2 Replies - 830 Views - Last Post: 29 June 2012 - 07:26 AM

#1 linuxgreen  Icon User is offline

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becoming a technical writer

Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:23 PM

Hello
Please bear in mind that I am in Australia. So US colleges and experiences are not things that I can relate to.

Anyway, I want to work as a technical writer, specializing in writing things for software. I know that this is a bit unusual. I have watched some videos of a professional technical writer [Lara Brindley] describing her job as a technical writer for Redhat. I liked what I saw. I spend all my spare time playing with new software. I will have a go with absolutely anything. I have endless curiosity for any software. Servers. Databases. Browsers. Email programs. I have tried more software than most people have had dinners.

Thus I am studying a mix of graphics design and web programming and python. I am also learning other things such as LaTeX. I would like at some point to find a software project and do some technical writing for them. I have looked at Freshmeat and haven't found any suitable opensource project yet.

I like computers. But I missed the whole computer boat in a hopeless pre-internet era. I wish that someone had told me about technical writing as a career. I don't think that I could make a developer; it's too late at my age [37] and I've never studied computer science or code optimisation. But I think that I can be a good technical writer. One beautiful aspect of my graphics course is that its assignments are open-ended. Thus I can do some assignments with technical writing.

So, what do coders think of all this? I've been around some developers who think that documentation is a foul plague sent from hell to waste their time and drive them mad. You even mention anything to do with reading and writing to them and they don't want to talk about it. That may be due to low levels of alphabetical literacy.

I like the shirt that Lara Brindley wears - "will write for chocolate". :)

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Replies To: becoming a technical writer

#2 DarenR  Icon User is offline

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Re: becoming a technical writer

Posted 29 June 2012 - 07:07 AM

View Postlinuxgreen, on 26 June 2012 - 11:23 PM, said:

I like computers. But I missed the whole computer boat in a hopeless pre-internet era. I wish that someone had told me about technical writing as a career. I don't think that I could make a developer; it's too late at my age [37] and I've never studied computer science or code optimisation.



Ok I am 37 and just one day decided to go back to college after I worked for 3 companies that closed their doors all in a row. I gradutated last year with a bach of science in computer engineering. I had a job with in 1 week. Now I am programming and enjoying it.

What I am saying it is never to late to learn.
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#3 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: becoming a technical writer

Posted 29 June 2012 - 07:26 AM

Tech writing is actually what I do for a living, feel free to PM me about it.

One thing that I've found is that most organizations do not prioritize technical writing - internal and client-facing documentation - until far too late in the game, and as you say, it's easy to get a sense of resentment from the programmers.
I don't think in most cases it's actually resentment, though. I think most of the people I work with acknowledge the need for documentation while never quite having time to facilitate it, so the time you get with a programmer is forty-five minutes carved out of the next project to talk about code they wrote months ago, which is guaranteed to be a frustrating meeting.

I've been working to change this in my company, and part of that is involving myself in the QA process and actually helping with some dev tasks (monitoring the bug list and catching the easy changes, for example so the developers don't have to fix typos or change a delay on a fade). This is probably not something you could do at most organizations, though, it's a pretty unique situation. However, I do think it's the case that the more you understand the code, and the more you're involved in the process from the early stages, the easier the whole thing is.
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