RE: Responsibility (Long)

Subject: RE: Responsibility (Long)
From: John Posada <JPosada -at- book -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 11:35:43 -0400

> > > What you're talking about here is butt coverage. And I
> > > ain't talking about capri pants.
> >
> > CYA is without a doubt the most detrimental and least
> > productive thing any
> > human can do at their job. If you work in a place that is
> > all CYA, then I
> > deeply pity you. I personally refuse to play the CYA game. Its lame.
> >
> Although CYA is commonly a useless activity because you're essentially
> concerned solely with avoiding blame (rather than concerned
> with doing good
> work), there are times when CYA is essential.

I know from whom or from where I get most of my content if I didn't write
it. Some people consider that as CYA in that if someone looks at my content
and it is incorrect, and can see where it came from and the blame of wrong
content can be attributed. However, the reason I do it is not for blame, but
that I know I'm going to rely of each of them for future questions and
discussions. I'll admit...I don't know as much about their area as they do.

Unlike my boss who says responsibility for accurate information is the
source's responsibility, I don't completely agree; I'll take some of it. The
part I take is to do everything in my power to use my limited knowledge to
get the feeling that something is wrong and have it addressed by an expert.

Unlike some of you who are writing about what you were hired for, my scope
has changed. What started as documenting a defined system has turned into
documenting an enterprise. I don't know that there is anyone on the list, or
exists in real life, who is equally technically and deeply adept at the
range of technologies I'm working with..I certainly know I'm not. A partial
list would include VB, C++, C#, Java, SQL language, SQL2000 application,
MSMQ, SAP, EIA, SQL Triggering, SQL Replication, Stored Procedures, Method
Calls, Data Warehousing, XML, ASP, and on, and on..

I think it is safe to assume that most of these are specialties all in
themselves. Do you expect a DBA to be equally proficient in XML and also in
ASP? Do you expect someone who specializes in Data Warehousing to be equally
proficient in SAP? learn where you can, you question everything you can, and you rely
heavily on the expertise of the developers who are answering your questions.

It is also safe to assume that should I be tapped to head up a department,
I'll make sure that each writer I add to the staff will have an area of for SAP, one for DBA, one for coding.

However, until that day comes, would I like to be technically equal to each
of the SMEs and developers? Would I like to use them only as a sounding
board because I know as much as them? Of course. OTOH, when someone comes to
me and says "Start documenting X.", do I say, "Sorry, I don't know that
technology...I must quit and have you hire someone who does."

Therefore...I'll state that in theory, being a SME-level expert on what you
are writing about is great in theory and something to strive for, but in
real life, it isn't always practical and you shouldn't beat yourself up (or
be beaten upon) if you don't know everything about everything you are

John Posada
Senior Technical Writer
jposada -at- book -dot- com
NY: 212-414-6656
Dayton: 732-438-3372
"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream
of things that never were, and ask why not?"
-----Robert Francis Kennedy, 1968 presidential campaign


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