Why has this gathering of digital publishing mavens expanded beyond its origins as a simple software user conference? Following is a brief Q&A with Tizra's founders.
Why did decide to put on a user conference… and why have you kept at it?
We'd been to a ton of publishing conferences, and felt they were light on the central know-how needed to build direct connections with audiences. If you think about it, that's exactly what our customers do day in and day out, and we felt there was the opportunity to do something that would not only help people to use Tizra more effectively, but would help them to be better publishers.
So we put the idea out there and got a very encouraging response. More important, the reviews AFTER the first conference were unanimously positive. Every single person who went said they’d do it again.
In the second year, more than twice as many organizations participated, and we got similar reviews. That told us it wasn’t a fluke. So now the question is How do we build on this? There’s a real, living community here, and we’re excited about exploring how we can make it more energetic, interesting, and able to deliver insight and value to its members.
What are the hot topics that you’re looking forward to seeing on the agenda this year?
By far the best thing about past conferences have been the surprises. Customers are out there doing things that we never expected, which is hugely exciting, because it means that the potential of Tizra isn’t bounded by our own imaginations. Obviously, we don’t know what this year’s surprises will be, but two things we know have a lot of energy behind them already are XML and integration.
What’s significant about XML is that it offers the opportunity to create a truly digital-native user experience, including reflowable text that’s much easier to optimize for mobile devices. It also frees you from the constraints of the printed page when it comes to content remixing. Basically you can create whatever size chunks you want and you can use all the most modern web tools to enhance the on-screen look and layout.
XML is particularly significant for Tizra customers because it not only puts them in a position to create really cutting edge user experiences, but they don’t have to write off older fixed layout content to do so. With XML capabilities added to Tizra’s existing PDF delivery, you can combine old and new publications in whatever ways make sense for your readers, without worrying about what kinds of production processes were used for each.
Integration is the other big area. These days it's going way beyond single sign-on. We’re seeing integrations with learning management, production workflow, search, ecommerce and web content management systems. As our APIs grow, Tizra is becoming part of a broader fabric of solutions that give users the freedom to combine software from different vendors with much less concern about the kinds of incompatibilities that used to lock them in. We’re trying to make Tizra as open as possible to this kind of adaptation, and expect to have some exciting new work to show. Again, it opens up the possibility for all kinds of new surprises.
Can you tell us about the newly added ½-Day pre-conference Tizra Developer’s Intensive?
While we’ve always taken pride in how much Tizra empowers non-technical users, the truth is it puts even more power in the hands of people who have certain technical skills. Last year, a number of participants asked not just for a longer conference, but for more hands-on time that would help participants build new features and capabilities that would change how they published in deeper ways. This really requires some focused, peer-to-peer time, where developers can dig in, without fear that they’re leaving everyone else out.
So this year, we’re going to lead into Tuesday’s plenary session with a smaller gathering the afternoon before, which we plan to focus on things like API applications, front-end coding techniques, and working with XML. The goal will be for participants to go home not only with ideas, but with sample code and new skills they can put to work immediately.
Then the whole group will gather for a great dinner, same as last year. A great warm-up to the general session.
What are the benefits to customers who attend the TUG conference?
Well, of course, you’ll learn more about where Tizra is headed and how to get more out of the platform, but that’s actually a comparatively small part of the program. The big benefits really come from the opportunity to compare notes with colleagues across publishing disciplines and from the concrete “how-tos” that combine an understanding of real publishing challenges and deep knowledge of the opportunities technology can create. Expect to come out with an updated awareness of best practices in the fast-changing world of digital publishing, new skills and strategies to help you do great work, and with a recharged sense of confidence and focus based on what you’ve learned.