Re: Baseline Skillset for Technical Writers?

Subject: Re: Baseline Skillset for Technical Writers?
From: Ginna Dowler <gdowler -at- questertangent -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 16:46:43 -0800

I'm finishing up on a Friday afternoon here, so I'll throw in my 2

"Halter, Meg" wrote:

> - Dinking around with the computer hardware and software creates comfort
> with technology. And the more we do this, the more comfortable we become.
> Actually, it's probably not a bad idea to tackle a variety of technologies
> (changing the oil in your car. sharpening the lawnmower blades. whatever.)
> because a breadth of experience increases comfort.

The stories about fixing our own computers are terrific examples of how
a little knowledge can be very dangerous. There's a very good reason
systems people don't want you screwing around. Do you do it on carpet or
an ESD mat? Are you grounded? Dinking around with your hardware may
"create comfort with technology", but it is probably also frying
whatever circuit boards are in your computer, shortening component life.
Then your hardware dies, and you call the systems people. "I don't know
what's wrong - I was just sitting here."

> - When technical types see that we are able to do these things, they will be
> more inclined to think we will understand the subject being discussed, even
> if it isn't related to the computer because this capability indicates a
> mindset that is comfortable with technology.

Or the systems people are cursing your name as they replace your
motherboard after you fried the components by opening the case on
carpet. What they will actually think is that you're blundering in when
you don't *really* understand what's going on at all.

I can just see it - "I've written a bit of C++, hell I even minored in
CS. No one will mind if I just open the code and fix up this little
interface problem." Meanwhile, on Monday morning as they attempt to
debug code which worked on Friday, they won't be impressed by your

We're going a little far here in assuming that some general
understanding of how things work equates to being able to fix or even
create them. I don't think it *is* really necessary to fix your own
computer. Understanding and reproduction are two very different things.
Confusing them can not only be dangerous, but also make you look very

Ginna Dowler
Quester Tangent Corporation
Sidney, BC
gdowler -at- questertangent -dot- com

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