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: Lisa Kemp <lnk -at- ontario -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 13:09:02 -0500


There is a difference between becoming the expert and understanding the
subject matter. It sounds as if you agree that the writer needs to learn the
subject matter in order to write about it. I don't think anyone is saying
that you have to be an expert. Taking a programming class would not teach
you more than the basics.

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Gooch [mailto:chris -dot- gooch -at- lightworkdesign -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, February 27, 2003 11:20 AM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: Have to know Programming to be able to write about it? --
NO
Beth wrote:
+++
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".
+++

My view is that the ability to know your subject, _whilst at
the same time remembering that your reader does not know
so much about the subject yet_, is precisely the skill of
a good writer -- being able to put yourself in your reader's
shoes. I don't see this as an argument for "benign ignorance",
just the opposite. You need two sound sets of knowledge:
the subject at hand, and the audience's background and aims.

I've had discussions on this subject in the past, and I can't
help wondering if the different views people take come down
to the old "two cultures" of science and non-science/art.
Some people I know, for example, would hold that, say,
knowing in detail how a rainbow is formed would somehow
detract from being able to appreciate it simply for its
inherent beauty; whereas I would think that such
knowledge could only enhance your experience, certainly
not detract from it.

Interestingly, knowledge of computer programming gives you
a firm background in knowing when it useful to treat things
as a black box, and when it isn't.


As to the whether you need to know programming question
itself; it depends. To document end-user software, no, you
need to know how to use end-user software (and what your
reader will need to know about it). To document a programming
language or API, yes (and also what your reader will need to
know about it).

But then, I'm an ex software engineer who documents an API...

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