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Sera Hill wrote:
> I know that it's list policy to respond off-list to people . . .
Not necessarily. Responding on-list can start some interesting
> I like knowing how things fit together. I like to explain things to
> and I like putting things into words that someone non-technically
> can understand. . . . I'm interested in teaching people
> new things, but only when people actually want to learn them.
> And once people are getting to the RTFM stage, I'm pretty sure they'd
> want to learn.
Yes! Don't let anyone convince you that "nobody reads this stuff."
People read this stuff. Maybe not in a linear order and not before
feeling thwarted in the task they're trying to perform.... but at some
point they'll read it. If it's bad, that will discourage them from
consulting documentation in the future (they'll just make a beeline for
the help desk). If it's good, they're all the more likely to reach for
the manual or hit F1 for the help file next time...
Me, I like to create order from chaos and mystery. My goal is to make
stuff easy to understand and impossible to MISunderstand.
I got into tech writing in 1997, if memory serves, and back then it was
a happier job market. After a year-and-a-half in advertising, I switched
gears and looked for a TW job. My interview spiel boiled down to "I want
to teach people the stuff they need to know, instead of manipulating
them to buy stuff they may not even need." (That was part of my
motivation. The other part was pragmatic: back then, it was easier to
land a TW job than a copywriter job.) Entry-level prospects were better
then. With an almost-MA in English, some teaching experience, some
copywriting experience, and burgeoning geekiness, I landed a first
contract and was off and running.
Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, but I have a good manager who values
documentation (and we see eye-to-eye on writing style, hallelujah!) and
most of my SMEs are pleasant, knowledgeable people. It may take a little
extra effort to pry the relevant details out of some of them, but I'm
learning how to ask the right questions. In my various TW jobs over the
last 5 years, my SMEs have mostly been support people, not programmers.
I'm glad of that, because (a) they tend to understand the user's point
of view and (b) it's in their own best interest to give me accurate and
complete information, because if the docs are inadequate, they get the
Welcome to the list, Sera!
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