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:Re: Techie First or Writer? From:Lisa <lisa -at- ENVISION -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 9 Oct 1996 10:05:50 -0500
I would like to add to this discussion by sharing my angst. I have just recently come on board with a company whose technical expertise astounds me. I feel challenged every day to expand my horizons technically by learning about the "under the hood" part of programming and communications software/hardware generally.
It makes me uncomfortable because just about the time I got my arms around the development and implementation of on-line documentation --- here comes (to me) the complexities of HTML development and Web technology. I have to tell you that I am off the porch and running, but I'm not sure where I am in the pack. It's a little intimidating.
After five years of writing I have come to believe that being technically proficient is necessary. Even more so now that the lines between hard technical (i.e. programming) and communication are becoming blurred (read HTML linked with Java). I feel I can no longer focus my energies only on becoming a better communicator; I must also become a better "techie." This means expanding my skill set to include a working knowledge of programming, hardware, LAN/WAN administration, and communication technology. This is a big order. But, I remind myself, haven't we always been jacks-of-all-trades? The best of us will use what we know to at least master the communication requirement.
Advanced Technologies Group
From: Wing, Michael J[SMTP:mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM]
Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 1996 8:06 AM
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
Subject: Re: Techie First or Writer?
>So even 40-50 years ago, the techie-to-writer or writer-to-techie debate was
>engaged. The debate was the same then as now. The results were the same
>then as now. Have we learned anything from history? Apparently not much.
>dewise -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com
You briefly touched on a key element of this discussion. That is,
"before word processors and machines that could illustrate had been
invented". If the only skills required of a Technical Writer today were
language skills, I would say that we have not learned anything from
history. However, language skills are now only one component of
Personally, I only spend 20% of my time writing. I cannot speak for
other writers; however, I suspect many have similar tasks. The
following are some of the tasks which consume the other 80% of my time:
Learning-testing the product - No language skills involved here, but it
seems important to write from the perspective of "one who knows" or at
least has tried.
Writing/testing example code - No language skills involved here, either.
I write programmer's reference documents. It's a good idea that maybe I
do some programming (albeit, very, very simple programs)
Designing the document (or parts of the document) for reuse - Still no
language skills involved. This is a 'must' skill' for O-O
Implementing/testing context-sensitivity - No language skills involved
here (except for help ids). If you don't think this skill takes much
time and effort on the part of a Technical Writer, you must not document
Illustrating and animating portions of the document - Some language
skills involved (captions, call-outs, and so forth). Some things are
better communicated visually!
_/ Michael Wing
_/ Principal Technical Writer
_/ Infrastructure Technical Information Development
_/ Intergraph Corporation
_/ Huntsville, Alabama
_/ (205) 730-7250
_/ mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com