Re: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO
The expert is often the worst person to write about their subject, because they no longer see it with the naivete of the new user.
Hence the manuals that leave out crucial steps because "tsk, everyone _knows_ you're supposed to do X before Y". Remember all those unusable manuals in the early days of computers? Written by computer experts, not communication experts.
The problem with experts isn't their expertise - it's the fact that they aren't writers. Most experts aren't very interested in writing, and they aren't used to thinking of how to shape their thoughts to any audience except other experts. In the rare cases in which experts are also writers, the result is far more useful than those produced by a writer without expertise or by an expert with no writing skills.
The trouble with not being an expert is that you don't know what you don't know. You have to rely on what you're given, and you often won't see the errors or gaps.
That said, there are various ways of gaining expertise. You don't have to come into a project with expertise. In fact, structuring your content and writing it is often an excellent way to gain understanding. However, by the time the project is finished, you should have at least a moderately high degree of expertise - and the more, the better.
Personally, that's the appeal of tech-writing. It gives me an excuse to explore all sorts of nooks and crannies that I would otherwise probably never get around to. Whenever someone talks about relying on SMEs, I have flashbacks to some of the university students I used to teach who seemed to see classes as a struggle that they would win if they could pass with only a minimum of learning. Yes, they could graduate that way, but only by cheating themselves. In the same way, if I didn't make a determined effort to gain as much expertise as possible about the subjects I write on, I'd be cheating myself by giving myself much less job satisfaction.
Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177
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May the judged be their judges when they rot down in hell."
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RE: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO: From: Matthew Horn
Re: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? -- NO: From: Beth Agnew
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