Re: What is our real area of expertise?

Subject: Re: What is our real area of expertise?
From: Alan -dot- Miller -at- prometric -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000 14:35:30 -0500

Thomas Quine quoth:
>I tell my clients I am an expert in information delivery systems. (I think
>can safely tell you all that I am actually no more than a student of
>information delivery systems...) I take technical information from
>and from subject matter experts, work it to make it understandable to my
>audience, and build a delivery system (printed manual, online help system,
>classroom training, Web solution, etc.) to get that information from where
>decide to store it to the person who needs to use it.
>I learned from studying instructional design under some very wise people
>that a skilled instructional designer with a sound system can teach anyone
>anything - I mean anything - from a starting point of zero. That's because
>the instructional designer is not the fount of knowledge, they just build
>conveyor belt to take the knowledge from those who have it to those who

I find this troubling in two respects. First, how does the technical writer
evaluate the information presented in the documents and by the SMEs? More
to the point, how does the technical writer know which documents and SMEs
to trust? What are the ultimate sources of the information? What
simplifications and generalizations were made along the way between the
original source and the source used by the tech writer? How does he/she/it
know? Ultimately we have to make decisions about the content and
presentation of technical material in our writings. If you don't know the
topic, you can't do it.

Second, I would have agreed with you about skilled instructional designers
and instructors ... twenty years ago. Not any more. Consider this, the US
military creates its instructional designers and instructors from its
technical elite, not vice versa. They understand that only the very
competent can teach their skills and knowledge effectively. When *we*
figure that out, we'll be the better profession for it.

Al Miller
Chief Documentation Curmudgeon
Prometric(r), a division of Thomson Learning, Inc.

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