ååï ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch

Subject: ååï ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch
From: Simon <wingman1985 -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot- cn>
To: Ken Poshedly <poshedly -at- bellsouth -dot- net>, Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>, Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2013 21:03:42 +0800 (CST)

I know the Chinese company you are referring to. I went to its interview once for a translator job and on that occasion I was told there is a profession called "technical writer". The interviewer(apparently holding a management position judging by his tone of conversation)talked quite amicably with me and he popped up saying you will be quite successful if you choose a technical writing job. This is quite new to me, a native Chinese. And after that, I keep a constant look for information related to this area and any activities or hiring opportunities here in China. In fact, we have two gatherings in Shanghai of people who are practising this profession or aspiring to be one.


That enlightening experience was three years ago and I learned a lot by reading online tech writing magazines. I tried to be involved into open source documentation projects but it seems that I have not made much progress. The recent effort was with my own company, a JV formed between a local Chinese company and an American one with the latter being the majority shareholder. The original company, as you can tell, has no systematic documentation effort. But very surprisingly, it keeps one staff for technical illustration and one engineering for manual writing. I tried at some point this spring to American management team and my direct superior about the possibility to open the communication channel between US tech pub team and our "team" here in China. I got a rather cold response as you can imagine and ordered not to fuss with this. So I shut up and have to soldier on alone.


Dismayed I am not, I believe documentation will earn its deserved place here in China eventually.



________________________________
åääï Ken Poshedly <poshedly -at- bellsouth -dot- net>
æääï Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>; Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>; Simon <wingman1985 -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot- cn>
æéï "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
åéææï 2013å7æ16æ, ææä, 6:15 äå
äé: Re: ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch



The comments in this discussion (as well as the other one on " Why is so hard to for majority Chinese companies to take documentation seriously?")Â are so very true.

As I've written in the past, I (a native-born American from the midwest) am a tech writer at the metro Atlanta office of a Chinese manufacturer of heavy equipment. The company is HUGE in mainland China, but still grasping to gain sizable marketshare elsewhere; it has also established offices in and distributes its products to Germany, India and Brazil and competes on lowest price.

Absolutely great people, but the comment about the docs being written by engineers is exactly what I face. (I don't know if they're disgruntled or not, though.) The accuracy level of what I am sent as source data is way below what should be -- especially considering that
one can get killed working with this stuff. (I spend weeks trying to get corrected engineering data so my books are at least accurate.)

And the comment about the cultural differences is also correct, and that is what I've been told many times by my folks in China. Equipment owners there simply don't mess with the manuals. Instead, they contact the company which sends out an army of technicians.

My comments to Chinese staff here about product liability results in blank stares, so you can imagine what that can mean for stuff being delivered right off the assembly line in China to customers with little or no testing.

Also, the profession of "technical writer" -- or at least recognition of specialists like us -- does not exist in China. Again, this is right from those in China. Yes, there are some very good "technical writers" there, but after over four years with my company (and four visits to various cities there for research), I have
found very, very, very few.

So my task of producing suitable documentation for my North American customers remains an uphill battle.

-- Ken in Atlanta





>________________________________
> From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
>To: Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>; Simon <wingman1985 -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot- cn>
>Cc: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
>Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 5:46 AM
>Subject: ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch
>
>
>On Tue, 16 Jul 2013 02:41:12 -0400, Simon <wingman1985 -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot- cn> wrote:
>
>> The docs are there (written by disgruntled engineers). However, the accuracy and relevance as well as compliance is very poor. No dedicated resources are provided for this effort.
>
>I fear that you will find yourself shoveling sand against the tide. Here, in my usually jaundiced view, are a few of the many problems you will face.
>
>1. There will be resistance to providing good reviews, as we discussed earlier.
>2. Some reviews might consist of reversion of the document to exactly as it was before you made any changes.
>3. Reviewers
might attempt to correct use of language but carefully avoid the seething technical issues.
>4. You'll be unable to assemble criteria by which you can know that any part of the documentation effort is complete.
>5. You'll be unable to discover the identity of the intended audience.
>6. You'll discover that a rough draft has been shipped as if it were a completed document.
>7. Some of the original documentation that you'll be handed (as starting material) will turn out to be copied directly from competitors' literature or from Wikipedia. (Google for unique phrases. You might be amazed!)
>8. Your very best SME will suddenly be reassigned to a different project, elsewhere, leaving your doc project in limbo.
>9. You will find that your polished English-language effort has been translated into Chinese (for top-level review) and then back to almost-English before being sent to customers.
>10. You will lose effectiveness because you are seen as
too pushy.
>11. You will discover that you have been unable to spend enough time doing actual documentation because you got subverted into helping friends learn English.
>12. As you add other writers to your doc group, you will encounter all the standard problems of managing them. "Herding cats" is the usual metaphor. Try to develop performance criteria as well as standards.
>
>I'm not saying that the task is impossible, but that you'll need flexible plans that can handle problems that suddenly arise from nowhere. And yes, having some sort of method for tracking the changes to your documents will be very important. In particular you must avoid a losing control of your "master" copy of each document. Something like SVN can let you rewind to a previous version and undo misapplied changes.
>
>
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Follow-Ups:

References:
What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch: From: Simon
Re: What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch: From: Gene Kim-Eng
ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch: From: Simon
ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch: From: Peter Neilson
Re: ååï What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch: From: Ken Poshedly

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