Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
From: Wally Glassett <wallyg1 -at- PACBELL -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 03:20:03 -0700

Nice to see this issue being discussed without getting into 'Holy Wars.' I
had an interesting, related experience this week when I interviewed for a
periodic contract (sporadic piecework). They are looking for a writer to add
content to human resource/personnel software applications in the Windows
environment, and I was turned down because my writing experience and general
background was "too technical." That was a first. I suspect the real reason
was that they didn't want to pay for a fully qualified writer.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Technical Writers List; for all Technical Communication issues
> [mailto:TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU]On Behalf Of Max Wyss
> Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 1998 2:31 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
> Andrew,
> It seems to be a problem all over the world.
> In many cases, "Technical Writer" is just a title, but there is no general
> understanding of what has to be expected from a technical writer. Then,
> there seems to be such a high demand, that almost everyone and
> anyone wants
> to be a technical writer.
> In order to fully understand something, you would have to be on a similar
> level of understanding as the developer or engineer. Now, if you
> have that,
> why are you technical writer and not developer or engineer? The
> pay is much
> better anway, so why bother at all with writing. And yeah, find
> an engineer
> who likes to write ... you can be sure, it is a rare breed.
> Now, if you do have one of this rare breed at hand, how should that highly
> qualified person really compete with cheapo-cheapo wannabees. In
> a business
> environment where anything is based on the cost, you need a very good
> client to accept paying for a highly qualified person. IMHO, the technical
> writing market is a "you get what you pay" market.
> Max Wyss
> PRODOK Engineering AG
> Technical documentation and translations, Electronic Publishing
> CH-8906 Bonstetten, Switzerland
> Fax: +41 1 700 20 37
> e-mail: mailto:prodok -at- prodok -dot- ch or 100012 -dot- 44 -at- compuserve -dot- com
> Bridging the Knowledge Gap
> ________________
> >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
> >procedures.
> >
> >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.
> >
> >Thanks.
> >
> >........................................................
> >Andrew Plato
> >Owner/Principal Consultant
> >Anitian Technology Services
> >
> >
> &^&^&^~~~

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