FWD: Appealing to or introducing Tech Comm "best practices"

Subject: FWD: Appealing to or introducing Tech Comm "best practices"
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 00:26:02 -0700 (PDT)

> But I keep running into technical communicators who, generally because
> they "fell into" the field, have no knowledge of these resources and who seem
> to prefer to make up their profession and their documents as they go. While
> these folks are plenty smart, mean well, and have expertise to share,
> their documents often show a lack of exposure to the "standards" or "best
> practices" of the field. (Not that any two tech writers could ever
> completely agree on what the standards are, but there is at least some
> consensus on some issues.) Also, maybe because these tech writers invented
> their work without help from outside sources, they feel great ownership of
> their work and can be highly defensive toward suggestions for improvement.

I think you answered your own question here. No two tech writers can ever
agree on a standard - because standards are power and power is attractive.
He/she who creates the standard ("best practice" call it what you will) often
exerts control with those standards. Standards are all to often tools of
control and not tools of value.

The other reality that is hard for many tech writers to accept - there are NO
standards. Just because someone writes a book does not mean they have any
greater insight into the universe of tech writing than some entry level nobody
at Consolidated Loser Electronics in Scuttleflab, NJ. Honestly, many of the
entry level newbies I meet are about 100 times sharper than the 5 year vetrans.

Standards are best when they move and evolve. Best practices are just that-
what works best. Each organization is different. If you fail to respect the
ideosyncracies of individuals then you will fail to empower them. Likewise, if
you fail to respect the unique environment of an organization and force
standards that are neither useful or helpful, then the organization becomes
useless and wasteful.

So, my suggestion to the Anonymous poster: Lead by example and not by decree.
If another writer walks up to me and says "This is *THEEEEEEE* way we do things
around here." my first reaction is to do somethign different just to crumb up
his/her keyboard. Doing something just because it is decreed to you is nothing
short of tyrrany.

If a writer says "hey this is how I like to do it because it looks great and a
lot of other places do it this way." that is a pretty powerful argument.

Examples and action speak far louder than anything. If you want to encourage
other writers to accept standards, lead and demonstrate the value of those
standards. If you cannot consistently demonstrate the value of a standard, why
have one?

However, there is a significant contingent of crusty, jaded, bitter nasty
humans who won't change no matter what good ideas you wave in front of them.
These people are usually the quickest to defend their stupidity and insistence
that there is one, true pure Divine RIGHT way and many incorrect, unholy,
shameful WRONG ways.

Now - I am off to be more shameful and commit acts of unholy communications
perversion. I think I will put THREE spaces after all my periods. Oh yeah.

Andrew Plato
Very Shameful


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