TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Request for change From:Eric -dot- Ray -at- WCOM -dot- COM Date:Wed, 7 Feb 1996 12:10:07 PST
I'd like to make a request.
I'd like to see discussions and questions on bigger issues
than ones that we can look up in a dictionary or reliable
reference material. I'm sitting here, looking at TECHWR-L subject
lines of "state names," "online vs. on-line," "commas and
lawnmowers," and "restrictive vs. non-restrictive banter
continues." Frankly, none of those issues are what I'd
consider central to my job as a technical writer. You
pick a reference source, stay consistant, and realize that
someone will find fault with it. Oh, well.
What I'd like to see more of and what I feel TECHWR-L
is uniquely suited for is discussion of those issues
and problems that wake you up in the middle of the night.
The issues you argue vehemently with your colleagues about
for hours, only to find you've switched sides.
For example, I'm writing this note while breaking from a
documentation/training project. My colleague and I are
collecting information across internal "party lines," if
you will. We're preparing training documentation about
what's changing in a known (not by us) but undocumented system. This
project is absolutely mission-critical to the company.
The signoff parties are NOT our users. The SMEs can't
see the forest for the trees (more than usual). We've
got people telling us to MAKE THOSE OTHER PEOPLE UNDERSTAND.
I'll get to report back to the VP about our success next week, after
the pilot class. We started this project last week. In three
weeks, we'll have trained 1000 people (stand up, in person)
and we'll be done.
Ask me if I woke up in a cold sweat worrying about if I
used "which" or "that" in a specific section. No, I woke
up worrying about how to deliver what our users need,
not what the SMEs think the users want, without inciting
complaints about unresponsiveness. I woke up wondering
if I'd completely missed the point, or if it really was
simpler than it had looked. I woke up wondering if technical
feasibility would line up with business requirements before
the pilot class. I argued for 15 minutes this morning
about the difference between using "correct" terminology,
using what our users expect, or using what they'll need to
learn. I worry about completing the training and having the
whole system change. I worry about completing the training
and discovering that we've overlooked something fundamental.
THOSE are issues. What _ARE_, in our collective opinions,
the issues of the profession? If they're grammar or
notation, I'm switching professions. To paraphrase John
Brinegar, the profession is about helping people do what
they need to do. Notational discussions are for reference books.
Comments and criticism of this note, on or off line, would
ejray -at- galstar -dot- com
Eric J. Ray | Eric -dot- Ray -at- wcom -dot- com
WorldCom, Inc. | W: 918-590-4140
1 Williams Center 29-5 | F: 918-590-2372
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74172 | P: 918-690-1314