Re: Improving the Quality of the List - Long Response

Subject: Re: Improving the Quality of the List - Long Response
From: John Posada <jposada01 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2000 14:36:03 -0800 (PST)

> I understand that, as an experienced tech writer, many of these
> questions related to software tools or technique make for posts
> that are not intellectually gratifying. But I always assumed
> that there was room for both basic tech questions and extended
> discourse. If a title line suggests a post you don't like,
> well, God bless the delete key. :)

Peter...I'd like to comment on something.

As someone who had been particularly vocal on the subject of posting
some questions, I get the feeling that the reason for the "annoyance"
is being missed. It isn't the question, but what the question
demonstrates.

Having been on this list for a number of years, we've all seen
writers join the list, become experienced, and become a valued
resource. Never have I seen anyone refuse to help a fellow-writer
that demonstrated a willingness to invest in the time and effort to
become an expert in their chosen field.

However, what pulls my (and others...and I can speak for others
because it HAS been discussed) chain is when a question demonstrates
one of two flaws.

The first one is a disinterest in learning the skills needed to know
HOW to do this job. A large part of this job is to be a
detective...digging for features in a product, digging for
information from developers, digging for solutions to address sticky
application features, pursuing information from those that have it
and won't share it with us. These skills are not specific to an
application, an assignment, or a type of project...they are some of
the most important building-blocks that you need do ANYTHING in this
field. This covers questions that are more easily addressed by the
browser search botton or a simple query of the list archives.

When a question is posted that demonstrates a total lack of this
skill, the hackles will rise because it demonstrates one of the
reasons that some of us are perceived by others that this isn't a
profession to be taken seriously, but inhabited by those that are
doing it solely because they know Word, got laid off from some other
position, and heard that there are decent bucks in the field with no
stake in putting in the time to develop the basic skills. If someone
comes to this list appearing to not having done ANY prior work, in
all likelyhood, they will do the same to developers, SMEs, product
managers, and the like.

Here, it wastes the amount of time it would take to press a delete
key...very little. In real life, an unresearched question could waste
a large number of man-hours from project team-mates. This then
creates an impression of us that make it just a little more difficult
for the rest of us to deal with them later on as peers and equals.

The other flaw is when someone is willing to have others do their
work for them (i.e., Can someone send me a copy of your Functional
Specifications). Instead of coming here with questions on their work
with FS's, they simply want to receive the information, where they
will then drop it into their document, change some fonts or styles, a
word here and there, and call it their own. These are the ones that
will take a processes from a developer, drop it into the document
without trying it, and when the process doesn't work, blame the
developer for having given bogus information. If you were that
developer, and the next writer came along with a question, would you
be so ready to attach your name to something? Again, our job becomes
just a little harder.

So, yes, a question could be addressed with the delete key. However,
some of us don't want to follow in the footsteps of that writer
because in real life, we cannot avoid the issue with the delete
key...we have to face the consequences.

Am I taking a simple questions too seriously? Am I reading into a
simple question too deeply? Maybe...then maybe not. 10+ years
experience points me toward the later. So, if a harsh reaction to a
simple question makes that person think I'm a schmuck...ok, I can
deal with it...they won't be in this field long anyway and besides,
sometimes I am one anyway (ask my girlfriend, or my mother, or my
brother, or my...). OTOH, if the reaction cause them to try the
archive link just once before the Send button, cool.

=====
John Posada, Senior Technical Writer,
in process of looking for next contract effective 1/1/01.

"I'm not flying. I'm falling...with style."
-- Buzz Lightyear

mailto:john -at- tdandw -dot- com, 732-259-2874

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