RE: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler

Subject: RE: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Suzette Leeming <suzette -dot- leeming -at- gmail -dot- com>, Wade Courtney <wade -dot- courtney -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2010 10:39:28 -0400

Ya go away for just a weekend, and look what happens...

Suzette Leeming said (and I agree):
> I've waited and pondered this situation before adding my
> opinion. I'm glad
> to see I'm not alone with ambiguous feelings toward Ernest &
> Scribbler (aka
> good techwriter, bad techwriter). I see aspects of myself in
> both, and was
> surprised to see some attributes being described as good,
> when I thought
> they were bad (i.e. following even a bad style sheet).

How about the part where the writer even recognizes
that the style sheet is good/bad/relevant?

For example, I've met stylesheets that were bad because
they were simply imported (copy-pasted?) from somewhere
else for dubious reasons. I've met stylesheets that were
"bad" because, good as far as they went, they were incomplete.
I even made one of those partial monstrosities before
being urgently re-assigned, and never got back to the

I've met stylesheets that were earnestly compiled by
collaborative effort among a crew of writers and
other stake-holders, and were reviewed and revised
before being published. And they still looked exactly
like something produced by a committee.

The best one I ever saw was constructed in an afternoon
by a group of mostly TWs using a big expanse of wall and
a thick wad of yellow stickies.

> As far as separating the wheat from the chaff during the
> hiring process -
> don't companies do techwriting tips, or check references
> before hiring? Why
> can't my experience and references speak for themselves?

As Keith and others pointed out, your experience and
references speak only to somebody who:

a) cares to look, and hasn't screened you out by
automated means

b) is qualified to understand what your experience and
references mean.

> When I started in this field, there weren't any
> courses/programs around. I
> came into techwriting via being a software trainer, then a
> systems analyst.
> I'm more or less self-taught (read a lot of books and
> listened a lot), but I
> believe the quality of my work is good, and do my superiors,
> which is the
> most important.

But when you have the bureaucratic gene, where do you draw
the line for grandfathering (sorry, should that be grand-
mothering?) old farts who grew up in the previous cycle(s)?

I maintain that pushes for certification are always a
combination of scratching the insatiable itch of the
bureaucratic gene, and creating/pushing a cause that can
be exploited by those with the political genes.

> Would I pass "certification"? I don't know; I suppose there's
> always the
> chance that I'd fail on a few minor items like project
> estimated (which I
> still consider myself weak in). I resent that after 15 years
> in this field,
> I'd be expected to take a test to see if I'm qualified to do
> what I've been
> doing for so long.

Your resentment (like mine, and Keith's and Bill's and....)
is noted, and counted as a point against you, and will be
stored in bureau'ratic (the 'c' is silent) memory against
the time time that you finally give in and submit yourself
to the machine.

> If I were a hiring manager, I would take experience & proven
> results over
> certification, any day.

As noted above and elsewhere, you won't have the choice.
The purpose of certification is to hand the HR department
an "officially" sanctioned screening tool. Ms. Hiring Manager,
you will get to choose from that pile of resumes the HR
minions dump in your in-box. You will never see the resumes
that were pre-screened and eliminated for want of the correct
letters after the applicant name.

> So, from both perspectives it appears the
> certification would not add value, so then what would the
> benefit of being certified?

Binary in-out. If it comes into being - which eventually
it will - it will be ruled by bureaucratic and political
types. They will work to make it ubiquitous and "indispensible".
The apathetic will repeatedly ignore or immediately forget
'scandals' in which political pushes for this-or-that addition
or modification to the program is propelled by 'champions'
with fiscal interest in certain training companies, tool
vendors, book authors pushing specific branded methodologies,
and so on.

You will have to have the approved ticket in order to be employable.

Actually, you and I might not suffer much from eschewing
the whole enterprise. It'll be younger sorts coming up via
non-approved channels who will be forced into the mold or
find themselves (and their resumes) constantly on the reject

Just as in general political society, zealots and the
politically motivated almost always win because they keep
trying and trying in a single, focused effort.

The rest of us are unfocussed in our individuality and
our separate lives, and so react only when
obviously threatened. But life intrudes, we get
distracted, or other threats from other relentlessly
focussed groups divide our attention. When we come
back to the original can of worms, it has spread and
is even more difficult to contain.... and while we're
looking at it and trying to beat it back, the other
groups are encroaching on a different flank. And then
the baby gets sick, or the parent breaks a hip, or
the teenager turns out to be a star XYZ-player and
needs support and travel and big money to advance to
regional or national competition... oops! Took your
eye off the encroachers again, didn't you?

- Kevin

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Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:

RE: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler: From: Sharon Burton
RE: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler: From: Keith Hood
Re: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler: From: Wade Courtney
Re: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler: From: Suzette Leeming

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