Re: The Wave of a TW's Future: (was RE: Tools & Technologies)

Subject: Re: The Wave of a TW's Future: (was RE: Tools & Technologies)
From: Elna Tymes <Etymes -at- LTS -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 11:02:48 -0800

> Jenise asks:
> What will our profession look like? Will we find ourselves in one of two
> groups: (a) Content Experts or (b) DTD/DTP Experts? Will we need to arm
> ourselves to be both (a) and (b), or will we need to choose one and
> specialize?

And Pete Sanborn replies:

> In my opinion, in 25 to 30 years, if we are not careful, we may cease to
> exist as a profession. Employers are reluctant to provide documentation for
> their products and only do so to support sales. Most buyers (be they
> businesses or people off the street) are unwilling to buy sophisticated
> products without documentation and/or training.

To the degree that engineers and programmers will develop some real smarts about
making black boxes and blue screens truly useful, we may see a decline in the
demand for technical writers. But how likely is that? People have been
pounding the usability drum for quite a while now, and we still have leagues of
programmers and engineers producing things that ordinary people can't use
straight out of the box. For all the bells and whistles on your VCR controller,
do you know how to set it to record two different programs (even at different
times, on the same channel) without looking at the instructions? Much as I love
my microwave oven and use it all the time, I still had to look up the
instructions to change the clock this last Sunday. I think that "explainers" of
new and different technology are going to be needed for a long, long time.

That said, however, just what we explain and how we go about it is likely to
change. I suspect more technology is going to be built into everyday things,
but simultaneously there will be new areas of technology that need explaining.
(Example of technology being built into things: more and more devices/systems
are being deployed in situations where people need monitoring - think of at-risk
elderly, who want the freedom of independent living but need to have certain
vital signs monitored on a regular basis: Georgia Tech is licensing monitoring
technology to assisted living facilities such that motion sensors, receivers for
tiny sensors worn on the body or on clothing, and other devices can be
automatically monitored and out-of-range measurements reported for immediate
action. I see a need for explanations for the patient and his family, for the
installer and repair crew, for the monitoring facility, and for the medical
facility that gets the reports.)

> Another aspect that causes me concern about our profession is that we have
> begun to engage in minutiae about documentation. We are already segmenting
> our efforts into hardware, software, web-based, etc., etc., and focusing
> less (to a certain degree) on the bigger picture of developing documentation
> that simply explains how to use, repair, install, whatever, a given product.

Nothing adjust market demand like a recession. Companies who survive recessions
in good shape are usually those who have continued to invest whatever they can
in R&D, so that the other side of the recession there are new products for the
marketplace. Where there has been dissatisfaction with factionalism within
working groups, simple attrition tends to remove it, and as the survivors
struggle to handle the increased workload the "minutiae" tends to fade into
lesser importance.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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RE: The Wave of a TW's Future: (was RE: Tools & Technologies): From: Pete Sanborn

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