RE: re Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers

Subject: RE: re Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 11:35:58 -0400

Mark L. Levinson wrote

> technology
> does not diminish the need for technical
> writers. On the contrary... at least for
> the time being.

I don't think that's true. Two things drive the need for technical writers:

1. New technology (really new, ground breaking stuff, not just upgrades and

2. Immature technology

Immature technology require lots of documentation because it has poor
interfaces and lacks automation of many of its functions. As interfaces
improve and internal functions are automated, the need for documentation
drops. (How much documentation comes with a new PC or printer these days,
compared to 10 years ago?)

New technology requires extensive documentation because people have no
experience to draw on to understand the technology and there is no
information available in their social context. People figure things out
first from their own experience, second from the people around them, and
third from docs. As a technology becomes ubiquitous, experience and social
context become the primary sources of information, and docs are far less

Improved and more ubiquitous technology, therefore, diminishes the need for
technical writers. Only spurts of rapid innovation, producing new and
immature products, drive a high demand for documentation. We went through
such a period in the 80's and 90's, driven by the development of the
microprocessor, but we are well out of it now. The need for tech writers is
in decline, and I expect it to decline further as the technologies of the
last couple of decades are assimilated into our common base of experience.

Notice that technical writing, as a job for aspiring writers, really only
applies to home and office products. The microprocessor drove a huge boom in
home and office products, but the main lines microprocessor based home and
office products are now worked out. There is simply not going to be a
continued flow of really new weird stuff flowing from the microprocessor
revolution. A lot of the tech writing jobs driven by that revolution have
already disappeared, and more will follow.

I expect that there is going to be continued growth in industrial
applications of the microprocessor for a long time, but the writing jobs
arising from those developments will require technical qualifications that
most aspiring writers do not possess.

Mark Baker
Senior Technical Writer
Stilo Corporation
1900 City Park Drive, Suite 504 , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1J 1A3
Phone: 613-745-4242, Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com

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re Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers: From: Mark L. Levinson

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