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Subject:Re: Not Wanted--Technical Writers From:Andrew Plato <aplato -at- EASYSTREET -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 19 Dec 1997 07:30:02 -0800
After reading the Washington Post article, I completely agree with the
attitude of Michelle Flaum. In my experience, many writers who claim to be
"experienced" are inflexible, obsessive, and lazy. Many of them are deeply
entrenched in form, style and fonts and completely ignore subject matter,
technical accuracy, and audience needs. Likewise, many of these so-called
"experienced writers" lag way behind the technology curve.
I remember one "experienced writer (10 years)" I worked with who ardently
refused to document anything that ran on a Windows system. In his opinion,
Windows was for losers and he shouldn't be forced to work with such useless
technology. Needless to say, I ended up writing all the Windows docs and he
got fired. He went on to sell used cars for a living.
It is so frustrating to work with these people, since they often command
some respect in the companies where they work. I am routinely amazed at how
senior level writers can say things like "XYZ application is the only tool
I'll ever use for producing documents" and "I don't need to know how the
program works, just how the user will operate it." These people should go
back to being secretaries.
I hire subcontractors for work, and I prefer inexperienced, recent college
graduate applicants to "experienced" writers. In my experience,
less-experienced liberal arts students are more motivated to succeed and
learn new things. Moreover, these people are far more creative when it comes
to describing complex technology. Because they are not burdened with years
of bias toward older technologies, they can look at difficult issues with
With 8 years experience as a writer, I am keenly aware of how entrenched I
have become. Just last week someone showed me a Java application - which I
immediately discounted as a cute toy rather than a useful application. That
kind of attitude is dangerous since that cute toy could become the next
Windows NT. While I mock it, others are embracing it and making a lot of
money doing projects documenting the cute toy.
I think it is deathly important to remember that technical writing, like
most disciplines, is not a unmovable object. It requires constant attention
to all the details and possibilities. There are no single solutions to all
problems. There are no tools or technologies that are good for all jobs.
The process of producing good documentation is requires a willingness to
learn and explore new ideas.
Owner / Principal Consultant
Anitian Technology Services
From: Don Sargent <don -dot- sargent -at- template -dot- com>
Date: Tuesday, December 16, 1997 7:53 AM
Subject: Not Wanted--Technical Writers