Re: Oh, Those Tender Users (long)

Subject: Re: Oh, Those Tender Users (long)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 01 Jan 2001 20:21:01 -0800

David Orr wrote:
> I like your term--documentation triage. Is it original?

Well, I don't think it's copyrighted, or anything :-)

> Look, Bruce, you are on the side of the angels here--arguing on the side of
> knowledge. Who can disagree that knowledge is a good thing long-term. If
> every tech writer knew ten programming languages before they wrote the first
> line, that ?might? be a good thing, but it's not very practical.

I know the realities, and that my ideals aren't always practical.
But I'm stressing them anyway - partly with the fervour of a new
convert, but mainly with the wish to see the standards of the
profession raised.

I can't help thinking, too, that many people on this list are
selling themselves short. From the general level of discussion on
the list, I think that most people taking part in these discussions
are easily capable of the standards I'm suggesting. That being so, I
find it hard to understand why they would settle for second best as
a standard, instead of viewing it as an unfortunate expedience. Even
if you don't meet the highest standards, the effort to reach them
almost always has better results than being satisfied with
second-best. And, just as importantly, always settling for second
best destroys your self-respect. If the work is worth doing - and I
believe strongly that it is - then it is worth doing as
energetically and as well as possible.

Another point: two of the reoccurring threads on this list are the
lack of respect writers get from programmers, and the lack of parity
with programmer's salaries. The easiest way to solve both these
complaints is to have some of the same knowledge as programmers.
Even trying to obtain it goes a long way towards a solution.

> I think
> it's far more important to have in-depth knowledge about the industry for
> which we are writing than it is to have programmer-level knowledge about the
> technology. This industry-level knowledge is transferable, even for a
> consultant. It also assures that examples and task organization are on
> target for the audience, which makes for a more usable manual.

I can't argue against industry-level knowledge; the business
strategy part of my present job is built on it. But even this
knowledge is often enhanced by at least a glimmering of
programmer-level knowledge.

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

"The Queen was in her chamber, a-combing of her hair,
There came Queen Mary's spirit and It stood behind her chair,
Singing, 'Backward and forward and sideways may you pass,
But I will stand behind you till you face the looking-glass.'"
- Rudyard Kipling, "The Looking-Glass"

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