ADMIN: Think about this

Subject: ADMIN: Think about this
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 05:39:23 -0700

Please think about this.

Revised 31 July 1998


(Listowner's Note: The "thanks" notations are for the
contributions to the scenario, not pointed digs at
people who committed these infractions.)

You are in a large lecture hall full of people in your profession.
Included in the audience are students, educators, professionals.
You cannot make out their faces, but they could reasonably
include your employers or potential employers, your coworkers,
and the ever-present violently obsessive technical writing

Most of the audience members sit quietly as one member at a time
gets up, walks to the podium, and shares information or advice or
asks questions. Some of it is rich and detailed, some cursory but
helpful, some trivial but relevant in a roundabout way. Somewhere
in this stream of information, someone expresses an opinion or
gives a piece of advice that you feel obligated to respond to.

You get out of your seat and walk to the front of the room,
everyone's eyes upon you. ...

(Listowner's note: At this point, the paths may diverge.
Some of the following unfortunate cases have been played
out over the past few years.)

A) You approach the podium, clear your throat, and say "Me,
too." You are greeted with a combination of quizzical,
patronizing smirks and incredulous silence.

B) You relate that really good joke about Microsoft and operating
systems that you overheard at the restaurant last night. Some
laugh. Some wonder why you just now heard it. Many wonder why
you'd use their chance to discuss technical communication to
tell a old joke.

C) You take your turn at the microphone to clarify a point. One
of the previous speakers had mentioned, in the context of
developing and using context-sensitive, interactive help files,
that they used MS Word v3.0. Obviously, that's incorrect,
you clarify that they MUST have used a different version because
that one didn't even exist. Not only that, but the incompetence
of anyone who could make such a mistake is certainly astounding.
It only takes you about 10 minutes to impress upon everyone that
you know far better than the speaker what versions of Word
(You don't make any points about the issue at hand, but your
audience has already made their assumptions about your knowledge
in that area.)

D) "Does anyone know how much the cheapest Internet service
provider in Kansas costs?"

E) You replay the entire videotape of the MS Word v3.0 speaker,
including the introduction, the walk to the podium, and the walk
back to a seat. The quality isn't all that hot, but it's
to make sure everyone knows the context in which you speak. 12
minutes later, you point out that there is in fact a version of
MS Word v3.0 and you had used it once, briefly, but didn't like
it much and would always choose Frame. Furthermore, anyone who
uses any version of Word is a certifiable idiot and if your
or clients require Word, you should quit and find a real
You return to your seat satisfied about your demonstrated TW
proficiency and wonder about the copy of "How to Win Friends and
Influence People" that ended up on your chair. (Thanks to Jim
for the initial suggestion and Arlen Walker for the quibble.)

F) You take your chance at the podium to publicly mock the
pronunciation and diction of the three speakers before you, not
mention their poor spelling on overheads. As you return to your
seat, someone passes you a note pointing out that one of the
is hard of hearing, one is not a native speaker of English, and
that many people in the world don't see a problem with spelling
"defense" as "defence". Whoops! Oh, well, you think, they'll get
over it.

G) You walk up to the podium and say "I'm glad you all
finally stopped talking about that subject, because you were
wasting everyone's time. I'm so relieved we're not discussing it
any more." (Thanks to Tracy Boyington for this one.)

H) You reach the microphone and say the exact same thing that all 8
people before you have said because you didn't bother to listen
to them. (Thanks to Chris Boehm.)

I) You piously denounce the majority of subjects that have
been discussed thus far as irrelevant to the original
scope of the conference, berate the conference organizers
for allowing such irrelevancies to be introduced into the
dialogue, and announce that you will leave the auditorium
if discussion of such issues continues.

J) You complain that the seminar does not provide a wide enough
scope for discussion of your particular interests (which may
be of only cursory interest to a minority of people attending
the conference), accuse the conference organizers of promoting
censorship, and ask if anyone knows of another conference
organized by nonfacists. (Thanks to Bill Burns for these last

K) You try to leave the auditorium, but forget how, so instead of
looking for exit signs or asking the usher, you go to the front
and ask everybody. (Thanks to Lorin C. Ledger for this one.)

As you walk back to your seat, you try to make out the faces around
you. (Thanks to Lisa Higgins for the original scenario)


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