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Friday, May 24, 2019

Am I a Tech Writer or a Writer of Tech

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Are you a tech writer or a writer of tech?  Depending how you answer this question, makes a difference. This sounds like I'm making a Shibboleth out of it. But this goes beyond semantics. Let me explain what it means to be a tech writer versus a writer of tech.

Technical Writer

A technical writer is one who writes and edits technical or business communication for a company or an organization. This could be anything from help files, reference guides, user guides, standard operation procedures (SOP), reference guides, or white papers. You're usually writing about a particular product, a service, or a procedure. Typically, you're showing people how to use a product or a service or how to perform a procedure. (When you write white papers, it's typically information about an idea, concept, or topic. And when you write reference guides, it's typically some referential material that usually compliments a product, a service, or a procedure.)

Technical writers typically wordsmith for a company as an employee or an independent contractor. The technical writer's goal is to show the customer how to do something. 

Technology Writer

A technology writer is one who writes about technology or upcoming technological trends. Technology writers typically write for periodicals, such as newspapers or magazines. Technology writers may even write for websites or blogs. Technology writers will write articles about a particular technology, trends, or a new product, such as a device, an accessory, or a laptop.

Technology writers typically work for the publication or the website or freelance for them, not the company it's writing about. Technology writers may even write how-to or troubleshooting articles.

The technology writer's goal is to inform the reader about technology.

Typically, Usually with Exceptions

You might have noticed I've used the modifiers "typically" or "usually". It's because there are exceptions to this. Sometimes, there's a blending between the two roles or where the writers work at. Also, what these writers write about may not always neatly into a category.

Tech Writer: A Catch-All, An Abbreviated Job Title, or A Cause of Confusion

Both types of writers are called tech writers. While this term is a nice catch-all, it gets dicey and probably has caused confusion with some. I've run into this myself, where people mistaken me for a technology writer. I've had to clarify I'm not a technology writer but a technical writer and what that means. I even misapplied for jobs where I thought they were calling for a technical writer, but they were really calling for a technology writer. 

Calling a technical writer or a technology writer a tech writer isn't wrong. Both start with "tech". Both write about technology. It's just technical writers and technology writers are approaching how to write about technology from different angles. 

I've been called a tech writer more than a technical writer in my time. I take no offense to this. I'm not suggesting either or both sides should stop using the term "tech writer." It's fine. As long as we define our terms in the context we are in, then we're good.

Sorry, if this is making your head spin. It's making mine. (Sometimes, I wish we could just write without the complications and call it a day.)

One Goal Out of Many Tech Writers

Despite our differences as tech writers, we should unite behind one underlying goal. This goal must be to help our audience by giving them accurate, helpful, appropriate, straightforward, and easy-to-follow information. As tech writers, we must adopt this common goal for our audience as our E pluribus unum.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Musings (or Ramblings) about the Command Line Interface

Whenever I type a command into a command line interface (CLI), I get this strange feeling I cannot really explain.

There's something about a command line interface that's seems so simple yet powerful. CLI is primeval yet advanced. It's raw yet full of flavor.

There's something about a CLI that makes wish we can just strip all the bells or whistles of an OS and just type away in this thing to start our applications (like many moons ago) or technologies.

When I type a command into a prompt, I get a sense of no distractions in doing something.  I'm focused. When I have to document on how to do something by writing a sentence or a paragraph about such and such followed by showing a command, I get a sense of fulfillment as a technical writer.

I feel like I am doing bare-bones technical writing to help transport the readers to whole new worlds. I enjoy this contrast of simple yet powerful from a CLI. One of my favorite things to write goes something like this:

"To do (fill in the blank), type:"

I wish I could just tell others how to perform certain actions by telling them to type a command. Once they're done, I can just write a brief description of the result.

I wish I could just write a document without using taking screenshots, using special tools, or even worrying about fonts. I wish I could just write the words themselves and let the reader see what happens for themself.

I wish I could take this a step further. I wish I could simply write a document using a typewriter. I like the act of typing commands and words without distractions, including a computer. It's a feeling I cannot fully explain.

My guess for this strange feeling is when you type a command, you get an action. Whether it's big or small, you can see the response. Commands are much like words. Words can paint a picture, whether it's grand or minuscule. When the reader read words, the reader responds by picturing an image in their mind. So when a craft a document about commands, you get a simple, yet lovely marriage between the two.

The CLI reminds me of the pattern in Genesis 1.  When God spoke a command, creation responded. As God spoke commands, He took a dark, watery, empty mess morphed it into this beautiful, blue planet full of life we see today. Though we have trashed this planet, Earth's beauty is still there. I just hope someday we can restore what has been trashed and become far better stewards of what God created. As for the CLI, I hope we can use it to help us restore the privacy and control that tech has taken from us.