Re: How nosy are you?

Subject: Re: How nosy are you?
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2003 19:00:44 -0700

"Andrew Plato" <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote in message
news:207936 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> This is a similar issue. Snooping around and learning the lay of the land
> something everybody does, but admitting you do it is bad. Your intentions
> be honest, but the perception is sinister.
> Furthermore, openly admitting to snooping through the trash could be
> as a security breach and get you terminated. There are reasons, sometimes,
> people on a team are not given all the details. In a secure environment,
> employees should only have access to the information they NEED to do their
> jobs. Technical writers should pay close attention to this concept,
> often times, the information that tech writers work with is highly
> confidential. Misuse or inappropriate distribution of that information
> posting it on TECHWR-L) can be considered a security breech.
I don't know. I guess "need to know" may work in a military environment, or
in government security, but I've worked in neither of those situations. So
more often than not, one person's "need to know" turns out to be simply
their over-protectiveness.

I can't recall anyplace I've worked where I haven't had to sign an NDA. Me,
I take them seriously. But within the company, free-flow of information is
important. The example of working in cubicles vs. offices is but one
example: I've had numerous occasions where I've overheard a couple of
programmers hammering out a solution to a problem in a nearby cubicle, and
if it's a project I'm documenting, I have no qualms about getting up and
hanging out there and listening to the resolution, or following up with an
"I heard you talking about..."

I don't see any difference in information laying around openly that can be
spotted inpassing or in the normal course of business. If I see something
that relates to my work, I'll speak up and ask about it. Often, the response
is "oh yeah, I guess you do need to know that." One very important lesson
here is that a very large majority (I'd guess) of project managers,
programmers, and other engineers really have little or no clue about exactly
what information I need about the product and the project to do my job
effectively. I will assert myself whenever possible and reasonable to
"educate" them.

But that doens't mean going through trash, flipping through pages of printer
output, etc.

On one job some years back I was assigned to a product. When I walked into
the first weekly project meeting, the project manager ask "What are you
doing here? You're the writer." I explained that I needed first-hand
information, would mostly sit back, at least for awhile, etc. After awhile,
I began contributing: ideas, bug reports, etc., and I began being regularly
included on meeting lists for the various projects I was assigned to.
Because many of the bugs I entered were related to usability and UI design,
that same project manager came to me down the line, said that the coimpany
was considering creating a Windows version of one of their Mac products, and
asked me to do some preliminary design work (UI, workflow, etc.) prior to
coding even starting. The point of this story is that by *showing* that a
technical writer needs to be "in the loop," so receive all information on a
product that is given the rest of the team, you can demonstrate how you can
contribute in areas beyond "just" writing. You add even more value to the
product team and to the company.

So one question then: if you're in a non-military, non-government-security
environment, and it seems that project information is not being shared
willingly, what does that say about the work environment, the team dynamic,
and the chances of product success?

Chuck Martin


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