MadWorld 2016 in Review

There is a reason I’ve said in the past that MadCap has the best user conference I’ve ever been to. The MadCap team puts their heart and soul into making the conference informative, information pills interesting, viagra 40mg engaging, approved and fun. Such was the case again this year at MadWorld 2016.

San Diego is a wonderful place for a conference. Even when the weather is “bad” by their standards, those of us who travel from the north think the weather is wonderful. Case in point, the day I arrived, my Uber driver could tell I was not from Southern California because I was unashamedly wearing shorts in 70 degree (Fahrenheit) weather, with a chance of afternoon showers.

This year, the conference was held at the San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa. This is the third venue for MadWorld. The first two years were downtown in the Gas Lamp District at the Hard Rock Hotel. Last year, we were housed at the Catamaran hotel. Each location has had its pros and cons. The Hard Rock is in the middle of everything, and you can easily go anywhere. Both years we were there during a baseball game, which was within walking distance of the hotel. Last year the Catamaran was on the beach of the bay, and within short walking distance of the beaches on the Pacific Ocean. Transportation options were more limited at the Catamaran, being a long ways from the Trolley or other mass transit options, but the view was spectacular. The San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa is on the opposite side of the bay, backing I-5, so it was easy to get to. We took several Uber trips to area attractions including Old Town and Little Italy, and the trips were typically only 5 to 8 dollars. The hotel has an exclusive feel to it, and had a beautiful pool with hot tubs, and easy access to the beach. My only complaint about the Hilton is that there weren’t any restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, so if you didn’t want to eat in the hotel restaurant, you had to hire a ride.

As always, the conference featured full breakfast and lunch meals all days of the conference. The food was good, if a bit repetitive (breakfast, at least). If you are from further inland and north, like me, you can’t help but love the freshness and ripeness of the fresh fruit. Each evening, MadCap hosted a mixer event with free food (typically billed as appetizers in the program, but I found the variety and quantity of foods to be quite satisfying), with free drinks.

Monday morning’s keynote presentation was given by MadCap CEO Anthony Olivier with help from VP of Product Evangelism. Together they announced a new MadCap product called MadCap Central. This was the first MadCap had publicly discussed this product, and it looks like it will be interesting. It is a cloud-based tool that will feature project management and source code management. It looks like it will allow you to create roles in your organization, and then control access to edit or publish content depending on a user’s role. This was an early announcement of Central, and we didn’t get to see a live demo yet. I believe MadCap stated that Central will be available later this year. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this from MadCap in the coming months, and I hope that even before then I’ll be able to interview somebody from MadCap to give you more information.

As always, I’m impressed by the caliber of presenters that MadCap selects to present at the conference. I recognize that comment sounds a little self aggrandizing, since I was a presenter, but I’m talking about the other presenters there. Every session I attended was well constructed with good content. My favorite session from Monday (from a good list of awesome presentations) was Matthew Ellison’s presentation on CSS Flexbox. If you’ve tried to work with JavaScript libraries to do responsive layout, you will be amazed at how simple it is to use Flexbox. My first week back at work, I was able to wow my boss with a Flexbox based design for a new documentation homepage, using the techniques I learned from Matthew.

One Tuesday one of the presenters learned his father had passed away, and he had to leave the conference early (our thoughts and prayers are with you, Justin and your family). In other sessions, I gave an introduction to web scripting with information on how to incorporate jQuery plugins in your Flare content. Scott DeLoach followed that session with an in-depth discussion on how MadCap uses jQuery, and gave several jQuery libraries that you can include in your Flare projects to extend your existing HTML output. He had some great examples of things you can do including search auto-complete, and a plugin to turn a page into a PDF document.

Wednesday was an additional day of conference for those who purchased the Advanced Workshop. I gave the first presentation of the day on source control, and I have to admit, it was not one of my better presentations. I had been using one cloud-hosted source control provider until about a week before the conference, when I realized there was an integration issue with Flare 12, so at the last minute, I switched to a different source control provider, and there were hiccups in the process. I was grateful that the estimable Daniel Ferguson from SmartOutput (formerly Write Degree Communications) conceded to come up and help me on stage, as he was the one who introduced me to my new cloud provider. I hope we didn’t make source control look harder than it is, but I’m not sure. (It GITs better! — Sorry, bad pun.)

Finally, Thomas Bro Rasmussen announced at the conference the launch of pluqin.com (yes, that is a Q, not a G), a site where he will be selling plugins for MadCap Flare. The first plugin is still in pre-release but it looks absolutely amazing. It is called Style Replacer, and it has some phenomenal features. It will read your CSS file content, and then it will allow you to change all instances of one tag to another. It considers classes, and can even completely unbind all classes of a certain type.

Consider the following: If you have a paragraph style that you are using as intro text to a procedure, you might have code like this:

<p class=”ProcedureIntro”>Adding widget to the system</p>

If you wanted to change all of those, across your entire project to the H2 tag, you’d have a LOT of manual work, if you don’t know how to do regular expression searches. While you could easily search for all the <p class=”ProcedureIntro”> tags and convert them to <h2>, you would have a bunch of broken topics, because you can’t easily search for the correct </p> tag to convert it into a </h2> tag.

With Style Replacer, you can do this across your project very easily. It works on images, list styles, div tags, span tags, and more.

Best of all, Thomas promised that all plugins on his site will only be $30 USD. The time saved by using this plugin on a large find-and-replace project could pay for itself several times over the first time you used it. He says he has lots of other interesting ideas in the pipeline, so be sure to check his site for updates.

MadWorld was another huge success, in my opinion. MadCap does a great job of putting together quality sessions, a great atmosphere, good food, and a fun time. The conference is a great value. Whether you were there this year or not, you should make plans now to attend next year. It is a wonderful mix of “our people” that I have never seen replicated at any other event.

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One Response to MadWorld 2016 in Review

  1. techwriterkai April 25, 2016 at 12:14 am #

    Thanks, Paul, for the comprehensive write-up. Sorry I couldn’t be there this year, so your blog post helps me to catch up. MadCap Central and pluqin sound especially intereesting!

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