RE: What does it mean to be technical?

Subject: RE: What does it mean to be technical?
From: "Sharon Burton-Hardin" <sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 10:14:29 -0700

No, I don't think so. These are our tools, we work with them at least 8
hours a day. It is not unreasonable to understand how they work. We don't
need to understand how overnight shipping works because we are not working
with it 8 hours a day, every day, as a significant part of our jobs.

Look, I teach experienced tech writers part time. I see this ignorance
constantly. I teach several technical writing classes, like writing user
guides. I teach software like FrameMaker or RoboHELP. I give talks on the
specifics of getting good PDF. These are technical topics.

I literally have people stand up during the PDF talk and say they don't need
to know this stuff because all they do is click a button and this info is a
waste of their time. If it doesn't work, they call the help desk and they
come fix it. On average, for every time I have given this talk, at least one
person has left for this _stated_ reason.

I have students who say they have 15 years of technical writing experience
who don't know styles in any product. They don't understand when I ask them
to copy files. They don't know why they can't save the files they copied off
a CD. They tell me that they can't install a software because they are don't
have admin rights, what ever that means. And this happens constantly. They
would never open their computer box because they have no idea how.

And the refrain in the tech writing world? "No one respects what we do." No
kidding. We work with technical people, some of them are VERY technical. We
have technical in our job title. But many tech writers are anything but
technical. And we have no one but ourselves to blame because we can fix

This is a rant of mine. I don't expect to have this understood or even
considered seriously. Every time I bring this topic with tech writers, I am
told that I am being a pain and unreasonable. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I have
had too much coffee now.

The writers I sub contract with are considered and paid as junior if they
don't understand their tools, because I consider that part (a big part, but
not all) of the definition of senior. I don't care how many years you have
been in this field in this regard.


Sharon Burton-Hardin
CEO, Anthrobytes Consulting

-----Original Message-----


> 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

What happens if FedEx goes on strike, what happens if the city you are in
has a power outage, or what happens if you come down with the flu. Does
documenting a spreadsheet require that you have knowledge of how overnight
shipping works, how to run a power station, and how to synthesize a vaccine?

Aren't we getting a little carried away here?

John Posada


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RE: What does it mean to be technical?: From: John Posada

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