RE: An observation about the writer-engineer relationship

Subject: RE: An observation about the writer-engineer relationship
From: "Hart, Rowena" <Hart -at- SelkirkFinancial -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 11:12:43 -0700

Dick,

# So the question I want to throw open for discussion is this:
# What is the relationship between these two very different
# ways of being in the world and what does it teach us about
# the way writers should approach engineers qua SMEs in order
# to have a successful working partnership?

Very interesting question. I've had a few opportunities
to learn about programming and computer system design.
One of the things that really amazes me about
programming is the complexity of the interactions
between elements in the system. One of the effects of
thinking at that level of detail is that you immediately
think of 142 different things that could have caused a
problem.

Writers, on the other hand, aren't exposed to the
intricacies of the relationships between elements, and
how the system is handling the data. We deal with a
very limited set of possibilities. The thing to
remember is that the SMEs defined the limited set
of possibilities that we deal with.

That said, one of the most important things to ask
a SME about their work is "Why did you do it that way?"
Another good question is "What happens to data that
is entered in this field?" It's amazing how quickly
your interruption turns into a productive peer-to-peer
discussion. The key is to assume that the SME had a
damned good reason for doing something a particular
way, and work from that. You can lobby for a better
user experience after you understand how the system
works and any technical limiations that have affected
the product implementation.

Cheers,

Rowena

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