again, the multi-stream approach of TCUK makes it easier to justify. Looking at the programme for this year, there are always two sessions of interest, sometimes three.

As ever, and this is something I’ve commented on before, the benefits of attending conferences go above and beyond attendance at the sessions. The conversations over lunch, or dinner, or over a quick coffee between sessions make all the difference. Being able to bounce ideas off fellow professionals from different companies (working in different industries) gives you some unique views and solutions which you would struggle to get otherwise.

Add in the additional interaction via Twitter and conferences can become a mind-bogglingly fast-paced solution centre!

Of course implementing those solutions is a different challenge but I’ve yet to come away from a conference NOT feeling energised and ready to tackle things and, again, social media then helps extend those conversations.

Creating the business case for attending a conference is usually centred around the sessions, and what the value and benefits of attending will be to the company, but I think it’s also worth factoring in the availability of your peers as part of that discussion.

Plan for a plan

I’m a planner, a goal oriented person. Sometimes it really pisses me off but even subconsciously I’ll break down the simplest thing and give myself a goal. It can be handy when it comes to keeping up with chores (I won’t sit back down until I’ve put a wash on and cleaned the bathroom) and it’s definitely handy when I find the motivation to exercise (competitive? me?).

But sometimes that need to know what is next, what the plan is, what the goals are, means I spend too much time worrying about when things “should” (by my own weird interpretation) happen, rather than relaxing and just letting things happen.

So I’m trying to relax a bit, and only worry about the things that actually need to be worried about.

A good example of my quandary is our upcoming trip to Glastonbury. Yesterday the full lineup, including times, was announced.

Given that there are four days, and 34 different areas, with performances running from 10am through to 6am there is simply no way we’d get to see everything we wanted to see, it’s just impossible. So there are two choices.

Choice 1
Highlight the performances we really want to see and pull together a list of times and locations. That way I at least know that one a certain day, at a certain time, I need to head to a certain area. That way I’d have some level of a plan to keep me happy and the rest we can make up as we go.

Choice 2
Don’t plan a thing. Wander round and stop when something grabs our attention.

We are aiming at mostly Choice 2 (exception being made for Elbow) as it’d be good to just experience the entire thing, than spend four days rushing about from area to area.

So, that’s the plan. Mostly.

Which means, sneakily, there is still a plan!

So I win.

Or do I?

I’m so confused.

Where is everyone?

The attendance at last nights ISTC Area Group meeting in the West of Scotland was poor, and as it seems to fluctuate quite dramatically at times (we went from four people to ten and back again in the space of three meetings) I’m trying to figure out why.

Is it apathy? Laziness? Lack of awareness? Or perhaps people are unclear of the benefits of turning up?

If you are a member of the ISTC, and on the mailing list (or perhaps you are following the ISTC on Twitter?), then you will receive notifications of the area group meetings.

But what if you aren’t a member? How do we attract… scratch that, how do we FIND people who may want to attend? Where are all the technical communicators?

I wonder if more people get quicker benefit being part of online communities? If social media is part of the reason for the low attendance?

Last night was, despite the small number, useful. It always is in one way or another – I got some ideas to help me with my current recruitment drive – but perhaps, like all of these things, you have to turn up to get the benefit.

In the past some of us have contacted other “user groups” who may be interested from the likes of eLearning professionals and on the Adobe user forums. That accounts for the spike in attendance but I’m starting to wonder if there is just a general apathy about our profession (or about the professional world) at the moment.

I’m also very aware that the catchment area isn’t that large, but I know there are other technical authors, technical writers, technical communicators, and lots of other people in the local area who could benefit from attending. These people do exist, we just need to find a way to reach out to them and make sure they understand the benefits.

We have, in the past, considered running a specific session, with a guest speaker, so there is a definite agenda and perhaps that is more of what we need. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a Catch-22 scenario, we can’t (won’t) book speakers if hardly anyone is going to turn up!

It is a quandary for sure.

Why wouldn’t people want to go to the pub and have a chat with fellow professionals?