RE: Purpose of Tech Comms today

Subject: RE: Purpose of Tech Comms today
From: "Weissman, Jessica" <WeissmanJ -at- abacustech -dot- com>
To: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- ga -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2013 15:21:06 -0400

Steve asked about the purpose of tech comm today, when answers are available in profusion on the Web.

I can think of two purposes.

First, there are many proprietary items for which there is nothing on the Web or in Amazon.

Second, you can find a lot of answers to specific questions on the Web. But it is hard to develop a useful mental model or general understanding of something by finding the answers to atomic questions one at a time. It's somewhat similar to the the give-someone-a-fish vs teach-someone-to-fish thing.

I work with lots of people who have no idea how Word words, to take just one example. Word is complex, and looks random and immensely complicated. In fact, Word IS tremendously complex. But it does follow a model, and there are areas of function that a user can either understand from principles or just bang around in.

If I show someone how to do one task relating to styles, that person can now do that one thing. But if I show them the task AND describe why it works (ie what paragraph formatting does vs what font formatting does, or how heading styles give rise to a table of contents, or how sections control footers and headers) the person has gained useful knowledge AND the ability to figure out the next problem.

I'd rather understand something so I can figure out more about it for myself than be given a zillion bits of unrelated information about it. If I'm very lucky and reasonably smart I may figure out the connections among the bits of information myself. But I'd rather let someone who understands it lay it out for me. Takes less time and gives rise to fewer misunderstandings.

To sum up the second purpose, it is saving time while avoiding misconceptions.

- Jessica
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References:
Purpose of Tech Comms today: From: Janoff, Steven

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