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Before I post the results of my "What Software Do You Use?" survey, I must
confess that it was the first of its type that I have been responsible for
and, thus, would like to explain some obvious problems.
I thought, at the time, that it would be better not to indicate the sole
reason for the survey in order to avoid biased responses. Unfortunately,
this made the questions somewhat ambiguous (and it didn't help that I
typed it out while "on line").
Someone stated that I was breaking all the rules of the Internet by having
any sort of survey - and was never heard of again! Fortunately, nobody
sent me their credit card numbers by mistake!
One person added the following comment; "Far too many technical writers
(and employers) consider DTP the main part of the job, (ie) anyone can
write - you know the mentality." Little did he realize how close he was to
Having been an engineer, writer, illustrator, editor, word-processor,
proof-reader, DTP operator, coffee maker and donut buyer, and manager for
more than 26 years, permits me to say, "been there, done that," and
comment on how the profession, in the last few years, has seen a change
regarding qualifications. It is not uncommon to see advertisements as
follows: SENIOR TECHNICAL WRITER WANTED, knowledge of telecommunications,
UNIX and FrameBuilder, bilingual English/French an asset, and three years
experience (am I exaggerating?). I should have explained that my survey
was aimed at technical writers only and the definition is a proficient
writer with related-technology education. I know that some will be upset
by this definition but when I advertise for technical writers there is no
point sending me your resume if you are only a journalist, for example.
Thus, generally speaking, a technical writer needs only a word-processing
program and, if he is using only the word-processing sector of a DTP
program, I am bound to ask, why? Other questions come to mind: How much is
being spent to train writers to use Interleaf, who then discover
FrameMaker at their next job? How many good home-based writers can't
afford to buy FrameMaker and, thus, can't find employment? Are we becoming
"Jacks of all trades and masters of none"?
1. Number of respondents: 41
Note; 23 responded within 24 hours, the rest within five days,
which may say something about the usage of this List group.
2. Percentage using only word-processing programs: 35%
Note; One wag said, "I assume that FrameMaker goes in category 1"
(word-processor). Another, frequent user of this list, chastised
my assumption that writers don't do graphic art or DTP. Of course,
being my survey, that was my deliberate assumption.
3. Percentage using only DTP programs: 14%
Note; One person admitted to using WordPerfect for all advanced
levels, and used a DTP program only for word-processing (interesting).
4. Percentage using both word-processing and DTP programs: 51%
Note; From my point of view, this is where the survey came
unstuck, because I don't believe that these people make "frequent,
regular" use of a number of different programs on a daily basis (?).
May I sincerely thank those who responded and I look forward to producing
a less ambiguous survey at a later date. Meanwhile, I hope that some
"employers" will seriously think more about technical writer job
descriptions, ie very few technical (as in engineering and science)
writers are highly qualified editors and electronic publishing operators,
and it is unlikely that a writer will attain "senior" status with only
three years experience.
bi975 -at- freenet -dot- carleton -dot- ca
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