Re: Knowledge of the subject

Subject: Re: Knowledge of the subject
From: "Richard G. Combs" <richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 09:45:29 -0700

etienneg wrote:

> Another way of expressing it is the similitude between the transfer of
knowledge and the transfer of
> energy: there are allways losses. <snip>
> You minimize the losses by the quality of your writing. That include
organization of the material,
> wording, style, and so on.

> You compensate for the losses by knowing more than the user need to know.
I think that you must
> allow for the fact that you will allways underestimate the amount of loss
and, therefore, need to
> know a lot more.

I like this analogy. Very effective and evocative.

But more knowledge helps even if there are no losses. You have to know a
*lot* more than the users need to know in order to know *what* the users
need to know, *when* they need to know it, *how* they need to know it
(context, detail, etc.), and *why* they need to know it.

Of course, if you have a curious nature, analytical mind, good inductive
reasoning ability, and read widely (so that you possess broad knowledge,
which helps you see relationships, implications, and analogies), then you
don't have to know a lot about the subject matter on your first day. You
just have to know a lot before your second draft is finished. ;-)

Poincarré said, "Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of
stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a heap of
stones is a house." If you lack sufficient subject matter knowledge, your
manuals tend to be heaps of stones.

> Personally, I have never regretted learning something and very often
regretted not learning
> something, so I never miss an available opportunity.

Hear, hear!


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT voyanttechDOTcom
rgcombs AT freeDASHmarketDOTnet


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