Re: writing and liability

Subject: Re: writing and liability
From: Guy McDonald <guym -at- DAKA -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 10:26:17 -0800

Rick Lippincott (rjl -at- bostech -dot- com) states:

"Just a slight point of clarification: most of the tech manuals used by the
military are -not- written by the military."

Rick's statement is mostly accurate in the majority of US military
departments. The US Department of Defense is after all, one of the largest
employers on the planet. So a study of how this "corporation" conducts
business is not only a tragic comedy, but also a valuable example to
private industry.

Case in point: Technical Documentation & Controls

Out of the 2000 or so communicators on Techwr-l, most of us provide
services to the computer software/hardware/help industry. This is why we
see passionate discourse on topics like Clickable Bitmaps, Unix, HTML vs.
Adobe,
etc. Annoying threads to some, yet understandably targeted to the
majority.

Other communicators on this list deal with industry, with precious few
possessing the ability to cross laterally service both "houses". The
emergence of "computer tech writing" continues to evolve and model itself
after the tried and tempered industrial establishment.

For example, the adoption of ISO-9000 work ethics, incorporation of loosely
applied terms like "QA" and "Engineer" all originate from the complex and
costly mistakes our predecessors experienced when corporate holistic
learning meant something.

My experience in the Naval Nuclear Power Program left a life-long imprint
that cemented the importance of motivating pride in ownership. Twice I
have unsuccessfully attempted to raise this thread with you folk. Now I
plunge once again into the deep, ringing up ahead Standard, 8 degree
downbubble.

Lippincott's statement lacks one very important theme. The US Military
considers "deckplate" input extremely valuable. In fact, onboard US
Nuclear powered submarines, local procedures are *written* by operators and
*used* (once approved). The approval process is layered such that the more
critical the procedure, the more stringent the scrutiny. I have seen
procedures effecting reactor plant safety written by 19 year old men.
These "youngsters" had a high school education that was coupled with
successful completion of a naval nuclear power plant
qualification/licensing program. The "youngsters" procedures were
published with carte blanche impunity, disseminated & emulated with
tremendous success. Of course, the qualifier is the level of attention the
"idea" experienced during the approval process. The results have been
extraordinary. Noting whether civilians and/or military personnel are in
this process is senseless. PEOPLE were involved in writing this material,
and many of them were the owner operators of the equipment. Even ol' Hymie
Rickover (whose effigy is burned at the annual McDonald house weenie roast
here in Washington ,-) knew this important rule. And that man was one of
the most arrogant bastards you ever wouldn't want to work for, genius or
not! Rickover knew the value of his troops. Today, the US Naval Nuclear
Power Program enjoys a noteworthy & proud history. The dubious civilian
counterparts however are quite a different story.

Therefore, it is extremely important to include the "man/woman in the
field" into the production of technical documentation. Expand the
"SME/Interview conducted by *baby* tech writer" concept further and throw
that damn antique dinosaur thing out the window. Getting rid of ignorant
"tech writers" who blunder through our industry wrecking havoc on our
respective national industrial complex is not that hard a task. You
"certification" people want respect? You want this profession to shine in
good light? Of course you do.... we *all* want this to occur. I propose
that an admirable view of this profession will surface when specialization
& segmentation transpires. If any of you believe that it takes a
Journalism/English major to write technical manuals..... I laugh in your
face <<HA!!>>. The beauty of approaching a mid-sized to large corporate
client with the concept that his/her organization can readily produce what
I am now providing, quite frankly EXCITES me! To motivate and convert any
corporation into establishing a stand alone Training Department, with a
Technical Documentation team/arsenal at its disposal, is the *wave of
corporate destiny*. My advice to you? Get with the program, because it's
smart business. Otherwise, continue to watch the higher paying jobs
disappear as more companies figure out how to cut costs and increase
production.

Before you hit the "reply" button.... remember, I am *not* speaking to the
majority of you "computer" writers that focus on soft/hardware development.
You wonderfully bright pioneers are a totally different breed of animal.
It is impossible to ask your clients (users) to replace you. Will the
rest of us work ourselves out of a job? You becha! Could we make a ton of
money doing it & have lots of FUN? Ya!! You becha!!!! Join the team...
it's a happy one indeed =:)

Best wishes to all of you this Friday. My prayer of a safe weekend goes
forth. May all of us come back to work Monday healthy, rested and
invigorated with a renewed "turn & burn" attitude.

Guy McDonald
guym -at- daka -dot- com


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