Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Non-technical, Technical Writers
From: Andrew Plato <aplato -at- EASYSTREET -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 May 1998 22:30:04 -0700

I have an issue for everyone to ponder.

As you may or may not care, I own a consulting company in Portland, OR. I
deal with a lot of agencies and companies and there seems to be one,
overwhelming frustration with a lot of my clients. They cannot find writers
who can handle technical issues. (Naturally, this is why they hire my
company, but that is different self-serving story.)

It seems like there is a glut of writers who can discern the minute
intricacies of bullet shapes and alignment proportions, but they can't deal
with anything remotely technical. I am reminded of a writer I worked with at
a client site. He spent every waking moment at work NOT writing. He was
always obsessing over style guides, templates, and font specifications.
When he finally did write a document about this database application I was
appalled at his complete lack of understanding for some basic technical
concepts such as database normalization, primary keys, and stored

I just had a long conversation today with an associate at a large consulting
company in the Bay Area. He said that this problem is getting worse. There
are more and more non-technical people selling themselves as technical
people. It frustrates them because their clients expect the consultants to
be the technical experts.

I am curious what you and your company do about this problem. How do you
deal with non-technical people selling themselves as being technical? When
someone starts obsessing over the shape of bullets and completely ignores
the fact that the material in question is technically inaccurate what do you
do? Fire them? Beat them with a 2x4? Send them to Dan Dorfman's School
for Technical Underachievers?

It seems to me that the more non-technical, technical writers there are --
the more it hurts those of us that work very hard stay current with the
latest technologies. I'm not talking about knowing how to use the latest
version of FrameMaker. I mean knowing the nitty-gritty technical details
about the technologies you are documenting.

I'll be up-front and admit I have a hidden agenda for asking this question.
I am really interested in collecting some horror stories about this as well
as how those situations were resolved. This is for a special project I am
working on.

Send your responses to aplato -at- anitian -dot- com . I'll post a summary to the list
in a few weeks.


Andrew Plato
Owner/Principal Consultant
Anitian Technology Services

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