Geld the Tight Casted Rats

Subject: Geld the Tight Casted Rats
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001 19:07:33 -0800 (PST)

Now thats a subject line!

"Chuck Martin" wrote ...

> A 24/7 3 weeks, maybe. And if I was not already committed to another
> contract, I might have even attempted it. And charged good $$$ (although
> there probably would have been hungry writers who would offer to do it for
> less). But why, after probably weeks and months of programming, should a
> good technical writer suffer through the agony of such a compressed
> schedule, putting out a less than polished product, because of the company's
> either ignorance or tightwadness?

He with the cash sets the rules. Unfortunately, many firms have grotesquely
stupid people in charge of the money. I'd like to see them all professionally
gelded as well - but I don't have the power and the alternative (poverty) isn't
very appealing. So, we suffer.

> I wonder what he would do if he walked by a programmer's desk and saw him or
> her updating a project plan instead of writing code? The programmer wasn't
> writing code, so would he fire the programmer on the spot? If notm then I
> see a definite--and unreasonable--double standard.

Probably not. Perception is often more powerful than reality. Many firms
perceive engineers and code slingers to be more important. As such, they get
more leeway to butt around and avoid their job.

> What about the ones who do show it, but their talents are consistently
> ignored by the people who that information is being comunicated to. At my
> current project, I showed the person who is my manager here how I can do
> more than write, how I can be involved in design, usability, and much more.
> Yet in later meetings, he referred to my role in this project as
> "copywriting."

Tech writing can often be a confining profession. I own a consulting firm that
does programming, systems integration, and networking work as well as tech
docs. For all our efforts to demonstrate our programming and networking acumen
- the stigma of being a "technical writing" firm often pollutes our ability to
get lucrative outsourcing contracts. I often feel "tight casted" as "just a
tech writer."

Meanwhile, the multiply pierced and tattooed creep downtown who runs some Gen X web development firm gets gajillion dollar contracts
from Intel and buys another gold plated BMW for his dog.

> There is little difference between the steps needed--both in planning, in
> production, and in testing--in turning out both quality documents and
> quality code. Yet when programmers are involved in the activities that are
> one-off from actual writing, no one says anything, but when writers are
> doing the same thing, they are accused of wasting time.

There is actually one, very fundamental difference. If a programmer puts a
comma in the wrong place - the application blows up and kills 12 adorable
kittens. If a writer puts a comma in the wrong place - nobody except another
writer even notices.

The level of exactness in documentation isn't nearly as tight as programming.

> Good technical communicators do a lot more than "copywrite." And they
> contribute throughout the product development cycle, even if words aren't
> actually being put to paper. Many people with those capabilities (as opposed
> to the font fiddlers you seem to too-often encounter) have shown this time
> and time again, to executive and ptoject managers who move from company to
> company. Yet these lessons still aren't learned, and technical writers are
> still too often saved for last.

We're victims of the incompetence of others. There are just too many stupid
writers out there. And they are reproducing, like filthy little greasy rats.
<insert rat here> With each new client you have to re-prove that you can do
your job because the last writer basically sat in his/her cube and gnawed on
the power cords.

Andrew Plato
Filthy little greasy rat

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