Re: HUMOR: I Need Advice

Subject: Re: HUMOR: I Need Advice
From: Marilyn_Baldwin -at- capgroup -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 17:22:20 -0800

Thanks, Andrew, we needed that!

I've been a bit bemused (a kinder, gentler word than than the actual
feeling) over the sorts of "advice" being increasingly sought from
this group. Not stuff like how to fix the moire effect in a screen
shot or whether a particular tool is capable of doing some esoteric
thing or other - but really basic, generic, I've-done-no-research-
whatsoever, Tech Comm 101 queries like "How do you put documentation
online?" or "What are the major differences between Frame and Word?"
or that straight-from-the-professor research list we got the other

I don't mind at all when newbies (or golden oldies!) come to their
more experienced peers for assistance, especially when they've made
repeated attempts to fix some plaguing problem or are up against a
tight deadline. But there is something disquieting when someone is
apparently asking the list to save him or her a bunch of research time
and grunt work. Foraging for answers is part of our job - ferreting
out the kernel of truth in the pile of hype, slogging our way through
a system until we get it, helping figure out what's the best solution
for our particular environment/coorporate culture/budget/project, doing
our homework. Trying to cut to the finish line - no, worse, asking
others to run legs of your race for you - seems not just unsporting,
but faintly unethical. It surely doesn't seem to bode well for perfor-
mance on the job - or at least the sort of performance I'd expect from
a tech writer.

I love this list for its good-hearted willingness to share experience,
war stories, insight, advice. But as a former card-carrying codependent
enabler ("Hey, let me help you find a solution to your problem! No,
better yet, let me BE the solution to your problem!"), I don't think
it's ultimately helpful to do someone else's work for them. Much better
the polite referral to a website, the nod in the direction of an
established style guide or a general grammar text, the suggestion that
the requester needs to do some basic research before seeking answers
from the group. I think of this list as a forum for discussion, a
common resource for each other, at times a place to vent - but not as
the Homework Hotline.

Just MTCW.

- Marilyn Baldwin
(mlbb -at- capgroup -dot- com)

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