Re: The "Oldest" Profession and Stuff

Subject: Re: The "Oldest" Profession and Stuff
From: Bill Swallow <bill_swallow -at- ROCKETMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 08:31:10 -0700

Michael I think we should meet for some genetic research... you may be
my twin *g*


Bill Swallow
bill_swallow -at- rocketmail -dot- com

Make a firm decision now... you can always change it later.

---Michael Blair <mjblair -at- TOTAL -dot- NET> wrote:
> Hello out there...
> I've been lurking for a while and following a couple of threads with
> interest (and deleting others without reading). I'd like to put in
my two
> cent's worth on the history of technical writing.
> Tech writing in one form or another goes back to the beginning of the
> industrial revolution, perhaps even farther. Recognized as a
> Who cares? A profession is what you make it. Someone probably wrote
> mummification instructions in ancient Egypt. Just because he may have
> been a priest doesn't mean he wasn't also a tech writer. How many tech
> writers started out as something else, programmers, engineers,
> even - ahem - writers?
> And if you'll permit me a little personal rant, the Sturgeon Law
> not only to science fiction -- 90% of technical writing is crap. No
> I've produced my share. But as long as there's so much focus on the
> "tools" rather than the "art" it's inevitable. I think the biggest
> mistake a company can make is to insist technical writers be experts
> some piece of software, whether it's Word, PageMaker, or RoboHelp
> (whatever the hell that is).
> Take a good look at the design and writing on 90% of the websites out
> there. Both stink. Big time. The people who put those websites
> know a hell of a lot more about HTML than I'll ever know, but they are
> not graphic designers or writers.
> I worked in the training department of a major Canadian transportation
> company for a few years in the early 90s. They had a handful of
> "instructional technologists" and dozen or so SMEs developing and
> training programs on subjects ranging from using proprietary computer
> systems to welding rail. Not a single technical writer or editor in
> department (I took a job as a Macintosh network manager after my
> technical writing position in another department had been
> The prevailing attitude was that ITs and SMEs could do it all (most of
> the so-called ITs ended up in training because their jobs as
> or analysts or data entry clerks were eliminated elsewhere, likewise
> SMEs).
> During one of the reorganizations that took place while I was there I
> pointed out to the new department head (a firm believer in the
> that ITs and SMEs can do it all) that hiring welders or diesel
> to write training manuals was kind of like hiring technical writers to
> weld rail or repair locomotives -- not very smart. He didn't get it.
> doesn't work there any more. Neither to I, but they are now my biggest
> client.
> Do what you're good at. Leave what your mediocre at to someone who's
> at it.
> End of rant. Have a nice day.
> Michael Blair
> Blair Technical Communications Tel: (514)
> 106 - 3500 Atwater Avenue Fax: (514)
> Montreal, Quebec CANADA H3H 1Y5 Email:
mjblair -at- total -dot- net
> Send commands to listserv -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu (e.g., SIGNOFF
> Check out topic summaries at

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