Information anxiety

Subject: Information anxiety
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 10:07:50 -0600

Nick Peake wondered about personal experiences with
what Richard Wurman called "information anxiety".

Can't give you any literature references, so how about
personal experience? I was originally hired as a technical
editor. After a time, it became apparent that I could also
write, so I got drafted for writing duties. Then they tried
me on French translation, and online help development, and
HTML... and I'm sure they'll think of something else soon
enough. Perhaps training?

In the beginning, it was easy to keep up with the broad
range of reading that all editors do to keep current both
on the field of editing and on modern usage (i.e., how
other people solve writing problems). Adding the literature
on technical writing wasn't too much of a stretch. However,
about the time I tried becoming an expert in translation, I
began to suspect a problem. The problem became evident once
I started doing online help, and painfully obvious once I
started dabbling in HTML.

The problem? Normal people (as opposed to me) specialize in
each of these fields, and have full-time jobs just
maintaining expertise in these fields. Let's not even
mention the need to keep up with all the new tools that
each field requires. I'm doing that too, though not as well
as I'd like. Revising my job description back to "editor
and only editor" won't fly; besides, I like the chaos
(excuse... "diversity") of my current work. Faced with this
problem, I developed a full-blown case of information
anxiety: I wanted to keep up expertise in each field. The
solution, fortunately, was fairly simple (if somewhat more
difficult to implement): recognize the fact that I _can't_
be expert in everything, but _can_ learn enough to discuss
everything knowledgably and "fake it" reasonably well. Not
an ideal solution, but a reasonable compromise.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC., or

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