Re: Query -- Software doc writer's responsibilities

Subject: Re: Query -- Software doc writer's responsibilities
From: Deborah Meltzer <deborah -at- STARQUEST -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 1996 10:58:56 PST

>At 08:45 PM 11/5/96 +0900, Chris Stone - Kinoko Design & Printing
><kinoko -at- SHIZUOKANET -dot- OR -dot- JP> wrote:
>>I would like to know more about the scope of the tech writer's job.
>>I address these questions to those on the list who were hired by software
>>companies to write software documentaion.

>Does your job description specifically say you were hired only to write
>software documentation? Are you uncomfortabe with the expanded role?

>>What other writing, besides the actual documentation, are you asked to do?
>>Are you sometimes expected as the hired pen to draft in-house reports,
>>correspondence, proposals?

>Good heavens, I write everything -- software manuals, proposals, project
>reports, marketing materials, journal articles (edit, not write) for my
>major client. For other clients, I've written all of the above plus
>refinery operating guides, startup and shutdown procedures, HR policies,
>equipment specifications, process design basis specifications, grant
>applications, applications to build or operate a refinery unit,
>presentations, you name it.

>>Am I mistaken in thinking that there is a creature called a software
>>documentation writer (or whatever) who just works with SMEs and the
>>software to develop documentation?

>I think only VERY large companies could afford to have such a specialized
>beast on staff. In my experience, a technical communicator does what it
>takes to get the job done.

This is not always true. I have worked for both major giants and small
start-ups (where I am at present) and the software documentation workload
has always been so enormous I couldn't imagine having the time to do any
other writing. Although my original job description here described duties
involving marketing and proposal writing, what has actually evolved is that
the marketing department does most of that kind of writing because the three
writers here have absolutely no time to do anything else. The design,
research, and production of print and online documentation leaves us with no
margin of time to spare, and I would assess us as experienced,
well-organized writers. Another factor is that generally speaking, the
deadlines imposed to accomplish these tasks in small start-ups leaves very
little time for any tasks other than that of software documentation.

Most of our products are relational database-oriented aimed at audiences of
system and database administrators as well as end-users, and the complexity
involved in this kind of documentation makes the process far more labor
intensive than strictly end-user type of documentation. OTOH, if deadlines
imposed were consistently more reasonable, perhaps there would be time for
other kinds of tasks. In any case, this has always been my experience and
seems to be true for most of the colleagues I have known and worked with at
both large and small companies.

BTW, this is my first posting to the list so greetings everybody!


>Think of it this way -- no matter what your offical job description says,
>you were really hired to improve your company's bottom line. Any task that
>needs doing is probably fair game.

>Win Day
>Technical Writer/Editor
>Email: winday -at- idirect -dot- com

Deborah Meltzer
Technical Writer
email: deborah -at- starquest -dot- com

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