Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent Are They? (fwd)

Subject: Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent Are They? (fwd)
From: Betsy Perry <betsyp -at- VNET -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 31 May 1996 14:35:47 -0400

------- start of forwarded message -------
Alciere, John wrote:

> I recently saw an employment ad for a Technical Writer in the Boston Globe,
> from a compamy that develops Internet courseware. The ad sought candidates
> with experience using Visual Basic, Lotus Notes, Perl, and C/C++
> programming. Writing ability was not cited as a requisite skill.

> This prompts a question: How prevalent is the use of programming tools --
> such as Visual Basic, Perl, Java, C/C++ -- among us folks that call
> ourselves "technical writers?" Specifically, do many of you folks use tools
> such as these on a regular basis, as part of their work?

Hey, *somebody*'s got to write the programming manuals! I regularly
write code in Smalltalk, and have in the past written C , C++, PL/I,
Pascal... I think of technical writing as a spectrum ranging from
policies and procedures manuals, with no technical content at all, to
hardware troubleshooting manuals that only a geek could love. (I
speak as a confirmed geek myself.)

The great advantages of being able to code are:

o It speeds up the process of convincing the software engineers that
you're a reasonable human being

o It impresses hiring managers, even when irrelevant to the position
they're trying to fill

o You can find out what the application *really* does by reading the
source code; this is especially useful when documenting error

There seem to me to be three possibilities for the job ad you cite:

(1) The courseware company is expecting its courseware developers to
create extremely sophisticated CBT using the Internet; these
developers will not only be writing, but will be creating applets,
CGI scripts, and so on to support information delivery.

(2) The courseware company is selling courses in Visual Basic, Perl,
and so on.

(3) The person who wrote the ad grabbed the "hire a programmer"
template and didn't edit it sufficiently for publication.

In general, job requirements in help-wanted ads are often created by
the clueless. I once saw one in the Boston Globe that required 7+
years of experience in C++, at a time when even Bjarne Skoustrup
had only 5.

Elizabeth Hanes Perry betsyp -at- vnet -dot- net
RothWell International

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