RE: Economist magazine points to decline of tech writing

Subject: RE: Economist magazine points to decline of tech writing
From: Kaylin Boehme <kaylinboehme -at- quadax -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2015 13:56:00 +0000

Delurking, hello!

I just started working as a technical writer after having switched from librarianship (another profession the media, Forbes in particular, is fond of proclaiming dead) and I thought this article in The Economist was just terrible. I don't know how anyone could look objectively at a list that says technical writers are 8% more likely to be automated than word processors. I also wondered about their definition of "editor", which is listed as only 6% likely to be automated.

Thanks to Robert for providing the source... it's always helpful to have more information on where these "statistics" come from. People often see sensational numbers/headlines and don't stop to analyze them properly.

Kaylin Tristano


Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2015 20:19:18 -0800
From: Robert Lauriston <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>
To: techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Economist magazine points to decline of tech writing
<CAN3Yy4ARE6c7-rtjWt7z1vrXuwZEYJRO=+qFkyqynJiVMu8fPg -at- mail -dot- gmail -dot- com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8

Garbage in, garbage out.

The chart in the Economist article is taken from and cites this paper:

Its authors used an algorithm to guess which of 702 job
classifications are likely to be computerized. I think there's a flaw
in their algorithm and/or the source data ("literature on the task
content of employment" etc.), since tech writing consists of pretty
much the opposite of "tasks following well-defined procedures that can
easily be performed by sophisticated algorithms."

On Thu, Jan 1, 2015 at 6:11 PM, Lois Patterson <loisrpatterson -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:
> Scroll down the page and you will see a chart about the probability that
> computerization will lead to job losses in the next two decades for
> specific professions, including accounting, telemarketing, retail sales,
> and technical writing. For telemarketing, this probability is 99%, and for
> technical writing, 89%. I'm sure this doesn't say anything we don't already
> know. The main question will be if new jobs open up that use traditional
> tech writing skills. I appreciated that the Economist including technical
> writing in its list, although I should point out that no specific
> definition is given, so I can't be sure it fits the definition that "we"
> have for the profession.
> This coincides with a podcast on Tom Johnson's site which discusses
> employment for technical writers, which basically suggests that outside of
> programming documentation, and documentation for governmental agencies, the
> outlook is rather bleak:
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