RE: Wanted: Dumb Tech-Writer Stories

Subject: RE: Wanted: Dumb Tech-Writer Stories
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 18:04:09 -0800

Becca Price <becca_price -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:

>well, I sent in one about a dumb tech writer (me, on
>my first job), but I sent it off list.
>maybe others have done the same but, like me, they're
>embarrassed to show of their own stupidity in public?

Well, in the hopes of getting other people laughing at
themselves, here's the dumbest thing I've done as a tech-writer
(or at least the one that most makes me want to wince and laugh
at the same time):

For about eighteen months, I was working on fifteen modules of a
massive human resources project. The programmers had made no
effort at setting standards for a consistent interface, and had a
habit of strewing buttons and icons anywhere they could find free
space between the data fields. They also had the habit of
changing things as I worked; more than once, I did a screen
capture, inserted it in my Frame file, and returned to the
program only to find that the interface had changed.

The project became so unwieldy that eventually I decided that an
introductory volume to the entire project was necessary. In the
general explanation of the interface, I wrote the immortal line:
"Buttons have text and icons have pictures."

I hired a sub-contractor to help out with the work (it was either
that or dash my brains out against the wall in an effort to
escape the full awfulness of the project; by the time the project
had finished, we had to re-write all 3000 pages about five
times). One Friday afternoon, she was editing the introductory
manual when she read this line out loud. Its patronizing grasp of
the obvious had has giggling for at least ten minutes.
Eventually, the line became a catch-phrase: whenever we came
across a piece of bad writing, one of us repeated the line.

BTW: thanks to Becca and everyone else who's sent stories off the
list. I'm still collecting them if anyone else wants to

Bruce Byfield, Publications and Product Strategy, Stormix
Vancouver, BC, Canada
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com or bbyfield -at- stormix -dot- com

"Call me the Deserter: it's true I walked away,
Travelling by starlight, hiding out by day,
Dogs and demarcations kept me on the run,
I got a little blinded, staring at the sun."
- OysterBand, "The Deserter"

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