Role of a Technical Writer: Mail to the TWIN List

Let’s look at it the other way around. There are still a lot of organizations that do not have a documentation team. It is done as an ‘add on’ by the developers themselves. When you have tools like Robohelp, AuthorIT or those little beauties that abound (for free at times), that help you generate .hlp or .chm or xhtml… developers find ‘presenting’ information easier. So I had one of these developer friends remarking ‘what’s the big deal man? If I want to I can learn Robohelp in a week’s time and I can become a tech writer.’ I don’t want to go on about how untrue his statement is. While the temptation to be a jack of all trades is overwhelming, please be warned that, writing as a skill, evolves over years. Writers tell stories. Applying this to our profession, we tell stories too, on how a product works, or how to troubleshoot something. It is all a story. Forget developers, if being good in a language is a major criterion for becoming a writer, every english professor in the world should have churned out best sellers. No sir. No m’am. Writers write. And it is not easy. Writing well? Oh, that’s an entirely different story. So the moral is, stick to one profession, focus, and mature, instead of talking about how one can do a million things. Yes one can. But what counts is ‘What are you best at?‘.

Now, talking about QA. In India most companies have a QA cell: Objective: Get those damn certifications. CMM4, 5, six-sigma da da da. Very few are sincere in ‘following’ the processes or having a process-driven organization. I have seen many companies get cmm4 now and cmm5 6 months later and something else a year later. Excuse me! My friend working in Prudential told me that they have set up the processes for CMM2, and have been following them for the past few months, but they are very nervous; ‘will we get CMM2?’

So if you have any dreams of changing the world by being a part of QA, waky-waky, it could be all a sham pardner. So stick to writing. Focus. If there’s any profession under the sun that takes decades to master, it is writing. most of us here have been here for what? a few years? We’ll talk about taking over other domains, after we conquer our own. And on a final note, please learn to discern this: Content from presentation. I see a million mails on FM and CHM, but not so many on the craft itself, writing that is. What gives?

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