Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town

Subject: Re: Are Tech Writers Valid anymore Re: ghost town
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2014 02:30:17 -0800 (PST)

[Keith said]

Companies consider tech writers a drain because they have to put out the
money to pay and support us, but we don't add any value to the products.

If you don't add any value, then you're in trouble.  Since the '80s it's been common knowledge that a
"product" in high tech is actually a relationship between customer and provider.  That means support and yes, documentation. 
Documentation is the first line of support -- the better the docs the cheaper the support and the more effective
support can be for real issues.  Any enlightened company knows this.  If your company is so unenlightened that it considers
docs a pure liability, then you are probably in a living hell, and should set your sights on escape.

[Keith said]
Companies figure they can always have engineers and salesmen write almost
anything needed, as long as it doesn't have to impress a customer.  That's
why tech writing has become commoditized to such a frightening extent;

Tech writing is becoming a commodity because the field has changed significantly, but tech writers have not.
Developers are agile, and tech writers are still worried about scheduling issues that date back to printed manuals.  This
is not an easy problem to solve -- many pubs scheduling issues legitimately conflict with agile.  But one fact remains...
the paradigm has shifted, and traditional pubs knowledge holds little sway.  Nothing is more pathetic than a pubs department
run by a manager who thinks he/she still holds the keys to the release gate because milestones have to accommodate the
traditional pubs lag devoted to MOVING PAPER.  I've seen this, even when the manager uses current agile vocabulary
and says "DITA" 15 times a day.  The department loses credibility, developers roll their eyes, and the higher-ups start
thinking about out-sourcing.  That's the road map to commodity.


[Keith said]
If you want to have a chance to enhance your job longevity, find some way
to do some writing that is more closely related to business needs, and that
impresses the bigwigs.  Become useful to the VP of Sales and Marketing as
well as to the chief product design engineer, and you'll be a lot more
likely to survive the next round of layoffs.  In a lot of places, the day
of being a "pure" technical writer is over.  These days we need to sort of
hybridize our work in order to get closer to the company's core business.

Absolutely!  Only you can branch in many directions, and not just sales.  Again, companies know they
need a viable GUI -- contribute to that!  How many people here work on global teams with a large number of
ESL people contributing to the GUI?  Even with English speaking engineers, GUI elements can often be confusing
just for want of clear language.  Get involved!  How many people work in multi-product companies that have
problems with consistent terminology?  Get involved!  How many opportunities are there to embed the docs, and move
content into the GUI?  Get involved!  How much time and effort is spent managing internal docs?  Get involved!  User
personae?  Get involved!  Project management?  Get involved!

What has become a commodity is the mere production of pages.  If that's all you do, you are headed for Tombstone Arizona. 
If management says "Pubs doesn't add value", then it's up to YOU to refute that.  And your best argument is a list of
contributions and accomplishments...  that go beyond page count.
Doc-To-Help: new website, content widgets, and an output that works on any screen.

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