Re: Resolved: Technical communicators can create information

Subject: Re: Resolved: Technical communicators can create information
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L Digest <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- TECHWR-L -dot- COM>, Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net>
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2010 15:19:13 -0700 (PDT)

Nobody "creates" information. It can be revealed, uncovered, discovered, distributed, disseminated, passed on, transmitted, confirmed, denied, transferred, bought, sold, given away, ignored, used, misused, and abused, but it is not created. Information just is. It is one of the basic design elements of the universe. Earth, air, fire, water, information. Ancient Greeks thought that everything tangible was comprised of varying proportions of the first four, but they didn't realize that information is needed to set what those proportions are.

OK, so much for metaphysics. But frankly, nobody "creates" information. There are times when a tech writer will discover something about a thing that the engineer or designer or builder didn't realize. Like when I've built help systems and when they're reviewed the QA guy says "No, that's wrong," and I tell him that is how the system actually behaves and I've seen it. Sometimes, they have to modify the software because I found a problem they weren't aware of earlier. I guess you could say that I "created" information but I look at as uncovering something.


--- On Sat, 6/12/10, Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net> wrote:

From: Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net>
Subject: Resolved: Technical communicators can create information
To: "TECHWR-L Digest" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- TECHWR-L -dot- COM>
Cc: "Steven Jong" <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net>
Date: Saturday, June 12, 2010, 2:19 PM

I recently wrote an article for the STC Carolina chapter's newsletter, the Carolina CommuniquÃ. In it I wrote:

> At the high end of the [technical communication] scale are people who can not only write the procedures but design entire information product offerings, as well as people who can not just describe what a product does, but explain how to use it effectively: not just how to get to the screen or page, but what to do once you're there, and why.

In response, a reader (who gave me permission to quote him) commented:

> You should make certain that young tech writers donât begin to think of themselves as the sources of anything other than effective communication. It is the SME who is to provide the explanation of how to use a product (in his opinion) effectively or what should be done when reaching a screen or a page. It is the tech writer who should seek out the opinion of the SME and perhaps the balancing opinions of other SMEs and communicate those opinions (with credit) to the audience, assuming, of course, that tech writers actually have time to do that in the real world.

I did not say, or intend to say, that technical communicators can dispense with SMEs. But I do think that we can create information, not just serve as amanuenses. I think this goes to the heart of what a technical communicator does. If I am correctly paraphrasing the reader's opinion, a technical communicator can collect information ("here's what folks say"), and curate information ("here's what the SMEs say"), but not CREATE information. I disagree. What do you think?

        -- Steve


Steven Jong ("Typo? What tpyo?")
SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net
978-413-2553 [C]
Home sweet home page: StevenJong.net

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Resolved: Technical communicators can create information: From: Steven Jong

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