12

Proposal: Technical Communication

I am not a tech writer, or any other form of documentation professional. I am a computer programmer. As I write programs I try to think of their documentation. Both internal to the code, for future maintainers, and external to it for the users of the finished product.

I have never heard of the many of tools, or other things, mentioned in the sample questions, such as DITA XML, SMEs, WriteGood, proselint, etc. I know how to make Perl programs generate documentation through Perldoc using markup in the source code, and that doing so is a standard in the Perl community. I haven't seen, though don't doubt that it exists, the same functionality for PHP, the other "current" language that I use. My other languages are likely to ancient to worry about.

OTOH: I am a user of documentation and have suffered from trying to find the information I needed in the documentation for things - computer-based and non-technical. For example, I've had the joy of assembling an out-of-the-box desk with the instructions using zero text, and line drawings that do not match the pieces in my hands.

I never will be a "professional" in technical communication. As my workflow changes, however, I expect to have an increasing need to do professional style documentation. I believe I can learn a lot from this site, and maybe even help it a little. I will have, as they say, "fresh eyes." Maybe I can even help to compensate for the "curse of knowledge" that @mbakeranalecta is worried about.

The bottom line here is:

  • How much am I likely to be able to help the site?
  • Is it helpful, or harmful, for me to commit to the site when it (soon) reaches that point?
  • I'm also a user of documentation, I see a need for technicals be communicated. I believe readers' needs should be somehow satisfied. – DannyNiu Jul 29 '17 at 15:26
10

When I started participating at Stack Overflow three years ago, I knew very little about programming, and all I could do was posting questions to get help. Similar to your description, I was unfamiliar with the many different tools and languages. At that particular time, I didn't feel I was being of much help to the community because I could barely answer any of the questions that were constantly flooding the homepage, which made me feel very impotent. However, I knew that the questions I posted would be useful to other people around the world, so that was a starting point.

Little by little, the more I visited the site and the more I participated, the more I learned and the more capable I was to feed that knowledge back into the community by answering some questions.

As of today, that impotence has vanished because I'm happy of making my own tiny contributions to the different communities in the Stack Exchange network, and yet I don't consider myself a "professional" in any of them.

How much am I likely to be able to help the site?

You don't necessarily need to be a seasoned expert in the full spectrum of Technical Communication to be helpful to the community. If you are able to contribute in a small portion of that spectrum then that's good enough. Other members of the community will provide the other pieces of knowledge to complete that spectrum.

You can be helpful in many different ways. Here is a list of specific things you can do:

  • Ask and answer questions (this is the heart of the Stack Exchange network)
  • You said you know Perl and Perldoc, right? Subscribe to the Perl and Perldoc tags to receive a daily email summary of new questions in this tags, so that you don't miss any of them, and thus maximizing your chances of helping others with your answers
  • Subscribe to the weekly newsletter to stay in the loop with the site in general
  • Upvote and downvote posts according to your criteria
  • Leave comments that may add something meaningful
  • Start bounties and award bounties to show your gratitude
  • Edit questions and answers to improve their quality
  • Access the review queues and perform review tasks
  • Become a moderator
  • Participate in Meta
  • Participate in the chat rooms

Note: some of the listed actions are privileges, and require a certain amount of reputation.

Did I miss anything?

If you can do any of the listed actions on a regular basis, you will be helping yourself and the community a lot, because it's your continuity and progress what makes the site more valuable.

After a certain period of time, you will be in a better position to assess how helpful you've been to the community with your contributions, and by that time, you will have probably noticed an improvement in your Tech Writer skills (even if it's not your current professional position).

Is it helpful, or harmful, for me to commit to the site when it (soon) reaches that point?

It would be great to have you on board! There's no harm in that.

Please, do commit to the site! :D

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .