RE: Programmer/Writer?

Subject: RE: Programmer/Writer?
From: techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 14:06:29 -0700 (PDT)

--- Kevin Feeman <Kevin -dot- Feeman -at- micromass -dot- com> wrote:

> IMHO, I believe that our profession does
> not allow us to be jack of all trades. A person can be an awesome writer, or
> an awesome programmer, but a person cannot be awesome at both.

[snip]

> So, in short, I think that it really
> depends on what you are wanting for your career, if ya want to be a
> programmer, be a programmer, if ya want to be a writer, be a writer, ya
> can't do both effectively.

[snip]

And I respond:

An interesting observation. It sounds like you've really found what you enjoy
doing, and I'm glad you have; the biggest step in being happy with what you're
doing is figuring out what you're happy doing!

However, saying that your way is the Only Way to become a Good Writer paints
with a very broad brush. Earlier today, I posted that I'd *like* to find one of
those writer/programmer jobs, because I have different joys: I love writing,
and I love programming (I wrote an application--Digester's Reader--especially
for members of this mailing list, in fact). Yes, they require distinctly
different skill sets, but they're not mutually exclusive, by any stretch of the
imagination.

In fact, I use both of those skill sets when I write the documentation at my
current job. Our product is a software development tool, so my audience is
programmers. True, I don't tell them the underlying workings of *our* tool,
except when it makes a task clearer for them, but I still use my programming
skills when creating code samples, or telling them why they must do something
in a certain manner.

On another note, someone recently posted on this list (must be under the
Technical Writer vs. Information Developer thread) that it seems that writers
have to do more and more that isn't writing, these days. What with XML,
JavaScript, online help macros, HTML coding, and finding workarounds to the
bugs in the programs we use, we have to use much more than our writing skills.
Which is why, as Andrew Plato likes to emphasize, it is important that we not
be glorified typists. We need to know more than just how to make a sentence
active, or how to spell the newest buzzwords. We have to be able to interact
with the programmers on a level that makes them comfortable telling us why they
did something a certain way. That requires knowing enough about programming to
sling the lingo, or at least how to persuade them to put it in layman's terms
without losing the meaning, and without losing their respect.

-David Castro
techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot-

Wow. Two posts in one day. I don't think I've been this vocal in quite some
time! :-)
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