Re: What does it mean to be technical?

Subject: Re: What does it mean to be technical?
From: Jan Henning <henning -at- r-l -dot- de>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 19:03:39 +0200

What happens if your power supply goes the day before you need to ship this
manual? IT can't get you another computer because there are none. You can't
borrow one, because everyone else is working frantically. IT has an extra
power supply but, because of other workload issues, cannot get to replacing
yours for 3 days. "But my manual is on this machine!" you cry. "We are
shipping tomorrow!" (I have seen this exact situation)

Knowing how to replace a power supply, much less diagnosing that is the
problem, becomes VERY handy at that point. You can offer to do it yourself
and can get your manual out the door on time.

Yes, such things can happen, but these are rather specific circumstances that have little to do with the ability to create good documentation. Similar cases could be made for being able to hunt (in areas where the there are frequent strikes of supermarket employees), being a competent biker (when there are gas shortages and no public transport) etc. etc.

While all of these capabilities can help you get documentation out the door under very specific circumstances, including them as requirements for a good writer IMHO just muddies the picture.

Would you hire a carpenter who did not understand his tools?

Would I hire a carpenter who cannot fix his or her electric drill? By all means - what I'd be looking for in a carpenter is a stable, durable result. It'd be a plus if she or he could fix tools on the spot, but this is strictly a minor consideration - not important enough as a reason to hire somebody who does not have the necessary core qualifications and not important enough to not hire somebody who has them.

In short, being able to repair your own tools comes under the heading of "nice to have" for writers. (And, yeah, I can exchange a power supply and I can find the faulty SIMM.)

Jan Henning

Jan Henning
Am Schlossberg 14, D-82547 Eurasburg, Germany

Phone: +49 700 0200 0700, Fax: +49 8179 9307-12
E-Mail: henning -at- r-l -dot- de, Web:


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RE: What does it mean to be technical?: From: Sharon Burton-Hardin

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