Re: THANKS! Re: It's time to go

Subject: Re: THANKS! Re: It's time to go
From: "Bill Hall" <bill -dot- hall -at- hotkey -dot- net -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 21:20:34 +1100

Forums like Techwr-l tend to be quite noisy under the best of circumstances,
and Techwr-l is quite focussed compared to some I keep subscribing to.

I am not against discussions of "philosophy", psychology or other subjects
that are directly germane to the profession of technical writing. In some
cases these are more useful and thought provoking than questions relating to
the details of how to use a particular application or details of grammar,
usage and the nuts and bolts of the trade. There are plenty of application
specific forums that can deal with technical questions better than Techwr-l
can. On the other hand, I know of no other forum where one can really
discuss questions relating to profession of technical writing and the range
of ethical, moral and metaphysical issues surrounding it. However, these are
often issues people react emotionally to, so it is understandable that these
issues also generate heat and noise, which may in turn generate some stress
in the readers.

Part of minimising the stress on those on the receiving end of the forum is
to do some filtering before you start reading. My strategy is that I only
subscribe to forums on digest mode. If I see a title that interests I do a
"find" to jump to that title. Instant responses may be useful to those
seeking urgent help with a technical problem, but it also encourages trying
to get in first, chattiness, one-upmanship, and downright crudity - all of
which add noise without too much light. I may miss some gems in the stuff I
have ignored, but at least what I don't read doesn't get my blood pressure
up - or else I have made a conscious choice to read it, and can't complain
if I don't like it.

On the other side of the coin, due to the down turn in the economy, many
contributors are genuinely stressed and may respond inappropriately. The
rest of us should try to understand and respect this.

Personally, as something of a philosopher of knowledge (I actually spent
more than two years of postdoctoral work studying the theory of knowledge as
it applied to writing up scientific research), I think many people are also
stressed by the increasing rate of technological change in the tools we use
for writing and the even greater changes in the ways knowledge we capture is
being presented to the world. This accounts for the frequent application
holy wars (which I know from personal experience can lead to some extremely
personal attacks). Personally, I'm not fussed by verbal attacks, but they
don't reflect well on our profession or the people perpetrating them.

However, if people use a little introspection and think about the sources of
their frustrations and anxieties, perhaps they won't be so ready to fly off
the handle and attack someone they disagree with.

Above all else, technical forums are NOT chat rooms, and shouldn't be
treated like them. Remember, virtually everyone starting a new thread is
either a practising or aspiring professional writer. Even if the question
seems stupid (how many of you use the saying: "the only stupid question is
the one you didn't ask"?), it deserves a professionally considered response.

Bill Hall
Documentation Systems Analyst
Strategy and Development
Tenix Defence Systems
Nelson House, Nelson Place
Williamstown, Vic. 3016
mailto:bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com

Information is not knowledge
Knowledge is not wisdom
Wisdom is not truth
Truth is not beauty
Beauty is not love
Love is not music
Music is THE BEST
(Zappa - Packard Goose)
Thanks to Stuart Burnfield who put me on to a
site with some excellent tech writing quotes

Check it out! Get some cool freebies when you buy RoboHelp! You'll receive
SnagIt screen capture software and a 10% discount voucher for RoboHelp
Consulting. This special offers expires March 29, 2002.

Have you looked at the new content on TECHWR-L lately?
See and check it out.

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