RE: The Big Lie (was 'Are You a Writer?')

Subject: RE: The Big Lie (was 'Are You a Writer?')
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 09:41:10 -0500

I think you need to look a little further outside the realm of just tech
writers to see if this is a legitimate comparison.

My girlfriend is a programmer and is looking for a new job. She is very
experienced in a couple of application areas (large conversion projects, for
example, taking 200 year old newspapers, scanning them, OCRing the scans,
and creating a text database that matches word positions to the original

She is looking for jobs in a similar application area, but is constantly
complaining about the job ads. They all specify specific tools! In this
case, the tools are programming languages. She is very experienced in perl,
C, C++, XMl (including DTD creation) as well as in multiple operating
environments. She can learn anything, and quickly, too. her complaint - no
one will take a chance on her because she hasn't done much Java development.
Could she learn it? Of course.

Sound familiar? Is this Word v. Frame in a different context? Are we so
different after all?

Just a question ...


John Garison
Documentation Manager
150 Baker Avenue Extension
Concord, MA 01742

Voice: 978-402-2907
Fax: 978-318-9376

-----Original Message-----
From: lestatvampire39 -at- hotmail -dot- com [mailto:lestatvampire39 -at- hotmail -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, March 25, 2002 7:00 PM
Subject: re: The Big Lie (was 'Are You a Writer?')

It insists that the
person thinking is more important than the tools used or the system
acted upon." - Russell Rutter, pg. 135 of "History, Rhetoric, and
Humanism: Toward a More Comprehensive Definition of Technical

I believe this would be great if true, but statistics seem to prove
otherwise. Not so long ago a technical writer was just that - a technical
writer. Today, it seems that the job is focused much more on tools than
the ability to write technical documentation which is clear, concise, and
easy for the users to understand.

After searching technical writing jobs (about 60) on five different job
boards, I found the following:

52% - specified requirement for tool usage only;
36% - specified the ability to write; and
12% - wanted a combination of both skills.

Just for kicks I did the same test for editing. The results were:

60% - interested only in the ability to edit;
10% - specific requirement for tool usage only; and
30% - tools specified but not required.

I also verified Electrical Engineering and found that 80% only mentioned
engineerings skills with the degree to back it up.

To me, the numbers speak for themselves. It also shows we are perceived
more as desktop publishers than writers. A quick review of the archives on
this list also shows heavy interest on the side of tools.

Does this mean that we are simply using the tools of our trade? Do
creative authors care about such things? I know many large organizations
that have writers, editors, and EPS (Electronic Publishing Services). The
writers research, write and perform peer reviews. The editors ensure the
documentation conforms to standards. The EPS does just that - EPS. In the
end, the hourly wrap rate for page production output is cheaper than having
a technical writer perform all tasks.

Mouse Potato

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