Re: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO

Subject: Re: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO
From: kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 08:25:06 -0700

First and foremost: the more you know, the better.

To respond to this, I want to ask: when we talk about "writing about
programming," does that mean we are teaching somebody to program? Or that
we are teaching a *programmer* to do something?

If you're teaching somebody how to program in, say, C++, you'd *better* be
a C++ programmer. I would assume any O'Reilly book intended to teach me a
programming language was written by a programmer. If it wasn't, I don't
want it. And I would NEVER attempt to write a book intended to teach
somebody a programming language.

But I myself have had to write API docs - manuals meant to guide
experienced programmers in developing product-specific applications. I
felt extremely underqualified, and spent a lot of money on books about
programming to try to get a better grasp of the subject, in addition to
MANY hours interviewing programmers. I initially protested the assignment,
but was given no options. It was a do-it-or-be-fired assignment.

I was not thrilled with the finished product, but apparently it satisfied
the company - an updated version of it is still in use almost 4 years
later, I've been told. I think a programmer could have done an even better
job. But I did my best, and it sufficed.

So I think it depends on what you mean by "writing about programming." I
think most tech writers CAN write about just about any product or
product-related topic, with enough research. But I think when it comes to
the core technologies used in those products, more in-depth knowledge is
essential. I can write a manual for a database-driven application that was
developed in VB and uses an Oracle database. But I'm not ready to write a
book on how to program in Visual Basic, nor on how to become an Oracle
DBA. Does that make sense?

Keith Cronin

But remember, I am well within bounds to disagree with your idea(s). And
disagreement is not synonymous with misunderstanding.
- Andrew Plato


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