Re: Agencies/markup/etc. (kinda long) --> Ill-tempered posts

Subject: Re: Agencies/markup/etc. (kinda long) --> Ill-tempered posts
From: JIMCHEVAL -at- AOL -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 03:20:44 -0400

In a message dated 97-05-20 02:26:52 EDT, drobertson -at- NM-US -dot- CAMPUS -dot- MCI -dot- NET
(Donald T. Robertson) writes:

<< Just understand that some professions
attract a higher proportion of task-oriented individuals, such as technical
writing, science, and engineering. >>
Actually, I was very tempted to add that in the mix, too, but lacking the
hard facts to support a similar statement, I thought I'd *really* be looking
for trouble going out on that limb. Thanks for going there for me.

The Meyer-Briggs people, by the way, inform me that I am an INTP
("Introvert-iNtuitive-Thinking-Perceptive" - the last implying enjoyment of a
process for its own sake and not any special acuity.) I'm told the fields
mentioned include a high percentage of such, with all the disadvantages you
so eloquently outlined.

In terms of the need for precision in these fields, I recognize that both
theoretically and quite concretely (having spent many a long night rectifying
problems created in computer systems by the lack of such precision.) On the
other hand, having once tried to do a business analysis with a trained
physicist turned computer analyst, I know how frustrating it can be to deal
with people who refuse to accept the messiness inherent in some systems.

Unfortunately, the kind of ill temper we're referring to often uses such
precision as a justification without actually being accompanied by rigorous
thinking. And the resultant impatience is anything but logical.

Boston comic David Misch - who later wrote for the 'Mork and Mindy Show' -
used to do a routine about an invasion by 'inferior aliens' who (like all the
classic sci-fi aliens) supposedly had no emotions:

HUMAN - So you have no emotions at all?
ALIEN - That's right.
HUMAN - But you've got to feel something - love, hate, pain?
ALIEN - No. No, we don't feel any of that.
HUMAN - Oh come on, surely you -
ALIEN - Look! I already told you! We have no GODDAMN EMOTIONS!

Then there's Spock, who. while supposedly lacking emotions, continually
expresses at least one: irritation.

Both seem to me pretty good reflections of a very real syndrome in the
technical world. Aside from its dubious value in restoring precision to a
given situation, this approach can do real harm when it inhibits people whose
ideas may still be unproven. It's far safer in a hyper-critical environment
to recommend a mediocre but proven technique than to suggest trying one that
is promising but uncertain.

It would be a shame if, on this list, people hesitated to suggest techniques
they've heard about or barely tried only because someone else on the list was
ready to flame them for their lack of 'precision'. Certainly, if they're
drastically wrong, it doesn't hurt to gently make that clear (explaining
precisely why of course). But presumably anyone trying said techniques would
do so in a test situation first. And after all, we are talking about
technical writing here - not nuclear physics or medecine. Our messes are
much easier to clean up.

(Now there's an idea - a film about a technical writer who makes a terrible
mistake and as a result of his error all of humanity is threatened. "If only
I hadn't run that macro...")

Jim C.
Los Angeles
<A HREF="";>Chez Jim: Jim Chevallier's Home Page<

TECHWR-L (Technical Communication) List Information: To send a message
to 2500+ readers, e-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send commands
Search the archives at or search and
browse the archives at

Previous by Author: Re: Agencies/markup/etc.
Next by Author: Billing by project
Previous by Thread: Re: Margins
Next by Thread: Bad work experiences continued

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads