RE: HUMOR: I Need Help

Subject: RE: HUMOR: I Need Help
From: Tom Johnson <johnsont -at- starcutter -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 15:49:35 -0500

Maybe people should have to take a quiz before they get posting privileges
to techwr-l. Have them answer 10 questions on newbie-type topics. That way
they learn how to use the archives and they get an idea of what topics have
been beaten to death.

Joking aside, this issue is kind of interesting from a communication point
of view.

Should we become agitated if someone posts a vague question to the list by
shouting into a room of 4000 people? How is posing a vague question any
different from injecting a satirical post to a room of 4000 people? There
are a lot of people here and both of them are sure to cause some people to

Andrew, in an earlier post, made a parallel about why SME's might be
reluctant to give us information. If our requests are too broad, it
proclaims, "I haven't done my homework. Someone bail me out." That is a
good point. We do need to do our best to narrow down the question before we
post. People do want to see that someone is ready to do some work for a
benefit. We don't like to help free-loaders and it is better for them if we
don't give them a hand-out. Instead, give them a hand-up and get them going
in the right direction.

Don't do their homework for them, but do your best to mentor them. Show
them the right way to find out the answers. They'll quickly find out what
works and what doesn't. The last thing we need to do is come across as
being a bunch of snobs who won't help anybody unless they've paid their
dues. Who knows, maybe this newbie will be working for you and you'll be
grateful for the talented writer you have on your staff. Maybe this person
will go on to mentor other writers, keeping in mind the way they were
gently steered on course. I know my first attempt at a software manual was
a terrible mess. I'm very thankful my boss took the time to redirect my
efforts and I turned out something that was usable. If my only source of
information had been this list and I received the brush-off this guy did,
I'd probably be working in a different field today.

In closing, the next time you go to an SME, try to do your homework ahead
of time. Learn enough to ask intelligent questions. They'll respect you for
showing some initiative and likely give you all the answers you need.

Tom Johnson
Technical Writer
Elk Rapids Engineering Div., Star Cutter Company

johnsont -at- starcutter -dot- com - work
thomasj -at- freeway -dot- net - personal

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