Cincinnati – Open Help Conference and MDN doc sprint

A couple of weeks ago, was the Open Help Conference held in Cincinnati. This conference was on documentation and user support in free software projects. I did attend the conference and would like to share a couple of thoughts on what I learned there.

Also followed the MDN doc sprint on which I wish to say a couple of words.

The conference itself

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this conference. Usually, conferences have speakers and an audience and some sort of hierarchy between them. The speakers would have the knowledge and the rest would have to listen. This conference didn’t give me this impression. Speakers weren’t superior in any way; they didn’t really have a “truth” to share. They were here to share experience they gained throughout the years, to share issues they came across an how they solved them… or not.

Alongside with this non-hierarchy, I really enjoyed how we did not really care about timing. There was a schedule. We were late on it but no one cared that much. We all naturaly found more important to asks questions, debate, discuss rather than rushing because of clock issues. Usually, nothing fustrates me more than a speaker who skip slides, rushes the presentation and do not leave time for questions because of schedule.

Content – Highlight on BSD certification

All presentations can be found here. All were interesting, but I won’t comment each one here and now. Rather, I have particularly been interested by Dru Lavigne’s one. She talked about the BSD certification program and how they created the program.

How to certify?

Dru introduced us to the field of Psychometrics, the science of assesment. Knowing that there exists such a science blew my mind by itself. But it makes sense.

For an assesment to be psychometrically valid, there are rules. For instance, no question should be helpful to answer to another question. Second epiphany. It turns out most exams I’ve had are probably not psychometrically valid (for this reason or other). This is probably true for most exams in most school/university. What to think of the value of diplomas, then? What to think of exams prepared by teachers who have no insight of what “psychometrically valid” mean?

Certification must expire

For a certification program to be valid, it must expire. And the certification program must decide when and what to do to be re-certified. It explais why my TOELF is officially valid two years, but also why people ask you to put on a resume the date you had it alongside with your score. I’m however concerned about diplomas especially in the field of new technologies. Should a diploma be granted for life? If there was a diploma of web technologies, would you blindly trust someone who had such a diploma five years ago?

MDN Doc sprint

Some doc

We achieved quite a bunch. It was an occasion for me to finish up the MDN article on the JavaScript this keyword. I think that it’s unfortunate that the article wasn’t of that quality before June 2011 with the feature being in the language since the beginning of its existence. If you feel like contesting the quality of the article, don’t bother commenting on my blog. Go fix it on MDN directly🙂

I will say it more formally at some point, but we, people who understand and have knowledge on JavaScript, the DOM and cross-browser issues, should stop explaining them in blog posts scattered across the Internet and rather share our knowledge in a CC-licenced flexible platform (like a wiki for instance)… Oh wait! MDN fits all criteria. Go contribute!

At the doc sprint, I also improved event.currentTarget and event.target pages.

And other things

During the doc sprint, Colin Clark gave a demo on how a screen reader work. Interesting experience. It’s hard to share the experience on a blog post, but I’d recommand everyone to have this experience if given the opportunity to.

And Tom Schuster (aka evilpie) gave me a lesson on SpiderMonkeys internals. Interesting stuff.

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