Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent

Subject: Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent
From: "Huber, Mike" <Mike -dot- Huber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 31 May 1996 16:37:15 -0400

I'm the only InfoDev that I know of in my company that has a significant
programming background. That's out of about a dozen InfoDev types. Our
company structure and the blurring of some job descriptions makes an
exact count difficult.

Yep, I'm one of the infamous ex-programmers. I hope I don't fit the
stereotype. My manuals look clear to me, but everybody thinks thier prose
is golden. I have some positive reviews to back my impression. My degree
is in Computer Science, not programming. There is a difference. And I had
a grandfather who was always on my back to work on my writing - he was an
engineer who thought he could have gone a lot farther if he had
communicated more effectively.

Anyway, I switched over to writing quite completely about five years ago.
In the last few months, with some prompting from my boss, I've been
working on my programming skills. I'm not planning to go back to
programming - this is to enhance my value as a writer. There are several
advantages I derive from my programming skils:

+ Documenting programming tools. My company sells software that includes
scripting languages, and software that is DDE and OLE accessible, and
some tools that work with Visual Basic. As a writer with programming
skills, I understand these products. I can make code samples.

+ Dealing with programmers. I speak fluent programmer. I know how the
snow jobs work. I know what they are up against. In one situation, I had
to build a little program to show the help file I was writing worked The
program it documented was sending bad context codes. My program didn't do
anything, but it did get the context numbers right.

+ I can write my own macros in Word Basic.

+ I develope unique interractive information products that other writers
have to find a programmer for.

+ The line between documents and applications is gettting hazier every
day - check out some of the more elaborate HTML documents. I'm ready.

On the minus side:

- The perception that communication skills are inverse to technical
skills. Maybe as a statistical phenomenon, but not within any particular
person.

- The time it takes to maintain those skills. It's pretty time consuming,
unfortunately. Time consuming enough that I'm not even going to try to
develope programming skills equivalent to those of our fine preogramming
staff.

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