Re: Just can't help myself

Subject: Re: Just can't help myself
From: Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2005 13:28:18 -0400


> One of the great things about being a tech writer is that it's a very
> individual experience. Each assignment is different. Each writer is
> different. The tools are different. The requirements are different.
> You get the point. ;)

This is, IMO, one of the fundameltal flaws in what technical writing
has now become, and is a symptom indicative of a larger problem. With
such vast variety we become more of a quick-fix jack of all trades and
not a specialist in a specific industry for a specific purpose.
There's more money and stability in the latter than the former, and
the former makes it easier for competition to come in, and thus the
lower rates.

> I hate certification with a passion. One reason I got out of the
> programming field was that I was repulsed by the very idea of having
> to pay for my own training in all these newfangled apps every time
> Microsoft arbitrarily decided my skills were worthless. Worse yet, I'd
> be competing with people much younger and less experienced, who would
> get jobs over me because they had the piece of paper...and were
> willing to work for less because they had less experience.

Well, I'm neither for or against certification at this point. I want
hard evidence that there's a specific need and I want hard
requirements for what constitutes certification. Until those items
materialize, I can't condone a push for certification.

On another note, I don't see what the reasons you cite have to do with
certification.

> Don't get me wrong! I love the idea of learning and bettering my
> skills. I just don't love the idea of being FORCED to do it,
> especially when the net result in terms of better production and
> increased skill is negotiable at best.

Programmers aren't forced to be certified. It can be beneficial, but
it's not required. Same goes for IT folks.

> The best way to become a better tech comm is to WRITE. Write
> constantly. Write everything you can. Review it. Write some more.
> Learn from other writers. Find other assignments to write about.
> Lather, rinse, repeat.

I disagree. Writing is the very minor, mechanical portion of what we
do. The best way to be a better tech writer is to become
industry-savvy (that is, the industry in which you're working as a
writer), more business-savvy (learn what the movers and the shakers
are really looking for in your contribution and leveraging that to
also better the user community you support), and be as
analytically-minded as possible when solving problems with words.

> When it comes down to crunch time and the manual needs finishing, I'd
> rather be the guy who gets it done than the guy with a million
> certificates who doesn't know how to open a Table of Contents in Word
> 2003.

I wouldn't see that ever happening. Certification does not equal
ineptitude, and to suggest that really deteriorates your position on
the subject.

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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Just can't help myself: From: John Posada
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Bill Swallow
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Martin Bosworth

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