Re: Managing Engineers (long)

Subject: Re: Managing Engineers (long)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000 12:36:39 -0800

mpriestl -at- ca -dot- ibm -dot- com wrote:

> Since my audience couldn't care less what language the application is
> programmed in, how does my lack of Java programming skill affect my ability
> to communicate with them?

Because you might be able to tell them about a feature that isn't
immediately obvious, that could make their job easier. That doesn't
happen all the time, of course. But it has no chance of happening if
you can't at least read code.

Another thing: technical writers who don't have some knowledge of
code - even a limited one - may be at the mercy of what developers
bother, choose, or remember to tell them. Not only is this
dependency another reason why developers may despise writers, but it
means that, in some cases, you can never know first hand whether you
are doing a good job or not. This dependency is frustrating and

Also, in many cases, because writers are often the first non-coders
to see a piece of software, they are often called upon to assist
with interface design and quality assurance. Of course, these areas
are secondary to a writer's main purposes, but they are often the
excuse for having the writer involved in development from the start.
If you don't know what a widget set is capable of, your comments on
interface are going to be limited. Simiilarly, QA that can actually
scout out the problem is far more valuable than a general comment
"This is broken."

These are the thoughts that have lead to me to conclude that, if I
wanted to perform at the level that I wanted to, on the playing
field that I wanted to, I would have to hit the how-to books about
coding. So far, I admit that my knowledge of C or Perl is about on a
par with my ability to speak German or French - that is to say, very
pitiful indeed. However, even that pitiful bit makes me a better
writer and makes me more useful.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
604.421.7189 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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