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Upcoming presentation in downtown San Francisco: Publishing strategies for API documentation

by Tom Johnson on Sep 2, 2014
categories: api-doc

10/15/2014 update: For the slides and recording, see this post.

I'm giving the following presentation to the San Francisco STC Chapter on October 15:

Publishing strategies for API documentation

Most of the common tools for publishing help material fall short when it comes to API documentation. Much API documentation (such as for Java, C++, or .NET APIs) is generated from comments in the source code. Their outputs don't usually integrate with other help material, such as programming tutorials or scenario-based code samples.

REST APIs are a breed of their own, with almost no standard tools for generating documentation from the source. The variety of outputs for REST APIs are as diverse as the APIs themselves, as you can see by browsing the 11,000+ web APIs on

As a technical writer, what publishing strategies do you use for API documentation? Do you leave the reference material separate from the tutorials and code samples? Do you convert everything to DITA and merge it into a single output? Do you build your own help system from scratch that imports your REST API information?

There's not a one-size-fits-all approach. In this presentation, you'll learn a variety of publishing strategies for different kinds of APIs, with examples of what works well for developer audiences. No matter what kind of API you're working with, you'll benefit from this survey of the API doc publishing scene.

Presentation Details

Group: San Francisco STC Chapter
Location: Hub SoMa at 901 Mission St, Ste 105, between 5th and 6th Streets
Date: Wednesday, October 15
Time: 6-7pm (networking); 7-8pm (presentation)
Cost: Members, $15; Non-members, $20; Students/first timers*, $10. Tickets are available at the door.


About Tom Johnson

tom_johnson_picture2Tom Johnson is a senior technical writer for the 41st Parameter, a company in the fraud detection and advertising technology space. Tom's blog, I'd Rather Be Writing (, is a hub for innovation and exploration in the tech comm field.

Tom recently guest edited an issue of the STC Intercom (September 2014 issue) that focused entirely on API documentation. In his current role, he provides documentation for Java, C++, and .NET APIs, in addition to other developer documentation. In a previous company, he worked on documentation for a REST API and JavaScript SDK.

Tom lives in San Jose, bikes to work, and has four girls. You can contact him at [email protected].

Note: This presentation will be recorded and posted here for those who can't make it to San Francisco.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the tech comm, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.