RE: Meta-Topic On Discussions (delete as appropriate)

Subject: RE: Meta-Topic On Discussions (delete as appropriate)
From: Decker Wong-Godfrey <dfgodfrey -at- milmanco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 14:49:05 -0800

Has anyone engaged in these discussions ever had their minds changed by
else's arguments/evidence/presentation? Have you entered into one of these
discussions saying, "I believe X is true," and come out at the end of the
saying, "Now I see the error of my ways. Now I believe either X is not true
or Y is
better than (or as good as) X."


I've had my mind changed because of a discussion I've had on this list. It's
not been about the subject of the discussion itself, but how one discusses
subject matter. It's been a humbling experience--and has been very
beneficial. It has allowed me to get a better signal-to-noise ratio not only
in on-line discussions, but also in the discussions I have on a daily basis.

What I've learned is that there's little need to worry about generalizations
like "All technical writers should be <insert opinion here>," or "all
computers should be <insert opinion here>." The needs of a job, a computer
user or a writer aren't going to be met with simple generalizations: each
job is different, it requires different skill sets; each computer user has
different needs which can't be met with a simple prescription; each writer
has a different set of interests and foci that drive them.

What it comes down to is that asking for advice about taking a course
doesn't mean someone is asking for what people think a technical writer is.
A simple, "Yes, All TWs should be experts in what they write about..." or,
"No, TWs don't need to be experts in what they write about..." doesn't
answer the question, it expresses an opinion.

(At the end of it all, even though everyone here is a technical writer in
some capacity, not everyone here is an SME in what they write about. I say
that in itself says a lot more than anyone's generalizations about what all
technical writers should be.)

What I've learned is when topics shift from the context of the question to
generalizations regarding the subject matter, I need to think about whether
they have ceased to be informational topics. Sometimes, good threads go
bad--informational topics and sincere requests for advice become debate
topics. Their point is no longer to elucidate, but to express. I've learned
the lesson the hard way; if someone wants to express their opinion, then let

At the end of the day, opinions are nice, but they don't matter much.

And with a self-reflexive wink, Decker gets down from the podium and
mutters, "That's all it is--opinion."


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