How I Won The Content Strategist Lottery: A Report From the 2012 LavaCon and Content Strategy Workshops in Portland, OR

You know what they say they say about lotteries- you can’t win if you don’t play. Well, this is the story of how I won a trip to the 2012 LavaCon Conference on Digital Media and Content Strategies and the Content Strategy Workshops. The prizes in this lottery were the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful, intelligent and generous people and four days of exposure to lots of great information that is already changing the course of my career trajectory.

This story begins back in late July when I went to the Seattle Content Strategy Meetup. I am an information architect who specializes in taxonomy but is interested in content strategy, and attended because Scott Abel aka The Content Wrangler was giving a presentation.

Scott challenged the assembled content strategists to think of themselves as “business consultants who deal with content,” to apply Kaizen principles to content strategy and how XML can help with this. It was a really interesting, call-to-arms- type presentation and well worth the price of admission.

At the end he drew some names off of the attendee sheet to win door prizes, including the biggie, tickets to LavaCon and the Content Strategy Workshops. I was finishing up my pizza, figuring that my usual luck around winning drawings would hold up- and then he called my name!

LavaCon is an annual conference on digital media and content strategies with a focus on technical communications and the tech that goes into creating it. Being a well-established conference put on by Jack Molisani, it was a much larger, had a wider array of panels on a variety of interesting subjects with a lot of leading people in these fields in attendance.

This was the first of the (what I hope will be annual) Content Strategy Workshops. The Workshops were much more focused on the actual in-the-field practice of content strategy with sessions led by many leading content strategists. The people behind the creation of the Content Strategy Workshop are Scott Abel and Rahel Bailie, with help from Trey DeGrassi.

I talked with Scott for a while about his presentation and the fact that the conventions started two days after my wedding (!), but that I would make everything work. None of it would have worked of course without my beautiful new wife Elenka, who saw what an amazing opportunity this was and let me go to conferences right after our wedding (it helped that we did a pre-honeymoon in September).

After our wedding, I hitched a ride down to Portland with some friends who dropped me in front of the Portland Hilton and Executive Tower on Sunday afternoon and started a four-day binge of learning, doing, and meeting.

That first afternoon, I heard an acronym that was new to me- DITA. The next day, I went to a panel to learn more about it and discovered the existence of something that I should have known existed but there it was. Here was the practical application of XML that I had been looking for.

Now that I had something to find out about, I had to find people to talk to and see if they could point me in the right direction with DITA and XML. I talked to a lot of great people at the conference, including several leading people in the DITA field who very graciously walked me through the basics and where to get started.

Without a doubt, the Content Strategy Workshops and LavaCon are the best conferences I have attended bar none.

LavaCon was a very intense and informative experience. For someone at my level, it was just what I needed and even if I had lots more experience, there were opportunities to learn at every turn. Given that there were five panels covering a wide breadth of topics going on simultaneously, it was wonderfully overwhelming, but gave me exposure to ideas that were completely new and exciting to me.

The Content Strategy Workshop was smaller but just as intense and informative but laser-focused on the subject of content strategy. For someone at my level who is pretty new to it all, it was a great practical crash course in how to get out there and do it that were useful for newbies and professionals alike. There were two panels going on simultaneously and my only regret was that I was not able to clone myself and attend both.

I got a great deal out of attending LavaCon and the Content Strategy Workshops. I have only been in the information architecture field for a couple of years, and I got more out of these conferences, from the panels to the keynotes to the vendors and even the great schwag than I can express. I don’t know what else to tell you except to say they are awesome and I plan to attend both of them again in the future. I’m even starting to brainstorm a presentation that I could give and thinking of other ways to give back to this great community that I have discovered. Thanks again Scott, Rahel and Jack!

If you are remotely interested in content strategy, technical communication, XML, DITA, and the ever-changing world of digital media, start clearing your schedule so you can attend these conferences next year!

Cross-posted on my Infogration Consulting blog.

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8 comments on “How I Won The Content Strategist Lottery: A Report From the 2012 LavaCon and Content Strategy Workshops in Portland, OR
  1. shawn prenzlow says:

    Great summary and wrap-up, Brian. I agree, the Content Strategy Workshops were some of the best practical learning I’ve attended at a conference. Scott, Rahel and crew have done an excellent job.

  2. Jen DeAngelo says:

    Love the write-up, Brian – and it was great meeting you!

  3. Scott Abel says:

    Thanks, Brian. This write-up is awesome. I appreciate the feedback and was glad that you were able to use the free tickets to advance you career. And, given that your wife excused you after your wedding day to attend our little content strategy event, you are indeed one very lucky man.

    🙂 Scott Abel

    Don’t miss Content Strategy in a Day, January 23, 2013 at PayPal/eBay San jose
    http://www.contentstrategyinaday.eventbrite.com

  4. Don Day says:

    Yes, those folks put on a great offering for attendees coming from a range of backgrounds. It was a pleasure to meet you there. I can’t imagine the swirl of new information you must be processing; if the big picture with DITA gets to looking fuzzy (for you or for anyone reading), shoot me an email and I’ll try to clarify things. Here’s hoping we catch each other there again next year!

    • Brian says:

      It was great to meet you as well, Don. Don’t worry- I’m sure I’ll have some DITA-related questions for you soon!

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