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Monday, February 20, 2017

Life at Another Employer was like THIS

At a previous employer (10/2010 - 4/2011), I was in the same type of position as Zev Levi, the originator of the thread below, except that I wasn't about working in a different country. In my situation, it was about:
  • explaining to product managers and developers and a co-worker why their documentation ideas [were] troublesome 
  • defending my 15 years, 8 months, 5 days of experience against terrible technical writing practices, chief among them being to manually type a table of contents for a ~150 page user guide, printing it, verifying the page number in the table of contents matches the actual page, fixing, reprinting, and repeating that process. 
  • biting my tongue when, after showing my co-worker that an automatic table of contents could be generated from headings in the Adobe InDesign file (just like Microsoft Word), doing so was dismissed as "too complicated."
Thus, when Peter Neilson wrote "Attitude Adjustment being inappropriate, the solution devolves to doing an end run, never showing the final version to the SME until it is too late for enemy action. If the SME outranks you substantially, be ready to take a job elsewhere, preferably in an entirely different profession", I smiled and replaced the word "profession" with "industry" as that's exactly what I ended up doing.

In fact, 5 years, 10 months ago today, I left the medical devices industry. An incredibly long 1 month, 2 weeks, 4 days later, I began working in the education industry. I worked in that industry for 4 years, 7 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, which is when I had to begin Job Search 2016. Ultimately, though, I landed up.

And that is ALL that matters today. Below is the thread on Techwr-L that instigated the brief trip down memory lane.

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Neilson
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2017 8:15 AM
To: techwr-l@lists.techwr-l.com
Subject: Re: Nightmare Library

I've answered this at incredible length in a private note to Zev.
Basically it is attitude and audience. I think that Zev's colleagues believe they are themselves the audience. I also suspect that they are possessed of Ample Attitude.

The problem is akin to writing a popular article about some aspect of mathematics, and showing it to a mathematician. He (the mathematician) will find plenty of things "totally wrong" about what you wrote, as well as finding things wrong with YOU and with your dreadful lack of understanding in mathematics. And that's just for starters. (Done there, been that!)

Attitude Adjustment being inappropriate, the solution devolves to doing an end run, never showing the final version to the SME until it is too late for enemy action. If the SME outranks you substantially, be ready to take a job elsewhere, preferably in an entirely different profession.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: techwr-l-bounces+lynne.wright=kronos.com@lists.techwr-l.com
> [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+lynne.wright=kronos.com@lists.techwr-l.com]
> On Behalf Of Zev Levi
> Sent: February-20-17 2:24 AM
> To: techwr-l
> Subject: Nightmare Library
>
> Hi all,
>
> I work in a country where English is spoken as a second language (if
> at
> all) and I often find myself explaining to product managers and
> developers why their documentation ideas are troublesome. ("Yes, the
> sentence you changed is clear to you but, as it's now five lines long,
> it is confusing to readers. We must explain ideas using shorter
> sentences.")
>
> Is anyone aware of a virtual library of bad-documentation examples (a
> library of tech-doc nightmares)? I'd like to search for *long
> sentences* and find examples of unclear documentation.
>
> It would be easier to convince PMs of writing guidelines if they tried
> reading a doc that didn't follow them.
>
> I haven't had any luck googling these terms; I'm looking for
> documentation examples and google generally returns links to forums.
>
> Cheers
>
> Zev

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