RE: Worthless Tech Comm Degrees

Subject: RE: Worthless Tech Comm Degrees
From: John Garison <jgarison -at- ide -dot- com>
To: "'Andrew Plato'" <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 15:43:04 -0500

Bravo, Andrew yet again.

However, as a teacher of technical writing for the last 18 years (part-time;
I actually WORK as a tech pubs manager in my day job) I DO stress what the
real day-to-day job is. I have a whole class on how software gets designed
and built, and how documentation gets designed and written at the same time,
as well as how the two processes are similar and different.

I make sure my students know that the first time they get code to play with,
it probably won't work, and how it does improve and get linked together in
ever-increasing hunks o'code.

I try my hardest to make sure they know what the real software development
environment is like.

And I don't talk about tools very much at all ... just basic word processing
stuff like Styles (it never ceases to amaze me how few people use - or
understand - styles ...) and basic page layout.

To disagree slightly with Andrew, page layout and presentation of
information ARE important. No matter how correct or complete or perfect the
text, if it is un-readable or presented in a manner that makes the user vow
to undergo a root canal before he'll look in the book again, it might as
well be wrong because the result is the same: The information on the page
stays there, it doesn't get into the head of the person that needs it.

When I worked on IBM mainframes back in the good ol' days, we had shelf-feet
of manuals. Everything you ever wanted to know was in there somewhere, if
only you could find it. If you can't find it - or can't use it or understand
it if you do - it doesn't exist.

My 2¢ worth ...


John Garison
Documentation Manager
Integrated Development Enterprise, Inc.
150 Baker Avenue Extension
Concord MA 01742-2174

978.402.2907 Voice
978.318.9376 Fax

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Plato [mailto:intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2000 1:10 PM
Subject: Worthless Tech Comm Degrees

I saw this in a recent thread. I am NOT slamming the poster, but tech comm
degrees in general.

> When I did my tech comm degree, we were taught about concepts
> (white space, fonts, page layout, usability, etc.)

And they probably didn't spend 1/100th of a second actually teaching
useful like how a network works, what inheritance is, or how to break down a
complex design into component pieces. Basically, tech comm degrees teach you
how to hold a hammer, what a nail is, and how a house should look - but not
to nail boards together. So when you get out on the construction site, you
pontificate for hours about how you need better nails and more appropriate
hammers, but you lack the skill to actually USE those tools effectively.

I've been watching this idiotic debate about FrameMaker - and it never
to amaze me how many people just don't get it: Nobody cares what tools were
used if the document SUCKS!!!

FrameMaker is totally, utterly, one billion percent irrelevant if your
contains inaccurate, misleading, or disorganized information. This is why
remainder of the known universe thinks FrameMaker is a big, bloated, useless
dinosaur. Because only tech writers have this bizarre, quasi-sexual
to it.

Now - I know you're all going to have 97 3/4 hissy fits explaining how
and organization are important to a document. Feh. Never at expense of the
data, Bubba.

Hence the ubiquitous Tech Comm degree. Class after class of how to use
whitespace and never a moment devoted to learning how to digest information.
Hours and hours of pointless debates about FrameMaker - and never a moment
spent talking about ACTUAL topics you may one day document. Professor after
professor who hasn't spent a single minute in the real world.

At least an English degree makes you read Shakespeare and write an essay
an a while (unless you go to the college here in Portland, where I think
smoking bongs and drinking beer qualifies as a midterm).

Sorry - I am a little caustic today. I am doing my corporate taxes. Get back
work, YOU!

Andrew Plato

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