Reading Notebook


Week Three

Miller, Carolyn. A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing
"But were we willing to argue, indeed, could we argue that technical writing has humanistic
value? I believe that the argument can be made, and on firm and respectable grounds.
But the way to it is not clear." (610)
"Making the argument requires articulating some new notions of what science is and does and some corresponding new notions of
what technical and scientific rhetoric can be and do.: (610)
"1 shall attribute some of our pedagogical problems to the positivist legacy." (611)
"Put simply, positivism is the conviction that sensory data are the only permissible basis for knowledge; consequently, the only meaningful statements are those which can be empirically verified." (612)
"We encourage students to see writing as a necessary evil, necessary primarily because it is an amenity occasioned by the conditions of employment in business or industry." (615)
".I maintain that a course in scientific or technical writing can profitably be based upon this kind of self-examination and self-consciousness, and that, in fact, the rhetorical approach demands such a basis." (617).

Week One

Class Notes
  1. What is Technical Communication? Mark Lockwood
    1. "Making sense out of technical information and creating documentation is what technical communication is all about."
      1. I think this definition is good, but is a little limiting. It suggests that creating documentation is the only job of a technical communicator, and I would argue that role is more broadly defined. Technical communicators are translators of technical materials, but do not always create documentation.
    2. "The profession and academic discipline expanded after World War II, when non-experts needed to know how to operate complicated technologies, and continued to grow as large corporations benefited from hiring technical communicators and the computer industry developed."
      1. This is a fascinating point; I didn't realize the historical roots or tech comm.
    3. "Technical communicators have a challenging and rewarding career. They design, write, edit and publish a broad range of paper and online documentation to complement and enhance a product or define a process."
      1. I guess this does make sense, and perhaps my reservation in point one is indicated here, as well.
    4. "Technical communicators must understand how the intended audience processes information, be able to interview product developers, and work effectively with documentation and product development teams. They also need strong skills with English grammar, conventions and style."
      1. The "audience" here is key, as Tech communicators serve as translators. Also, the ability to work in teams and use the most efficient technology is important.
  2. Technical Communicators in the 21st Century: Where are We Going? - Killingsworth
    1. "Of course it is in impossible to write the history of the future, but that doesn't keep people from trying"
      1. I liked this opening statement, and it really grabbed my interest. Working in virtual worlds, I tend to see a lot of this writing of the future, and it seems to negate the immense possiblities.
    2. "Will an understanding of the concept of myth and our own favored myths help us to understand where
    >> we are going? My claim in this essay is that it will—in a limited way. It will help us to understand our attitudes toward the future, and it will help us to guard against excessive hubris about our predictions. We cannot know the future, but we can know ourselves (to some extent) and in this knowledge face the future with reasonable expectations— and no shortage of wariness."
      1. I was struck here with the idea of Joseph Cambell's "monomyth" - that typical pattern of the hero story, and how all stories are a variation of that myth, Hmmmm....will TCR be the monomyth????
    1. "I have come not to make proposals but to criticize the act of proposing in the extrapolative fashion."
      1. This looks to be an interesting article! I agree that we need to be careful about projections. That doesn't mean we should lack hope, vision, or preparedness, but that we should be wise in our endeavorrs.
    2. The "myth of immediate communication" will cause our "profession the greatest damage".
      1. The definition appears fuzzy to me. It appears that the definition is "It is an old dream, supporting such concepts as empathetic insight and telepathy. The idea is that the medium of communication disappears so that communication partners know one another’s minds without troubling over trifles like language, media technology, and
    >> >>> social contexts. In technical communication, the myth usually appears in claims for particular styles (the “clearest” diction and syntax) and particular technologies (the fastest and easiest to use)." But, I have NO IDEA what this actually means. So if my message is to tell Linden Lab that their Search function is useless, and the medium I choose is email, does the myth mean that I think email will be forgotten and that the folks at LL will simply just know and understand that the search tool sucks because they use Jira as a bug reporting system? I think I just don't understand the myth.
    1. "my method in the remainder of this essay is to confront the problem of the immediacy myth in technical communication only indirectly, looking at another field of practice that puts great stock in narratives about the future—science fiction."
      1. This essay jumps around too much for me. If the argument is that the myth is wrong, I need a better understanding of the myth. If the myth is problematic, then I need some RL examples of this myth-gone-bad. Now we switch gears again to talk about science fiction (which, in truth, relies heavily on the monomyth)? Perhaps part of the issue is that the tone of this peice is very casual, and I feel that i need some solid evidence or some sort of qualifier. I don't know the author, and, at this point, I dont trust the writing or the perspective.
    2. "Le Guin rejects the extrapolative definition as “far too rationalist and simplistic to satisfy the imaginative mind, whether the writer’s or the reader’s.” She thinks of science fiction not as predictive but as descriptive, not as future-oriented
    >> but as reflecting the present, thematically and psychologically, if not literally."
      1. My little ears popped up here, as I am fan of LeGuin. I agree that literature -in general- is a representation of the "here and now" and science fiction, rooted in fantasy and under currents, illustrates the sometimes "darker side" of what exosts now. Harrison Bergeron, by Vonnegut, for example, highlights this path, as the problems will celebrating mediocrity and forcing everyone to be the same are the problems inherent in our culture now, but, certainly, the future "now" will be worse for it. While certainly fascinating and meaty, I am still not sure how thins links to Tech comm.
    1. "Their myths about communication media, the same myths we find in textbooks and
    >> articles on technical communication, tend to go in two directions, which I call progressivism and Luddism."
      1. Again, I struggle with the premise, since I don't quite understand it. To branch from the core suggests that there is a core, and, perhaps a wee bit dopic, I just dont get it yet
    1. "The progressivist version of the myth of immediacy sees media not as an inevitable intervention, the things that come between communication partners, but simply as technologies and techniques that improve, speed up, or facilitate
    >> communication"
      1. Ok, I still dont understand this premise.
    1. "Over and against the progressivist view stands the Luddite version of immediacy, which holds that immediate communication only happens under primitive conditions, and that in every departure from the situation of face-to-face, one-on-one communication, preferably in a village of indigenous peoples, something is inevitably lost."
      1. Again, no clue. I struggle to understand what this means in the larger context od technical communication.
    2. "Am I a lover or a doctor? My role mediates my response."
      1. Actually, I get this statement. So, here are some clues to the overall thesis.
    3. "The instantaneous voice of the loved one on the other end of the phone line, or even the digitized
    >> face on the computer screen, may bring either comfort or unbearable longing. What it assuredly does not bring is the fearful certainty or the blissful satisfaction that comes with bodily encounters in which we
    >> really do “reach out and touch someone.”
      1. Okay, I am slowly getting this....it is a long time round to the point...
    1. "The point is that, even when a mind speaks directly to another mind, the communica-
    >> tion remains mediated; the mind is already full of language, experi- ences, associations through which the message must travel, must be mediated. This view is consistent with the semiotic theory that thought itself requires signs, and the presence of signs presupposes representation and interpretation."
      1. I think I am starting to understand the message of this peice.
    1. "In every new communication initiative, something is lost along with what is gained."
      1. I actually agree with this statement, even though i am a heavy user of technology.
    2. "While technique certainly has its costs, I am worried more these days about our faith in technology."
      1. This is an interesting paragraph, and I have felt a lot like the author in this regard. Technology is supposed to "lvel the playing field" but when 50% or more of my students can't access SL from home, it makes it hard to justify the use of such a system.
    3. "we admit our dependence on the workplace to set the standards for academic life."
      1. Yes - as a community college professor, I feel the weight of this responsibility."
    4. "It may be good for us to follow corporate culture, but if that is what we are doing, then let’s be honest and skip the line about personal empowerment."
      1. I actually laughed out loud at this statement, but he does have a good point here.
    5. Technical Writer Career Information


First Reading Response Assignment Notes:
Limit responses to 3-5 paragraphs.

Question 1: What is “technical communication?”
Technical Communication is the professional field of persons deidcated to translating technical material to non-technical populations through various modes of expression. A technical writer is a technical communicator that uses writing as the principle mode of expression. Technical writing is a subset of technical communication. Technical communicators may explore the theory of the modes of expression inherent in the discipline, and/or perform research about the audiences targeted by technical communicators. For example, a technical communicator may explore the issues concernin genderization of manuals (heavily technical manuals being "male" and How-To books being "female") or explore the genderization of science and medical writing. Others may research the usability of certain types f reporting with certain types of populations. In short, a technical communicator serves as a translator; (s)he recasts technical materials for specific user and non-user populations using a variety of output formats.

Technical communicators are prepared to enter the wrokforce b studying the carious modes of communication by which they will express messages. This will certainly include writing, but may include other forms like film, audio, or first person presentation. At the undergraduate level. students are prepared to enter the workforce and ficus on studying various forms of communication including the preparation of reports and routine forms of documentation. Students are taught problem solving skills, and are taught to write in teams with an interest in globalization. At the graduate level, students learn more theory and applied research techniques in order to prepare them to be experts in the field of technical communication and rhetoric.

In industry, technical writers may write grants for teams working on scientific or engineering projects, they might create user manuals, web pages, how-to documents, or instructions. Technical communicators may help present information about products and services to non-technical populations. Technical communicators serve as a bridge between the "worker" (chemist, engineer, etc) and the "public" (using the resource).


Question 2: How will technical communication change over time?
I believe that technical writers will play an important role in the comming years. As technology continues to emerge, and messages become more widespread to users, technical communicators will need to help facilate the process so that messages are clear. Technical writers will play an important role in the opening of inforamtion to various user populations. Over the next few years, much attention will be paid to "web 2.0" and virtual worlds as they begin to gain popularity in the workforce. These cost effective measures will reqquire the general populations to become web savvy in a big hurry. Academics will explore the impact of technology as a medium for technological information, and will be key roles in the development and dissemination of these new tools. Students will learn how to use the tools and will be best suited for jobs in companies where the digital divide needs bridging. Technical communicators will still perform many of the same tasks, but will be required to understand the technology used to share the messages to the general public. This will include attention to legal detail as well as globaliazation.

Application Exercize

http://www.stc.org/membership/chapterSearch01.asp

States Selected:

Connecticut Jobs
Washington, DC Jobs
Northern California Jobs
Pittsburgh, PA Jobs
Madison, Wisconsin Jobs

Observations:


Connecticut:

Positions:
  1. Technical Writer
  2. Technical Writer
  3. Technical Editor
  4. Senior Technical Writer
  5. Associate Technical Writer


Skills:
  1. Someone "with strong experience producing user documentation for highly technical software, to document business process monitoring software."
  2. Have excellent interpersonal skills
  3. Be able to work independently
  4. Be highly organized, with exceptional PM skills
  5. Be capable of producing and communicating plans to local and remote management
  6. Experience documenting highly technical software
  7. Strong communication skills: written and verbal
  8. "English mother tongue" {OMG!!!! Did they actually write this????}
  9. "Experience documenting Microsoft Word, including applying and updating templates and building macros. Knowledge of WebWorks for Microsoft Word, and RoboHelp would be advantageous."
  10. Experience with writing, editing and publishing technical manuals.
  11. Portfolio of writing samples demonstrating understanding of technical material.
  12. A demonstrated ability to produce complete, correct, and concise documentation, in compliance with quality standards set forth in a style guide.
  13. Proven competency in producing online, Web, and printed documentation.
  14. Demonstrable aptitude for learning technical material and writing effective procedures.
  15. Excellent analytical and interviewing skills.
  16. Proficiency with the following software and operating systems:
    • Microsoft Office Suite
    • Adobe Acrobat Distiller and FrameMaker
    • Macromedia Dreamweaver, RoboHelp, or other Help authoring tool
    • Borland StarTeam, Mozilla.org Bugzilla, or other source control or issue tracking software
    • Customer Relationship Management tool, such as Applix
    • PaintShop Pro, SnagIt, or other image-capture software
    • Windows, UNIX
    • Must be able to ensure accuracy, timeliness, ease of learning, and ease of use.
    • Needs to be able to edit both technical and conceptual user
    >> documentation.
    • Expertise in industry-standard tools such as FrameMaker and Acrobat is required. Experience editing documentation for web applications or security software products is desirable.
    • Experience with usability testing is a plus.
    • An understanding of basic networking technology, enterprise and
    >> Internet software, and documentation version control and production systems will assist this candidate in planning and delivering materials.
    • This position requires technical aptitude, time management,
    >> planning, and organizational skills, and the ability to communicate effectively with technical writers in geographically dispersed locations.
    • Skilled at maintaining an existing documentation set and following existing writing style and conventions.
    • Must be able to follow a Style Guide.
    • Must be able to ensure accuracy, timeliness, ease of learning, and ease of use.
    • Must be able to manage multiple projects.
    • Position may also include working in a team environment developing user scenarios and task-based documentation.
    • The successful candidate will demonstrate exceptional writing,
    >> editing, and organizational skills (writing samples required).
    • Must understand all phases of delivering professional documentation for an enterprise software product (planning, scheduling, design, writing, editing, and production).
    • Must be able to generate highly technical and conceptual user
    >> documentation.
    • Must also be able to receive direct developer input and improve it
    >> by applying technical writing skills.
    • Expertise in industry-standard tools such as Frame Maker, Acrobat, Visio, RoboHelp, and Dream Weaver is required.
    • Candidate must also have exceptional verbal and leadership skills.
    • Position requires an understanding of basic networking technology, enterprise and Internet software, and documentation version control.
    • Experience documenting application server or security software is highly desirable.
    • Experience with Javadoc, Java, and/or C is also highly desirable.
    >> Self-starter, able to work independently but also enjoys working within a team.
    • Willing to take direction, and apply creative thinking to deliver
    >> accurate documentation to customers within very short time frames.
    • Skilled at maintaining an existing documentation set and following existing writing style and conventions.
    • Enjoys working closely with the documentation team and the product development team on collaborative documentation.
    • Thrives on multi-tasking with the ability to write and track the
    >> details of multiple projects simultaneously.

Duties:
  1. One person that works with a development team.
  2. editing information for end users and system administrators of security products.
  3. Editing end-user guides, help, installation procedures, reference guides, developer's guides, and on-screen text.
  4. Position includes working with a geographically dispersed team.
  5. The successful candidate will demonstrate strong developmental editing, copyediting, organizational, and communication skills. Must understand all phases of delivering professional documentation for an enterprise software product (planning, scheduling, design, writing, editing, and production).
  6. The position interacts mainly with writers and other editors, but may also participate in cross-functional teams including software engineers and product marketing staff.
  7. Self-starter, able to work independently but also enjoys working within a team.
  8. Willing to take direction, and apply creative thinking to deliver accurate documentation to customers within short time frames.
  9. Will be responsible for researching and writing information for end users and system administrators of RSA Security products.
  10. Position includes working closely with development and QA staff to document new features and improvements in intermediate release (patch) documentation as well as updating product documentation for new releases.
  11. May include writing or updating one or more of the following: user guides, conceptual guides, Help, installation procedures, reference guides, developer's guides, and release notes.
  12. The successful candidate will demonstrate strong wrting, editing, and organizational skills (writing samples required).
  13. Must understand all phases of delivering professional documentation for an enterprise software product (planning, scheduling, design, writing, editing, and production).
  14. Must be able to generate highly technical and conceptual user documentation.
  15. Must also be able to receive and improve upon direct developer input.
  16. Candidate must also have strong verbal and team skills and the ability to multi-task.
  17. Position requires an understanding of basic networking technology, enterprise and Internet software, and documentation version control.
  18. Self-starter, able to work independently but also enjoys working within a team.
  19. Willing to take direction, and apply creative thinking to deliver accurate documentation to customers within short time frames.
  20. Skilled at maintaining an existing documentation set and following existing writing style and conventions.
  21. Must be able to follow a Style Guide.
  22. Enjoys working closely with the documentation team and product development team on collaborative documentation.
  23. Is able to receive direct developer input and improve it by applying technical writing skills.
  24. he Technical Writer will be responsible for researching and writing information for end users and system administrators of RSA Security products.
  25. This position includes working in a team environment developing user scenarios and task-based documentation, and also includes working closely with development and QA staff to document new features and improvements in existing product documentation.
  26. Other tasks may include writing one or more of the following: user guides, conceptual guides, Help, installation procedures, reference guides, developer's guides, and on-screen text.
  27. He/she must be able to ensure accuracy, timeliness, ease of learning, and ease of use.


Education:
  1. BA/BS
  2. BA/BS
  3. BA/BS
  4. BA/BS
  5. BA/BS/MA/MS - knowledge of Javadoc, Java, and/or C is also desirable. Knowledge of industry-standard tools such as FrameMaker, Acrobat, Visio, RoboHelp, and Dreamweaver is desirable.