RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken

Subject: RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken
From: "Sam Beard" <sbeard -at- oico -dot- com>
To: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 May 2008 09:17:40 -0500

Ned,

You bring up some good points, and I'll address them below.

Samuel I. Beard, Jr.
Technical Writer
OI Analytical
979 690-1711 Ext. 222
sbeard -at- oico -dot- com


-----Original Message-----
From: Ned Bedinger [mailto:doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 7:48 PM
To: Sam Beard
Cc: Lauren; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken

Sam Beard wrote:
> Lauren,
>
> To say that technical writing doesn't require research is just
> patently wrong. First off, there's the research in learning about new
> technologies and new ideas. Then, there's the research that comes
> part-and-parcel with certain types of technical writing or technical
> writing jobs.

For the sake of defining the terms we're using in these debates, I'll
take on this one: doing research is what "digging out and organizing all

information resources" can be called.

example: When I'm researching, I don't feel like I can stop looking when

I've picked the low hanging fruit in the team's documentation share.

Research has to be thorough. I'm not sure there is such a thing as doing

some research. If you've done the research, you've been thorough, to
your standards. If research is like gathering fruit, then when I am
researching I will shake the tree. I will shake the tree hard,
disruptively so, and then get a long stick and whack around blindly up
in the leaves and high branches.

I think the fruit tree metaphor for information storage witnesses the
fact that we have arboreal ancestors, and that what we call research can

be traced back to arboreal survival skills.

The workplace, on the other hand, pretends to be organized in a more
civilized metaphor, with file drawers instead of fruit trees. How easily

I could do thorough research, if the file drawers held it all.
Unfortunately, having roots in the trees means not really filing very
well. A lot of information that belongs in the file drawers remains up
in the branches with its "owners." Tracking that info down and
successfully getting it is what a tech writer's research means to me.

An apt analogy, in many respects. I agree that you shouldn't stop
researching until, at the very least, you get the answers you need. What
I'm wondering about is the difference Lauren was trying to make between
outside research and (presumably) "inside" research. Does this refer to
research outside of the normal parameters of the job and the information
"necessary" to do the job? What exactly constitutes such a thing? How
does one know which is which?


> writing jobs. I had a job where I had to research different equipment
> from multiple companies, how it was used, where it was used, and
which
> places used what types and levels of technologies. Then, I had to
parse
> it all together, write a report detailing that information, and
publish
> it after getting approval from my supervisor. Even if the reports
DIDN'T
> include the technical information I researched (which they did), the
> whole concept lends itself to being called technical writing. Why?
For
>

You could be describing a strategic document known as 'Competitive
Analysis', a business-class document if ever there was one. Nice work if

you can get it.

Competitive analysis is business intelligence--it is used to scope out
the competition. For example, when making decisions about what market to

enter, what features to offer, etc, you might order a competitive
analysis as one type of decision support.

FWIW, I'd say the value of thorough research here is high, while less
than thorough research could be potentially disasterous if an investor
went ahead with plans based on incomplete research.

Yes, on the surface, this looks like a classic example of a market
analysis or competitive analysis document. However, it was commissioned
by and produced for a branch of the federal government. It was NOT used
for market work. And yes, it was something that contained a certain
degree of enjoyment for me. I wouldn't mind doing such work again, as
well, whether it be in the same vein as this or in the traditional
market-analysis view.

Thanks and have a great day!
Sam
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken: From: Lauren
RE: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken: From: Sam Beard
Re: Definition of Tech Writer, was STC is broken: From: Ned Bedinger

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