Re: What tools to learn

Subject: Re: What tools to learn
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 1995 15:45:57 PST

Bob Handlin said,


>When we hire people, we request tools knowledge. We are not stupid, and we
>are not a bad company. We also look at writing samples, give a writing test
>(I hated this idea until I learned how incredibly revealing it can be!!),
>and try to assess the candidate's technical aptitude.

Here at WEITEK, technical writers must score 100% on the "job name
test." That is they must be technical, and they must be writers.
Every time I go to hire a writer, I mostly get resumes of people
who score 0% (non-technical people who can't write), some who
score 50%, and a tiny number who score 100%.

These people never, ever have experience in the DTP tools we use.

So I dropped "Must have Interleaf experience" like a hot rock, and
concentrated on finding technical writers who are technical and can

I found some. We trained them in Interleaf. It worked like a charm.
I fail to see what all the fuss is about. Training people to use
DTP software has always been a no-brainer; they want to learn, you
want them to learn, there are people willing to teach. No problem.

I agree about the writing tests, though. My favorite test is

"Describe your toaster to an audience of engineers."

You would not BELIEVE how people flame out on this one! Even
"technical writers" with many years' experience routinely fail
to grasp that:

1. Engineers already know what a toaster is.
2. They have also been exposed to the concepts of bread, toast,
breakfast, household electrification, heating elements, polarized
plugs, springs, and gravity.
3. [extra credit] They can even be counted upon grasping the concept
that burning toast smells bad, and that electrocuting yourself is
unpleasant, though they cannot be counted upon to behave in such a
way as to minimize the likelihood of these events.

There are a zillion ways of doing this writing assignment incorrectly.
My favorite correct way goes something like this:

"This toaster was made by the XYZ Company of City, State. It is an
ordinary two-slot pop-up toaster, used at 110 VAC and dissipating XX
watts. It can accomodate bread up to X by Y inches, and takes about
ZZ seconds to make two slices of medium-dark toast from ordinary
white bread. The toaster occupies about X by Y inches of counter
space, and requires Z inches of unobstructed height for proper
operation. Its stainless steel exterior requires no special cleaning
techniques. It lists for $XX."

This is predicated on the concept that everyone already knows how
to operate a toaster, that toasters are not inherently very
interesting, and the only items of interest are peripheral:
capacity, current draw, price, footprint.

-- Robert

Previous by Author: Revision Bars
Next by Author: Re: Tech Writing Problems
Previous by Thread: Oracular humor

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads