Re: Fear and Loathing at the Job Site

Subject: Re: Fear and Loathing at the Job Site
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 07 May 2003 20:04:02 -0700

DGoldstein -at- DeusTech -dot- com wrote:

While I don't share Andrew's general view of humanity (see his post from May 1st, "I'd rather work 90 hours a week for myself than 10 for somebody so stupid, they should be ground up into hot dogs"),
I agree. I support the grinding up, but I feel that food for domestic pigs and cattle is a more appropriate use. ;-)

I think it's clear that there are grossly incompetent workers in every profession.

I can't help feeling that there is more gross incompetence among tech-writers than in other fields. Why, I'm not sure. Just because I know the field fairly well? Or because, like many writers, I tend to think that I can do better than other writers? Or maybe the fact that there is no qualification for someone to work as a tech-writer genuinely means that the standards are low. I tend to think that my sense isn't pure subjectivity because, after all, the general opinion of tech-writers is fairly low.

For example, this afternoon, I was talking with a developer who owned the module I was trying to research. In the course of the discussion, I mentioned that the little documentation that existed tended to focus on the user interface, but I intended to go into more important elements.

"Like what?" he said, and something in his tone made it clear that he didn't expect very much in my response.

"Like installation and configuration," I replied. "Troubleshooting, too, if I have time."

"That's reasonable," he said. He sounded surprised.

Half an hour later, he invited me to participate in setting up the module on a test bed. An hour later, his office mate volunteered some help. Neither had volunteered a think to the previous writer.

All this , mind you, simply because of the intention to be competent - not because of any results. I'm not complaining, you understand, but I can't help thinking that, if more were expected of tech-writers, I wouldn't have scored points so easily.

By contrast, I've met many mediocre academics - the other field that I know best - but even the mediocre were not actually inept - just uninspired.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar all across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly, 'tis thirty-five leagues."


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