What a show! Documentation and Training: The User Experience (April 18-21, 2007) was a big success. Several hundred technical communication, information management, training, and user experience professionals converged on beautiful Vancouver, BC. While there is much to report about the first DocTrain conference held on the west coast of North America (we’re gathering up our thoughts and will publish them soon), this post will focus on the featured speaker, Salim Ismail, head honcho at The Brickhouse, a technology innovation incubator from Yahoo!

During his keynote address (and in a subsequent 75 minute presentation/discussion), Ismail made some convincing arguments about the changing nature of the internet and the role of content. He cleared up lots of confusion around what Web 2.0 is (a publish subscribe model that helps users “do stuff”) and what it isn’t (just another new information delivery method). He captivated the audience, exposing them to new possibilities for delivering relevant information. He challenged the standing room only crowd to “think differently” about how they might use the new breed of standards-based content creation and management tools to deliver “services that help people accomplish their goals in useful and efficient ways” instead of just “throwing more information at them and making them search for what they need”.

A great example of this new service mentality is Yahoo Pipes, an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator that, according to Yahoo, allows you to “create feeds that are more powerful, useful and relevant.” Information technology guru Tim O’Reilly seems to think it’s much more than that. O’Reilly writes: Pipes has “enormous promise in turning the web into a programmable environment for everyone”.

Another example of the increasingly important web services model is Confabb.com—the largest database of conferences in the world. Confabb provides services to conference attendees, organizers, speakers and exhibitors. Although still in its infancy, the service has already attracted the attention of conference professionals at over 20,000 organizations. It’s also struck deals with various online speakers bureaus and trade organizations to expand the network of speakers the service represents. In the near future conference goers will be able to shop for and purchase conference tickets, conference organizers will be able to market a conference from the website. Additional services are being added frequently. The very same principles that technical communication thought leaders and content management professionals preach about (content reuse, structured content, XML) make such services possible. (Note: Scott Abel, TheContentWranagler, is on the Advisory Board at Confabb.com).

Check out the Confabb listing for the DocTrain UX event. In the coming week, as attendees start to use the rating services Confabb provides—Netflix-like ratings of individual conference sessions, speakers, and the conference in general—the power of network effects comes into sharp focus.

Confabb.com also allows conference organizers to create, manage, and promote their own conference websites. Check out the Personal Democracy Forum and Take Back America for examples of how the service helps organizers reuse and repurpose content (separating content from its format—sound familiar?) Look for more details about about Confabb.com soon.

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Stop by his appropriately named blog, You’ve Got Ismail, to keep tabs on Salim and his adventures.