Re: HUMOR: I Need Help

Subject: Re: HUMOR: I Need Help
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 15:50:52 -0800 (PST)

--- Jeff Hanvey <techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net> wrote:

>>You're coalescing two very different behaviors, Jeff. Asking a fellow worker
>>to forward you the company templates is perfectly fine.
>>Asking a forum of 4000
>>colleagues to forward you their templates is lame.

> It isn't two behaviors. Both behaviors are about making the job easier and
> NOT redoing work that's already been done.

You're missing the overriding issue of respect and responsibility, Jeff. Asking
a co-worker to send you company templates is being responsible. Asking 4000
strangers to help you do your job is lame. Making the job easier and
"re-inventing" the wheel are not what I am talking about.


> Using the ideas
> of others without asking permission is just as wrong as using a template
> without asking permission.

People lift ideas from other people's work all the time. It is the level at
which you do it that matters

For example, a while back, a company took copies of our Network ICE documents
and tried to slap their own name on it. That was wrong and we made them stop.

But if those same people read one those documents and decided to use some of
our graphics as inspiration in their own documents, that's okay. It is okay to
borrow concepts. It is not okay to steal outright.

The level and overtness at which a person "borrows" is at issue here. Blatantly
asking people to do your job is not very professional. Asking for help after
you have put some honest work into the problem is okay.

> Template design also isn't necessarily a part of writing. This is why there
> are project leads who design and control templates which the writers may or
> may not have input into. Template design is also the domain of the senior or
> lead technical writers, not the junior or intermediate writers. These groups
> more often than not are handed a template on their first day.

Maybe the tyranny you live under works this way. However, I personally don't
think this is a very functional model. Telling the "junior" writers they have
no input on design and template issues is rather ridiculous. I sure wouldn't
want to start my career in a place like that. By the time I was
oh-so-graciously allowed to handle the golden templates, I would have become a
bitter old coot.

However, this is an ancillary issue. Who controls the templates in your kingdom
is a very different debate. We're talking about the appropriateness of asking
a forum of 4000 people to hand you templates.

> Again, it's a waste of time to spend time redeveloping templates if others
> exist. I'm all for anything that will allow me more time researching,
> writing, and editing the current document.

If your company does not have an User's Guide template, then it needs to
develop one. Asking stranger to provide you one for free isn't fair to the
people who developed it in the first place. If my company spends time and money
building a template, why on earth should I just hand it over to your firm for
free. You SHOULD develop your OWN template based on the specific needs and
desires of your company. It is perfectly fine to use other people's work for
inspiration or suggestions, but you should still develop the template yourself.


> for goodness sake don't punish the newbie just
> because s/he needs a place to start.

I remember when I had to do my first API Reference Manual. I went to the
engineer and asked him if he had an API Reference for another product sitting
around. He did. I borrowed it and used it as a guide when building my own
template. The API template my company uses today is a distant relative of that
template.

I sure as hell didn't walk out into a room full of co-workers and ask them to
do this for me.

Andrew Plato


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