Re: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts

Subject: Re: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts
From: "bwolf" <bwolf -at- scheidt-bachmann-usa -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 08:22:46 -0400

Anne Robotti (obviously mis-surnamed?) wrote:

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


One such format-monkey (aptly described, BTW) and I worked together on my
last contract at a small start-up. He knew Frame. He knew the bosses; I
didn't. They were convinced from their previous experience at a different
company that he was a technical writer *par excellence* and I was a freak
who wanted to write *Shakespearean Prose* all day long.

He took the functional specifications the engineers wrote and made them look
pretty. I tried to write the architectural documents based on talking to the
bosses when they had the time to talk. I also redrew some State Machines
and pointed-out logical flaws. IOW, I tried to be a proactive technical
writer while he played the buddy game. It was a no-win situation.

Lesson: Beware of format-monkeys. If you find yourself working with one,
devise a painless exit strategy and follow it. Quickly.



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