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Subject:Re: Occupational hazard of techie tech writers From:Cam Whetstone <camw -at- HOME -dot- COM> Date:Sun, 1 Nov 1998 08:34:04 -0500
Carl Stieren wrote:
> Subject: Occupational hazard of techie tech writers
> Hello Colleagues,
> * ability to understand complex systems
> * ability to learn how to use the functionality of new software even
> when parts of specs are missing
> * ability to analyze a system and reduce it to its basic concepts
> * ability to compare totally new methods or functions to existing
> languages, protocols, systems
> Occupational hazard:
> * inability to explain software or functionality to a beginner
> (sometimes even the inability to realize that you NEED to explain
> the software to a beginner)
I am a fairly technical tech writer. My specialty is electronic
equipment, including radar, communications, telecommunications, etc.
Part of my job is to understand my audience. Once I know what my
audience is supposed to know, I proceed from there. In military
manuals, I was provided with the skills and knowledge the user was
supposed to have. There was a radar handbook produced by the military
(very good reference, by the way) that provided the basis of knowledge
the user should have. I did not have to explain anything in the book.
In some cases, I would have to assume an unknowledgeable audience. In
those cases, I had to keep my depth of detail shallow, and define just
about everything. Knowing how to match the material to my audience is
one of the things I was paid for.
In much of the current work, you must assume the user knows how to
maneuver through windows, what certain terms like click and so on mean.
If nothing else, you could explain the needed knowledge in a preface.
As one flight attendant said, if you don't know how to operate a seat
belt, you probably should not be allowed in public alone. If you don't
know the basics of operating a terminal, you probably should not be
allowed to play with the software.
Carl, the situation should not arise. If it does, find yourself a
better technical writer.
On the other hand, it depends on who set the standards and determined
the audience. If it was a Marketing type, it is possible that what you
were told is not valid. Then you have to do the research yourself.
After you do the research, you may have to educate your management.