atw: Re: Vale technical writing?

  • From: "Anthony Self" <ASelf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2012 23:55:05 +1100

Hi Howard

I hope you're not writing about me when you mention "'technical' people who 
know next to nothing... about language and communciation". I've been a 
technical writer since 1979. 

Was you reaction to what Geoffrey guessed my talk was about, or was it to the 
synopsis of my talk?



>>> Howard Silcock 27/02/12 1:42 PM >>>
I'm glad Geoffrey brought this topic up and find my self pretty much sharing 
his reaction. 

What concerns me most is that our profession is being invaded by 'technical' 
people who know next to nothing, and care even less, about language and 
communication, while they fancy themselves as experts in XML or PHP or whatever 
is the current fad. I don't have any objection to single-sourcing or 
ePublishing or other kinds of online documentation - provided the author is 
involved and makes the key design decisions about his or her work. I found it 
really chilling to hear a talk at the last ASTC (NSW) conference in which the 
speaker described how the web designers go about grabbing what they delight in 
calling 'content' from anywhere and re-using it to make their site look fancier 
and to show off what they can do. One way they got 'content' was to grab the 
subject-matter experts and interview them, then transcribe the interview, 
probably using Dragon Naturally or some other automated transcription tool and, 
lo, there was their article! Who needs to actually think about what goes into a 
document, after all, let alone how to make it easy to digest and understand? 
Now, there's one good reason to have accreditation for our profession - to keep 
out these Neanderthals! 

If I'm producing single-source documentation, I'm designing it for each output 
form, with the needs of that audience in mind, using conditional text to care 
of those different audiences. Some of these 'Neanderthals' wouldn't even have a 
clue how to tailor a document for an audience - 'oh yes, we can take this 
document and convert it to HTML; what do you mean it was written for end users 
and we're giving it to administrators, it's content and it fits the title, 
isn't it?' 


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