RE: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts

Subject: RE: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts
From: Anne Robotti <Anne -dot- Robotti -at- radisys -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 07:43:02 -0400

> 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'm guessing you don't live in NJ, Sean. I swear that out here
there are *tons* of these format-monkeys calling themselves
tech writers, and I think it's leading to a general dumbing-down
of the reputation of the whole profession. I've been on interviews
where people have been surprised by the questions I asked, amazed
at some of the skills I was bringing to the table. I've also been
on interviews where what they really wanted was a copy editor or
<gag> an administrative assistant with some limited technical

I'll never forget interviewing with the guy who said, "Why would
you want to know that?" when I asked if there were any background
books on SS7 that he could recommend, so I could get up to speed
before I started the job. Bye-bye, buddy!

> 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.

True if you're documenting software, which I assume you are. But
I've done a few jobs where it just wasn't possible to install and
use whatever it was and still got great manuals out the door. Of
course, I often had to come in at 1am and bug the system testers to
let me try stuff out, but I digress.

> And, FWIW, I have frequently run into those whose comfort
> level with Word's workflow has lead them to conclude FrameMaker
> is garbage. I have found that I can pretty much use any tool I am
> presented with, sure I have a favorite, but the specific tool is
> at least secondary to the goal of production.

I agree with this, although I'll come out of the closet right away
and say I'm not a fan of Word for long manuals, and I prefer not to
take jobs where Word is the primary documentation production tool. But
I think the way some people hate it is a little weird, just like I
think it's a little weird to looooooove FrameMaker in that sloppy way
some people do, or hate it. If you can't objectively assess a tool and
move on, how do you pick the tools for your projects?!



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