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I have had my share of the experiences you mention, which is why I decided to
rather then knuckle under. I spent 7 years at Microsoft where I, and alot of
other writers and
editors, spent ALOT of time educating program managers and developers about our
interpreters; spent even more time learning all we could about usability,
interface design, and other things so we would sound like we knew what we were
and then get involved in helping design the tools we would use to produce our
When I left last year, things were not perfect, and not every group had reached
the same level
of cooperation between user education and development, but things continued to
move in that
direction. Microsoft Publisher was designed by a marketer and a CBT author. Cue
invented by a technical writer. The changes you will see in Chicago Help come
cross-fertilization of ideas between the developer writing the Help system and
nearly ALL of
the Help writers at Microsoft. I now earn my living designing user interfaces,
and consulting with small software companies on how to create better products
user-centered product teams. The latter isn't easy work and it will not happen
instance, but I think it is our professional responsibility to keep trying to
move in that
direction wherever we are.
I think you will find the January issue of Technical Communications very
illuminating when the
results of the study on measuring the value of technical communicators is
Janice and (someone who names I am forgetting) have great ideas for how to build
case for why your role increases the value of your product. And this is great
arguing for increased involvement in the design process.