RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skepticalcurmudgeonlyness, part II]

Subject: RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skepticalcurmudgeonlyness, part II]
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Janoff, Steve'" <sjanoff -at- illumina -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "'PeterNeilson'" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2011 16:37:26 -0400



Steve Janoff wrote:

> I think folks are confusing the point of my post so let me
> first say what the post was *not* about and then what it *is* about:

Sorry Steve, I wasn't actually referring to your original post, just to the
references to plagiarism that had entered the thread. Your point in your
original post was a good one, though, and deserving of comment.

> 2. Weiss talks about two cultures of tech writers: the
> writer-as-artist, and the writer-as-engineer.

I think I largely agree with Weiss, but with a fairly significant caveat.
The problem I have with his distinction is that seems to oppose art to
engineering, and to suggest that engineering is not creative. Nothing could
be further from the truth. As the Wordpress folk like to say, code is
poetry. Engineering is a creative discipline, and great engineers show great
(an non-quantifiable) creativity.

Still, Weiss is right about there being two cultures. I would simply
classify them as writer-as-artisan and writer-as-engineer. Both the artisan
and the engineer can be creative. The difference is that the engineer makes
a disciplined use of tools to expand the scope of his creativity and unite
it with the creativity of others to achieve things that the artisan simply
cannot accomplish.

> So a question comes to mind: When a software developer goes
> in for an interview, what does he/she say when asked what
> he/she has worked on? What would a software developer "show"
> as work? What if the person worked on a huge project as part
> of a large team, was an important part of the project, but
> couldn't really point to any particular code as being his or hers?

I think the answer to that question is that you simply don't ask that kind
of question when you are interviewing for an engineering position. In
discussing many of the projects I have worked on I say "we" most of the
time, because "we" is the apt word to describe what was accomplished, and
how it was accomplished. As far as I am concerned, a person who can talk
intelligently about what the team did, rather than what they did
individually, is demonstrating that they can be an effective team member,
and if they are an effective team member, what does it matter what they can
do by themselves?

> The question is really this: In moving to the
> writer-as-engineer paradigm, which seems superior (and is
> happening anyway), how do we move to more of a developer's
> style of presenting our work over the course of a career?

Perhaps you have to look at it like this. You can throw a log across a
stream and say, I designed and built that bridge all by myself. Or, you can
be part of huge team of specialists in many disciplines that designs and
builds the Golden Gate Bridge, and say, I helped to build he Golden Gate
Bridge. Which claim is more impressive?

I understand that you were not intending to address the certification issue
per se, and I will only add a little bit on that subject. Everything I saw
in the certification packet looked to me to belong to the artisan model.
That may be a fair reflection of where many people are in tech writing right
now. But, like you, I feel that the advantages of the engineering model are
so compelling that sooner or later people will have to switch in greater
numbers.

Mark



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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skeptical curmudgeonlyness, part II]: From: Janoff, Steve
RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skepticalcurmudgeonlyness, part II]: From: Mark Baker
RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skepticalcurmudgeonlyness, part II]: From: Janoff, Steve

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