Re: Well, I Sure Won't Be in Chicago

Subject: Re: Well, I Sure Won't Be in Chicago
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 10:33:05 -0700

Dan Roberts wrote:
> I don't need to know about network security (right now, at least) and have no
> interest in Marni's list of topics.

You aren't even a little curious - enough, maybe, to sit through a
hour's presentation on at least one of these topics? When I was an
academic, one of the reasons I looked forward to conferences was
that they gave me a chance to sample fields other than my own.

Are tech-writers as a group really so narrow that they have no
interest in anything that isn't immediately useful to their current
jobs? I'd like to think otherwise. But, looking at the range of
topics, I wonder if I don't think better of the group than it does
of its self.

> really folks, if you look at other tool conferences, they address the tool, not
> the content. And stc does try to address the idea of "tool" to its widest range,
> not the content.

Actually, it's not a question of tool or content so much as
background that might enable you to do your job better. To give an
off-hand example: as a writer, you may not be documenting anything
that is directly concerned with network security. However, if you
are working on a commercial product, it might very well have a
feature that automatically updates the software over the internet.
If so, then that feature's design is probably heavily influenced by
recent issues in network security (or, at least, I would hope so).
Knowing what influences the feature's design - at least, in a
general way - could help you explain it to users, and stress its

I suggest that this sort of background is at least as important as
any discussion of tools. In fact, for experienced writers, learning
new tools is relatively trivial. After all, there are a limited
number of types of documentation and media. Once you've learned
several of them, learning another isn't difficult - and you aren't
going to learn from a presentation at a conference, either. You're
going to learn by sitting down and working.

However, why should it be an either-or situation? I'm sure that
discussions of tools and media are valuable to some people. Despite
my misgivings, I don't really want to argue against them. What I
object to isn't this emphasis, so much as the exclusion of other

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com

"There's the smell of death on Golden Mountain,
A price in blood is paid on every load
And you bury your friends, too many for counting
In the rock and the mud of the Demon Fire-Carriage Road."
- Su-Chong Lim


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