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Subject:Re: Tips on how to talk to SMEs From:punit shrivastava <punitshrivastava -at- gmail -dot- com> To:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com Date:Thu, 14 Jul 2011 14:04:37 +0530
can't agree more William.
Adding to the views, consider two scenario:
1. You are working in a small company where you are just an expendable
reporter (borrowing from William) or technical writer (if you prefer to be
2. You are working in a company that has global professional set up and that
claims documentation is equally important for the company.
Working in second scenario may help you interact, share views, get input,
pass your comment on product with ease.
Working in first scenario may require some extra social ability to get
favors (as people don't merrily share input then).
But, whatever scenario you may work on just question yourself will your
fellow tech writer colleague be passing all information to at your will,
unless you are 'friends' with him/her. Probably NO. As even in our own
department (if more than two writers are there) we do not favor consider
equally worthy to share our views or provide our help so willingly.
So why should the SMEs go extra yard to be helpful when u r maintaining a
Other solution is show your knowledge too rather than always be going to get
something (knowledge or input).
Remember besides doing your assigned job (writing in this case), if *you add
value, you will get value*.
Appreciate your patience to read.
On Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 9:21 AM, William Sherman
<bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com>wrote:
> I'm another who doesn't like this use of SME all the time and "tips on how
> to talk to SMEs" that pop up on various forums and websites.
> First, I go back long enough that the tech writer WAS the expert. The TW
> picked up the drawings, read the schematics, researched the product, read
> the code, and so on and learned it on his own. He would consult the
> engineer or the programmer on some items, but often few, and for several
> First, it is your job to learn the item you are writing about. Are you a
> reporter or a technical writer? That word "technical" in the title isn't
> there for looks.
> Second, the engineer or programmer may not be on that program anymore,
> hence no dollars in his budget to spend time with you. Even if he does
> fudge the timecard, does he still remember the project?
> Third, the engineer or programmer is often one small cog in the machine.
> Now there are projects where one engineer handles the entire project or one
> programmer codes the entire application, but that is often for something
> small. So his view frequently is a lot narrower than you think. In some
> places, I have seen "system engineers" who are really "subsystem engineers"
> because their expertise was only one subsystem of the entire project.
> Frequently, they are one subsystem of the subsystem.
> Fourth, if the product is actually in production, or has already been sold
> in an earlier version, the technician is frequently more of an expert on it
> than the engineer. He has to make it run, fix it when it is broken, and send
> his changes so an engineer can get credit when he "redesigns" the faulty
> parts (that he previously designed but glosses over that fact) to make Rev.
> Fifth, I am annoyed at my profession being turned into a "reporter". Think
> about a reporter. He knows nothing about a subject, and basically takes what
> someone else knows and pretends to somehow understand it well enough to pass
> off to others. I'm not here to interview anyone, I am here to learn this
> product inside out and create a document that shows real knowledge of the
> product and not just regurgitated mumbo jumbo that many of today's writers
> have no way to validate.
> I also find it annoying that the technical writing profession is being
> dumbed down to being "reporters" who "interview" the experts to produce a
> document. Once the reason a technical writer was in demand was he had
> technical knowledge needed to produce the documentation. Usually it was from
> coming through the ranks, having been in the military and taking the
> military training schools, and then supplementing it with tech schools or
> simply hard knocks on the assembly lines and production facilities.
> That is why the idea of a technical writing degree baffles the heck out of
> me. What are they teaching you? How to assemble/disassemble an F-15 or an
> F-16? How to build a UHF radio? How to write and read Pascal, Fortran, C, or
> PERL? How to troubleshoot a Caterpillar diesel? How to operate, maintain,
> troubleshoot, and repair a Motorola two-way radio? How to build a Mark 48
> torpedo? How to assemble and operate a Mercury inboard engine?
> No, the idea is to teach you to interview someone who does know that stuff.
> Why would I pay two people when I can simply hire the one who know it? No
> wonder most companies don't want to hire technical writers.
> Basically, the industry is turning technical writers into glorified
> secretaries and the pay is reflecting it. I can't count the number of jobs
> I've seen for technical writers that fall into the $40,000 range and lower,
> when real TECHNICAL writers should and can command $80,000 or more.
> Bringing brownies to the engineers just proves how much lower you are on
> the ladder than they are.
> Even a good office assistant will get miffed if the boss expects her to get
> the coffee for him.
> Rant OFF.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Craig Cardimon" <
> craig -dot- cardimon -at- gmail -dot- com>
> To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
> Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 8:19 AM
> Subject: Tips on how to talk to SMEs
> These suggestions might help:
>> Craig Cardimon
>> "The Duct Tape Writer"
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