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Okay, so Bruce has proven that the "hire experts" theory, when taken to
extremes, can get ridiculous. That's fine, but I don't think anyone was
advocating hiring keyboard 'Q to Z' specialists. The 'be prepared to be a
jack-of-all-trades' theory can be made to look *just* as ridiculous.
I could say: But...what if I get hired as a writer and then they want
me to do graphics. Maybe it'll start with simple line drawings using
Word and FrameMaker, but before you know it I'm being forced to download
Photoshop. OK. OK. At least I have a small amount of artistic skills.
I can muddle through.
But what next? Maybe they'll want me to write for our web site, and
before you know it I'm being asked to write Java script, then Java.
Then word gets around that I'll never say "no" to a job no matter how
little training or expertise I have. So suddenly I'm having all sorts
of work dumped on me--writing C and C++ code, heading up the company's
Y2K efforts, doing sysadmin work, QA, sales...everything!!!!
Let's face it, that's not very likely to happen--and neither is the
'Keyboard character specialization'.
So...to return the discussion to the land of the plausible, here's
what I think. I agree with Bruce when he says that in the real world
we don't all work in companies that can afford to have experts in many
different disciplines. Those of us in smaller companies need to wear
a lot of hats. However, Tom is correct when he asserts that some
illustrations are simply "beyond the scope" of most technical writers.
It is important to stress to your employers that you cannot be expected
to do all things *expertly*. For instance, my training and experience
has made me qualified to work as a writer of computer documentation.
I also edit and proofread for other writers, but I consider that to
be within the sphere of what a writer does, anyway. Those are my main
responsibilities--they are what I should be judged on.
I also do some illustrating--but I make sure that my employers know
that I am not a trained graphic artist. They need to know that they
should not expect works of art just because I happen to have PhotoShop.
I can do line diagrams. I can draw flowcharts. I can take screenshots.
Indeed, I actually rather enjoy doing some of this stuff. But no one
should expect me to do multi-color graphics, icons, or any sort of
intricate illustration. Luckily, I work at a company smart enough to
know that writers can't be expected to be graphic artists.
Yes, writers have to be flexible--especially in a small company.
However, there are limits. It's reasonable to expect me to be able
to create decent simple illustrations. However, I should not be expected
to produce professional graphic art, simply because I do not have the
artistic skills of a graphic designer. Sure, if I plug away long enough,
maybe I can create some graphics, but they will look like the work of an
amateur. If your company *must* have graphics, and there's no one in the
company that can create them, then they should either hire an artist, or
go to a graphic design company to have the work done. Otherwise, it's
probably better to not have the graphics at all, then to have them done
But that's just my opinion. :-)
Bruce Ashley said:
> In theory, I agree Tom.
> In the real world, however, away from large conglomerates and government
> departments, graphic design, illustration, layout, diagrams are all done to
> some degree by the humble TW. Some of us even know PhotoShop and
> Illustrator to reasonable levels.
> We even get to make pots of coffee.
> It must be fabulous working for a company large enough to employ a writer,
> editor, proofreader, graphic artist and art director to produce their
> manuals, user guides and training material. They can probably even afford
> to employ canteen staff to make the coffee.
> What next, a FrameMaker specialist PLUS a Word specialist PLUS a WinHelp
> Hey! Why not then have a letter specialist, a manual specialist, a pamphlet
> Geez, I could go on. A font specialist, a font style specialist, a grammar
> specialist, a typist.
> Then we could even have a 'keyboard letters A to P' specialist, a 'keyboard
> Q to Z' specialist and a 'keyboard non-character set' specialist.