Re: Tech Writer - Why called such?

Subject: Re: Tech Writer - Why called such?
From: "Elna Tymes" <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 09 Nov 1999 20:17:41 -0800

Anthony Markatos wrote:

> > Our primary job is not to write about HOW the product works. It is convey
> > understanding of essential end user tasks accomplished with the product and
> > how those tasks interrelate. It is, in other words, conveying understanding
> > of WHAT the product does to help the user achieve his/her business goals.
> > We may properly digress from the WHAT and discuss the HOW, but all effective
> > organization is based on the WHAT.

and Eric Ray wrote:

> In this case, my primary job is precisely to write about HOW the product
> does WHAT, and WHICH aspects of Product A should concern which
> developers at which times.

Which is how technical writers add value. I'd submit that HOW the product works
is a close relation to WHAT the product does, and that where we add value to the
whole process is to look at the HOW and WHAT in the context of a prototypical user
trying to use the product to solve business or other kinds of problems. We are, I
keep saying, user advocates in that we interpret the behavior of the product in
terms that will be meaningful to the user, whoever that happens to be. It is less
important for us to describe HOW the product works, or WHAT it does, than to
describe how it works or what it does in a context that makes sense to the user.

Eric's API manual, for instance, would be useless to an ordinary end-user, so all
of the explanations of Java classes and calls would be meaningless to that person.
However to a Java programmer, tasked with developing some additional applets that
interface with the product, or that customize the off-the-shelf product, the API
explanations can be quite useful.

And because we have to understand HOW the technology works and WHAT it does at the
technical level in order to correctly present this operation to our designated
users, we are called "Technical" writers. Good thing, too.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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