Re: Preliminary results - Survey of writers in small and startup software companies

Subject: Re: Preliminary results - Survey of writers in small and startup software companies
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Techwrl-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 10:39:09 -0800 (PST)

This survey is fundamentally flawed because it only asked the opinions of other
tech writers. OF COURSE writers are going to think their role in a small
company is important. This survey would only be meaningful if a true cross
section of business people including executives, engineers, venture
capitalists, support staff, and sales and marketing staff were queried. As it
stands, the survey only demonstrates that writers think they are an important
aspect of their company.

I would bet that the majority of executives and venture capitalists would
consider technical writing a very minor part of the picture in setting up a
software company. I am not saying I agree with this, but I must concede that
technical writing is secondary to the engineering of a product. A software
company cannot (or should not) exist without a product. However they can exist
and even make money without decent documentation.

Perhaps I am missing something but I reviewed the web site regarding this
survey and it seems clear that the survey presents no useful insight into the
state of technical communication in small or start-up software companies.

Furthermore, I will even be so brash to suggest that David's survey represents
a fundamental problem with technical writers - isolation from reality. Tech
writing is a chunk of a greater whole (duh). However, most business executives
do not consider tech comm important. I have a client who will pay me outlandish
recruiting fees for a 19 year old UNIX admin, but won't pay a cent for a
skilled tech writer.

Therefore the problem (in my opinion) is not "how misunderstood we are" but
rather, "how do we integrate tech comm with a company in such a way that our
contributions do have an impact and demonstrate to executives how good tech
comm can benefit an organization."

Thus, any survey in this realm should address the perceptions and frustrations
that the NON tech writing community feels.

Now, perhaps this was not David's intention, but according to his web site, his
premise was "that a technical writer does have a special role to play in a
small or startup software company." I believe this premise would be better
served with a greater cross section of the business community and especially
target start-up executives and venture capitalists/investors.

Lastly, this is only an opinion not a personal attack on David. David's survey
raised some very interesting and compelling issues which I am leveraging for a
public discussion. I am merely disagreeing with David's outcome and the
inferences he has drawn to spark public discourse.

Andrew Plato

"David Farbey" <David -dot- Farbey -at- lazysoft -dot- com> wrote in message
news:<32571 -at- techwr-l>...
> In December 1999, I asked subscribers to a number of technical writing
> mailing lists to take part in a survey of writers at small and startup
> software companies.
> Over seventy writers from a number of countries including the USA, the UK,
> the Netherlands, and Israel replied to the survey, and I have now published
> my preliminary results at
> This survey is part of my research for a presentation at the forthcoming
> FORUM 2000 conference in London in June, and I will be presenting more
> details from the survey at the conference. Information on the conference is
> available at
> I look forward to meeting many of you there.

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