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> I spent 17 years as a chemist and product engineer before I switched
> careers. During that time our workplace mutated from private or
> semiprivate offices circling a shared lab area to a set of barnlike rooms
> with little chest-high cubicles. We were told that this was done to
> 'facilitate communication'.
> The kind of communication it facilitated was the casual small talk that
> used to be confined to the cafeteria, the restrooms, and the lines at the
> stockroom. The constant background buzz of other people's chatter was
> incredibly distracting, and the amount of useful work accomplished
> plummetted. There were no physical barriers to discourage people from
> interrupting each other...
If you're interested in improving the physical work environment for your
writers, I can thoroughly recommend a fabulous book called 'Peopleware',
by Tom De Marco and Timothy Lister. It's about the problem Kat described,
plus anything else in the work place that helps or hinders people who do
creative work -- mainly software developers, but it also applies to tech
writers, illustrators, indexers, engineers, etc.
It's short (200 pages), readable, practical, enjoyable, inspirational.
It's the only book that has ever caused me to walk into someone's
office and say, "You have to read this tonight", then get it back off
that person and walk into someone else's office and say, "You have to
read this tonight".
I worked in various large government departments for ten years. All my
vague frustrations and 'Why don't theys?' suddenly snapped into focus
as I read the book. I was always felt that open plan offices were a bad
idea, for the reasons Kat says, but I guessed there must be some solid
scientific research proving that it really was better. Wrong! No research.
It's just cheaper, and that's why the purchasing department likes it. It
doesn't matter that the people who have to work there end up being less
I've never met the authors, and I'm not likely to. I have no financial
stake in how many copies of the book they sell, although they definitely
owe me a beer after this. I just feel that if you want to get more out
of your tech writers, and you don't particularly want to treat them like
sheep or galley slaves, then reading this book is probably the best
thing you can do this week.
The details: ISBN: 0932633056
Publisher: Dorset House
Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Voice: +61 9 328 8288
Functional Software Fax: +61 9 328 8616
PO Box 192
Leederville, Western Australia, 6903