Re: Tech writing & incompetence: I am scum (A very long reply)

Subject: Re: Tech writing & incompetence: I am scum (A very long reply)
From: "McMARTIN, Robert" <rmcmarti -at- BAEA -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 08:55:57 +0930

I've been reading the posts on this subject with a bit of interest.

Perhaps the subject matter shouldn't be Tech Writing and Incompetence,
but Tech Writing and bad writing.

As Andrew proved, there can be outside influences which can affect what
is turned out.

As for previous statements about people not being qualified to be Tech
Writers, I would have to say I don't agree with that. Here are my
reasons.

A Hypothetical

I own a Software Company selling a Time Management Software. The system
only has five data entry screens.
My options are hiring an expensive Tech Writer at $40.00 an hour for a
month (total cost based on a forty hour week = 6400 dollars) or using my
Secretary with a little help from the Product Developers (I'm already
paying the Secretary and the Product Developers and on Salary total cost
based on forty hour week are already within my budget no real additional
cost.

From my point of view I go with the internal staff.

Now before everyone starts sticking pins in their Rob McMartin dolls and
making the sign of the cross whenever I post a message.

Lets remember my program is small there is no hidden complexity and no
additional features. The manual looks good, the customers are happy.

Now I produce a Cost Coding program linked to the Time sheet program and
General Ledger.
Suddenly I'm faced with a new set of manuals. Do I go down the path of
hiring a Tech Writer. No, what worked last time will work again.
Remember, I'm a Software Company Owner all I want to do is sell product.

Of course we know what will happen, the staff who worked on the previous
manual will slave day and night to produce the documentation and finally
deliver a manual they think is okay.
The customer will pay for expensive training (the company is using
programmers as trainers now) and train their staff in the use of the
system and rarely use the manuals.
So the company sees no need to spend money on the manuals. After all
manuals are only to keep the customer happy. The real money is in
training where I can get $1200 a day in training fees (best I can get
for the manual would be $50.00 once up and the customer will probably
just photocopy it a few million times around the office).

So I write bad manuals and train well.

Now my software company moves into Windoze based products, contact
tracker software for the masses. Suddenly, I can no longer expect the
masses to pay for expensive courses they must have better manuals. So I
drag out the same old wage slaves to churn out the manuals again (now
this team is called a Documentation Department). I have never sent
these people on a training course, I have never employed an in house
trainer to teach them, nor have I ever employed an experienced Tech
Writer.

Now my documentation department are trying their best and it is not good
enough. So I go out and hire a Contract Tech Writer. They are to
complete the manuals in 30 days at a fixed price.
Now I have my documentation and I am happy.

The end result of all of this is that my software is barely adequate, I
have someone on the Tech Whirler group calling my staff incompetent
(think how demoralised this Documentation Department must feel at this
point, they have tried their best and it was found wanting), and I'm
still selling my product because the product is good.

As the software company owner, I don't know any better and I really
don't care. I'm selling product and to me that is all that matters.

The People who wrote the manuals are qualified, they are a qualified
secretary and qualified software developers and probably would qualify
as entry level Tech Writers.

There is no such thing as a incompetent employee, or Tech Writer. There
are only incompetent managers. These are the people who must be
satisfied that the product is suitable to bear the companies name.

It is not the writers who should be flogged, it is the managers who
allow this sort of bad writing loose on the world.

End of rant and lecture.

regards

Rob.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Andrew Plato [SMTP:aplato -at- easystreet -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, 7 July 1998 8:51
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Tech writing & incompetence: I am scum
>
> See what happens if you don't edit material carefully -- you send a
> message to
> 4000 people with lots of errors and they forget the message and obsess
> over the
> mistakes. You can see why I am so worried about incompetence. It
> regularly
> consumes me.
>
> Sorry for the grammar errors gang. I promise to be more careful next
> time. I
> got in a rush and sent the message before I edited it. You can stop
> sending me
> e-mail about the grammatical mistakes and get back to the usual hate
> mail about
> how I am ruining technical writing and tormenting kittens.
>
> .......................................................
> Andrew Plato
> President / Principal Screw-Up
> Anitian Consulting, Inc.
> www.anitian.com
>
>
<<<<<<Big Snip for Eric>>>>>>
See I can stay on topic.




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