Re: FWD: Meatball Tech Writing

Subject: Re: FWD: Meatball Tech Writing
From: Tom Herme <hermet -at- DNINEVADA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 10:52:47 -0800

Anonymous User wrote the stuff to which I'm replying (and more that I cut out
to save bandwidth):

> One of the characters in the M*A*S*H TV show once referred to the
> surgery performed at the MASH hospital as meatball surgery. Get it done
> and get on with the next thing.
> Most of the places I have practiced my trade, that's the best
> description of the technical writing I've been able to do. I cut corners
> As far as things like user analysis, hitting the least common
> denominator, site visits, and all the other things that real tech
> writers do, they just aren't possible. Perfection, or anything remotely
> close to it, is not an option.

Speaking as a "real tech. writer", I don't get to do these things either. I
don't think you and I are alone here.

> Or so I submit. I guess my question is this: in cases like mine, do you
> perceive that the responsibility to the user and to the profession is so
> great that the writer has an obligation to do whatever it takes to go
> after perfection?

Taken to the extreme, doing whatever it takes includes deciding when it's time
to leave.

> Is pragmatism in this situation a copout or a
> legitimate survival technique? Is pointing at management merely
> excuse-making?

My experience has been that you can point out the benefits of doing all of
these good things (that is, usability, etc.) to your management. In my opinion,
this is part of the job. BUT they don't have to listen--and frequently don't.

> And, what, if anything, seems to be a magic pill to change it (other
> than the obvious work hard and pick your battles and try for incremental
> improvement--which I do)?

Yes, if you want to stay where you are, learn and practice the Serenity prayer.
Often the best change is the one you choose for yourself and that means moving
on to other greener-appearing pastures. I'm in a situation similar to yours,
and this is the choice I've made.

Good luck.



Tom Herme
Senior Technical Writer
DNI Nevada, Inc.
mailto://hermet -at- dninevada -dot- com
"Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it."

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