RE: On degrees and the like...

Subject: RE: On degrees and the like...
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "'Chuck Martin'" <CMartin -at- serena -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 15:26:33 -0500

I'm not giving short shrift to the technical side--matter of fact, I know
what happens when the mfc42.dll goes in the wrong place. But I didn't need
an engineering degree to understand how to find out what happens and what to
do to prevent it. I learned by experience, and I found the solution by
talking to the programmers and administrators who had the answers.

I've spent the last three years designing UI in addition to building help
files, web sites, and writing specifications, proposals and manuals.
Designing good UI is just as much knowing the principles of visual
COMMUNICATION as it is programming. Most programmers I work with ask for my
help, or a Product Manager's, when trying to design the UI, because they
know how to code, and we know how the users want to work with it. I have
the greatest respect in the world for good programmers and developers (or
any kind of engineering). But they can't do their jobs without us, and we
can't do our jobs without them. It behooves us all to respect what each
brings to the table.

And in all my experience, the best technical communicators are those that
are communicators first, technically savvy second. You may have found
otherwise, but I most often have found it's infinitely less expensive to
teach a good writer about the engineering requirements of a product than to
teach an engineer to communicate about the product to an end user. We are
lucky enough to have lots of good writers whose educational background is an
engineering discipline, but don't give me short shrift because mine is not.
The key is ability to communicate.

Connie Giordano

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Martin [mailto:CMartin -at- serena -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2000 2:52 PM
Subject: RE: On degrees and the like...

I don't disagree that the "communication" part is important. But it's also
important not to short shrift the "technical" side of the discipline.

I just entered a bug for a product I'm documenting. I noticed that the
install program was copying mfc42.dll in the folder that contains the other
program files. Anyone know what's wrong with doing this? I do. It's a lazy,
user-unfriendly practice that violates Windows programming guidelines.
Anyone know what is _supposed_ to be done? I do (although I forgot the
specifics). Shared files go in the system folder. When programs that use
that shared file are installed, a Registry key is incremented. When programs
that use that shared file are uninstalled, the same Registry key is

I'll go further on the technical side. In the software (and hardware)
industry, good technical communicators know that the documentation is much
more than what gets put on paper or in a Help file. The entirety of the
interface, the placement or widgets, the widgets used, the flow of the
product, the menu items and labels, each of these is documentation. Knowing
how to design a product so it can be understood by users is but another
engineering aspect of the TC field. This area of the TC field tends to
overlap with both industrial engineering and psychology, another engineering
discipline and a science.

Just because a large number of people currently in the TC field came to it
from the arts/writing/communication side, it doesn't make TC any less an
engineering discipline.

Chuck Martin
Sr. Technical Writer, SERENA Software

"People who use business software might despise it, but they are getting
paid to tolerate it....Most people who are paid to use a tool feel
constrained not to complain about that tool, but it doesn't stop them from
feeling frustrated and unhappy about it."
- "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
Alan Cooper

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Chuck Martin [mailto:CMartin -at- serena -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2000 1:14 PM
> Subject: RE: On degrees and the like...
> <snip>
> I have a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication from
> my school, the
> University of Washington. It was issued by the School of
> Engineering. Here,
> TC is seen as an engineering discipline, which is as it should be.
> <snip>

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