Re: Job Titles for TechComm People

Subject: Re: Job Titles for TechComm People
From: "Huber, Mike" <mrhuber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 17:33:36 -0600

While I also end up doing quite a bit of usability work (both casually
as a side effect of researching software I'm documenting, and formally
in the RSI usability lab) I'm not about to call myself a "Usability
Specialist" for the same reason as I would object to an administrative
assistant using the title "Technical Writer."

It's something that comes up in the course of other work, but it is not
my focus. I have only rudimentary training in usability, and only work
on it a few hours per month. I find it interesting and valuable, and
when it's convenient, I learn more about it.

We have real Usability Specialists, who take it as seriously as I take
technical writing. They work on it every day, attend seminars, study the
latest research, and give it a level of attention that I just can't,
because there are only enough hours in a day for one profession (and
several fields of interest).

mike -dot- huber -at- software -dot- rockwell -dot- com
Home: nax -at- execpc -dot- com

>-----Original Message-----
>From: McKenna, Colleen [SMTP:cmckenna -at- SPSS -dot- COM]
>Sent: Friday, February 13, 1998 4:24 PM
>Subject: Re: Job Titles for TechComm People
>Sorry if this is a bit late; I'm on the digest. I feel compelled to
>respond to Andrew's post. While I agree that "Usability Specialist" is
>not a thoroughly descriptive job title for a technical communicator (it
>merely scratches the surface of what we do!), it is certainly an
>everyday part of my job.
>My training as a technical communicator included courses in human
>factors/ergonomics and how to design and implement usability testing. I
>believe that my job is definitely to be an advocate for users. I help
>them use the software effectively. Yes, I write documentation, but
>documenting a procedure is often an excellent way to discover ways to
>improve it. How many times have you written a procedure and said "Hey,
>why can't they combine steps A, B, and C into one step? Sure would be a
>lot easier to use!" When I see a bad design or an issue that could be
>improved by applying some basic usability principles, I never hesitate
>to speak up. If there isn't time or inclination to implement my
>suggestions, so be it. At least I tried. No one has ever "bitch-smacked"
>me for speaking up. (Does anyone else take offense to that term?)
>Anyways, technical communicators often design and implement help systems
>and other types of software.
>We usability test our documentation as well as our products, of which
>documentation is an integral part. Frankly, I think usability testing is
>a integral part of our profession. If you're not doing it, you probably
>should be.
>Colleen McKenna
>Publications Department
>SPSS, Inc.

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