The importance of having technical credibility

Subject: The importance of having technical credibility
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 10:02:59 -0800

Yesterday evening, I attended a networking event. Most of the people were executives or non-technical types, such as artists, but, judging from the name-tages, there was a scattering of developers - most of them looking very uncomfortable about the company they were keeping, and huddling together in small groups of twos and threes at the fringes.

During the evening, I encountered most of these groups (when I work the floor at a networking event, I really work the floor - kind of like a train going downhill without any brakes). Each time, the conversation went something like this:

Developer: What do you do?

Me: Mostly, I write technical, marketing and business documents.

Developer (eyes darting about, looking as though he's going to take a step back): Oh.

Me: I've also written articles about Linux for Linux Journal and Maximum Linux.

Developer (excitedly; looking like a horse that sees the stable ahead): Really? What about?

At that point, I'd be granted provisional human status, and we would then go on to talk about Linux, or some related issue, such as security or the open source movement. Later, several of them remembered who I was, too. One of them even said that they hadn't expected to have a conversation about open source technologies at the event.

I've got no objection to talking to executives (they're the ones with the job) or to artists (they're often closest to my type), but I came away with a renewed sense of my long-held conviction: if you want to be taken seriously by developers and SMEs as a tech-writer, gain some technical expertise, and demonstrate it.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts."
- Vladmir Nabokov, inteview, 1966

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