Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
From: Candace Bamber <cbamber -at- CASTEK -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 09:33:28 -0400

I don't think the whole technical/non-technical thing is the issue. I've
worked with engineers and programmers turned writers that were great, and
others that were "out-technicalled" by former fine arts majors. Seems to me
there is something a little more fundamental happening.

What are facts, really? "Bits of information that change all the time."...
As a person who hires writers, I don't care what facts a writer already
knows about a given subject area. What I care about is the writer's ability
to engage a body of content - to do effective research, to analyse, and to
use critical judgment to manifest that research and analysis in a way that
is genuinely useful to a specific group of other human beings. Before you
can be an effective writer, you need to be an effective thinker.

An effective thinker who can apply skills of research, analysis, and
critical judgment can engage and deal with any subject matter - technical
or otherwise. In my mind, the problem with the education of TWs is a
frequent lack of well developed thinking skills and the subsequent
inability to effectively and efficiently engage content, not the fact they
can't recite Schroedinger's Equation (or even spell it in my case <g>).

All the really good writers I've worked with in my career had in common
three characteristics - they knew the techcomm side of the business inside
out, they were intensely curious about everything, and they could put
together really good docs about whatever business or technology they
happened to be hired to write about that day.

The thing that worries me about our profession isn't the prevalence of the
"non-technical" - it's that our education systems are still focusing on
knowledge as an end in itself, in a time when knowledge changes all the
time. I would like to see a move to using knowledge (information) as a
means of teaching the discipline/art of Thought instead.


Candace Bamber
Castek Software Factory
Toronto, ON
mailto:cbamber -at- castek -dot- com

Andrew Plato <aplato -at- EASYSTREET -dot- COM> on 05/06/98 01:30:04 AM
I just had a long conversation today with an associate at a large
company in the Bay Area. He said that this problem is getting worse.
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
do? Fire them? Beat them with a 2x4? Send them to Dan Dorfman's School
for Technical Underachievers?

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