Slow Tech Writers (offshoot of "Looking for advice -- up to the j ob?")

Subject: Slow Tech Writers (offshoot of "Looking for advice -- up to the j ob?")
From: Jason Willebeek-LeMair <jlemair -at- cisco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2002 12:44:25 -0500

Someone wrote:
I've worked with "slow" tech writers, and it has not been a great situation
for anyone.

Jason replies:
I think I lost the beginning of this thread, which may or may not have been
about "slow" tech writers, but something in one of my caught my eye. So, to
be safe, I changed the subject line.

I work with "slow" tech writers. By slow, I mean that they work at the same
pace, no matter what. Last-minute changes are incorporated with the same
celerity as features known months in advance. Technical knowledge drips
into their head at a steady pace. And there is nothing you can do to speed
them up. Any attempts to do so only stresses them out. We call these types
of tech writers "grinders".

We also have "sprinters", those people who blast out new stuff at the speed
of light. They soak up new features and technologies like a sponge, and go
through about a keyboard a day producing new documentation for those

Just as the grinders cannot seem to speed up, the sprinters cannot seem to
slow down. They get bored going back over their documents to fix things up
or make incremental improvements. They are thrill junkies--always looking
for their fix of learning something new or presenting information in a new

Now, I realize that these categories are an overgeneralization of writing
types. People can fall anywhere in between the two points, people can jump
between categories depending upon situation, mood, or alignment of the
planets. But, my totally unscientific observations have shown that tech
writers have a natural tendency to lean one way or the other.

Our team has a mixture of sprinters and grinders (I won't tell you what I
am, but you can probably guess from my posts). I have come to believe that
the best writing teams have both. Properly managed, the unique
characteristics of both sprinters and grinders complement each other.

Sprinters -- excell at learning new technology areas (and passing that
knowledge on), incorporating last-minute changes, adding new features and
functionality. They address the time-to-market issues with the project.

Grinders -- excell at making improvements to existing documentation,
addressing customer satisfaction issues, and beating down even the smallest
issues that plague every documentation set (you know, those little questions
that even the people who wrote the code don't seem to have an answer to).
They address the quality issues with the project.

A writing team with a good balance of sprinters and grinders is well
prepared to meet the time-to-market and quality objectives of any project.
Just something to think about when building a writing team.

And, just to repeat myself in case you missed it before, yes, I know; most
people fall somewhere between sprinter and grinder, or traipse up and down
the range at will.

So, are you a sprinter or a grinder? Or do you think I should just cut some
of the caffeine out of my diet?


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