Re: Writers or what? WAS Word-processing or DTP

Subject: Re: Writers or what? WAS Word-processing or DTP
From: George Mena <George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 1998 13:39:10 -0700

Greetings from California :D

Read Barry House's post, thought I'd respond.

I've believed since 1990 that a tech writer should be able to:

* write and edit the subject matter
* create and edit graphics in AutoCAD, Photoshop and Illustrator
* be able to read drawings and schematics
* be able to read and write code if necessary
* create online help files as required
* write a doc plan
* manage the doc project from start to finish
* do a prepress blueline check
* develop a print spec for his job
* do page layout
* be willing to travel -- and get dirty while doing the job being
documented -- if needed
* be able to diagnose and troubleshoot the computer I do my techdocs on
using Norton and McAfee

Amazingly, the more esoteric aspects of tech writing -- document design,
audience analysis, information mapping and the like -- have been utterly
meaningless to me. Maybe it's because of the types of companies I've
worked at over the years, but I just haven't seen the need for any of
that. Sorry if anyone's offended by that: just had to solve problems as
well as cranking pages out. That's life.

Having to help out test engineers troubleshoot the computers their test
systems were supposed to use and discovering file allocation tables were
missing when I used Norton Disk Editor once was interesting (thank you,
AntiCMOS-A boot sector virus, for that one). Same with being asked to
diagnose a cranky computer in a Die Fab environment to find out why the
video capture subsystem wasn't working. And being asked to work up a
$20,000 quote for an optical video inspection system in a Wafer Fab
environment was decidedly fun. Is it tech writing? Nope. But I knew
something about graphics and Norton, so I was asked to solve a problem
because nobody else had the time (so *that's* where all my gray hair
came from!).

I remember a previous engineering supervisor I reported to once
specifically asking me *not* to learn AutoCAD, lest another department
spirit me away. This a request I ignored out of my own personal
conviction, which has also paid off for me. At my next job, I had to
start doing my own graphics, which I now enjoy doing. :D Developing my
illustration (and now, my online help) skills has paid off.

I'm happy. :D

Heck of a post, Barry. :D


> -----Original Message-----
> From: House, Barry [SMTP:BHouse -at- LRS -dot- COM]
> Sent: Thursday, July 23, 1998 12:22 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Writers or what? WAS Word-processing or DTP
> If I'm out of line here, somebody slap me quick.
> I suggest we end this debate about the role of the tech
> writer--whether
> we should write and only write or be communicators who plan and manage
> manuals and, yes, even lay out pages and perform some design work.
> Most of us realize that writing and formatting helps us achieve much
> more efficiency than we would have if we were simply writing copy for
> someone else to format. Most of the posts I see indicate that many of
> us
> also enjoy the challenge of working with different types of software
> and
> learning skills outside our main skill.

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