SUMMARY: Non-Technical, Technical Writers

Subject: SUMMARY: Non-Technical, Technical Writers
From: Andrew Plato <aplato -at- EASYSTREET -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 12:13:38 -0700

Thank you all for the incredible response to this issue. I want to wrap it
up quickly so we can get it off the list.

After reading through the tsunami of messages I got and those from the list,
I concluded the following:

1. Everyone has a different idea for what a technical communicator does.

Most of them were narrow visions based on personal experience and not
industry trends (whatever those are). Clearly, the more experienced writers
tended to think technical communication was about being a person who likes
technology and learning new things. Less experienced writers seemed more
interested in tools and techniques. These are merely my (biased)
observations, not statements of fact.

2. Nobody thinks he/she is a non-technical, technical writer.

I got a lot of nasty messages from people furiously defending their right to
NOT be technical. These were curious messages since they were defending
their right to NOT know something. That seems to be an oxymoron for a
profession where information is so important.

I found that those that feel comfortable with their skills are mistrustful
of those that have no interest in learning new technologies. Once again,
experience seemed to guide the responses. More experienced writers seemed
to qualify themselves as being capable of understanding technical issues.
Less experienced writers seemed VERY defensive about this issue. Again,
these are my observations not facts.

3. I like Jell-o.

While the discussion had nothing to do with this, it is about as relevant as
some of the messages I got. My favorite raved (for a whopping 210 lines)
about how nobody understand the pain of being a writer. Oh yeah.

Final observations

1. This is a very incisive issue among technical communicators (duh).
2. Experience seems to influence opinions about this issue (duh).
3. Nobody likes me (duh).

Mostly, I realized that experience is a very valuable asset in this
industry. It really colors opinions a lot. I think the most insightful
responses I got were from people who had lived through the horror many
times. They had interesting perspectives that I had not considered. The
less experienced writers seem to have a lot of pent up anger.

I should note, there was significant contingent of VERY experienced writers
who were massive sour balls. They had nothing nice to say about anything.
Sheesh, it's only technical writing, not brain surgery.

I am grateful to everyone who participated in this. I apologize to Eric for
starting this.

Alas, I shall retreat back into my hole.

Andrew Plato
Owner/Principal Consultant
Anitian Technology Services

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