"Value" of Technical Writers-Response

Subject: "Value" of Technical Writers-Response
From: Cheryle W <cjwiese -at- HOTMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 21:02:10 PST

I'm a little gun-shy from all the nasty flames I received due to my
sardonic response to a former list member (remember the George M.
Incident?) but I've donned my flame-retardant gear and set up my email
filters in preparation:

<snip> Your boss is correct in some regards. Many writers are writers
because they aspire no further. Half the writers I meet are writers
only because they want to pay the bills and cannot get a job doing
anything else. This might not be the case for yourself, but it is for
a lot of writers out there (in my experience).</snip>

Wow. Andrew, I don't know who these "writers" are that you have
met/hired, but they are obviously in the wrong profession. The fact that
half of the writers you meet are like this is sad, but there are a *lot*
of us who are writers because of our passion for communication. Some of
us have no desire to be engineers, or doctors, or burger flippers.

<snip>However, there are so few writers with this knowledge, that most
of the writers I interview I turn away.</snip>

Why do you even interview writers who don't list Oracle on their resume?
Of course, if they lie about it, you can ask a probing question or two
and find out if they're telling the truth.

<snip> This is essentially true. Tech writing has not changed much in
the past 10 years.</snip>

I will have to take your word for this as I am relatively young
and have only been working in the field for a couple of years.

<snip>Moreover, what has absolutely remained the same over the past
decade is that the majority of writers obsess over tools and techniques
while never focusing on the technologies they are documenting.</snip>

I don't know it works in other shops, but in my company I rely on the
Product Managers (SME's) to give me technically accurate chicken
scratches. I then take the chicken scratches and turn them into
something useful for my audience. The Product Manager has an advantage
over me because she/he focuses on one product, while I have to spread my
time among *thirteen* products. I would love to have an in-depth
knowledge of each of our products, but I am paid to gain an overall
understanding of the "big picture" and present information in a way that
regular folks can understand. My "product" is a web site and several
product manuals. Of course I am not going to have an in-depth knowledge
of all thirteen products, but I can tell a customer which one is right
for them and how it works.

<snip> This is why most writers have no where to advance. Once they
learn a few tools and techniques and then keep re-learning the same
tools and techniques. Sheesh, how much training in on-line help do
you need? It isn't that flippin' hard.</snip>

Again, maybe this is because I am new to the profession, but I learn
something new every day. Most of my work is web development, and I'm
swamped just trying to keep up with the latest tools and technologies. I
am always on the lookout for something that will make my product better
and of greater value to my company and my end-users.

<snip>In comparison, software design and development has dramatically
changed in the past 10 years. Entire new languages have risen and
fallen in the past 10 years.</snip>

Yes. That's why those doggone engineers make so much more money than
your typical tech writer. :)

<snip>Unfortunately, your boss's views of writers are what many managers
think.</snip>

Pointy-haired bosses? A lot of these managers can't communicate their
way out of a paper bag.

<snip>I hate to say this, because I know this irritates a lot of people,
but most non-tech writers find tech writers brittle, small-minded, and
generally less skilled than engineers. Why do you think Scott Adams
paints Tina the Technical Writer as a short tempered, brittle
person?</snip>

Oh come on, you are one person on this list that makes a habit of
complaining about how incompetent/lazy/stupid Tech Writers are. And
that's okay - when I read your posts, I realize it is only one person's
opinion and I move on.

Sure, Tina is painted as short tempered and brittle. And Dilbert and
Wally are social outcasts who never "get any", the manager is a clueless
idiot, not to mention Ratbert the money-grubbing consultant.

<snip>The frustration you feel is caused by the legions of technical
writers out there that are continuing the trend of tool and technique
obsession.</snip>

I suppose it's a little frustrating to some people who can't get an
interview because some Human Resources Manager immediately "round files"
their resume because they don't know (insert tool of the moment here).
No wonder we "obsess" - I'm even beginning to experience feelings of
inadequacy because I don't know FrameMaker. :) (not really)

<snip>This is why I left tech writing for consulting.</snip>

Whew! It is a good thing you did! The important thing is you found a
career that you are happy with. And many of us are happy (and competent,
believe it or not!) in our careers.

Happy New Year,
Cheryle

---"One space or two with your coffee, ma'am?"---





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