Re: Consumer products RE: Value of basic computer science qualification?

Subject: Re: Consumer products RE: Value of basic computer science qualification?
From: "Joey P" <joeyp2008 -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2008 11:47:08 +0800

On Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 11:26 PM, McLauchlan, Kevin <
Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com> wrote:

> Joey P said:
> > I'm currently mostly documenting consumer hardware, with occasional
> bits
> > of software.

> Might one ask what sorts of products you document? Is it for one
> company or do you freelance or contract within an industry?

I'm in Taiwan (list members may remember me from a pre-Gmail incarnation). I
do cellphones, notebook computers, wireless routers, digital photoframes,
that kind of thing. The company I'm working for gets contracts with various
OEMs/ODMs here, who themselves produce stuff for big brand names.

> Do you find that you have to live near the employer?

Depends how far you're willing to commute! Most of the people I know doing
this here do it as a full-time office job. It's good to be able to walk
across the office and talk to the project managers directly.

> My impression is that consumer stuff often tends to have illustrations.
> Are those created for you, on a timely basis, or do you find yourself
> (like me) creating your own.

They're done for me. I don't know any tech writers here who do their own
illustrations. Maybe some of the non-native-English-speaking writers do. But
it's not cost-effective to pay a westerner a higher wage for doing something
that a local could do just as well.

> Do you report to technical people (Engineering or QA), or to Marketing
> folk?
> I find that my ability to get stuff technically accurate and complete is
> enhanced by the fact that I'm part of Engineering, but I sometimes get
> complaints/wishes after-the-fact regarding how features and products are
> portrayed (the slant or the emphasis)... from product manglement and
> marketing folk who didn't have time to review and comment on my stuff
> when I was working to the Engineering and QA release timelines...

Mostly engineering, sometime before the marketing stuff kicks in. However, I
do know a couple of people working for actual brand name companies here, and
they're under the marketing umbrella.

> What are your project turnaround times like?
> Do you do a lot of incremental revising of earlier documents to account
> for relatively slight changes due to new models, or is there a lot of
> fresh-start research and writing to do?

A bit of both. We get quite a few updates/refreshes to do, which are not
very challenging. But there are also some completely new products, which are
far more involving to document. I do do a bit of software documentation too.
I did a big manual for an IP surveillance device monitoring system. I have
to get to know products and produce first drafts of manuals quite
quickly--often in a week or less. After that, it depends. Projects can
sometimes drag on for months as products are developed and finalized.

> Another of my impressions is that the vast bulk of consumer-oriented
> hardware is built in the orient. What's the most common way for such
> stuff to get its English documentation? Is it written by
> English-speaking writers in the place where it will sell - USA, Canada,
> Britain, Australia - or is it written in the language of the
> manufacturer (Chinese, Korean, any of several Malaysian or Indonesian
> languages, etc.) and translated into English and European languages?

Neither of the above! Basically all the documentation stuff I know about is
written in English, but in China or Taiwan. Some of it is written by native
English speakers such as myself. Some of it is written by non-native
speakers, and sometimes that material is then edited by native speakers. I
know a couple of people who are employed as tech writers, but mostly just
edit documentation produced by Chinese or Taiwanese engineers.

The quality of writing produced by non-native speakers varies. Some of it is
perfectly useable as is, with only the odd awkward bit of phrasing. Some of
it needs a fair bit of work to make it understandable and comfortable to
read. I'm sure everybody remembers the terrible manuals that used to come
out of Japan. Now, companies are paying much more attention to presentation,
so are often willing to get documentation edited properly. Anyway, luckily I
don't have to do much editing. Most of what I do is actual writing.

> Do you do your own translation co-ordination, or does the company have
> people for that?

The company I work for is mainly a translation company, with tech writing as
a sideline. They organise all that. The main thing I have to do in that
regard is make sure that what I write is ready for translation (technically
through attributes in the document structure, and linguistically by using
consistent terminology and appropriate phrasing).

> I'm interested in your side of the fence, but don't know a lot about it.
> Probably that nice shade of green that I see in your grass, over there,
> looks less impressive up-close than does the luxurious lawn on which I
> recline... as seen from your yard. Still...... :-)
> - Kevin

Well, I guess working in China or Taiwan for a while might be an interesting
career break for a tech writer from the west. The economy's been a bit
affected by the global downturn, so things are a little quieter than before,
but there are still jobs. Obviously the wages aren't as much as you'd get in
the west, but they're higher than those of locals doing similar jobs.


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Value of basic computer science qualification?: From: Joey P
Re: Value of basic computer science qualification?: From: Janet Swisher
Re: Value of basic computer science qualification?: From: Joey P
Consumer products RE: Value of basic computer science qualification?: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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