Re: An observation about the writer-engineer relationship

Subject: Re: An observation about the writer-engineer relationship
From: edunn -at- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 14:26:31 -0400

>>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?

I think it just boils down to respecting each others strengths. While the techs
or writers can fix broken hardware or figure out glitchy software, they don't
have a clue how to design or build these things.

What you are witnessing is the seam between the world of theory and the world of
reality or instead the difference between hands on experience and
school/theoretical experience.

A similar story I heard from a friend while in school (B.Eng
Mechanical/Automotive) is about an engineer in a foundry who created a cool-down
procedure for a molded piece of metal so that it retained the correct strength
properties. The engineer had complicated calculations about air temperatures and
cool down rates. Time and time again the part was made, cooled, and it failed
the strength tests. When the problem was told to a worker on the shop floor, the
worker molded the part, broke open the mold, quenched the part in water, covered
it in sand, and told the engineer to wait ten minutes. The part pasted all
tests. Was the worker more intelligent that the engineer? That's how the joke
would have it. The reality is that after working with molded metals for a number
of years the worker had an instictive sense for what worked and the engineers
calculations were probably overlooking some uncontrolled/uncontrollable

The only lesson to be learned is to recognize each others strengths and to be
aware of (and admit to) our own weaknesses.

Eric L. Dunn

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