Andrew's rant - it has changed

Subject: Andrew's rant - it has changed
From: Miki Magyar <MDM0857 -at- MCDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 09:05:11 -0700

On 12/29, Andrew Plato said "Tech writing has not changed much in the past 10 years. Get mad an curse my name, but apart from a few new tools, on-line help, and some interactive medias - by and large technical writing is pretty much the same as it was 10 years ago." He contrasted TW with the changes in software engineering.

While Andrew may be startled to have someone disagree with him, I'd like to challenge his statement. If it's just his opinion, fine, I can ignore it. But it just aint a fact. Not even a factoid. When I started doing tech writing, the field was not well known, there were no academic classes, let alone degrees (except perhaps for RPI), and journal articles were discussing such novel concepts as levels of edit.

Now we have sound research in a number of critical areas, and my perception is that the theory is becoming more well known in the field. At conferences and meetings I hear people talk about the 'why' of things as much as about the 'how'. Certainly the basic task of TW hasn't changed much - get the information to the user in a helpful way - but then, neither has the task of the software engineer - make it work right with a minimum of fuss. SEs have had to contend with new languages and tools, so have we. And I submit that the change from black and white dot-matrix output to online full-color hypertext is not just one of degree, but has required a substantial change in the way we organize and present information. Well, it should have. We still see the online stuff that looks like it came straight from the dot matrix printer!

If Andrew is so unfortunate as to only encounter the low end of the range, my sympathies. And if you, Gentle Reader, don't keep up with the research, fie and for shame. There's nothing like an Authoritative Citation to impress the heck out of pointy haired bosses.

Pax -
mikim -at- ieee -dot- org

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000

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