WHEN YOU COULD LOOK IT UP IN A BOOK

Last night, someone I actually know and who should know better, complained the camera company from whom he bought his camera should fire the tech writer. Because there was no manual.

I felt obliged to point out the reason there is no manual is they never hired a tech writer in the first place. If they had technical writers, there would be a manual. You wouldn’t spend a thousand dollars on a camera and get a three-page leaflet. You’d get a book with an index and a table of contents. Screen shots. Explanations not only of where to find a function, but what the function means, so when you get there, you know what to choose.

Once upon a time, that was my world. I thought it was important, at least to the people who bought products about which I wrote.

Years went by during which the work I did was my life. I got up, got dressed, scraped the ice off the car, went to work (stopping for coffee along the way) and went through my day. Between having done the same kind of work for a long time and perpetually racing against a deadline, life was busy. I knew, no matter what the ad said when I took a job, my work wasn’t permanent. I would work until the book was finished, then I’d move on. It was the way it was.

The industry in which I worked ultimately decided the work I did was no longer necessary. Who needs a manual to tell them how to use equipment that costs a gazillion dollars and controls the operation of a steel mill? Or a missile tracking system? Or a satellite grabber for use out in space? They can always call the help desk — especially in space where you can easily find a signal for your phone.

I was the one who organized the chaotic information into a book with a table of contents, index, chapters, and diagrams so you would not always have to call someone. Considering the state of tech support these days, you can see where this failure to supply reasonable documentation has landed us. That’s why the phones are always busy and why the quality of support is so awful.

The help desk people don’t have a book, either.

Regardless, I was obsolete. You need developers and a boss because someone has to say why you are all gathered here this morning. Also, the boss makes sure there’s coffee. But a writer? They only hired me when they were at the end of a production cycle, realized the contract required they deliver documentation with the product. Sometimes, I got as little as three weeks to learn a product and produce a book that looked professional. At that point, no one cared what was in the book or whether the information would be of any use to anyone. It just had to be big, thick, nicely designed, and weigh enough to use as a doorstop.

My days were numbered. Eventually, I was gone.

To substitute for professional writers, they produce “automatic documentation.” Which is raw data generated by a program using “comments” left by developers, many of whom speak English as a second or third language and in any case, do not understand how regular people work and the kind of information they need to navigate a complex product. It turns out, people were still willing to spend oodles of money for an undocumented product. So I guess they were right. No one cares until they get an expensive product that includes nothing. The good news? You can find entire books — the kind I used to write — on Amazon. Buy them and find out how the product works. It’s just like the books people like me wrote. Cool, huh?

For all of you who believe that crappy documentation is because tech writers are lazy? No, we aren’t lazy. What we are is fired.

BLINDLY IN MY LIFE

The day before yesterday, I could not find any of my long-sleeved (but  not sweater) tops. It was warm enough to not wear a sweater, so I figured, okay, today I can wear something fabric. Not woolly.

But there were no shirts in my closet. Not a single one. Missing was also one I’d worn just a couple of days earlier. It had to be there. I kept looking, but time was wasting and I wanted my coffee. I gave up and wore something else. They will show up. On hangers, in the closet, exactly where I looked. Not missing, no problem. Just  … gone.

This morning, I am wearing a shirt. It has a green fist on the front. It is my newest Serendipity shirt. So I figured, let’s go green. Earrings. Green turquoise bracelet. And my rings.

New Serendipity shirt!

I had left the shirt and pants folded on the top of the chest because if I’d put them away, I’d probably still be searching for them. I might never see them again. So that was easy. But I couldn’t find my rings, which I’d worn yesterday. Or my green earrings, the ones with the beautiful green turquoise set in silver. I gave up, wore different green earrings. I eventually found a necklace. I even found my rings, exactly where they were supposed to be and where I had looked half a dozen times until finally, there they were. But the earrings with the green turquoise? Nowhere.

I do not leave my jewelry lying around. I have cache dishes so when I go to bed, the earrings I’ve forgotten to remove can go there. Nothing is left on the edge of sinks or on the end table in the living room. Why can’t I find it? Why, when I do find it, is it exactly where it ought to be and where I already looked? What’s wrong with me?

Is this a form of mental blindness where my eyes see, but my brain fails to receive the signal?

Blindly isn’t just eyes and lenses. We can be amazingly blind about many things.

What else can’t I see?

ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE: A BAD COMBINATION – ELLIN CURLEY

I am outraged at the amount of both arrogance and ignorance that are oozing out of every pore of the Trump Administration. A crew of individuals with near god-like arrogance are responsible for running the agencies of the U.S. federal government. One of the reasons they think they are qualified to handle their new jobs is they are clueless about what those jobs entail. Either they’re not smart enough to know what they don’t know, or they are so corrupt, they don’t care.

Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, admitted that he didn’t know what the Energy Department did before he agreed to RUN IT! Ben Carson was a brain surgeon and a political candidate before he became the head of the Housing and Urban Development Department. His only connection to housing is that he probably has lived in a house.

Do rich, successful people believe their success in one field automatically translates to every other field? No actual, relevant experience required? Apparently they do.

I don’t. Nor do I believe “business experience” inherently prepares you for government work. Why would it?

Those assigned to head up major government agencies are supposed to be specialists in that agency’s area of expertise. Now, more than ever, we need intelligent, caring, efficient professionals to help us deal with the incredibly complex problems facing our country. Instead, we’ve got science haters. Climate deniers. Ideologues. Industry shills. People holding obvious financial conflicts of interest with the American people … and others who are overtly hostile to their agency’s mission.

Where we need knowledge and authority, we have instead a toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance allowing these appointees to fail. Upwards. The Peter Principle on steroids as each of them has gone way beyond their level of incompetence. We pay the price.

I have neither an antidote nor words of encouragement. I’m so pissed. The arrogance and ignorance of these people is beyond belief. To find them sitting in the highest positions in government, defies the understanding of ordinary mortals.

SPRING CLEANUP – CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTOGRAPHY

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 9, 2017


 

Today was garden cleaning. It’s a mess out there, partly because it’s spring — it’s always a mess in the spring — but also because we had a particularly klutzy plow driver who did considerable damage. And before you ask, yes, he got paid anyway.

But, at least we got out the mass of dead leaves and old plants from last year. More to come, but we might — if we work fast — get there!

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