Re: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts

Subject: Re: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 14:46:24 -0700

"Brierley, Sean" wrote:

> My point is that I suppose there are TWs out there who just pound out docs
> based on what they are told, though I have no idea how you can create
> original content that way. However, until this point, I had considered that
> rare. I had always thought using and learning (quickly) about the item you
> were documenting was the best, nay, only way to effectively communicate the
> subject in a way that is understandable to any target audience.

I've certainly met a few who work that way. One shocked me rather badly
by boasting that all you had to do to produce API documentation was copy
and paste from the code comments, then ask a SME for an example. What
was worse to me was that the writer didn't seem ashamed of this
approach, but rather proud. I had rather liked this writer before, but,
after this confession, I felt rather cool - and privately resolved never
to hire this writer under any circumstances.

Like Sean, I have a hard time imagining working without an understanding
of the material. Aside from the fact that I would consider that I was
not doing my job, I'd find this approach unnerving. I'd have no way of
knowing that what I was writing was worthwhile, and I wouldn't want to
take responsibility for it.

Still, I suspect that there are far too many writers out there who just
write down what they are told without much understanding. That would
explain why so many instructions are poorly written.

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

"They say you get used to a war
But that doesn't mean that the war isn't on."
-Geoff Pearson, "If They Come in the Morning"


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