Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing"

Subject: Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing"
From: Keith Mahoney <kamahoney1965 -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: List,Ã Techwriter <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Keith Mahoney <kamahoney1965 -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2016 08:36:57 -0700

Interesting topic. I don't think TW is dying; but, I do think it's
morphing. For example into Medical Device Writer (AKA Labels and Labeling
Writer). Also, I think like any profession you have to keep up your skills.
I see TWs moving into Web Design and becoming TWs with a focus on
writing/designing for the Web.



On Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 6:48 AM, <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com> wrote:

> David,
>
> I am having a hard time seeing how it is a problem that there are few
> training opportunities for jobs that no one is hiring for. Technical
> writing, like every other profession, does not exist because it is a good
> in itself, but to meet a demand. If there is demand and no supply, that is
> a problem for society that needs to be addressed. If there is supply and no
> demand, that is a problem for the supplier who needs to learn to supply
> something else. If there is no demand and no supply, that is not a problem
> for anyone.
>
> But I think we have to make a very clear distinction here. There is an
> enormous demand for technical communication. We have a lot of technology,
> with more coming every day, and we need to communicate about it. There
> would appear to be a diminishing demand for consumer technical publications
> -- manuals in the boxes of consumer and office products. This should not
> surprise us, since there was clearly a bubble in such demand in the 80s and
> 90s when all this tech was new, people had no experience with it, and the
> UI sucked.
>
> But if the demand for technical communication is strong, the question
> becomes, who is doing it? Any kind of communication demands two things:
> knowledge of the subject matter and skill at communication. Of the two,
> knowledge of the subject matter is the more important, since lucid
> ignorance does no one any good, while it is possible to struggle through
> opaque knowledge with sufficient perseverance.
>
> It is quite clear that many products sell successfully despite poor
> information. They sell based on their capability, their price, or their
> reputation. Documentation quality only affects sales performance when it
> becomes a differentiator. That only happens when the differentiators that
> people care more about are a wash.
>
> Where information is a differentiator, it is not necessarily documentation
> that makes the difference. For many products it is much more important that
> it be Googleable, that it have an active user community. For programming
> languages and APIs it can be much more important that they have good
> coverage on Stack Overflow than that they have good documentation.
>
> But within organizations, many different roles requires technical
> communication. Sales, sales support and engineering, marketing, training,
> public relations, engineering, business analysis, operations, and the
> people in finance responsible for innovation tax credits all communicate
> about technology as a significant part of their jobs. CEOs of startups
> spend much of their time communicating about their technology.
>
> Recently, the SouthWestern Ontario Chapter of the STC joined forces with
> the Kitchener-Waterloo based Communitech organization to create a Technical
> Communication peer to peer group. (Communitech sponsors peer to peer groups
> for all kind of technical subjects.) We very deliberately made the focus of
> that group be the communication of technical communication in all roles in
> the organization. The peer to peer group is not about the careers of people
> with "technical writer" on their business card, it is about how to
> communicate effectively about technology no matter what your role is.
>
> Our very first event for the peer to peer group had more than three times
> the turnout of than any chapter event since I have been a member. So far,
> the signups for or next event are even higher.
>
> Technical communication as a task and a function is huge. Those who enjoy
> it and excel at it should follow it where it leads and worry much less
> about where they sit or what title is on their business cards. (And the
> Society for Technical Communications should focus much more on being a
> society for technical communication and much less on being a society for
> technical writer jobs.)
>
> Mark
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:
> techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of
> David Farbey
> Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 4:25 AM
> To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing"
>
> I agree with the criticisms of the tone of the article that have already
> been expressed. There were too many generalisations and no attempt to
> introduce any evidence, even anecdotal evidence, to back up the statements
> being made. For example, if you mention "a recent survey" as a
> justification for your assertions you need to provide a link or a reference
> to the source. The only source mentioned in their references is a
> five-year-old personal blog contribution, and it is not really relevant to
> the article.
>
> However...
>
> In the UK the technical writing profession is indeed facing challenges,
> but they are very different from the ones mentioned in the article. On the
> supply side, there are limited training opportunities, and no academic
> courses at all. The ISTC (http://www.istc.org.uk/) is looking for ways of
> addressing this deficit, by accrediting courses offered by private
> providers, running a mentoring scheme for new entrants to the profession,
> and encouraging members to engage in lifelong learning through our
> outputs-focussed CPD scheme. (Disclosure - I'm on the ISTC Council and
> these three activities come under my remit.) On the demand side, fewer
> companies appear to be hiring technical writers, and third party
> non-specialist recruitment agencies often don't understand that a technical
> writer doesn't necessarily need to be an expert programmer or engineer to
> be the best person for the job.
>
> Interestingly, the special focus theme for this year's TCUK conference
> that takes place in September is "From Novice to Expert â Writing Your
> Career Path as a Technical Communicator" and the deadline for submitting
> your speaking proposals is Thursday 31st March 2016 (
> http://technicalcommunicationuk.com/index.php/call-for-proposals-tcuk-2016
> )
>
> But maybe the authors do have a point? I now work as a technical
> consultant for a financial services company. My job involves writing about
> technology, but it isn't "technical writing". I haven't moved to Thailand,
> though, I'm still in London.
>
> Regards,
>
> David
>
> David Farbey - david -at- farbey -dot- co -dot- uk
> Mobile 07538 420 800
> Twitter @dfarb
> http://about.me/davidfarbey
>
>
> On 22 March 2016 at 00:27, Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com> wrote:
>
> > Looking back on my manager days, I would much rather build a pubs team
> > from a bunch of programmers, lab or service techs who could string
> > words together into coherent paragraphs and support them with a good
> > editor and illustrator than from people educated as "one-person pubs
> > teams" with no technical knowledge. Producing usable docs happens much
> > more smoothly when the writers know the tech and are open to an
> > editor's input on their grammar and composition.
> >
> > And it's way easier to get engineers and other developers to talk to a
> > writer who can look at the raw design and ask, "is it this, or is it
> that?"
> > rather than "can you explain to me what this is and what it does?"
> >
> > Gene Kim-Eng
> >
> >
> > On 3/21/2016 5:00 PM, Monique Semp wrote:
> >
> >>
> >>
> >> I was hired as a "Senior" tech writer for my very first tech writing
> >> job because a flexible (ok, maybe she was just desperate) tech pubs
> >> manager was willing to hire a programmer who could write a coherent
> >> paragraph :-). And happily, those were the days of companies having
> >> whole teams of writers, so there were mentors available to teach me,
> >> and sufficient staff to be productive while new writers were being
> trained.
> >>
> >
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Follow-Ups:

References:
"Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Cardimon, Craig
RE: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Dan Goldstein
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Lauren
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Monique Semp
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: David Farbey
RE: "Surviving the Dying Career of Technical Writing": From: mbaker

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