Re: Subject Matter Expertise-YES! Attack Iraq-NO!

Subject: Re: Subject Matter Expertise-YES! Attack Iraq-NO!
From: Paul DuBois <paul -at- kitebird -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 11:52:44 -0600


> > 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.
>
> Here we go again. I thought we squashed this bug in 1998. Ignorance is NEVER an
> asset. A writer will never, ever do their readers a favor by being ignorant of
> the topic.

I don't see any argument there that ignorance is good. I thought Beth
was saying that being an expert isn't necessarily an asset, if the expert
can't communicate. Seems to me you've read the paragraph as saying what
you wanted it to say, rather than what it said.

> Experts are absolutely the best person to write documents. Sure, they need good
> editors and desktop publishers as well. But pushing styles around and obsessing
> over fonts isn't anywhere near the same as authoring material.

Beth's point (I believe) is that being an expert doesn't make you a
good writer. I don't see anything in what you say to invalidate that.
Nor do I see anything that draws any necessary link between expertise and
being able to write.

I believe you are saying that knowledge helps you write more credibly.
I agree that, for person X with a given amount of ability to write,
increasing that persons's knowledge about a subject will help the
person write about the subject better. But you're changing a different
independent variable, saying the the person with more knowledge will
write better than the person with less. That ain't necessarily so.

I agree with Beth that experts on a topic are often poor ones to write
about it. They aren't *necessarily* poor ones to write about it, but
I echo Beth's sentiment (because I see it over and over) that people
who know everything about a topic skip over the details necessary to
effectively impart their knowledge to those who are less knowledgeable.

Another thing: The only person around here obsessing about fonts (and
obsessing about fonts, and continuing to obsess about fonts) ... seems
to be you. Dragging font-obsesssing into a discussion that had nothing
whatsoever to do with fonts adds nothing to the discussion. Actually,
it serves as kind of a red flag that we can stop reading. That's a shame.
You often have something worthwhile to say. I don't know why you waste
your time and ours with irrelevant hobby horses.

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References:
Subject Matter Expertise-YES! Attack Iraq-NO!: From: Andrew Plato

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