RE: I'm taking my marbles and going home...

Subject: RE: I'm taking my marbles and going home...
From: "Grant, Christopher" <CGrant -at- glhec -dot- org>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 14:08:20 -0500

> Technical Writers don't need to =be= experts, they just need
> =access= to experts.

Sorry, but I can't disagree more. In my experience, it's exactly this
mentality that results in documentation that end users wind up throwing in
the trash. It's exactly this mentality that pits developers and SMEs
against us. And it's exactly this mentality that causes technical writers
to skate by as glorified typists.

Not only that, but this mentality creates dependencies. "I can't finish
this chapter because the SME hasn't given me anything for it yet." "I can't
let this chapter go to print because I need to have the SME review it for
the 10th time to make sure I have everything right." "I can't document this
function because only the SME has access to it." We ought to minimize the
amount of dependencies we have on producing docs. Own your work.

As someone else on this list has said before, I see this as an excuse to
avoid one of the most important parts of being a good technical writer:
diving into the ookie complex details and understanding them so you can
explain them to everyone else.

Please don't misunderstand me to think I'm saying that we need to be the
equivalent of a developer or project lead in terms of knowledge. But to
suggest that simply having _access_ to experts is sufficient for producing
good documentation... from my firsthand experience, that's dead wrong.

It can also drastically eat up the aggregate time billed by the tech writing
department, as the glorified typists pass along material for peer review by
actual technical writers. The actual technical writers see gaps and holes
that must be plugged, the glorified typist doesn't know the answer anyway,
and another SME review cycle must take place. It slows everyone down.

Ugh. Seems like very often I'm being forced to justify to the developers
why I ought to be involved in projects from the getgo. The main hurdle I
seem to always have to get over is convincing them that I won't be a time
liability by constantly asking stupid questions. I can only assume their
perception of technical writers as asking stupid questions is at least in
_part_ due to the mentality expressed above.

-Chris Grant

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