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You are in a large lecture hall full of people in your profession.
Included in the audience are students, educators, professionals. You
cannot make out their faces, but they could reasonably include your
employers or potential employers, your coworkers, and the ever-present
violently obsessive technical writing groupies.
Most of the audience members sit quietly as one member at a time gets
up, walks to the podium, and shares information or advice or asks
questions. Some of it is rich and detailed, some cursory but helpful,
some trivial but relevant in a roundabout way. Somewhere in this stream
of information, someone expresses an opinion or gives a piece of advice
that you feel obligated to respond to.
You get out of your seat and walk to the front of the room, everyone's
eyes upon you. ...
(Listowner's note: At this point, the paths may diverge. Some of
the following unfortunate cases have been played out over the past
A) You approach the podium, clear your throat, and say "Me,
too." You are greeted with a combination of quizzical, patronizing
smirks and incredulous silence.
B) You relate that really good joke about Microsoft and operating systems
that you overheard at the restaurant last night. Some laugh. Some
wonder why you just now heard it. Many wonder why you'd use their chance
to discuss technical communication to tell a old joke.
C) You take your turn at the microphone to clarify a point. One of the
previous speakers had mentioned, in the context of developing and
using context-sensitive, interactive help files, that they used
MS Word v3.0. Obviously, that's incorrect, therefore you clarify
that they MUST have used a different version because that one didn't
even exist. Not only that, but the incompetence of anyone who could
make such a mistake is certainly astounding. It only takes you about
10 minutes to impress upon everyone that you know far better than
the speaker what versions of Word exist. (You don't make any points
about the issue at hand, but your audience has already made their
assumptions about your knowledge in that area.)
D) "Does anyone know how much the cheapest Internet service provider in
E) You replay the entire videotape of the MS Word v3.0 speaker, including
the introduction, the walk to the podium, and the walk back to a seat.
The quality isn't all that hot, but it's important to make sure everyone
the context in which you speak. 12 minutes later, you point out that
there is in fact a version of MS Word v3.0 and you had used it once,
briefly, but didn't like it much and would always choose Frame. Furthermore,
anyone who uses any version of Word is a certifiable idiot and if
your company or clients require Word, you should quit and find a real
company. You return to your seat satisfied about your demonstrated
TW proficiency and wonder about the copy of "How to Win Friends and
Influence People" that ended up on your chair. (Thanks to Jim Barton for
the initial suggestion and Arlen Walker for the quibble.)
F) You take your chance at the podium to publicly mock the pronunciation
and diction of the three speakers before you, not to mention their poor
spelling on overheads. As you return to your seat, someone passes you a
note pointing out that one of the three is hearing-impaired, one is not
a native speaker of English, and that many people in the world don't see
a problem with spelling "defense" as "defence". Whoops! Oh, well, you
think, they'll get over it.
As you walk back to your seat, you try to make out the faces around you.
(Thanks to Lisa Higgins for this scenario)
WHAT TO POST
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Eric J. Ray ejray -at- ionet -dot- net
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